Decorator Pattern – How To Master It In C# Using Autofac

Design patterns play a pivotal role in software development. They provide tried-and-true solutions to common problems, ensuring that developers don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every project. By leveraging design patterns, developers can create more maintainable, scalable, and robust software. These patterns encapsulate best practices learned over time, offering a structured and efficient approach to tackling challenges. One such design pattern that has proven its worth in various applications is the Decorator Pattern.

In essence, the Decorator Pattern allows developers to add new functionalities to an object dynamically without altering its structure. This is particularly useful when you want to enhance the behavior of an object without resorting to extensive subclassing. In the context of C# applications, the Decorator Pattern offers a seamless way to extend the capabilities of classes, making it a valuable tool in a developer’s toolkit. As we delve deeper into this topic, we’ll explore how this pattern can be effectively implemented, especially when combined with powerful tools like Autofac.

Understanding the Decorator Pattern

Basic Concept

The Decorator Pattern is a structural design pattern that allows you to add responsibilities or behaviors to an object dynamically without modifying its structure. Instead of creating numerous subclasses to add functionalities, the decorator pattern lets you wrap individual objects with classes that offer additional capabilities. This leads to a more flexible design, as you can mix and match different decorators as needed. The primary purpose of this pattern is to adhere to the Open/Closed Principle, which states that software entities should be open for extension but closed for modification.

Real-world Analogy

Consider a plain coffee. While it’s enjoyable on its own, some might want to enhance it with various add-ons. You could add a splash of milk, a sprinkle of cinnamon, or a dollop of whipped cream. Each addition decorates the coffee with a new flavor. Instead of preparing multiple coffee variations from scratch, you start with a basic coffee and decorate it with different ingredients as desired. Similarly, in the Decorator Pattern, you start with a base object and then wrap it with various decorators to enhance its functionalities.

Decorator Pattern in C#: A Non Autofac Example

Let’s consider a simple scenario where we have a Text class that outputs a message. We want to extend its behavior to add prefixes or suffixes to the message without altering the original class.

// Base Component
public interface IText
    string GetMessage();

public class SimpleText : IText
    private string _message;

    public SimpleText(string message)
        _message = message;

    public string GetMessage()
        return _message;

// Decorator
public class PrefixDecorator : IText
    private IText _text;
    private string _prefix;

    public PrefixDecorator(IText text, string prefix)
        _text = text;
        _prefix = prefix;

    public string GetMessage()
        return _prefix + _text.GetMessage();

// Usage
var text = new SimpleText("Hello, World!");
var decoratedText = new PrefixDecorator(text, "Greeting: ");

// Outputs: Greeting: Hello, World!

In this example, the SimpleText class provides a basic message. The PrefixDecorator class, which implements the same IText interface, adds a prefix to the message. This way, we can extend the behavior of the SimpleText object without modifying its original structure.

Pros and Cons of the Decorator Pattern


  • Flexibility in Adding Responsibilities: One of the primary strengths of the Decorator Pattern is its ability to extend an object’s functionalities on the fly. Instead of committing to a fixed set of behaviors at compile time, you can decide which responsibilities to add at runtime. This dynamic nature allows for a more adaptable and scalable system.
  • Encourages Single Responsibility Principle: By design, the Decorator Pattern promotes the Single Responsibility Principle. Each decorator class has a specific role or behavior that it adds to the base component. This clear separation ensures that each class has only one reason to change, making the system more modular and easier to modify.
  • Enhances Code Maintainability and Readability: When used correctly, the Decorator Pattern can lead to a more organized codebase. Instead of having monolithic classes trying to handle every possible variation, you have smaller, focused classes. This separation makes the code easier to read, understand, and maintain.


  • Can Lead to a Large Number of Small Classes: One of the common criticisms of the Decorator Pattern is the proliferation of classes. For every new behavior or responsibility, a new decorator class is created. In complex systems, this can lead to a large number of small, tightly focused classes, which might be overwhelming for some developers.
  • Potential for Over-complication: While the Decorator Pattern offers flexibility, it’s also easy to misuse. There’s a risk of adding too many decorators, leading to a convoluted system where the core functionality becomes obscured. It’s essential to strike a balance and ensure that the use of decorators genuinely adds value and doesn’t just complicate the design unnecessarily.

Introducing Autofac: Dependency Injection Made Easy

What is Autofac?

Autofac is a popular Inversion of Control (IoC) container for .NET. In simpler terms, it’s a tool that helps manage the creation and lifetime of objects in a .NET application. Dependency Injection (DI) is a design pattern where an object’s dependencies are “injected” into it, rather than the object creating them itself. Autofac excels in this area, providing a robust and flexible way to implement DI, making it easier to manage dependencies, promote loose coupling, and enhance testability in applications.

After you finish this article, you should understand the basics of the Decorator Pattern as well as the role of Autofac in dependency injection. At that point, you can continue to the next article in this series to see code implementations for Autofac and the Decorator Pattern.

Why Use Autofac with the Decorator Pattern?

The Decorator Pattern, as we’ve seen, allows for the dynamic addition of responsibilities to objects. However, manually managing the creation and chaining of these decorators can become cumbersome, especially as the number of decorators grows. This is where Autofac shines.

Autofac provides a streamlined way to register and resolve decorators. Instead of manually creating each decorator and wrapping them around the original object, Autofac can automate this process. By defining the decorators and their order in the Autofac container, the framework can automatically resolve the object wrapped with the necessary decorators. This not only simplifies the implementation but also ensures that the decorators are applied consistently throughout the application.

In essence, Autofac takes away the manual overhead of managing decorators, allowing developers to focus on defining the behaviors and ensuring that they are applied correctly. Check out this video to see Autofac in action!

YouTube player

Practical Scenarios: When to Use the Decorator Pattern with Autofac

Enhancing Existing Functionality

One of the most common scenarios for employing the Decorator Pattern is when there’s a need to extend or enhance the behavior of an existing component without altering its original code. Imagine you have a component responsible for processing payments in an e-commerce application. Over time, you decide to introduce additional features like discount calculations or loyalty points accrual.

Instead of modifying the original payment processing component, which could introduce bugs or violate the Open/Closed Principle, you can use decorators. By creating a decorator for each new feature, you can wrap the original component with these decorators, effectively layering new behaviors on top of the existing functionality. Using Autofac, these decorators can be registered and resolved seamlessly, ensuring that the payment processing component is enhanced in a consistent and maintainable manner.

Cross-cutting Concerns

Cross-cutting concerns are aspects of a program that affect multiple modules and are often difficult to modularize using traditional object-oriented techniques. Examples include logging, caching, validation, and security.

Decorators are an excellent fit for addressing these concerns. For instance, if you want to log every time a particular method is called, instead of scattering logging code throughout your application, you can create a logging decorator. This decorator would wrap around the target component, log the method call, and then delegate the call to the original component.

Similarly, a caching decorator could be used to store the results of expensive or frequently called methods, reducing the need for repeated computations or database queries. A validation decorator could be employed to check the inputs or outputs of methods, ensuring data integrity.

By using Autofac, these decorators can be easily registered and applied to the necessary components, ensuring that cross-cutting concerns are addressed in a modular and maintainable manner.

Tips and Best Practices

Keeping Decorators Focused

One of the primary strengths of the Decorator Pattern is its ability to adhere to the Single Responsibility Principle. Each decorator should have a specific purpose and should only address a single concern. For instance, if you have a decorator for logging, it should only handle logging and not mix in other functionalities like caching or validation. This ensures that your decorators remain modular, easy to understand, and maintainable. When each decorator has a clear and focused responsibility, it becomes simpler to combine them in various configurations, providing flexibility in enhancing your components.

Avoiding Over-Decoration

While the Decorator Pattern offers a lot of flexibility, it’s essential to be cautious and avoid overusing it. Over-decoration can lead to a system where there are too many small classes, making the codebase harder to navigate and understand. Additionally, excessive use of decorators can introduce performance overhead, especially if decorators are nested deeply. It’s crucial to strike a balance. If you find that a component has too many decorators, it might be an indication that the component’s design needs reevaluation. Always prioritize clarity and simplicity over adding more decorators.


The Decorator Pattern is a powerful tool in a software developer’s toolkit, offering a structured way to dynamically add responsibilities to objects. When combined with Autofac, implementing this pattern becomes even more streamlined, allowing for efficient dependency injection and easy management of decorators.

However, as with all design patterns, it’s essential to use the Decorator Pattern judiciously. By keeping decorators focused and avoiding over-decoration, developers can harness the full potential of this pattern without compromising code quality.

For those new to the Decorator Pattern or Autofac, this exploration is just the beginning. There’s a wealth of depth to both topics, and the combination of the two offers numerous possibilities. I encourage you to experiment with the pattern in your projects, explore further applications, and discover the many ways it can enhance software design!

Continue reading this article for hands-on code examples of using Autofac with the decorator pattern! There are multiple examples showcasing how it works in both a simple application and an ASP.NET Core web application. Enjoy!

author avatar
Nick Cosentino Principal Software Engineering Manager
Principal Software Engineering Manager at Microsoft. Views are my own.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Polychronopoulos Konstantinos

    Comprehensive explanation Nick, very good job!

    1. Nick Cosentino

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad that you found it helpful to go through 🙂

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