fbpx Skip to content

Architect vs. Interior Designer: What’s the difference?

Almost any home remodel benefits from having a strong design plan. It casts a vision for the scope and characteristics that make your remodel reflect who you are as a homeowner. It also gives you a clear expectation of how the completed project will look and gives your builders clear direction on how to get it there. An architect and an interior designer are two prominent providers of remodel design plans, so what is the difference between the two? 

As a remodeling company specializing in custom-designed home renovations, Lamont Bros. has worked with both architects and interior designers. While both can bring tremendous value to a remodel, there are several differences between the way each one approaches the design process. 

This article will discuss the difference between an architect and a designer. You can learn about the education, skills, and expertise of both, as well as the types of remodels you might hire them for. 

What is an architect?

Architects focus primarily on external structure.

Both designers and architects are responsible for drafting building plans. However, an architect often has more formal education, a focused scope of expertise, and different strengths in design work. 

More standardized education

Legally, a person only achieves the title of “architect” when they obtain a registered license from a state board. The process of obtaining such a license takes several years, both in formal education and on-the-job training. 

To receive a state architect certification, a person must first hold a degree in architecture from an accredited university. After this, they must also complete a several year architecture apprenticeship under a licensed architect to gain experience. Upon completing their apprenticeship, the final step to becoming an official architect is to pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

Structure-focused expertise

Because their education is in designing building structures, most architects tend to be very focused on the big picture. Architects often think in terms of dimension, proportion, and sightlines to achieve a visual goal with a structure. In many ways, it functions as an art form in which the building is the canvas.

Architects are by far more involved in large-scale construction projects. Commercial architecture is an extremely profitable line of work, and it also offers a wider palette of design opportunities.  However, some architects do choose to specialize in custom residential design, though far fewer in the field take this route. Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most famous residential architects in history. 

Strong with visual and exterior design

Because an architect’s expertise typically applies to the overall structure of a building, most of their efforts go towards the external appearance rather than the interior design. Typically,  residential architects are more concerned with achieving a stylistic vision rather than designing a space for living in.

This means that architects are especially skilled at designing buildings to fit within a specific architectural style, be it Art Deco, Midcentury Modern, Gothic, etc. They are also masters of designing homes and buildings with visually appealing exteriors. 

What is an interior designer?

At its core, the role of an interior designer is to create design plans for interior architectural spaces. This role is vastly different from that of an architect and comes with different educational requirements and job responsibilities. 

More flexible education requirements

Interior designers focus primarily on designing space for use.

Unlike architects, interior designers do not need to carry a state license. Therefore, the road to becoming an interior designer offers more flexibility to the individual. Some universities offer degrees in interior architecture. These programs combine the general principle of architectural design with the knowledge necessary to intuitively craft interior spaces. 

Some interior designers learn the skill through professional apprenticeships or are self-taught. This is why it is important to review credentials or previous project history when working with an interior designer. 

User-centered design expertise

An interior designer specializes in designing functional, visually appealing interior spaces. Their work often deals with residential construction, but interior designers also work in commercial spaces, as well. 

The philosophy of a skilled interior designer is to create spaces with the user in mind. In residential construction, this means designing home interiors that work well with the habits and lifestyle of the homeowner. This requires careful attention to everything ranging from the general room layout of the home down to the direction your cabinet doors open.  

Strong in designing for comfort and usability

Whereas architects see shapes and lines, interior designers see functionality and textures. Interior designers care most about how it will feel to be in a given space. How will the user interact with the space? Will it be comfortable? Will it serve the needs of the person who lives here?

Interior designers bridge the gap between the user’s needs and the space’s design. As a result, they provide excellent value to remodeling projects in which the homeowner wants a space customized for their own style and needs. Kitchen and bathroom remodels are especially popular projects for an interior designer.

Should I hire an architect or designer for my construction project?

If you have an upcoming build that requires design services, you may wonder whether you should hire an architect or an interior designer. To answer this question, consider the type of project, as well as your own goals. 

An interior designer is a good fit for almost any kind of residential construction project that affects the interior. Whether it’s new construction or remodeling, you’ll want a professional who can guide you through the process of defining how you want your home to look and feel. A designer can also help find solutions to issues that you may not be able to solve or even be aware of. 

There are also instances where you might want to hire an architect.  High-end new construction often requires the skills of an architect to create a visually appealing structural design. If the home is more than 5000 SF, it’s required to be drawn by an architect. The more you care about how your home’s exterior looks, the more it makes sense to hire an architect. 

Home additions can also benefit from an architect’s design, especially if the home ascribes to a definitive architectural style. Adding a room to the side of a Victorian mansion can be a challenge – you want the addition to match the rest of the home. There are many skilled designers who are capable of designing an addition that matches the home. However, an architect may be better suited to this task depending on the size and complexity of the addition. 

How to choose the right architect or designer for your remodel. 

As with any hiring decision, it’s best to hire a professional who is clearly qualified to design a remodel. Some architects who specialize in residential remodeling have all necessary intuition for interior design to do the job well. Most of our interior designers that work at Lamont Bros. have degrees in interior architecture. These programs blend both interior design and architecture. 

On the other hand, you may also find people who claim to be interior designers when in fact they are better defined as interior decorators. These professionals are focused much more on furnishings, and you don’t want to hire one to design your remodel. You’ll want to make the distinction between an interior designer vs. decorator early on in the process.

Here are three steps you should take when choosing who to hire:

  1. Define what kind of remodel you are doing and what kind of professional you need. 
  2. Discuss the project with several people. Listen to how they would approach the project and decide if you feel like they are listening to you. 
  3. See some of their previous work. Do they have a track record of successful projects that are like yours? 

Do you want to work with a top-notch designer for your remodel?

Now that you know the difference between an architect and a designer, do you know which one you need to hire? If your upcoming home remodel could benefit from the skills of an interior designer, you can hire your design and construction team all in one go by working with a design-build firm. Click here to learn more about the design-build process and how it can provide the best remodeling experience available.

If you’re ready to start designing, click the button below to schedule a free video consultation with one of our design consultants. We’ll help you establish a design, budget, and game plan for the remodel of your dreams.