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An architect vs an interior designer

I am a trained architect. I have noticed over the years that many people do not know the differences between hiring an architect or an interior designer to do their interiors. These two are quite different. The former can do the works of the latter but the latter cannot do the works of the former. I will explain a little here.

An architect can design a building and can also design the interiors of a building. Many times, people would think an architect is just designing the shell and not the interior. However, this cannot be said of an interior designer. On the other hand, an interior designer cannot design a building., as he or she will need to be a qualified person to sign for the buildings he or she designed, it all boils down to responsibility.

I have to acknowledge as an architect, we know a lot of the codes and regulations and sometimes we are encumbered by these. Many times our clients may want a certain element in their design, which we cannot agree with, but an interior designer will gladly do it for them. For instance, architects cannot design a huge upper loft greater than 5sqm, but an interior designer can. Neither can we add in a new storey within an attic space, even though the outside of the building remains the same, as this warrants a need for submissions to relevant authorities. And we run the risk of having our licenses taken away from us if we design such elements which are not according to the codes.

Architects do not take commission from shops such as lighting, furniture and sanitary suppliers. Interior designers do. Usually the latter will recommend the suppliers they work with to their clients, in return, they take a commission, which becomes part of the the cost the clients may pay when they buy the items. So the fee charged by an architect may seem to be high initially, but savings which come from shopping may be passed on to owners later. Architects also recommend such specialists, not for commission, but because we have worked with them, read their specifications, knowing that they will likely have less defects and liability than other brands. This is to reduce the likelihood of us having to follow through the defect rectification stage even after the projects have completed, and we are still cleaning up the mess left behind by these suppliers.

Most architects do not work under a fixed contractor, unlike an interior designer. Interior contractor has their own interior designers. So sometimes when someone engaged an interior designer, they are engaging a contractor at the same time. Most architects work as an independent professional, we usually advocate a tender or 3 separate quotations, to choose the best contractor within the budget of our clients. We are not tied to one contractor. We also are not good at costing, we do have a gut feel of how much roughly the design will cost, and we work well with a quantity surveyor, who can do an estimate for the construction cost. A interior designer, as they are usually hired by a interior contractor, they are usually able to give the clients a quick accurate estimate of the cost with the design, since they are in the same team. Of course, there are always exception, there are some interior designers who work independently as well, not under a contractor.

As to who to do an interior job for you, it also depends on your budget. If you are out to source out a few quotations, with one design, it is good to go with an architect. as the architect usually charges a fixed fee from design to final implementation. But if you have chosen an interior designer under a interior contractor, you are fixed to only getting one quote for comparison.

The above are some differences between the two professions. I hope this is an interesting read.


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