Interior Designer Vs Interior Architect
Updated: Jan 6
What is the difference between an interior architect and an interior designer?
Interior Designer or Interior Architect – which do you need for your project? Are you confused about the difference between the two titles?
This is a question that gets asked quite frequently by people who are uncertain about what level of input each provides, who they should be hiring, or how they should be referring to design professionals in the realm of interior design. In this article we aim to help you understand which you need for your individual project.
Historically, Interior Designers dealt with the finishing elements of a domestic building, covering all aspects of colours schemes, wall finishes, soft furnishings and furniture. This would have either run in parallel with architectural works, or as more of a cosmetic finishing touch.
Perceived as transient and superfluous by some, interior design was never quite taken as seriously as architecture and was regarded as an amateur profession by many. Architecture has for centuries been revered as a venerated discipline and art form, with design largely left to the architect’s own creative license. Interior design or styling was the preserve of the wealthy elite, those who could afford the luxurious finishes which made their spaces so impressive.
Looking at the present day, lives have developed further and people’s ambitions for their homes have grown alongside. The modern home has many more functions than before and people’s perceptions about the importance of interior design has shifted. To serve this growing market, interior design education has expanded in the last ten years. Technology has developed in parallel and therefore, there has been a rapid advancement in what can be offered in the world of interior architecture and design. People are now also starting to realise that the traditional process of engaging an architect in isolation at the start of a project and approaching an interior designer once the architect’s plans are complete or the shell is built, is not necessarily the best way to approach your project, we do after all spend our time on the inside of a building, we use the kitchen and bathroom each day, relax in the furniture we sit on, walk on the floors beneath us and look at the finishes around us.
So, who should I engage with to refurbish my home?
The term Interior architecture encompasses more disciplines and courses have come about in recent years to offer recognition to an Interior Design professional with a wider spectrum of skills. These skills enable them to work on a project from concept to completion, whether independently or alongside a traditional architect and other specialist technicians and trades.
Essentially, interior architects have a broader understanding of new build and renovation projects. For instance, their work spans spatial planning, lighting design, 3D visualisation, incorporating electrical and mechanical design, the structural and technical aspects of a building internally and the control of light and air. This is in addition to designing interior schemes to enhance a space aesthetically. They may also be able to help with security and audio-visual specifications, depending on their experience.
Despite a shift in the industry, there is still an overriding perception that interior design professionals are only concerned with the finishing touches of decoration. Therefore, those who offer much more than this prefer to differentiate their skill-set and demonstrate that they offer much more than a normal interior designer/decorator.
The title ‘Interior Designer’ is not a protected title, and in fact anybody who chooses to offer a design related service for the enhancement of interiors can refer to themselves as such. However, amongst this group, the services offered can vary widely.
For example, some of these professionals may offer a lighter touch service dealing mostly with finishes and soft furnishings. On the other hand, they may be more technically experienced and have deeper knowledge of the full process and technical aspects of delivering a project, either with a qualification to support this, or not.
Your project may require lighting design, internal reconfiguration or a new kitchen or bathroom, and in this instance you will require the services of an interior architect or Interior designer with the relevant experience.
When considering hiring an Interior Designer, always look at the individual or company’s experience and portfolio and don’t be afraid to ask what skills they have and what services they can offer.
It’s advisable to hire a professional with experience across many services, who has experience working with other trades and professionals. This way you will feel confident with your home in their hands.
What term do you go by?
At Ardalane, we choose to refer to ourselves as Designers, as we are experienced in offering a very broad-spectrum services, but these are predominantly design led and other ancillary services that compliment our design work. We offer a full service – interior architecture or interior design - depending on the project scope. We also believe that design is holistic, and we should work alongside an architect from the beginning of a project with everyone focused on doing what is best for the project. We feel the two disciplines of architecture and interior design should be developed holistically to coexist. The two practices are intrinsic to one another at construction stages and therefore the development of each side of the design needs to be similarly unified throughout the process to ensure details, costs and timelines can all align.
This also means that interior finishes are never just an afterthought, but something that is considered, detailed and budgeted for at the earliest opportunity. We derive great pleasure from managing every aspect of a project, integrating the interior with its architecture and ensuring project delivery runs smoothly. Of course the end result is incredibly important, but so too is the journey to get there!
If the interior finishes are considered after the budget has been all but exhausted on the architecture, then compromises will frequently have to be made, meaning that the end result of the interior is perhaps underwhelming compared to the quality of the architecture it sits within.
Often, when this approach is not taken there is a gap in the process, a conflict between details from the architect and those from the interior designer which can cause technical issues on site. There can also be scheduling problems with insufficient attention being paid to the lead times associated with many interior products and this can cause delays at the end of the build.
From a cost perspective, if the interior finishes are considered after the budget has been all but exhausted on the architecture, then compromises will frequently have to be made. Consequently, the end result of the interior is perhaps underwhelming compared to the quality of the architecture it sits within. We do after all spend our time on the inside of a building, we use the kitchen and bathroom each day, relax in the furniture we sit on, walk on the floors beneath us and look at the finishes around us, therefore a shame to lose sight of this.
Planning a new build or full renovation?
We’re finding more and more clients of new builds or renovations are taking to this mindset too, seeking a holistic service with an appropriate budget being established from the outset.
Thus, if you are planning an architectural project, but place importance on the interior finish and how you will use the space, it is always advisable to discuss this with your architect early in the process and consider bringing in an Interior Designer to coordinate the interior aspects of your home with the Architect’s designs.