Do I need an architect or an interior designer?
This is a frequently asked question here at Design for Me. Sometimes the answer is very clear cut but often there’s a grey area! So be re-assured that it’s not a very silly question. I’ve worked as both an architect and an interior designer in my career, so hope I’m in a good place to give a comprehensive answer. Firstly, I think it would be useful to outline the scenarios when the answer is more obvious.
Architect – when the work concerns the outer shell of the building i.e. external walls, roof etc.
Interior designer – when the work includes the design and specification of interior finishes, furniture or fabrics.
Anything in between – which represents a very broad range – could be done by either, but it will ultimately come down to their individual expertise and experience.
Four types of home designer
I’m sure some designers might object to being labelled in this way, but it might be helpful for you to think of these four categories when choosing your architectural designer, architect or interior designer. One person or company may well fall into more than one or even all categories!
1. Architectural Techie: an individual or company concerned with and skilled in the relevant science and technology, e.g. how and why buildings are constructed in a certain way, using certain materials. This might be an architect, or more likely an architectural technician or technologist. We’ve written an article here on the difference between architects, architectural designers and technologists.
2. Creative Architect: many architects refer to their practices as ‘design led’, meaning they are concerned with finding the best aesthetic and functional solution to your brief. However, the rigorous and broad professional training to become an architect also means that they will be highly competent in relation to, for example, the management, technical performance or economic aspects of a building project.
3. Interior Architectural Designer: some architectural designers (sometimes called interior architects, if they are also a registered architect) are predominantly concerned with the interior only, and not the structural or thermal elements of the building.
4. Interior Designer (furniture and fabrics): interior designers specialise in the cosmetic ‘finishing touches’ to a room – often the aspects that provide the most character and style to a house. Wall and floor finishes, furniture and fabrics that are the most noticeable and apparent in everyday life for you and visitors, so it’s critical to get them right!
Here are some common project types and our guide to which type of architectural or interior designer would be most suitable.
New kitchen or bathroom
For an individual kitchen or bathroom, some homeowners decide to go it alone and design and specify all the finishes themselves. However, this is certainly not an easy task and can often lead to costly mistakes so it’s certainly worthwhile considering using a professional. Many kitchen companies will provide a design service on the basis that you use their products, but sometimes it’s helpful to use an impartial designer who can help you choose and source the right materials and figure out the best layout.
Most suited to an: Interior Architectural Designer, Creative Architect or Interior Designer. An interior designer would probably be most suitable if this is a stand-alone project, as architects wouldn’t usually take on a small project like this (unless it’s part of a larger renovation project). However, you might find some freelancers or student architects who would be happy to help.
Most suited to an: Architectural Techie or Creative Architect.
If the design is very simple and you know roughly what you want aesthetically, a more technical architect, technician or technologist might be your best bet. However, if you need inspiration and want to create a stronger architectural statement, look for a more design-led Creative Architect.
Most suited to an: Architectural Techie.
The biggest part of the design work involved in a loft conversion is structurally and thermally upgrading your roof space to make it habitable and meet building and planning regulations. There is usually only space for a bedroom so the space planning aspects to the design are often quite simple. However, if you are planning to extend rather than simply convert your loft, you may feel that more creative input is required.
New build house
Most suited to a: Creative Architect or Architectural Techie.
For most people, the desire to build their own home is a creative ambition in itself, so it makes sense to use a creative, design-led architect to harness your ‘grand designs’. However, there are other motivations for self-building, such as cost, or a desire for zero-carbon living, in which case, an architectural technologist or other ‘Architectural Techie’ might be more suitable. Remember there are a lot of very talented architects and architectural technologists out there who are both creative and highly technically skilled!
Whole house renovation
Most suited to a: Creative Architect or Interior Architectural designer.
This may involve gutting the house and re-planning the layout. It could end up being a very big job. It will require someone who is good at managing a project and excellent at space planning. There may be some structural alterations involved, so it might be necessary to also involve a structural engineer too.
‘Knocking through’ for open plan living
Most suited to an: Interior Designer or Interior Architectural Designer.
Although you may think that knocking down structural walls might require the services of an architect, it’s perhaps better suited to an Interior Designer or Interior Architectural Designer. However, you will also have to get a structural engineer involved to calculate the beam required for your new opening. Once the ‘knocking through’ element is dealt with, it’s about figuring out the best layout of furniture and choosing finishes to create one cohesive space that works well for your family.
I hope you are now ready to choose the right designer for your project. If you need more help finding the right person, we’re happy to help (see below). Best of luck!
Emily Design for Me