Architects and interior designers work together to get your project looking and working the way you want it to, inside and out. The relationship is complex. Architects have a vision for the interior of their design just as much as they do of the exterior. Interior designers need a well-designed, well-proportioned, well-lit space in order to work their magic. In the spirit of collaboration, working together through the phases of the design can raise the level of the project.

While there is overlap between what architects and interior designers do, they each have their own distinct skills, capabilities and responsibilities. Architects are responsible for the building’s structure, designing the exterior for looks, style and performance. They make sure the building is safe and meets/exceeds building code requirements. Generally they make the big moves, arranging the rooms, how you flow through the building, sizes, heights and proportions. They decide how the walls and roofs are built and where the windows go.
The interior designer’s role is focused on giving the indoor spaces the look and feel you want, planning spaces, layouts and organizing floor plans. They choose materials, colors, furniture, and decorations that reflect your personality and needs.

In some projects, the architects choose most of the finishes, paint colors, flooring, tile, and so on. In other projects, this is up the the interior designer. And in some cases, they collaborate, and work together to come up with ideas to present to the client. It is advisable to consider this at the start of your project. Clarity from the beginning makes the relationships work smoothly.

What Is Interior Architecture?

The world of interior design breaks down into a few different professions: Interior decorator, interior designer and interior architect.

Interior architecture is a specialized field that merges the skills and training of architecture and interior design. It is a separate and distinct track of education and training from that of interior designers. Interior architects share in the architect’s abilities to understand building structure and they can work with engineers to coordinate the design of mechanical systems.

This discipline involves considerable technical expertise, including knowledge of building codes and regulations. Interior architects are often required to work closely with architects and builders to ensure that the proposed modifications or enhancements do not compromise the building’s structure. Their work extends beyond the role of interior designers and decorators. They can remodel spaces to improve flow, optimize light, and enhance the overall usability of the space.

What does an interior architect do?

An interior architect transforms the interior spaces of buildings to make them more functional, safe, and aesthetically pleasing. This professional merges architecture’s technical skills with interior design’s creative aspects. They analyze building plans and spaces to determine how best to make the design work without compromising the structural integrity of the building. Interior architects are involved in the entire process from the conceptual stage to the execution, including drafting detailed plans, selecting materials, and overseeing construction efforts.

Interior architects focus not only on aesthetics but also on usability. Their designs can improve aspects such as light, sound, and movement within a building.

What skills do interior architects need?

Interior architects require diverse skills that blend technical knowledge with creativity. A profound understanding of architectural principles and interior design is essential, allowing them to navigate and integrate both fields effectively. Technical skills in drafting software such as AutoCAD, Revit, and SketchUp are crucial for designing detailed plans and visualizing projects before they are built.

What is Interior Design?

Interior design is the art and science of making the interiors of a building better, healthier and more aesthetically pleasing for the occupants. It requires a comprehensive understanding of space management, color theory, furniture design, and user experience. Interior work on form and function, tailoring it to the users’ specific tastes and lifestyle needs. They consider elements such as lighting, acoustics, and ergonomics to make the rooms comfortable, beautiful and practical.

The best Interior design work can transform spaces into bespoke environments that reflect the individuality and preferences of the clients. Their work spans residential, commercial, and public spaces, each requiring unique considerations and solutions.

What does an interior designer do?

Interior designers are tasked with making indoor spaces functional and beautiful. They determine space requirements and organize spaces. They select essential items such as such as colors, lighting, and materials, and items such as furniture and decor. They read blueprints and must be aware of building codes, inspection regulations, and universal accessibility standards.

Their job starts with client meetings to understand their needs and preferences, which guide the initial design plans. They then manage the process of turning these plans into a reality. This can include drafting design concepts, creating mood boards, and developing floor plans. They also coordinate with contractors and manufacturers, oversee the installation of design elements, and manage the budget to ensure project completion. Additionally, interior designers often stage spaces, preparing them for sale or usage.

What skills do interior designers need?

Interior designers need a broad set of creative and technical abilities. They must have a strong sense of aesthetics and style, while understanding practical needs. Knowledge of design elements such as color theory, texture, and spatial arrangements is crucial, as is knowledge of history, and awareness of different styles and trends.

Technical skills are equally important. Some great designers use hand sketching and drafting to communicate, but most are proficient in design software. They need to have a good understanding of building codes and safety regulations. Project management skills are essential for overseeing the execution of design projects and ensuring they meet deadlines and budgets.
Effective communication and interpersonal skills are also necessary, as interior designers must collaborate with clients, architects, engineers, and builders. They need to articulate their ideas clearly and be good listeners to understand client desires. Adaptability and problem-solving abilities round out the skill set, enabling designers to navigate challenges that come up during projects.

Architecture vs Interior Design: The Main Differences

Architecture and interior design, while closely related disciplines, focus on different aspects of a building and design project. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for anyone looking to hire professionals in these fields or those studying to enter them. Here are the main differences between architecture and interior design:

Scope of Work:

  • Architecture: Design the building form, facade, and foundational elements that contribute to the physical integrity and safety of the structure. The big vision, layout, size and scale; how it feels to be in the spaces. Decides building materials and systems. Coordinates team of engineers and consultants.
  • Interior Design: Works with the architect to enhance their vision for the interior spaces, or can work independently to design/renovate and already built space. Aims to enhance the function, comfort, and aesthetic quality of living or workspaces.

Professional Training:

  • Architecture: Requires a degree in architecture, knowledge of building codes, safety regulations, and a license to practice.
  • Interior Design: While formal education in interior design is highly beneficial, the focus is more on aesthetics, furniture design, and the psychological effects of space. Certification can be pursued, but it is not always mandatory.

Goal and Focus:

  • Architecture: Make a great building. Consider environmental factors, building codes, and the overall durability of the structure.
  • Interior Design: Make great interior spaces. Aesthetically pleasing and functional, with a focus on style, color schemes, lighting, and furniture layout.

Technical Skills:

  • Architecture: Architects need strong skills in CAD software, and an understanding of structural requirements, construction methods and building systems.
  • Interior Design: Interior designers use CAD for interior spaces, color theory, materials procurement, and space planning.

Regulatory Knowledge:

  • Architecture: Extensive knowledge of local and national building codes, zoning laws, and construction permits.
  • Interior Design: Familiarity with some regulations and codes, especially those related to accessibility and safety standards, but generally less intensive than architecture.

End Responsibility:

  • Architecture: Oversees the entire building process from the conceptual design to the completion of construction.
  • Interior Design: Involvement can begin at any phase of a new project, and can start on an existing building, focusing on the internal layout, design, and decoration.

Architects and Interior Designers bring unique contributions to building and renovation projects, and, working together, can elevate the project, working off each other to add layers of depth and detail.