What is Architectural Interior Design and Why is it Important to Your Next Project?

Photography by Lisa Russman

As a homeowner, it can be confusing to know when you might need an architect to help with your interior design remodel or when an interior designer will suffice. Knowing what an interior architect can and will do enables you to decide what expertise you need for your home’s renovation and who has the skills to help transform your home into the space you need. 

Understanding Interior Architecture vs. Interior Design
What exactly is interior architecture? This discipline includes knowledge and skills that consider all aspects of building and finishing an interior space. It encompasses everything from choosing the materials, planning for the necessary systems that influence habitation, the intelligent use of space, and how that space integrates with the rest of the structure. An interior architect applies design concepts to create areas that are not only structurally sound, but that are also functional and beautiful to the user. 

Interior design, strictly speaking, works with an existing space to craft spaces that meet the needs and wants of the client. While interior designers may recommend changes to structures, systems like HVAC, or support features, only a licensed architect can make those plans, as they have specialized knowledge about building design. 

Interior designers today often have some training or expertise in architectural and likewise, many architects have education and skills as designers, thus blurring the line between these two roles. A new specialization of interior design and architecture has emerged. Those in this combined role have the skills and knowledge to understand not only the structural and materials requirements for completing a space but also an eye for the softer components that finish and make it a home. Interior architectural designers have an understanding of design theory, technology, use of space, and styling to make the best choices for the homeowner. 

Does Your Next Project Need an Architect or a Designer?
Understanding the difference between interior design and architecture is helpful, as it can make a difference in your budget when you determine who you need to hire for your build or renovation. Because architects are licensed and require additional training, they are necessary for some kinds of projects but not necessarily all. 

 If you are making minor updates to your home, changing out paint, or just enlarging or replacing a few windows and doors, you may not need either an architect or a designer. Your contractor can help you with these types of updates. For larger projects, such as whole-room or whole-house remodels, additions, or any project that involves taking out walls or redoing plumbing, electrical, or HVAC systems, you should hire an architect. 

 An architect not only designs your space and helps you create a plan that will meet your needs, they also help manage your renovation project. They work directly with contractors and subs, oversee all the work, and manage your budget. Interior architects specialize in solving complex design problems while also making the new space aesthetically pleasing. 

 Interior designers are not engineers or architects, but they have wonderful expertise in space planning, remodeling rooms like kitchens and baths, or updating your room’s finishes. Any plans created by a designer should be reviewed by a structural engineer to ensure the safety of your home, and designers generally do not serve as project managers during the construction process. 

Get Everything You Need
Today, the role of interior design has grown to encompass knowledge of architectural design and principles, and the training of architects often includes interior design specialties, as well. Remember that if the exterior shell will remain the same but everything else will change, or if you will be adding additional square footage, hiring an interior architect with design experience and expertise will give you the best of both worlds.