Interior Designer VS Architect Responsibilities


Hello, I am interested in both of these, but I am more interested in the art side of things like how the building is shaped, how it looks, etc. Do architects get to  design the interiors of buildings, or is that left to the interior designer specialty? Do interior designers get to design buildings at all? I am not sure which one I want. I definitely dont want to be doing something like crunching numbers all day which doesnt use any creativity.

May 23, 19 4:23 am

architects sometimes design interiors, depending on the project and the architecture firm. not sure for your location, but in america big firms like gensler have many architects working on retail and office interiors - though there is plenty of non-creative work involved. other offices specialize in hospitality and again need architects with a talent for interiors to manage the design with an understanding of functionality.

but interior designers never design buildings (except sometimes rarely private homes). if you want to go this way, study architecture and focus on developing a portfolio of projects with interesting spaces you could target towards a designer position.

interiors work and architecture both require lots of routine stuff like materials schedules and code reviews. if you are good at design though you will find more opportunity to focus on that as you get experience.

i work with a lot of hotel interior designers; nearly all of the senior managers are trained as architects, and most of them are licensed. it's useful to have an architect's sense of spatial relationships and awareness of functional requirements.

May 23, 19 6:01 am

I've worked with an interior designer once in my 10 years of employment.  On that project, the Interior Designer just gave us some schematic design ideas, and we modified them to actually suit the project.  All the other interior work that's ever been done on my project was by Architects or by the Owner.  The fast majority of my work has not had an FF&E portion.  The Owners typically handle that.  If it did, I could see involving an Interior Designer more. Otherwise, I've just never had much use for them.  Typically, they don't have a clue what's going on spacially and are mostly just decorating. 

May 23, 19 8:42 am

*Good* interior design goes far beyond FF&E. There is, however, a lot of bad interior design ("decorators") out there.


Correct. There is one good interior designer in my area. The rest are decorating.

atelier nobody

I know a number of interior designers who would be perfectly capable of doing full service design, but are stuck as decorators because that's where the demand in the market is. That is what ultimately led me to pursue architecture rather than ID.


I haven't gone the interior designer route but the road to licensure as an Architect is paved with tears, regrets and many sleepless nights.

May 23, 19 12:36 pm

Some states required licensure for interior designers, too.


never said it didn't but tyvm for the info. #themoreyouknow


When I did it +/- 15 years ago, the overall process to qualify and take the NCIDQ interior design exam was much more straightforward and less expensive than what NCARB subjects architectural candidates to. The test was on paper, required a lot of hand drafting, and some short written answers and was thus arguably harder than the ARE of the period. I think the NCIDQ is now computer-based, so things may be different today.


Best to job shadow a few of each. Both can be done in many different ways. One of my best mentors was a really good interior designer. She could design the building, all the furniture and interiors and make the curtains too and make you dinner too and pick your clothes out for you too. 

May 23, 19 2:11 pm
Non Sequitur

We're a joint ID and Arch office and I don't think a day goes by where I don't hear the senior ID complain that people don't consider ID special and whatnot.  Sure, they are often asked to pick out fabrics, ceramic tiles, and stack office desks/cubicles, but will throw theirs arms up in defeat the second an exterior wall is touched.  I find their interpretation of code is different since, at least in my area, their accréditation testing and academic background is still based on some archaic international code instead of our own, more specific codes. Plus schedules... ID folks love their schedules.

But we also have a few here who genuinely are good at designing mill work and other sculptural things that are part of the permanent pieces of our projects.  I just can't help but roll my eyes when I see them have a 5 person 2hr pow-wow over carpet samples.  Too much ephemeral discussions on nonsensical fluffy things for me.  It's paint, it will not affect anyone's aura...

Fun thing is tho, as an architect, I can do all of the above and design buildings.  I can pick and choose... and I choose not to deal with the easily replaceable decorative bits.

May 23, 19 2:49 pm

Due to the historic nature of our projects, we do our own ID; we have a specialist in-house that selects period-appropriate furniture, light fixtures, carpets, paints, window coverings, etc., and even does hand renderings when needed.  All of the architects in my office learn as much as possible from him, but rely on him as a final review. On larger projects, some of our clients hire local ID firms with which they have longstanding relationships, and we coordinate.  The great part is that they deal with the client's indecisiveness about paint colors, sourcing custom rugs, and fussy stuff like light fixture selections, and we can coordinate with what was selected.  The annoying side is when ID picks things that look ridiculous and we suggest something more historically appropriate which they choose to ignore because 'trends' ugh.

May 23, 19 3:10 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: