Interior designers do much more than pick complementary paint colors and choose matching furniture — although those tasks are important parts of the job. Unlike decorators, interior designers usually have an associate of science degree or certificate of achievement in interior design from an accredited program. They’re trained in drafting, lighting and computer aided design (CAD), and are experts in room-specific design and residential space planning. Interior designers use these skills to plan and design safe, highly functional and beautiful interior spaces, from kitchens and bathrooms to family rooms and bedrooms. They determine space requirements, work within building codes and inspection regulations, and meet accessibility standards. An interior designer’s day-to-day job includes creative and technical tasks, both of which often require great communication skills:
- Creating model rooms and visuals using design software.
- Researching different textiles, materials, finishes, lighting and furniture.
- Hiring suppliers, vendors, and contractors.
- Estimating costs and making bids on potential jobs.
Architects may work for an architecture or engineering firm, they may work for a government organization, they can work for a construction company, or they may be self-employed (freelance). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that architects spend a large amount of their working time in the home or company office: meeting with clients; creating reports and architectural drawings; and working with other architects and engineers. When not in an office, an architect is often at the construction site either as part of the development of plans or to ensure building progress is following the blueprint.
When a client interacts with an architect, it is typically to have them design drawings for the construction of a house or a building. If you are a client who has hired a large architecture firm, there may be a team of people working on your design. But if you are working with a freelance architect or a smaller firm, one person (or a small group) will take your concept and translate it into an architectural blueprint that a builder can use to construct a house. The plans will lay out everything from the depth of the foundation to the materials to use to the type of metal to be used in the reinforcement. Once the plans have been created and handed off to the builder, the architect may remain on the project — depending on budget — and oversee progress.
For many homeowners, the difference between a good interior designer and a bad one is simply a matter of taste — but all good designers have similar skill sets. Interior designers usually have a degree or certificate in interior design, with training in design principles and lighting, drafting, and computer aided design (CAD) software. Good interior designers have strong color balancing skills and understand how different colors influence spatial perception and moods. They know the building and electrical codes in the areas where they practice, and they make sure that any contractors they hire also work to those codes. They are knowledgeable about different upholstery fabrics and draperies, stay ahead of residential design trends, and maintain their own individual creativity. Also, good interior designers have excellent space designing skills, so they can arrange a space efficiently and with ideal traffic flow. Ultimately, hiring a good interior designer means pinpointing one whose signature style is complementary to your personal style — so checking out many designers’ portfolios is a must — and whose communication methods match yours.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median salary of an architect in 2016 was $76,930. This range included architects with every type of company as well as self-employed architects. Depending on the architect and whether they’re with a firm or independent, they may charge per hour or by the square foot, or they may charge a percentage of the total budget for a construction project. An hourly rate is typically used for smaller projects such as providing consultation, helping clients hone their concept before the design process begins, or drafting documents and plans. If an architect is working on an hourly basis on a larger project, there will usually be an agreed-upon cap on the number of hours they will work. For larger projects, such as new construction or total overhaul remodels, architects may charge a percentage of the total construction costs. The architect will usually set the percentage you will pay after the total cost of construction has been accounted for. Percentages can range within a firm depending on the extent of the services they’re providing. For example, a lower percentage of the total construction costs may include drafting and minimal consultation and guidance along the way, while a higher percentage could include on-site project management services with every detail attended to. Architects may also charge by the square footage of the project. The rate per square foot can vary depending on the individual’s training, the services they are providing, the complexity of the project, and other factors — such as obtaining permits. The national average cost to hire an architect is between $1,690 and $2,500.
You can hire an interior design for a job as basic as a one-room consultation or as complex as supervising the design of an entire new home, helping with space planning, choosing color palettes, and shopping for furniture, flooring and artwork. The size and scope of the job will determine how much an interior designer charges; the average national cost for an interior designer ranges from $75 to $100 or more per hour. Other cost factors include the person’s reputation — interior designers to the stars are usually more expensive — and region. Most interior designers charge an average of $100-$225 for an initial consultation, but some will charge an hourly rate, usually starting at an average of $50, for larger projects that require extensive consultations. Hourly rates may be available for smaller projects, such as redecorating a living room or staging a home for sale; for instance, shopping and consulting can cost an average of $75 to $100 per hour, while staging costs and average $95 per hour. For many homeowners, a percentage of an interior designer’s cost is recouped through the professional discounts they receive from their vendors.
Choosing an interior designer is all about finding one whose signature style fits well with your tastes and who can work within your budget. To choose the right professional for your interior design project, ask yourself these five questions:
- What is your signature style? Good interior designers can both describe their personal aesthetic and demonstrate their signature style through their portfolios. Make sure it appeals to you.
- How will you make sure the design fits my lifestyle? Good designers understand that the interior design must improve a homeowner’s experience in their home and fit into their lifestyle; for example, a white suede sofa is a poor choice for a family with large dogs and small children.
- How much do you charge? Depending on the project, an interior designer may charge an hourly rate, a flat fee or a percentage of the project’s total cost.
- How will you stick to my budget? An interior designer should have a plan for staying within your budget, which includes full transparency of costs and flexibility when choosing materials and furnishings.
Because an interior design project is highly collaborative and based on hard-to-define personal preferences, it’s most important to choose a designer who communicates clearly and listens closely to you.