Architect or Architectural Interior Designer?

White painted hallway with wooden floor, designed by an Architectural Interior Designer
Architect or Architectural Interior Designer – what’s the difference and who do I need? This is a question I’m often asked, so I hope the following helps solve the mystery…
Education

An Architect does not get to call themselves ‘Architect’ and practice without seven years of study and current membership to their local regulatory board (ARB in the UK). They will have specifically studied structure, engineering, and materials of build.

While universities are progressively including Architectural Interior Design as a primary subject, an Architectural Interior Designer may have no specifically oriented academic qualifications. Many have learnt on the job and developed through practical lessons.

The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) is a recognised body for regulating Architectural Interior Design and Interior Design, though many designers who are trustworthy do not have membership. This is when personal recommendation comes in.

There are some highly credible independent institutes for the development of study in Architectural Interior Design, such as The Inchbald in London.  Knowing if your professional has sought avenues of further education is a good assessment of their commitment to the discipline.

Orientation

Architectural Interior Designers design from the inside out (client centred), an architect will often design from the outside in (building centred). Please note that this is not a slam of architects – there are lots of exceptional individuals practicing (and I work with some of them).

For a more detailed description of what an Architectural interior designer does, see my article on this here.

And link to my services page.

Skills

Many skills are shared between the two, allowing the individual’s particular proficiency. An architect may have a greater knowledge base of external materials, engineering, building vernacular, and town planning for example. An Architectural Interior Designer may have greater experience in concept and flow relating to the client or end user of a project, and they provide a finished product.

Type of project

There is something in the name! An Architectural Interior Designer tends to focus on spaces that you can be in (though not necessarily indoors- ooh cryptic, right?!), and the phenomenological action of using/passing through the space. The type of a project an Architectural Interior Designer is presented with may range from a single room, to a home, or a hotel. Sometime we get jobs which the clients feel are too small for an architect but do require structural knowledge.

However if you are considering building a hotel from foundations up, an Architect experienced in this field would be more suitable… however, I would recommend dual employment as Architectural Interior Designers work very well in combination with Architects to ensure the space is right from the “inside out” as well as “outside in”.

How can you chose which professional is right for a project?

Consider your focus for your project and see which of the above arenas it fits best with.

Confirm for yourself previous work done by your considered choices and take time to wonder if it is the professional’s design, the client’s, or both. This is a great measure for helping to decide who you would like to work with, and how you want to work with them.

Recommendations are by far and away the best way of finding a great professional, and some (like me) use only this method of “advertising”. Both practices have individuals who excel, and those who do not.

Trust your gut. If you don’t get a good feel for someone, or your styles are not compatible, don’t pursue it. You’ll only be wasting your time, and theirs.

Want to know more?

What does an Architectural Interior Designer do?  Hop over to that blog post to find out more.


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