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Architect vs. Interior Designer: Who to Hire for Your Bay Area Home Renovation

While planning a home renovation, there is one question that inevitably takes center stage: Is it necessary to hire both an architect and interior designer? It’s one of those frequent asks during our consultations, and rightfully so. The answer? It depends on your project’s scope.

I know, I know. It’s not as cut-and-dry as you may have hoped. But the truth is, both interior designers and architects are important in their own right. The secret lies in understanding the expertise behind each field…

Education & Licensing 

Architects: The path to becoming an architect involves acquiring a bachelor’s or master’s degree in — you guessed it — architecture. From there, they are required to intern under licensed professionals, pass the Architect Registration Examination, fulfill state requirements, and oftentimes, will pursue certifications for specialized areas. It’s worth noting that architects almost always require licensing to practice. 

Interior designers: While most interior designers receive a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design and may pursue additional certifications, it’s not a requirement. Interior designers don’t require any special licensing but must adhere to the local building codes. 

DISCLAIMER: California does not license interior designers — always check your local codes.


Areas of Expertise 

Architects: No surprises here — the primary focus of an architect is structural design. They’re the experts at ensuring the integrity, stability, and longevity of your home. Basically, it’s their job to dictate where walls are needed to prevent your roof from caving in. Important.

Interior Designers: We’re the ones to create beauty and function in your home, ensuring every detail is elevated and seamlessly aligns with your lifestyle. Those custom built-ins? We’re the ones who make sure they’re the perfect size for your TV. Your kitchen island? With our expertise, it’ll be large enough to fit the whole fam… if that’s your goal. We ask all the right questions, ensuring no detail goes unchecked.

In summary, designers are MUCH more involved in mapping out the intricate details of your lifestyle and crafting a design to align. However, when it comes to structural changes like building additions or extending your roof’s height, you’ll need an architect.


Scope of Work 

Architects: They’re all about the overall design and structure during your home renovation. Their general scope of work includes: 

  • Conceptual design
  • Creation of architectural drawings
  • Structural design
  • Coordination with consultants
  • Construction documents
  • Compliance with building codes
  • Quality control throughout the construction process

An architect is responsible for documenting your home’s footprint for builders and giving the green light to those important permit drawings crucial for construction.


Interior Designer: We’re experts in optimizing interior spaces, from layouts and color schemes to the final touch with furnishings and finishes. AKA the fun stuff. Here’s what falls under our scope of work: 

  • Mood boards
  • Space planning
  • Renderings
  • Color palette creation
  • Furnishing selections
  • Window treatments
  • Material choices
  • Lighting plans
  • Procurement and tracking
  • Project coordination and management
  • Installation and final quality control 

Bonus: We also leverage our network of trusted vendors and suppliers for custom products that are higher quality and come with top-notch customer service and installation. (You won’t find this in retail.)


So, who should you hire first? 

In the end, both interior designers and architects are key players on your renovation dream team. A seamless partnership between the two will ensure your project is completed with precision and expertise. Who you hire first depends on your project.

If you’re moving walls or adding structures, it’s best to hire an architect first to jumpstart the permitting process. Then, an interior designer should be brought in shortly after to begin collaboration. Opting for a purely cosmetic upgrade? An interior designer is all you’ll need. 

Are you stepping into the initial phases of your renovation? Whether you’re looking for a full-scale renovation or just updating a few key areas, we’ve got your back.



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