In my interpretation, Interior Design is a profession of problem solving even though HGTV may make you think otherwise (or worse, declaring a lack-of-art-on-a-wall as a grave problem). Interior design can in fact help curb major issues from global warming to social segregation in its own nifty, meticulous ways. Yet the general populace is unaware of its realm and usefulness.


Generally people are aware of what architects do but they tend to use interior design and interior decoration interchangeably, including and especially the media. Here (while trying to suppress my acute exasperation ) in a very civic way, I’ve tried to elucidate which profession may serve best in which situation.

Ideally clients would hire an architect for every project because it means they are starting with a blank slate, armed with a complete list of their exact needs and wants.a_blank_slate_chalkboard

Architects would start the project from ground up, defining the external perimeter according to plot size and shape location, weather, available material, skills and labor. Interior designers may work alongside and under an architect’s supervision to help draw up the layout, interior materials and finishes, lighting and furnishing of each space. They ensure a project’s safety and whether they are built to code alongside structural engineers and contractors. In North America and in developed world in general, architects need license to work as professionals in addition to their degree and experience.

Clients would hire interior designers when they can only change what’s within the already built outside perimeter. Designers are especially useful in case of adaptive reuse (like turning a foundry into a coworking space or an abandoned warehouse to a recreational space).

00_SuperWhatnotlike this old industrial space turned cafe with an uber cool, sunken seating area!


Designers are typically engaged whenever any sort of in-place building, rebuilding, extending and reformatting of the interior involved. They can move structural elements like load bearing walls ,columns or joists after consulting architects and structural engineers. It is about solving problem by sculpting the space with the right material based on user, weather, cost, maintenance and aesthetic. Lot of their works can be better understood in terms of relationships among spaces.

C:UsersSabaDesktopApril 12Cowo April 13 GF  and Mezz on ArcFor example: In this Eco coworking space designed by me, the printing room is placed in the farthest corner to curb paper consumption.

3e89a62b9ef6e30dae4a65941149aafcPossibility of what an interior designer can do-in a residential setting: turned a 258 s.f of garret space into this sleek apartment.


multifunctional-living-spaceIf you are thinking “but I do not want sleek.I want my grandfather clock,my pottery collection,my catwalks and catbeds around me”,designers could and would work all those in- in a more integrated,considerate way.


Interior designers would deal with codes, safety standards and regulations (alongside builders and contractors.) and therefore are eligible to work on commercial spaces like offices and restaurants. They are generally well versed in technical software like AutoCAD, alongside presentation software like Sketchup,3DSMax,VRay or Photoshop. Like architects, interior designers need license to work as professionals in addition to their degree and experience. Being a relatively newer profession ,the field is somewhat fluid with its standards and regulations but it is getting stricter as more concerns roll in. For example: in Montreal ,I can identify myself as an interior designer upon completion of a 3-year degree but to refer myself as an interior designer in Washington, I not only need a 4-year bachelor but also NCDIQ certification alongside a certain number of hours.

Anybody, with or without a degree (online or offline) may refer themselves as interior decorators if they have flair for colors and textiles. A lot of the ‘design stars’ (say Emily Henderson) are actually decorators with amazing way with furnishings while some are designers when they re-sculpt a space (property brothers). There are no regulations regarding the title Interior decorator since there are not much of safety issues involved. They would often work in residential setting. Interior decorators are last resort, yet they are extremely useful for the majority of people who are either renter or owners of spaces with little control over their built environment or as a stopgap measure before a full-on renovation. Sometimes right paint color or furniture layout or (more often than not) ample editing do make a world of difference.

BERTELSEN2-1024x654Pure magic of editing and swapping out furnishing!There are no structural element changed here.


With the basic differences laid out, let’s elaborate things a bit further with the subject of light in an interior space.

Since architects are designing the space from the ground up, they would decide the size, placements of the windows, placements of awning or depth of the exterior wall to regulate the sunlight in such a manner that the space may not need any window treatment at all.

09_2Karim residence by Shatotto

Architects might orient the structure in such a way that sunlight would hit and recede the right spaces in right time, rarely necessitating the use of artificial lighting. They might further play with the light just by laying the construction materials in a certain way. Artificial lights may also be built-ins and hardwired.

Now, interior designers would have to work within the constraint of the perimeter and may only be able to move, resize windows (within reason) or install built in solutions like recessed blinds for light control. Interior designers may also opt for built-ins and hardwired lighting system while rearranging the space layout and managing construction.

Above, a tailored solution to manage sunlight ,with drapes flowing from the reveal(gap between the ceiling and the wall) of the decoupled (offset from the wall) ceiling. Clearly, this was not an afterthought and was addressed during the construction phase to bring in some subtle interest.

Being the last to intervene, interior decorators would have to resort to installing curtains for sunlight control and placing pendants or lamps for artificial lighting.

c2352eb76dc92c47d8cfb58908205090Velvet drapes make the most out of what’s available

Each subsequent ‘intervenor’ (from architect to designer to decorator) has lesser control and fewer choices for solutions. Typically each subsequent professional would have to address an issue with more addition, more detached features. The sooner client choose to involve professionals, the better(more tailored, more efficient and more streamlined) the solutions will be and even though it may seem counter-intuitive, the more money  will be saved in the long run. This is why highly designed spaces often look cold because all the solutions (privacy, upkeep, lighting, acoustics, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and some cases even furniture) are already ingrained within the space. Now it’s up to the people to bring in the missing warmth because rest assured that the space maybe just as comforting as its frou-frou counterpart.

Needless to say that architects can do interior designers’ and decorators’ job (as they often do), interior designers can do decorators’ job but decorators cannot do interior designers’ job as designers cannot do architects’ job. The takeaway is to involve the right professional at the right time to make the most out of the materials and the métier.



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