Remodeling home…consult architect or interior designer first?


    DH & I are planning on remodeling our very tiny galley kitchen and adjoining family room by expanding out about 8 feet. The problem is, neither one of us has an eye for what goes together. We both know what we like/don’t like when we see it, but just aren’t creative enough to coordinate things on our own.

    So, are we better off getting an interior designer’s perspective first, or hiring an architect? Are architects trained in any way to help people decide on things like what countertop color looks best with a particular cabinetry color? On the flip side, would an interior designer be aware of things like plumbing & electrical requirements/codes? This is the home we plan on staying in for at least the next 15 years, until our children finish school, so we’d like to make it very much “ours”.

    Can anyone help? TIA!

    15 Replies

    1. Hi,

      From my experience clients save money by going to an educated interior architect/designer from the begining.

      The way I usually work is I do the entire design and layout, produce all construction drawings and then send them to an expediter/architect of record who stamps and runs drawings to the DOB.

      I think this saves the client money, and I also find spaces come out better when an interior designer is involved from day one.

      Feel free to contact me if you are interested in my services or want more info.

      Chango Design

    2. The way you have framed the issue is perfect and your concerns are valid. Since no other posts mentioned it, if you are expanding your home then you really should be filing for a Building Permit and filing with a registered architect. You want to make sure the expansion is safely engineered and does not end up causing one of your neighbors to report you to the city (and incur fines or a stop-work order).

      “Floating World” gave a great answer. Depending on who you hire, the architect may be someone who handles everything from soup to nuts (designing, filing, decorating), or that person may not be interested in the interior details. Some architects prefer to leave the details of which tile or counter material to a specialist, such as a kitchen designer. Some interior designers do consult on such hard goods, but most are oriented more towards soft goods, the decorative end of furnishings, window treatments, etc.

      Each profession is specialized, and many renovations work best when there is a team approach: you the client, an architect, a kitchen or interior designer, and a contractor. I’m a kitchen designer and I collaborate often with architects and other trades. Even if you’ve already begun your renovation, if you have questions as you go, feel free to get in touch with me (or go to FAQs page for helpful general info).
      Good luck with everything!

    3. An architect can help you only if you change the structure of your house. In many cases removing a wall could weaken the ceiling or puting a strain on other parts of the stucture.

      Contact first an architect Contractors San Diego make sure your plans are safe and then contact an interior designer.
      They are much more qualified to advice what looks good in your house.

    4. If you’re planning to move walls, plumbing or electrical an Architect is the correct person to bring into the planning and design process. If your renovation does not deal with altering the structure or systems a decorator can do the job.

      Ideally you’d have both on the job working as a team. (I’m an Architect and always find an Interior Designer for my clients). One of the most important aspects of the design will be the Furniture Plan and the Electrical Plan. These drawings will show exactly which pieces of furniture will be located in each room and how they are lit or powered. Why do you need this? Should this be obvious to your contractor? Nope, never is.
      These drawings will help you locate lighting for various tasks and locate the switches, outlets and data connections in logical places – that make sense to you and your family. This seems really obvious, but this is probably the largest reason for changer orders and unhappy clients.

    5. i think you can use both. architects are great for having creative ideas with space, and they can create the designs for all your mill work and oversee the implementation. mine also hooked me up with great deals on wood and tile that I would never in a million years been able to find. he had hardware samples that i was able to buy at a fraction of cost, and just seemed to understand which vendors and stores would be the best for the least amount of money.

      for colors and fabrics, interior designer is the right way to go. sometimes they think of people to utilize that would be out of my experience for sure. i found a window trim sprayer, an art work hanger (amazing – arranged my whole collection and hung it), and the best wallpaper guy ever.

      she was great, and i would have paid the whole fee just for the paint choices. the color of the trim is genius.

      for furniture, carpets, housewares, lighting and linens, i suggest spending a couple of days at the ABC outlet in the Bronx – it’s right off the triboro. it’s the best deals of all time. don’t be afraid to negotiate either.

    6. Superstooper: I would be very much interested in your offer to the OP, even just the links. I can be reached at vinca at Many thanks if you’re willing!

    7. I have been renovating for a year and I have not only a good eye but an enormous amount of information and resources. I would be happy to help you (in a neighborly way, free of charge) by email or over coffee, etc. I know that it probably sounds weird for me to offer, but I could save you some money and it would be nice to take my mind off my own reno for a while.

      Any expansion of a room should be looked at by an engineer, minimally.

      I can put you in contact with someone who can advise you on code.

      Leave your email. I can at least send you links. I have TONS of information!

    8. Ah, the great debate. Each profession could argue endlessly about how this is their turf and the other should leave it alone. So, bottom line, tinarina is right. Go with someone who has a portfolio that you like.

    9. Ah, the great debate. Each profession could argue endless about how this is their turf and the other should leave it alone. So, bottom line, tinarina is right. Go with someone who has a portfolio that you like.

    10. I think you could have great success with either. We did a major remodel(including a kitchen) with the help of an interior designer. He was able to do (or get done) all the drawings required for the contractors, and supervised the work as well.

      IMO, some (but not all) architects are great with space but not so great with furnishings, or tend to iconic pieces like Eames chairs, etc–which is fine if that’s your taste.

      Look at portfolios for IDs and architects and find someone whose taste and personality you really like.

    11. Call Katherine Hammond, who is an interior designer. She is really nice and I have worked with her before. Tell her the guy who painted her top floor apt recommended her.