Interior Architecture and Interior Design Are Similar but Different

07/03/2023 General Construction
Interior Architecture and Interior Design Are Similar but Different

Most people have heard of interior design. Some have heard of interior architecture. Yet many think they’re the same thing and use the terms interchangeably. Yet, although closely related, there are key similarities and differences between these two services and professions.

In a nutshell, interior architecture is a combination of architecture and interior design that involves designing building interiors and reconstructing or reshaping interior spaces. While this field emphasizes functionality and the technical aspects of interior spaces, interior design focuses on aesthetic elements such as furnishings and décor.

Both of these fields are extremely important segments of the construction, architectural and engineering industries. Let’s look at their similarities and differences.

What Is Interior Architecture?

Interior architecture focuses on the design, construction and functionality of the physical structure of interior spaces in buildings. This comprises the layout of rooms and spaces, the selection of materials and finishes, lighting design and the integration of mechanical and electrical systems, among other aspects.

The goal of interior architecture is to create functional, visually pleasing and safe interior spaces that meet the needs of the people using the spaces and that comply with building codes and regulations.

Interior architecture blends art and science to create, restore or readapt interior spaces in buildings such as homes, offices, retail stores, schools, hospitals and many others. It also includes converting one type of space into another, known as adaptive re-use. For example, the indoor space of an old office building can be transformed into livable housing units while retaining the building’s original exterior design.

In construction, architectural interiors are typically designed and specified by an interior architect and then built by a general contractor or specialty subcontractor.

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What Do Interior Architects Do?

Interior architects usually begin working on a project by meeting with clients (project owner, developer or general contractor) to determine their requirements and preferences for the interior spaces. They also communicate and collaborate with consultants, engineers, interior designers, electricians, plumbers and other professionals and tradespeople working in the construction project.

Interior architects also develop budgets and timelines for their work, research building codes and regulations that apply to interior spaces, test materials, and assess natural light and other environmental concerns that may affect a space. They typically use computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) software to create their designs and manage their work.

Given their responsibilities, interior architects must have specialized training gained through college degrees and certification programs, as well as a license to work in their field.

What Is Interior Design?

Interior design involves making rooms and indoor spaces comfortable, functional and aesthetically pleasing for the inhabitants or users. It focuses on aesthetic aspects such as color schemes, furniture, wall paint, lighting fixtures, flooring, window treatments and greenery. Interior design also considers how people use and move through interior spaces or rooms.

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What Do Interior Designers Do?

Interior designers craft spaces based on the needs and wants of their clients. Like interior architects, interior designers communicate and collaborate with a variety of design and construction professionals and tradespeople. They create drawings and 3D illustrations, research and order materials, oversee installations, and establish schedules and budgets, among other tasks.

These professionals must have an eye for style, a flair for ambiance and knowledge of historical design periods, color theory, design fabrics and textiles, lighting principles, and other aspects and elements of interior design.

Today’s interior designers often specialize in one or more areas to advance their careers in a highly competitive market. For example, an interior designer may specialize in residential or commercial buildings, healthcare facilities or restaurants, kitchens or bathrooms. They may also have expertise in more than one trade, such as a reputable carpenter or artist who is also an interior designer.

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Many interior designers use CAD software such as Turbo CAD, SketchUp Pro and several versions of Autodesk to create designs and manage their work.

Unlike interior architects, not all interior designers must follow a particular academic track or acquire a license to practice, depending on the state where they provide their services.

Interior Architecture vs. Interior Design: Key Takeaways

Interior Architects

  • Have a more technical background
  • Focus on the structural and functional aspects of interior spaces
  • Deal with space planning and structural renovations
  • Work with clients, contractors, technicians, tradespeople
  • Need a college degree and license to practice

Interior Designers

  • Have a more decorative or artistic background
  • Focus on the aesthetic and functional aspects of interior spaces
  • Use aesthetically pleasing décor and emphasize ambiance
  • Qualifications to practice vary per location, but typically no license required

While interior architecture and interior design often overlap, each field has a predominant focus and specific areas of expertise, as well as different education and certification requirements.

CIC Construction Group offers architectural interior services such as finish carpentry, drywalling, painting, acoustical ceilings, flooring and doors, among others. Contact us for more information.