How to decide between hiring an architect or an interior designer in NYC?

The fact that you’re reading this blog probably means that you’re starting a renovation project in New York City and don’t know whether to choose an architect or interior designer.

The big question is which is which? How do you know what services you need? You have a project and are putting a team together and considering your options. Typically, clients wait too long to hire either an architect or interior designer because perhaps their contractor said they can do it, or they are worried about costs and think they could pick out tile and tell someone where to put it. We could go on! But it is important to make sure you know the difference between the services and understand how they can add value to your project, eliminate big headaches and ultimately change how you live.

How to choose an architect in New York City
‘Shared Luxury Apartment Design’ – photos by Kevin Wong

Typically, in NYC, projects are ‘remodels’ rather than new construction. This is even more reason to hire a professional to help you, as each design decision is affected by the next. Most renovation projects have complexities that are not obvious but a professional can identify them. That is why most buildings require an architect for any kind of renovation.

Victoria Benatar, Co-Founder EXD Architecture
Interior design specialists New York City
‘Apartment Combination’ – photos by Kim Reierson and Styling by Chip Cordell

How can an architect help you?

Architects are typically trained to design and detail whole buildings, from top to bottom. Depending on what the architect’s background is, they may do commercial buildings, homes, apartments, museums, etc. Most architects work exclusively on the exterior shell and other work on the interior space. Architectural training includes the following;

  • Licensed by the state with academic training in design theory and professional experience in execution and project management.
  • Understanding of mechanical, electrical, lighting and structural systems.
  • Working knowledge of ergonomics (human engineering), local building codes and by law must uphold life safety for the public.

With the knowledge that is required by the registration and continuing education process to obtain and maintain the license, this is what a registered architect can do for your project:

  • Understand use of materials, how construction details come together and how that affects your time and budget.
  • Create drawings/renders/models for you to understand design and to be submitted to your building management and Department of Building for approval.
  • Think of the design in three dimensions. Architects are trained to think outside the box to solve complex problems.
  • Be the ‘face of the project’ with everyone involved, as agent to the owner to protect their interest!
  • Specify and detail furniture, fixtures and equipment, for aesthetic beauty and functionality.

How can an interior designer help you?

Interior designers are multifaceted and their background varies depending on experience. They could provide conceptual development, space planning, programming, research, furniture and finishes selections or project managing during the execution of the design. An interior designer will typically provide the following:

  • Be professionally trained in space planning for ALL types of buildings including, hotels, homes, office spaces, hospitals etc.
  • After consultation with the client, create renderings/drawings of designs that are both functional and aesthetic for the interior space.
  • Depending on clients need, the submission can be just furniture, fabrics or finishes or alterations to the interior architecture.
  • Create designs incorporating beauty with functionality, while maintaining safety.
  • Interior designers have spatial skills paired with knowledge of materials, their applications, and venders to purchase from.

What value can an architect or interior designer add to my project?

All projects are different, and it is important for a client to consider why and what they are undertaking. Some questions the client can ask themselves are:

  • Does your building required drawings or the Department of Building permits?
  • Do the alterations you want to make effect systems like electrical, structural, plumbing or lighting?
  • What problems am I solving and is there more than one solution?
  • Do you understand the planning and coordination involved in executing this project?
  • Do you need help with design concepts, site analysis, space planning or procurement of items?

In our experience many clients have never worked with either an architect or an interior designer. That is why it is important to walk them through the differences between both practices and how at EXD Architecture we blend them together based on a client needs. Our services go further, and we have an extended team of professionals, should any other specialty arise.

Michelle Cianfaglione, Co-Founder EXD Architecture

You can read more details here on how we combine our services of Architecture and Interior Design. Let us at EXD Architecture help you navigate your renovation with the services you may need, from concept to construction until completion including furnishing and finishes, we have the team to support you.


We love our work and appreciate the difference it can make to people’s lives. Join us in conversation, at Instagram, Facebook and exdarchitecture.com

Blog written by Victoria Benatar and Michelle Cianfaglione, co-founders of EXD Architecture.

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