Should I hire an architect or a designer for my remodeling design?
This is a question we hear a lot. And it's not surprising because there are a lot of different types of design pros who could potentially work on designing your new kitchen, bathroom, addition, or other space. Here's a quick rundown you can reference as you explore your many options.
Let's start with architects, since they are often the most expensive option to design your remodel. Many architects have earned a degree in their field. In Washington State, experienced designers with a high school degree, GED, or non-accredited architecture degree can also take an exam and earn their license. Architects will sometimes include AIA after their name, which indicates they are members of the American Institute of Architects, a professional association. When it comes to remodeling, architects can be helpful at figuring out complicated design problems and matching new sections with existing. People also turn to architects when they want their remodel to make a strong statement. Many architects will manage your project for an additional fee, finding a contractor and keeping tabs on the work as it progresses. For a remodel, expect to pay between 10% and 25% of total building costs to an architect.
While most commercial buildings are designed by architects, only about 1-2% of residential construction is designed by an architect, according to Building Advisor. The vast majority of remodeling design is done by other professionals. In the field of residential remodeling, a designer is somewhat loosly defined as anyone drafting building plans who is not a licensed architect. Many residential designers have studied architecture and earned degrees but have chosen not to pursue licensure. Others have studied interior design, which, contrary to popular belief, is not just choosing colors and finishes but encompasses space planning and most everything else an architect does. Like many of the designers on the CRD staff, I have earned my master's degree in interior design. Washington State does not offer a licensure program for interior designers, but in some states, licensed interior designers will have taken the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam.
When choosing a designer for your home remodeling project, you may want to consider these factors:
- Education: Many interior designers and other design professionals have earned degrees in their field but not all. There are many excellent designers who have learned from mentors on the job.
- Experience: This is probably the most important thing to look for. Credentials and education aren't everything. Generally, designers with more years of experience will be able to provide a higher level of service and quality.
- Portfolio: A designer's creativity, style, and specialties are all reflected in his or her portfolio. Spend some time browsing past work to find a designer you connect with.
- Specialty: Designers offer a wide range of services. Some may just focus on finishes, while others offer space planning, the design of major structural alterations (in consultation with an engineer), master planning, and project management. At CRD Design Build, for instance, our team of project designers provides all of the above services, creating tailored plans for clients and helping to manage the project all the way through construction.
Both architects and designers often turn to structural engineers to "stamp" building plans that call for the alteration of load-bearing walls. For simpler projects on homes under 4,000 square feet, Washington State does not generally require an engineer's (or an architect's) stamp. However, no matter the square footage of the home, when load-bearing walls are moved or removed, an engineer is almost always consulted.
You may encounter other professionals whose specialties fall under the design umbrella. For instance, there are kitchen and bath designers who are certified by their own trade associations and focus on just those rooms of the house. There are also designers who focus specifically on color palettes, tile design, window coverings, and other niches. You will tend to encounter them in design showrooms.
Work with a Designer
I hope this brief rundown helps you navigate the sometimes confusing world of residential remodeling design. If you are considering remodeling your home, we would be interested to hear about your plans and help out in any way we can. Our team of four in-house designers are not only experienced at tailoring your home to your needs, but we manage your project, write specifications for every detail, and work with subcontractors on bids, pricing, and quality control. Please get in touch if you'd like to learn more. We'd love to meet you!