Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling an existing floor plan, understanding the differences between builders, architects, and interior designers is top of mind. 

These different types of companies offer distinctly different services, so think about how they can help you reach your project goals. Every professional that you work with initially will have great recommendations for the other experts that are needed to build an incredible project.

Most construction projects require multiple trades to complete, which makes a general contractor a logical hire for any remodel, addition, or new construction project. If your structure is substantially changed, you’ll also need the expertise of an architect. If you’re not making significant structural changes, but still want expertise about space planning, consider an interior designer.

What builders do

Builders — also known as general contractors — oversee projects in their entirety. They develop the project schedule, hire experienced subcontractors, source materials, and acquire permits. They work side-by-side with architects and interior designers to make sure your vision comes to fruition. 

When to hire a builder

General contractors can handle large and small projects, whether you’re remodeling your home or redoing a bathroom. Contractors place the client’s budget and schedule at the top of their priorities. Many contractors, including Pro, have strong networks of professional architects and interior designers that they bring on board for their expertise during the design phase. As a team, your architect and builder collaborate on projects that require creative design solutions or significant structural changes.

What architects and interior designers do

Architects and interior designers are integral to the creation of functional and beautiful spaces. Many times they collaborate about layouts and room sizing, the placement of windows, and how everything can come together harmoniously. While they both have particular specialties, there is also overlap in the services they provide. 

Generally, architects design the forms of spaces and oversee the big-picture items such as engineering, exterior materials, safety and code compliance, and energy usage. They put together construction drawings, and those are submitted to obtain building permits. 

Interior designers are experts at designing how the interior space will look. Their services can include selecting interior finishes (hardwoods, countertops, tile, paint colors, wallpaper), and includes selecting furniture and soft goods (pillows, accessories, etc.). They put together drawings and sometimes work with an architect or structural engineer to obtain building permits.

Some services that both architects and interior designs might provide are the design of casework, including cabinets, the selection of interior finishes, such as tile and woodwork, drafting of interior elevations and details, and space planning. We always recommend that you check with each architecture or interior design firm to see what their specific scope of services includes.

When to hire an architect or interior designer

If your project includes a creative or extensive design solution, it could be beneficial to hire an architect or interior designer first. You may have to work through several design iterations before it’s time to bring a builder to your team. However, most architects and interior designers welcome early collaboration with builders so they can collaborate to design the most elegant and cost-effective design solutions. 

What about design-build firms?

Design-build firms provide clients with a single point of contact for both the design and construction phases of a project. The design-build company assumes the responsibility and contractual risk for every aspect of a project — from estimation to architecture, engineering, subcontracting, construction, and post-construction. They also manage all necessary subcontracts with companies that will provide services for your project such as specialty trades, equipment vendors and materials providers.

While this method can provide simplicity, it comes with less flexibility. Working with multiple independent professionals gives you the power of choice. Your project can benefit from the checks and balances and oversight created when working with a professional design firm and a builder under separate contracts, each reporting directly to you. 

An intriguing alternative to the design-build model is to hire your builder and your architect or designer at the same time under two separate contracts.

This gives you the benefit of the “checks and balances” between the two firms and it allows your builder to provide cost-estimating early in the design process, ensuring your project remains within budget. This model makes sense especially on projects that are over $100K in cost and or have complex elements to them.

The bottom line 

Whether you choose to work with an architect, interior designer or builder first, they will all ultimately work together to deliver the best project that suits your needs. For large projects, consider hiring your architect or designer at the same time you hire your contractor.

At Pro.com we have a deep network of highly skilled architects and interior designers that we enjoy working with and are happy to recommend for your projects.


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Builder, Architect or Interior Designer - who to hire and when to hire them
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Builder, Architect or Interior Designer - who to hire and when to hire them
Whether you are looking to undertake a major remodel or build a new custom home, you will no doubt need to work with professionals. Learn more about which to engage when and in what order to get the most out of your home improvement project
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About the Author:

Pro.com is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.