The Different Designers

Architect, Home Designer, Interior Designer, Decorator, etc. 

You have plans to take on a home build or renovation, you need some help, you need a designer… but who? What kind? And where to start?  

Your designer will be responsible for planning your home – ensuring it will function well for its intended purposes – so the decision of who to hire is a very important one and should be considered carefully.  

A successful project requires a great set of design documents and plans – this means a great, and adequately qualified, designer is required to create those plans. 

You should take hiring a design professional as seriously as you would any other professional; architect, engineer… or doctor for that matter, if you want a healthy house. 

Depending on the level of service that you need, this great designer can come under a variety of differing credentials and in a multitude of service formats. For those not familiar with the world of home design, these differences are not necessarily clearly defined. This article hopes to help bring to light the differences between the service levels that designers deliver, and aid in your decision on the type of professional or consultant you will require.  

Architect/ Custom Home Designer 

  • Designs the architectural elements of a New Build or Renovation 
  • Creates Drawings for permits and construction 
  • Different options + skill levels/education 
  • Often Required for permitting 


  • They know the building code and city bylaws 
  • They understand space adjacencies + scale 
  • They are experienced in navigating through permitting/city processes 

The Architectural Institute of British Columbia regulates the profession of architecture – there are very specific educational credentials required to be able to call oneself an architect. Governing with the Architects Act this regulatory body defines architecture and sets out which buildings within the province of BC require an architect by law in the interest of protecting public health and safety.  

While some people choose to use an architect to design their house – one is not necessarily required. A Home Designer who holds credentials in the technology of design can design the architectural elements of a house – with an engineer’s stamp these house plans are sufficient for obtaining permitting. This can often be a much more approachable and cost-effective method of designing a home, rather than hiring an architect. Home designers often work closely, or even in the same firms as interior designers, this opportunity for a holistic approach in design collaboration ensures that the structure and the living spaces function well with one another. 

Interior Designer 

  • Designs the functional and aesthetic elements of a New Build or Renovation 
  • Creates Drawings for pricing and construction 
  • Assists with interior and exterior materials, fixtures, and furniture selections 
  • Creates Specification documents 


  • They are good with colour and materials 
  • They are knowledgeable about sourcing deliverables that will allow contractors to accurately price the project 
  • They provide client advocacy during construction 
  • They may extend their Designer Discounts and have trade access to sources you would not be able to order from  
  • They will make sure it all looks great and functions well 
  • They make your life easier! 

While technically there are no formal credentials required to call yourself an ‘interior designer’, like anything, the more certified the higher quality of services you will receive. An NCIDQ certified interior design professional (RID) will take considerations to ensure your home is functional and innovative – sound and secure – healthy and safe; not to mention their mastery in all the considerations necessary to create timeless aesthetic beauty in the design. Here you can learn more about what interior designers actually do. 


  • Assists with final touches – décor/accessories – at any stage in the lifecycle of your home 
  • Great with colour selection – paint and accessories coordination, as well as soft furnishings 
  • Materials + furniture selections – to create a cohesive designer look in your home 


  • They know where to source furniture and décor 
  • They can save you money  
  • They can save you time 
  • They will make your house a home 
  • They know what appeals to home buyers and can increase your sale price 

While there is no formal training or licensing required to call yourself a Decorator, these professionals are a skilled and organized group who can certainly add value to the aesthetic finish of your home. If your wish is to give your home a facelift through non-fixed elements of colour, décor, and polished styling, and you don’t know where to start it would be a great investment in your home experience to call in a decorator.  

Do your research – feel free to reach out for a conversation if you need help identifying what kind of designer your project requires – to ensure that the professional you are hiring holds the credentials required to leave you feeling complete confidence in the fact that you have hired the BEST; that your needs will be met, your dream home brought to life! 

Design may seem like a small part of the overall picture of building your home, but the design dollars are the most important that you will spend… spent properly, they ensure that your dreams can be built right! 

Under the umbrella of each of these design service types, there are also differing levels of service provided. You can’t assume that designers of any of these models will provide the same level of service as one another… the following image shows types of designers as well as types of companies – bear in mind that any one of these types of designers could work for or set up any one of these types of companies – ever broadening the spectrum of professional service possibilities. 


Be sure that when you are interviewing potential designers, you take into consideration what you need from them… will they be… 

  • Planning from Scratch OR Adapting for Renovations?
  • Consulting on Existing Plans?
  • Creating Permit Sets – Applying for Permits?
  • “Hand Holding” throughout Construction?
  • Expected to collaborate on or dictate the design?
  • Making Rounds of Revisions, and if so, how many?

At SGDI, we provide Home Design and Interior Design, we also take on the interior design component for clients who have already worked with an architect or another home designer. In this scenario, we can analyze the interior functionality and how your design ideas and wishes can be applied to the spaces and suggest revisions that may better meet your needs for the interior. This may be needed because even the most qualified architects who draw beautiful houses are not necessarily thinking of what happens inside them; of how the spaces work together and complement each other, of how you live, of whether you will love how it functions. Knowing what you want to achieve and what kind of designer(s) you will need can help you to make the right choices from the beginning to ensure the best team of professionals is in place to achieve your vision for your home.  

No matter which service model you choose, be sure you choose a qualified design professional who takes all these things into consideration from the very beginning of creating your home. 

Questions to ask potential designers: 

  • What can I expect when working with you?
  • Deliverables and Schedule
  • Staff Capacity
  • Fee Structure
  • Will I have Certainty?

Design and planning are the most important parts of achieving your dream home, think about it… your home design package is the map to building your house. Almost any builder can read the map, to build the house, if the design documents and drawings are done right! This means that selecting the right designer (best map maker ???? ) is the most critical and impactful choice that you will make when you decide to build or renovate your home. 

Your home CAN be everything you dreamed; Know what designers actually do… to know what kind you need to hire. Hire the right designer for your project… save money and bring your dream home to life! 

Tags: design process, interior design, new home design, planning, renovation design

What People Are Saying

Lawrence Green

"I was impressed not only by Sarah's design ability, but also with her level of construction knowledge. I have heard that a lot of designers are good at making things pretty, but are not that great at understanding how things are actually built- Sarah is fantastic at both. I recommend them to anyone and everyone I know without hesitation."

Diane and Vince Grdina

"We had the pleasure of working with Sarah on the construction of our new home. We had a lot of fun working with them and found them always thoughtful, mindful, and professional. We would highly recommend their firm and would use them again without hesitation."

Pete Rackow

"We were immediately impressed with Sarah's ability to assess our needs and understand the type of home my wife and I wanted for us and our 3 boys. Her attention to detail is flawless and every inch of our fully renovated home is thoroughly thought through. I felt like they cared about our home as much as we the homeowners did."