Designer v. Architect – Which Does Your Home Remodeling Project Need?

In the planning phases of your residential or home remodeling project, you will need to figure out if you need an architect or a designer – or possibly both. The two are not created equal, so let’s start by looking at how they differ.

Remodel or Interior Designer

A designer (which could be a landscape designer, feng shui designer, interior designer, cabinet designer or any other specialty that might require special artistic skills) usually does not require a license to practice their profession. Designers may (and often do) have certifications, college educations, and lots of alphabet soup after their name, but generally, are not regulated by any state or local agencies.

A remodel designer’s expertise can range from choosing colors that go together to imagining new room layouts and floor plans. A good remodel designer can put together a dynamic and cohesive room on even the smallest budget. The skills a designer brings to the table can range from hand drawing of special details on a project to full CAD layouts of kitchen remodels and bathroom renovations. Quite often on home renovation projects where there will be no or only minor structural changes to the house, a designer can do all the floor plans, elevations and perspectives to be used by your remodel contractor in the execution of the project.


Architects are usually regulated by state or local agencies. They require special licenses to practice their craft. On a remodel project, architects generally only get involved when there will be structural changes to the existing home that will require engineering and permitting.

Many architects also double as designers or have designers on staff, so that they can handle the design burden of a project as well as the plans and drawings required for permitting and submittal to the planning departments. Full-service architects will be able to produce “existing” and “proposed” versions of the home to be remodeled as well as ensure that all permits and approvals are issued so that the remodeling contractor can begin the build.

The Trade Differences

So, generally, the easiest way to tell the difference between the two trades of architect and designer would be this: If you will be knocking out walls and changing the basic structure of your home during your bathroom or kitchen remodel, you will want to ensure that an architect is involved. If you simply need some help envisioning and planning a cohesive and well-thought-out design, you should be just fine with a designer.

Cost Differences

The cost differences between the two, architect and designer can vary a bit. Architects as of the time of the writing of this article are charging from $100 – $200 per hour for their services. Since their services are often more technical in nature, the ultimate cost will be determined by the complexity of the project.

Most designers will often put a price tag ranging from $85 – $185 per hour, depending on the level of consultation they offer. Quite often, the design fees on a project will outpace the architectural and structural fees due to the intense amount of time that can go into making the style and color related choices that impact the final outcome of a remodel.

Design-Build Remodeling, the best of both worlds

Keep in mind, that if your remodel project needs both an architect and an interior designer, finding a way to combine those services into one contract, either with an architect that has a design background or vice versa, can often result in a lower overall cost.

This can often be achieved by searching for what is known as a Design/Build remodeling firm in your area. These firms will have designers and architects that they work with from the beginning of your project. This design-build process can often streamline your remodel project and save you the headache of shopping for multiple firms or professionals. Using a firm that specializes in this process can often save time, money and the headache of working with various, disconnected entities who each have a finger in a different portion of your remodel “pie”!