People often think of hiring an architect when designing a house or a big remodeling project, but a residential designer may be able to provide the help you need. What is a residential designer, and how can one help you with your project?
Comparing a residential designer and an architect
Residential designers and architects can do many of the same things, but there are key differences in their abilities and training.
Both architects and residential designers will meet with you and ask detailed questions to determine who will use the space, how they will use it and what you want from each room in the project. Both can help convert your house or remodeling dreams to computer-drafted images and paper drawings of a custom-designed floor plan that maximizes space, efficiency and safety and complies with applicable building codes.
Like the name suggests, residential designers design homes. A residential designer will draft floor plans that show how the space can accommodate the property owner’s lifestyle, furnishings and functions. She will also help with interior design matters. A designer can recommend materials for flooring, wall coverings and trim work and advise where to place lighting, electric sockets and plumbing fixtures. She can also educate her client about applicable development laws and regulations and help ensure that contractors meet state and local requirements. But she will not draft the kind of certified structural plans for which a licensed architect is needed.
An architect has more specialized training and legal credentials and may be the better choice when the design you envision is large and complex. While residential designers focus solely on homes, architects can and do design a variety of structures for a broad range of clients. An architect can draft official blueprints from which an engineer and construction contractor can build. The architect can plan the construction project, recommend materials, and assist in seeking bids from general contractors or each construction specialty. He can also observe the construction process.
Whichever professional you choose, you should always have a certified engineer involved in building the foundation.
Education and qualifications
Residential designers should have a bachelor’s degree or higher in residential design, interior design or even architecture. Their coursework includes drafting, computer-assisted design, space planning, home lighting, furniture history and styles, fabric types and textures, organization, and trends in home designs. After a combination of six years of education and work experience, a residential designer can test for certification the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).
Architects earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree, must be licensed by the state and must complete a three-year internship to obtain the license.