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  • Katherine Walker

What’s the difference between a General Contractor, an Architect and an Interior Designer?

What’s the difference between a General Contractor, an Architect and an Interior Designer?

It may seem like the setup for a humorous anecdote, but the question of whether clients truly need an interior designer is one we encounter frequently. While the interior design, contractor and architect professions often overlap, each brings a unique set of skills and expertise to the table. This dilemma highlights a common query faced by clients navigating renovation and new construction projects. In the following discussion, let's delve deeper into the distinct roles and contributions of each team member involved in bringing your design dreams to life.


General Contractors

General Contractors are responsible for implementing designs created by architects and interior designers. A contractor oversees the execution of the project, coordinating with subcontractors and ensuring that the construction meets quality standards and deadlines. GC’s take design drawings, concepts, and ideas and make them a reality. The GC will manage the actual construction aspect of the project, calculating quantities of materials needed, adhere to proper building codes, manage sub-contractors, pulling permits, and constructing the space according to plan. The contractors main role is to construct the space according to already created scope, drawings, and product specifications. For renovations, many GC’s can also prepare construction drawings by brining in an architect and/or structural engineer.

What’s the difference between a General Contractor, an Architect and an Interior Designer?

Contractors typically provide no cost estimates because they are only there to see the space, take measurements, and prepare the budget based on the client provided scope of work. GC’s do not usually provide design direction or come up with ideas for the space, they expect that to already be determined for them to price out.

It is common for clients with a vision to proceed with their project with a general contractor alone, providing the contractor with their material selections for the space. However, when going this route, the client takes on the task on managing their own project which is extremely time consuming, stressful, and can lead to many details being overlooked costing time and money.

What’s the difference between a General Contractor, an Architect and an Interior Designer?

Recently, we had a sit-down with a contractor who had just wrapped up a renovation project for an investment property. As he proudly showcased photos of the freshly revamped space, we commended him on his execution. However, what caught us off guard was his inquiry about why his clients would require an interior designer when he felt fully equipped to devise a solid design plan and select finishes himself. We gently probed the contractor about his past experience collaborating with interior designers, and unsurprisingly, he confessed to never having done so. Taking this opportunity, we shared insights from our collaborative efforts on previous projects, where teamwork had yielded cost-saving solutions, enhanced efficiency, and minimized project delays through meticulous pre-planning. Our conversation sparked a revelation for the contractor regarding the invaluable role of an interior designer in tandem with his construction expertise. While it's true that some contractors may offer recommendations on finishes, fixtures, and materials, it's essential to recognize that this falls outside their primary area of expertise. Their suggestions may be based on familiarity rather than a personalized understanding of your style and preferences. Moreover, contractors often adhere to established routines, which may not always align with evolving design styles or your specific vision.



The architect’s role is to prepare a design that merges aesthetics and structure. An architect specializes in the design and planning of buildings, considering structural integrity, building codes, and spatial layout. Architects are responsible for creating designs that contractors implement. For new construction projects, an architect will be involved at the preliminary stages to design the structure and façade of a building to prepare drawings before the contractor can prepare an estimate. Architects will coordinate space planning, mechanical, plumbing and HVAC, and ensure the projects meets building codes and accessibility requirements. For some renovations, the general contractor may be the first person involved on the project and will then bring on the architect to create drawings involving any major structural changes.

What’s the difference between a General Contractor, an Architect and an Interior Designer?

Architects focus more on technical aspects where an interior designer focuses more on client needs, functionality and aesthetics. Architects typically do not get involved with the details such as adding electrical outlets to accommodate a certain feature, or the exact placement of decorative lighting fixtures, that’s where interior designers and contractors come in. An Interior designer will coordinate all building details with the furniture layout of the space.


Interior Designers

What’s the difference between a General Contractor, an Architect and an Interior Designer?

An interior designer focuses on creating functional and aesthetically pleasing interiors that align with the client's vision and lifestyle. We are trained to look at the project as a whole and take a holistic approach to the entire project to make sure the space will not only look beautiful, but also function properly for the clients needs. Aside from providing a beautiful design and furniture selections, an interior designer will prepare the millwork, decorative hardware, finish sections, lighting selections, fixtures, and appliance selections and then coordinate any necessary changes to structural, lighting, electrical, plumbing with the architects and general contractors.

Take, for instance, the rearrangement of furniture to better suit the client's needs: a dining table may be shifted to optimize space, prompting the designer to coordinate with contractors to adjust electrical wiring for a chandelier. Moreover, designers are meticulous in considering practical elements like floor plugs in office spaces and organizing kitchen cabinetry for maximum convenience. By providing detailed drawings and dimensions, they ensure that every design decision aligns with the client's lifestyle and preferences.

What’s the difference between a General Contractor, an Architect and an Interior Designer?

Beyond enhancing functionality, interior designers introduce clients to materials and products that transcend fleeting trends. Instead of merely following the latest fads, designers curate selections tailored to the client's unique taste and envisioned longevity. This personalized approach ensures that every element of the design reflects the client's personality and stands the test of time.

From conception to completion, interior designers remain actively involved in the project, overseeing construction to ensure adherence to the design vision and budgetary constraints. Their comprehensive oversight guarantees that the final result not only meets but exceeds the client's expectations, creating a space that is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally efficient.


How Do You Choose?

So why do many client’s resort to hiring a GC alone? We believe it comes down to cost, as the more professionals you hire the more it will cost in service fees. It’s important to remember that GC’s Architects, and Designers each have their area of expertise, and skimping on having the right experts on your team can actually cost more in the long run.

What’s the difference between a General Contractor, an Architect and an Interior Designer?

The great thing about having the right team on your project is that each member brings a different level of expertise to your project and when working together can save you money. For example, one project we were working on, the architect had specified a specialty type of flooring and we were able to recommend another product equally durable and suited for the space for a fraction of the cost! At the same time, the general contractor understands construction costs better than anyone, and can make recommendations for modifications that may not sacrifice design but will significantly reduce construction costs.

What’s the difference between a General Contractor, an Architect and an Interior Designer?

If you feel you do not have a budget to hire a full-service interior designer on your project, you may be surprised of some of the other services we can provide such as DIY design where we create the drawings, select materials, and you and your GC take it from there!

Regardless of your remodeling or new construction budget, we highly suggest you begin speaking with an interior designer who can help educate you on remodeling costs, explore possibilities, and give you guidance on your project. We provide all of these with our in-home consultation. Contact us today and we would love to book an in-home consultation with you in person to provide our expertise.


If you're looking to get some help with designing your home to be more of an authentic haven - I'm your girl.

Let's hop on a Discovery Call to chat. 30 minutes can be life-changing.

- xo Katie


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