Should You Hire an Architect or Designer to Build Your Dream Home?

Marwa Hasan
Written by Marwa Hasan
Updated September 21, 2021
A couple of architects working on a blueprint at their office
andresr/E+ via Getty Images

While both architects and designers design homes and buildings, different skill sets and backgrounds may change the process

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So you’ve decided to build your dream home. You probably have numerous Pinterest boards filled with ideas you want to turn into reality. But before you start picking colors, design has to come first. The design should offer proper zoning of rooms, positioning of doors and windows, choosing the right materials according to the climate and local codes, and then putting plans together for the contractor to make your vision a reality.

The question is always, “who should I hire to design my home, an architect or an interior designer?” Here, we’ll help you determine who to hire according to your needs.

What Do Architects Do?

The title “registered architect” is highly governed in the United States. Architects are often members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). A registered architect title reflects extensive education, training, and licensing. It also means they’re legally responsible for the work they perform.

Architectural education, training, and skill vary across the board, but typically, an architect learns about design and problem-solving in school. They take formal training involving courses, such as material properties, building systems, and processes. They’re also trained in design theory, engineering, and project management. They get hands-on experience with buildings and work with different parties.

As highly educated and trained professionals, an architect is responsible for protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare.

What to Expect When Hiring an Architect

Architects can design ALL types of buildings—hospitals, airports, factories, and of course, homes. 

Here’s what to expect when hiring an architect for your home project:

  • The architect will communicate with the homeowners to understand their needs. They should present computer-aided models and blueprints, including plans and renderings of the proposed exterior design.

  • Their designs should incorporate function, form, safety, and energy-saving features that include specifications and measurements of the whole building, from the roof to the foundation.

  • They can visualize ideas in 3D: If you have ideas, they will be able to convert ideas into plans. This can be achieved with their strong mathematical problem-solving and logical thinking to ensure the project is aesthetically pleasing, functional, and stable.

  • Usually, homeowners hire the architect before the contractor is involved. The architect will not only offer the design but will also supervise the general contractor and the subcontractors.

  • Architects will write contracts for contractors and research building regulations to ensure the building code is met.

  • They will supervise the construction work and oversee the project’s progress.

  • If changes are made in the structure or design, which often happens during any project, the architect will redraw the plans.

What Do Home Designers Do?

A designer working on a project at her workstation
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Interior or architectural designers are not required to have training or a license. However, they tend to have hands-on experience planning and designing interior spaces in architecture firms. 

If you're looking to design modern and beautiful spaces, interior designers have strong design and spatial skills. The skill level can vary significantly across the board. Still, the downside of hiring a designer is, unlike architects, designers are not always insured against negligence or malpractice since professional liability is rarely covered.

What to Expect When Hiring a Home Designer

Designer skills go way beyond aesthetics—with most of them having received training in the fields of design, construction, and sustainability. 

Here’s what to expect when hiring a designer to build or remodel your home:

  • Designers will consult with homeowners who are looking to build or remodel their home.

  • Designers create residential plans and 3D photos of functional and aesthetic designs for the interior space. The designs include furnishings and materials for the design based on their knowledge of trends and pricing.

  • Obtain permits when necessary.

  • Oversee the build and installation of their design.

  • A structural engineer should review the designer's plans to ensure the structure is safe and on the same page as the interior design.

  • Some designers work for contractors and may offer a complete remodeling package—from design to paint, where they include the design in the overall price.

What’s the Difference Between Hiring an Architect vs. a Home Designer?

A close-up of an architect presenting a model house
Erdark/E+ via Getty Images

Both professionals possess the skills of designing an aesthetically appealing home while maintaining safety. But what is the difference between an architect and a designer?


When it comes to design skills, an architect and designer are both fully capable of creating a great design for you. However, architects have a more holistic understanding of how buildings go together and the coordination involved to make it happen.

Scope of Work

Architects and home designers both meet with clients to understand their vision. And then, with the use of computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), and other design tools, they create blueprints to help make this vision into reality. 

Designers assist in designing the interior elements, like the flow of spaces, influencing style, and material selection, while using their skills to add aesthetic value. Whereas architects create detailed drawings of the structure, ensuring the building is up to the required codes.


The main difference between an architect and a designer is licensing. Many designers go to architecture schools, get an architecture degree, but won’t get or renew their license.


Architects often carry liability insurance in case of errors. For local jurisdictions, an architect is required for some projects.

Cost to Hire an Architect vs. a Home Designer

Both design professionals often charge a flat fee for plans or per square foot. And while rates vary by region and individual professional, architects tend to cost more than designers.

An architect can charge 7% to 10% of the build costs. If you'd like the architect to manage the project and bids, choose the contractor and subcontractors, control money, and oversee work, they will charge an additional 5% to 10% of the cost of the project. Hire architects in your area for more information. 

A designer can charge 3% to 5% of the build cost. Many designers specialize in certain types of work and bring much practical experience to certain tasks. You can hire a local kitchen designer, bathroom designer in your area, or general interior designer, depending on your needs.

Tips for Hiring the Best Home Design Professional

A designer working on her desktop creating a 3d plan of a house
Pekic/E+ via Getty Images

While the title doesn’t guarantee a good set of skills, here are some tips on how to ensure you hire the right candidate for your needs.

  • Check with your local permitting offices to figure out if you’re required to use a registered architect.

  • Do your homework by interviewing local designers and architects.

  • During the interview process, ask for references and samples of completed projects, which will indicate skill level and competency, regardless of whether you choose a designer or architect.

  • It’s incredibly important that you thoroughly verify the experience and proven abilities of a designer before making your hiring decision.

  • Find a design professional who can envision your goals and implement them into the design. Remember, it’s a team effort. You all have to be on the same page and work together.

  • Hiring an architect to oversee a project can be a great investment for someone who doesn’t want to participate in the day-to-day decision-making and construction process.

  • Working with a professional is an investment, so you have to decide who can provide the most value for the cost. But it’s up to you to decide who you want to work with and what to expect from them.

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