Have you ever wondered who designs your favorite interiors? You can see the work of interior architects in so many places, from hotel lobbies and restaurants to doctors offices and even your own home. But what exactly is interior architecture? And how does it differ from interior design? Below we answer “what is interior architecture” in more detail and offer some tips on how to start your path to becoming an interior architect. 



What is the Difference Between Interior Design and Interior Architecture?


It’s easy to confuse interior design and interior architecture. While similar in name, these two fields have some key differences. Interior design focuses on artful aesthetics like color, lighting, and furniture. Interior architecture considers aesthetics, structural, and technical aspects of an indoor space.


What is Interior Architecture?


Interior architecture is essentially the structural, functional, and aesthetic design of interior spaces. Interior architecture combines the science of architecture and aesthetic practices to create safe, effective designs. This can include elements of a design like a remodel of a kitchen or bathroom or an adaptive reuse of a space. Or, interior architecture can cover the total design of a space- from a blank canvas to a completely finished, beautiful and functional room or building. 


What Exactly Does an Interior Architect Do?


Because interior architects are responsible for many different aspects of an interior construction project, they serve a variety of roles and perform many different tasks including:


  • Client Consultations: Interior architects often work with clients to produce a design appropriate for their needs and space. 


  • Planning the Space: Interior architects are responsible for planning the interior projects’ layout, flow, and accessibility. Designers utilize digital tools like computer-aided drafting (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) to create the design of the project. 


*CAD and BIM not only helps interior architects create to-scale building plans, the software also aids in planning electrical, plumbing, healing and cooling systems, aesthetic elements and more!


  • Materials, Colors, Lighting, Furniture: Interior architects are often tasked with working with the client to create beautiful designs. This involves advanced knowledge about colors, materials, lighting, and furniture.


  • Create Plans: Interior architects outline plans, cost estimates, and create a project timelines to present to their clients and ensure the project runs smoothly. 


  • Follow Building Codes: Interior architects must be knowledgeable about building codes and regulations. Part of their duties include obtaining building licenses and ensuring their designs abide by building codes and ordinances.  


  • Project Management: Interior architects often work with contractors and supervise construction work onsite.


What Kind of Projects do Interior Architects Work On?


The kind of project an interior architect works on is largely determined by their chosen specialty. Here are a few examples of different interior architecture specializations:


  • Commercial: Commercial interior architects design spaces for restaurants, offices, retail stores and more. These architects focus on budget, marketing, and intended style of the retail space.  

  • Residential: residential interior architects specialize in designing interiors for homes, apartments, ADU’s and other residential properties. These architects work closely with their clients to make livable and beautiful home spaces.

  • Healthcare: Healthcare interior architects specialize in creating interior architecture for hospitals, clinics, medical offices, and other healthcare facilities. They must be especially considerate of the needs of who will use the space. For example, the colors and design scheme should drastically differ based on whether athletes, children, or elderly patients will use the space. Thus, these architects are adept at color theory and accessible design. 


  • Hospitality: Hospitality interior architects design interiors for hotels, resorts and other large scale hospitality projects. These architects must consider the comfort of the guests and staff as well as creating an inviting and luxurious atmosphere.

  • Sustainable: Sustainable interior architects specialize in designing spaces that are energy-efficient, sustainably-made, and otherwise environmentally friendly. They must have advanced knowledge of sustainable materials and technology to create spaces that lessen the impact on the environment.



How do you Become an Interior Architect?


Interior architecture can be a rewarding career that allows you to showcase your creativity and develop safe and beautiful spaces. Unlike interior design, interior architecture requires advanced education. This can be a bachelor’s degree, certificate, or masters degree. Additionally, you must gain experience in the field as well as a license.


  • Degree requirements: Interior architects typically obtain a bachelor’s degree in architecture or interior architecture. If you’ve already gotten a bachelors in another field, you can receive either an advanced certificate or a master degree in interior architecture. Most states in the U.S. require that these programs be accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). For a list of accredited programs, see this link. 

Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).


  • Licensing: In order to call yourself an interior architect, you must obtain a license. Depending on the requirements in your state, to obtain your license you must have an accredited degree, 3 years of training in the field, and have passed your NCARB exam. 


  • Salary: According to payscale.com, interior architects in the United States can expect to earn 45k and 85k per year, with an average of around 62k per year. However, this salary can vary from state to state and city to city.


If you are passionate about designing, building, and decorating interior spaces, this creative career may be a great fit for you. 




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