Picking the Right Pros: Interior Designer or Contractor?

Now that you’ve got your home and your budget, the question is, who should you get to renovate it? Throw caution into the wind and save a few bucks with a contractor? Or go nuts and splurge on an interior designer? The answers aren’t as easy as they sound. Here are some things you might want to consider when making this decision.

Defining Roles

Who’s a Contractor?

These guys are straightforward professionals. Doers, if you will. They do what you pay them to do, no less and no more. You plan it, they build it. They are the structural and architectural brains and executors of home renovations, but they’re not great sounding boards for design ideas.

Who’s an Interior Designer?

Despite the name, they’re more akin to planners, project managers, and creative rolled into one neat package. They’ll provide ideas, visualize them, and supervise its execution… for a price. For all that, they’ll even go material and furnishing shopping with you.


You’ve done your budget, right? Right? That’s really important because that’ll determine who to get to build your dream home — an interior designer or a contractor.

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room: interior designers cost more. No, it’s not because they’re fashionably fickle. Or spendthrift. It’s because they provide services far beyond just hands-on construction work. Their service is time. Time to talk to you and understand you and your partner’s wants and needs. Time to help get the most out of your budget. Time to create floor plans and 3D drawings to your satisfaction. Time to manage and coordinate communications and construction. And, sometimes, even time to go shopping with you to buy materials and furnishings.

Most would like to think they know exactly what they want. And they might. However, it’s the how that really matters and most don’t know about it. Unless you’re in the business, most homeowners should really consider getting an interior designer if they can afford it. It’ll take them a long way.


How big is the job? A room? Or the whole show? Small-scale jobs are leaps and bounds easier to deal with than the whole apartment. Things like fixing a couple of pipes, doing up some tiles, or even a bit of carpentry can be done by a contractor. It won’t have a major effect on the rest of the home.

 A major renovation, on the other hand, will require a lot more finesse to manage the whole thing. Enter the interior designer. They have the training and expertise to manage the coordination of design, construction, and scheduling between owners, contractors, and subcontractors. Essentially, what you get is peace of mind that someone knows what they’re doing.


Let’s be honest, most homeowners don’t have the time or expertise to manage a home renovation AND keep their jobs. However, if you happen to be one of those miracle persons that can juggle those two things and still stay sane, you could save a few bucks by just going with a contractor.

For the rest who don’t feel like doing aneurysm-inducing work, you’d be better off letting an interior designer handle it. They’ll manage everything for you; planning, coordination, material acquisition, picking the furniture, managing the budget, and a million other things. All you’ve got to do is choose the look of your place, and he or she will do the rest. No sweat.


Contractors are a very practical breed of individuals; they favour practicality over all else. They will execute your design ideas but don’t expect any feedback about it. Except when it might break some building code. Or if it strays too far away from when they’re conventionally used to.

Approach an interior designer if you’re looking for a sounding board for ideas. Part of their job is to do things that you fancy and listening really well is what they should be good at. Because everything starts with communication, conceptualization and construction only begins after they’ve finalized everything with you. Then they’ll go shopping for materials and furnishings with you.

After Sales

One difference that most might not consider is the after sales service. For contractors, it’s very likely that for any rectification and/or design hiccups, homeowners will have to bear the cost. Not so with interior designers. They’re the heroes of fine after sales service. With them, the job ain’t done until everything is perfect with no extra cost to the owners.


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