Should You Hire Interior Designer / Contractor?

Should You Hire Interior Designer / Contractor?
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Congratulations! Welcome to the wonderful world of home ownership! You just bought your dream house and you can now relax.

Here is a quick comparison of the differences between an interior designer and a contractor.

Interior Designer Contractor
Full service price/more expensive. No-frills price/more affordable.
Offers design concept as a whole take takes the customer’s  personal preferences into design consideration. Mainly follows instructions of customers. Will only offer input when needed.
Provides post-renovation work or advice to couples with differing opinions. Mainly follows instructions of customers. Will only offer input when needed.
Suitable for major renovation projects Suitable for small renovation projects.
Offers 3D drawings and space planning with detailed floor plans. Does not provide 3-D drawings, mainly follows instructions.
Less planning on customer’s end/saves time. More planning on customer’s end/more time consuming.
Allows for themed renovations/planning withaesthetic sense. Concerned only with practical details.
Provides site supervision and coordination. Needs to be supervised, usually by the customers themselves.
Takes time to discuss what customer wants from their home. Only follows instructions.

Before you do, you still have to go through what every new homeowner has gone before – decide on designs, layout and renovation. It’s not all the time that we get the house the way we really want it to be. So how do we go about it? You might want to hire an interior designer or a contractor to transform your house into a home you can be proud of.

So, the first question to ask is, “Should I engage an interior designer, a contractor or individual sub-contractors and coordinate all by myself?” What are the differences among these three roles?

Here are the roles of an interior designer, a contractor and a sub-contractor:

Interior designer

An interior designer is someone that organizes the whole renovation planning, usually from design to completion and decoration. They work together with clients to figure out a plan for the renovation. After getting an idea of what you have in mind, he or she can provide the design concept based from your requirements and figure out how to work with the design concept and the space (your house). An interior designer can also do themed renovation, like a princess-themed room for your nursery or a resort-like feel for your living room – including carpentry and renovation. The interior designer can coordinate your renovation from design planning to the work itself.


In general, contractors only do specific renovation work based on what customers require. They do not provide any drawings of the final look or detailed plans for customers. They may provide new electrical, piping or structural plans when needed for your reference. There are times when sub-contractors are hired by contractors to complete some renovation work.


When there are tasks that contractors are not be able to do themselves, such as carpentry and electrical wiring of the house; they hire sub-contractors who specialize in these tasks. Sub-contractors are mainly involved in parts of the whole renovation project and follow instructions accordingly, like how you would like to lay the tile, the kind of backsplash you would like or the color of paint you decided on.

Here are several tips to help you decide whether you should hire an interior designer, a contractor or a sub-contractor.

1. Budget

Most of the renovation decisions eventually boil down to your budget. Price is one of the main differences between getting an interior designer or contractor.

Interior designers will provide a more comprehensive renovation plan complete with 3D drawing interior design and a detailed floor plan for customers. They take time doing research beforehand, understand their client’s lifestyle, the space they have to work with and customer preferences before proposing a design plan to them. The additional cost you pay not only goes into the planning and managing of your renovation work, but also site coordination and supervision.

There could also be additional costs because of the responsibility and risk carried by your interior designer. In return, you can expect services with a more human touch as interior designers put in time and their best effort in satisfying their customers.

The scope of work that an interior designer can offer is more complex and extended. However, it also depends on what you would you like the interior designer to do. You can assign the Interior Designer as the consultant in charge of the renovation from top to bottom, or you could only ask them to do carpentry work, design & fabrication for specific items. The interior designer will usually charge according to the scope of work and responsibilities involved.

2. Time & Effort

Do you have the time and energy to do research on the design and space planning on your own before talking to your interior designer, contractor, or even liaise with individual sub-contractors to follow through all the nitty-gritty of the renovation work?

Interior designers definitely save you the time and trouble of coordinating the project. They also provide on-site supervision to ensure that all tasks are done in time and done correctly. Furthermore, interior designers also provide post-renovation work such as corrections or offering his or her professional advice to couples with differing opinions about the renovation plan.

Interior designers also use convenient ways to communicate with their customers before, during and after the renovation project starts. These include the use of social apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook. This allows the interior designer to update the customers on any amendments of 3-D drawings, progress of renovation as well as after-sales services. Ideas like the style of tiles, furnishing, light accessories, sanitary fittings, et cetera, can also be suggested by your interior designer through these apps. Some interior designers may prefer email as more details can be described in them.

3. Scope of Work and Services

Choosing between an interior designer and contractor should also depend on the scale of your renovation. If your plan is to do a minor renovation like upgrading one of the bedrooms, then it is best to work with a contractor. However, most first-time house owners prefer working with an interior designer as an interior designer can assist them through the whole renovation process.

Contractors will only follow specific orders given by their customers. The only time they usually offer any suggestions is when they foresee a problem arising, like lack of structural support on an opening you would like to expand or the placement of an outlet. Thus, when any problem occurs (e.g. like uneven beams) your contractor would most probably say he or she was merely following your instructions. In contrast, an interior designer tends to have better knowledge of design specifications. Therefore, he or she is able to share useful information about the layout planning of your house.

An interior designer is a planner with an aesthetic sense. The most valuable service a good interior designer can offer over a contractor is probably a complete design concept with your vision in mind. He or she is the one who will incorporate space planning, furniture layout, color coordination and enhancement through decorations (carpet, pictures, wall papers, accessories, etc.) and furnishings to create a complete design concept for your home. Each qualified designer has his own unique sense of style that can make the world of difference to the final product.

Last but not least, before you make any major change to your house, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable and confident enough to appoint the person to be in charge of your renovation project. Besides, though you may have a budget, you should not be overly frugal about your home improvement plan. The quality of the renovation can have a great impact on the quality of your home life.

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