The Role of a Professional Residential Interior Designer

CAD drawing-

Residential interior design is known as the design of the interior of private residences. These residences can be: single-family homes, condominiums, lofts, multi-family, and hi-rises.  Residential interior design can involve new construction, renovation, flipping, or staging. A residential interior designer has to be comfortable with a more interpersonal relationship than most commercial interior design relationships.

After meeting a potential residential client, I asked if other interior designers were being interviewed for the project. Affirmative. My only request of this client was to compare us, “apples to apples”, with respect to my education/experience/examination, to which he replied, he would not. His decision would be based mainly on “personality” and the importance of getting along for the duration of the project. I shook his hand, confident that I could compete and win the “personality” challenge. I did. This conversation doesn’t take place in commercial interior design boardrooms.

Residential interior design requires discretion, a deft hand, a compassionate heart, and strategic decision-making skills. The designer must manage the client’s emotions, budget, design preferences, family needs, living conditions, and time frame. New construction presents its own challenges, but the stress of living in a renovation project while renovations are taking place, can destroy families. Being displaced from home, while not pleasant, is often my recommendation. My family and I have lived IN, and survived, two total home renovations. Among other inconveniences, I know what it’s like to wash dishes and prep meals in an 8” bar sink for months! This experience made me a better interior designer.

Life experiences benefit the residential interior designer. Early in my career, before my son was born, I distinctly recall hanging framed artwork over a child’s crib. The glass frames were well within reach of little hands. It never occurred to me that the child wouldn’t obey his mother’s requests not to touch the art! When I had my son, I was horrified at my error. Fortunately, this client had removed the frames as soon as I left her home. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to befriend 4 clients who died of liver cancer, one within weeks of meeting, and the last lived 7 more years. I’ve had clients with dementia, who’ve lost children, been widowed, and lost their independence. They have all made me a better person and a better interior designer. I reflect on their needs when making critical design decisions.

As you can see, residential interior design and commercial interior design are very different. Residential interior designers must have great interpersonal skills, be observant of small nuances, and be great communicators. Residential design is a very intimate process, filled with trust, so clients must take great care in the selection process.


  1. Thanks for explaining the role of an interior designer. It’s interesting that you described their role as requiring discretion, a deft hand, and a compassionate heart. I suppose that makes sense since they would have to listen to their client’s personal preferences in how their interior space wants to look, and meeting those needs the best they can to create a space that looks good. It would also require some skill to meet their client’s demands while fitting it all into their budget. That takes some strategizing to know what items will look appealing in a room while also being affordable.

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