Interior Designer

Table of Contents

Interior Designer
Interior designers work with clients of all sizes, from homeowners to large corporations, to create aesthetically pleasing rooms and functional spaces within a building. People all over the world seek out interior designers for their ability to breathe life, beauty, and thoughtful functionality into the homes and professional workplaces where they live and work.

What Is an Interior Designer?

According to the Council for Interior Design Qualification, an interior designer is a professional who brings artistic vision, aesthetic sensibility, and specialized knowledge to the planning and design of interior environments. Their designs should enhance the function, safety, and human experience of their clients’ spaces while also meeting the objectives and requirements of the project at hand.

The primary goal of an interior designer is to make buildings beautiful, functional, safe, and sustainable through carefully executed design that reflects the personal style and preferences of their client. The process of bringing this vision to life is complex, and interior designers must be experts in all aspects of design including space planning, color, lighting, acoustics, furniture, materials and finishes, electrical solutions, window treatments, access/visibility considerations, sustainable practices, universal design, and more.

What Does an Interior Designer Do?

While some people may think of an interior designer as someone who knows how to pick out stylish furniture pieces, appropriate colors, and window treatments for a home, in reality, the practice of Interior Design is far more extensive. Interior design encompasses both the technical and artistic processes of analyzing, planning, designing, and managing the construction of interior spaces. Interior designers also carry the ethical and moral responsibility to protect clients and consumers through the design of accessible, code-compliant, and safe interior spaces.

Interior Designer Job Description

The day-to-day responsibilities of interior designers can vary greatly depending on the needs of their client(s) and the size of the project at hand. However, some of the most common tasks include:

  • Using client input to develop design concepts and plans
  • Reviewing applicable fire safety, energy, indoor air quality, and non-structural/non-seismic building design and building codes for compliance with local, state, and/or federal regulations
  • Select and incorporate elements such as interior furnishings, finishes, materials, color palettes, lighting, floor coverings, window treatments, and accessories
  • Using computer-aided design (CAD) or hand sketching to draft renderings of the designs
  • Leading onsite workshops with clients to review existing conditions, site plans, and preliminary design ideas or renderings
  • Preparing cost estimates or statements of work for clients’ review
  • Work closely with architects, contractors, engineers/builders, furniture makers, manufacturers, other design professionals (such as graphic designers), and other consultants to ensure that all elements of the project are in line with the client’s style and vision
  • Providing post-construction, onsite supervision of the finished project from start to finish

Careers in Interior Design

The field of interior design offers countless opportunities for creative professionals. While many interior designers work as corporate designers for a large design firm or choose to start their own design business, there are also many alternatives for those who are looking for a different career path. Here are a few career paths for interior design professionals who wish to pursue opportunities outside the traditional role of an “interior designer.”


A drafter is an interior design professional that uses technical drafting skills to produce plans and other documents for commercial, industrial, or residential buildings. Drafters often work closely with engineering professionals to provide floor plans, sections, overhead views, electrical layouts, and other documentation required for site development projects.

Environmental Designer

Environmental design refers to the process of creating interior and exterior spaces that account for the functional needs of people while also preserving and protecting the environment. Environmental designers often work on green building projects that require LEED certification, such as schools, hospitals, residential care facilities, and office buildings.

Interior designers working on sustainable design projects may collaborate with energy and environmental design consultants to incorporate green features such as daylighting, renewable energy systems, and water conservation measures into the project design.

Exhibit Designer

An exhibit designer creates displays, models, and interactive exhibits for commercial trade shows, museum exhibitions, product launches, pop-up retail spaces, and other temporary installations. These events are often created to promote a business or organization, highlight a company’s brand, or educate consumers about certain products or services.

Furniture Designer

A furniture designer creates and manufactures items such as tables, chairs, beds, cabinets, and other furniture. Similar to interior designers that work in residential or commercial design firms, a furniture designer typically works with clients to meet their individual style preferences and needs through the creation of custom home furnishings.

Interior Decorator

An interior decorator is a professional who provides advice and services to clients regarding the decoration and furnishing of their home or office. Interior decorators often work with clients to select paint colors, fabrics, furniture, and accessories to create an atmosphere within the home that reflects the client’s personal taste and style.

The role of an interior decorator is frequently confused with that of an interior designer because the two professions share many of the same skills and responsibilities. However, interior decorators typically have less education, formal training, and experience working on complex design projects than interior designers.

Kitchen and Bath Designer

Kitchen and bath designers specialize in the design and renovation of aesthetically pleasing kitchens and bathrooms, including all of the related structural, electrical, and plumbing components. Kitchen and bath designers typically focus exclusively on home renovations, specializing in additions or remodels of specific rooms to meet a client’s particular style and requirements.

Lighting Designer

Lighting designers specialize in the design, construction, and installation of interior lighting systems. Lighting designers generally work with owners of commercial, retail, industrial, and other professional workplaces to create functional lighting design systems, improve energy consumption, and enhance the appearance of interior space.

Most commonly, a lighting designer will focus on specific aspects of the design process such as specifying particular types of light fixtures, creating lighting plans, wiring and installing lighting systems, or finding electrical solutions to balance energy costs.

Interior Designer Salary

According to data published in the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an Interior Designer was $61,400 in May 2020, which is the equivalent of $29.52 per hour. Interior designers in the top 10 percent nationally earned an average annual wage of $97,920.

An interior designer’s earning power is highly dependent on their artistic skill and level of experience, which means that there are significant opportunities in the job market for interior designers to earn more as they grow their reputation, cultivate a more extensive clientele, and develop a greater body of interior design work.

Highest Paying States for Interior Designers

District of Columbia$72,750$34.98
New York$71,240$34.25
Rhode Island$66,130$31.79
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Interior Designers, January 28, 2022

Additional Resources for Interior Designers

Interior Designer FAQ

The salary earned by an interior designer varies significantly depending on the location, experience, and skill level of the professional. A skilled interior designer with substantial experience designing buildings and a portfolio of high-profile projects can earn a salary in excess of $100,000 per year.

Top earning interior designers in California, New York, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia reported salaries ranging from $112,070 to $120,690, which is nearly double the mean annual wage of $61,400 for the profession reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Most certified interior designers hold a bachelor’s degree in interior design or a bachelor’s degree in interior architecture. However, It is possible to earn interior design certification with a degree in a field outside of interior design. Students who initially earn a degree in a field other than interior design must complete undergraduate courses in interior design, such as an interior design certificate before they can qualify for certification.

Interior design is a popular career choice because the profession provides an opportunity to work in a creative field while earning a competitive salary. In addition, career advancement opportunities are largely dependent on an individual’s ability to draw positive attention to their work and develop a positive professional reputation.

Some individuals are also drawn to the profession because of the relatively low barrier to entry, which means that anyone with strong design and business skills can thrive in the field.