Home Renovation: Choosing between an Interior Designer and Contractor

Interior designers and contractors may appear to be working towards achieving the same objective – renovating a home – but there are clear distinctions between the two in terms of the service and design levels rendered. The following are some must-know differences between interior designers and contractors before you decide on engaging either.

Interior designers are design-oriented

Whether you are merely carrying out some simple renovation works or seeking to give your double-storey detached house a major facelift, an interior designer will take into account all design considerations for both big and small details.

Apart from spatial planning, an interior designer will understand your personal preference and lifestyle to help you carve out a design direction. If a Scandinavian look is what you are after, an interior designer will consolidate this look right down to details such as wardrobe handles, light fixtures and even sanitary fittings.

With an interior design on board in your home renovation process, you’ll always have someone to offer professional advice on the best-suited materials to achieve the best results. To help you visualise design concepts, he or she will first draft out 3D renderings. Upon approval, the interior designer will bring together a renovation team to execute the designs.

A designer living room that exudes modern sensibility and sophistication. Here, the designer combines deep and vivid colours to accent this beautifully-curated interior. An ornate chandelier adds further appeal to the overall composition – the overall attention to colours, scheme and proportion certainly pays off. (Design: Sky Creation)
A designer ensures that materials, patterns and styles come together seamlessly in the same space. Here, reflective surfaces add glow to the interior. Gold accents complement the generous use of warm wood throughout. A fair amount of white with marble-clad finishes creates a striking contrast that conveys contemporary flair. (Design: Sky Creation)
A designer also pays attention to textures and fabrics used in a space. Having some variation adds to the overall vocabulary of a design. (Design: Sky Creation)

Contractors, on the other hand, are less design-oriented. Their focus is more on getting the actual renovation work done. For this reason, you will not be receiving any 3D renderings. The onus is on you to communicate your design concepts to your contractor. A contractor on board works well only if you are less demanding about aesthetics, or if you are a designer of sort who is clear about your creative vision and the way to go about realising it.

Interior designers act as the main point of contact

An interior designer is also a project manager who will act as your main contact person during the entire renovation process. He or she will be in charge of managing all renovation works and suppliers. As the overall coordinator, an interior designer has to ensure that work is carried out on-time and on-budget.

Contractors, however, tend to sub-contract some work to other vendors. This means that you may have to liaise with more than one person to ensure that the renovation proceeds unhitched. For example, you may have to meet with people in charge of electrical and air-con works separately.


Company credentials matter regardless if you plan to engage an interior designer or contractor. A company with more credentials is certainly more committed towards its craft.

  • If you are looking for an interior design company or contractor to renovate your HDB unit, ensure that the company is HDB-registered to carry out renovation works.
  • In Singapore, Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association (RCMA) governs companies in the renovation scene to ensure quality and service standards. RCMA engages in dialogues with government boards such as HDB and URA to set minimum standards and guidelines for all its members. This is why you can be assured that members comply with industry best practices.
  • CaseTrust accreditation demonstrates a company’s commitment towards fair trading and transparency. Companies with this accreditation adhere to transparent and proper pricing to protect consumers’ interest. A CaseTrust-RCMA Joint Accreditation for renovation business, launched in recent years, provides consumers further assurance through a deposit performance bond that safeguards consumers’ deposit against company closure or winding up.

Interior designers tend to charge more

In terms of pricing, you can expect to pay more for an interior designer over a contractor. After all, interior designers provide a full range of services from start to finish, covering a wide spectrum of design and renovation activities. They will also provide 3D renderings to ensure that designs are aligned with your wishes before proceeding. However, it is worth noting that interior designer and contractor pricing can be very varied across companies. As such, always request for a quotation from interior designers and contractors to make a fair comparison between the items covered before making a decision.

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