An interior design architect is responsible for designing the interior elements of a home or commercial building. Unlike interior decorators, who are only focused on the aesthetics of a space, an interior designer must ensure the space is optimized to allow occupants to perform their intended functions. Interior designers combine elements from architecture, psychology, sociology, and decorating to create a space that is aesthetically pleasing, safe, and well laid out.
After an architect has designed the basic shape and structure of a building, an interior design architect will take over and complete the design of the building's interior. This includes laying out walls to create efficient and productive floor plans. He or she will keep in mind the purpose of the space, whether it is a home, office building, medical facility, or school, and use this to help them create a functional design.
While designing the building's interior, the interior design architect must adhere to strict safety and building codes. This includes providing safe routes for escaping a fire, making sure the walls are structurally sound, and ensuring that the building is accessible for the disabled. They must also adhere to state and local buildings codes.
Typically, the interior design architect will also be responsible for determining the location of doors and windows, as well as creating lighting plans. Often, they will select furnishings and finishes as well, which include everything from floor coverings to paint colors. Sometimes, the work of selecting furniture and colors is passed on to an interior decorator, leaving the interior design architect free to focus on structure and layout.
Due to the technical nature of this work, interior design architects must be licensed. As of 2009, over half the U.S. states require interior designers be licensed through the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). NCIDQ requires applicants to obtain a four year degree in interior design, then complete two years of work experience before they can be licensed. Even in states where licensing is not required by law, most firms will require an interior design architect be licensed by NCIDQ.
Licensed interior design architects typically work on staff at architecture firms. Other times, an interior design architect may wish to start their own firm. They can then work directly with homeowners or businesses to complete renovations and improve the layout and design of their homes or offices. Those who choose this path will often obtain a license, even when it is not required, as this gives them more credibility and helps clients feel comfortable hiring their design firm.