What is Residential Interior Design?

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Residential interior designers are to an inside space what an architect is to a building's structure. Explore how residential interior design imbues personality and economy of space while balancing comfort and usability to create a livable space. Updated: 12/29/2021

Residential Interior Design

Architects have an important job: building structures that will fulfill people's needs while being structurally safe and sound. But here's the thing: you can create the greatest building in the world, but nobody's going to use it if the inside is a mess. Interior design is an integral part of architecture, focused on creating interior spaces that make the building both functional and aesthetically appealing. Still, we have different kinds of buildings, so it makes sense that we have different kinds of interior designs. One of the biggest arenas for designers is residential design, or the interiors of spaces in which people live. This can include houses, apartments, condos, and anywhere else where people reside. The architect may build the house, but it's the designer's job to make it a home.

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  • 0:04 Residential Interior Design
  • 0:54 Creating a Livable Space
  • 1:59 Designers and Architects
  • 3:19 Division of Space
  • 4:23 Personality
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Creating a Livable Space

Residential interior designers coordinate the interiors of homes, which means that their job is very different than someone who designs something like a bank or a commercial center. Interior design is always a matter of balancing aesthetic and function, so we need to consider the primary function of a residence: it's a place where people live. Therefore, a residential designer's primary focus is creating a livable space.

This means that residential designs needs to be comfortable and usable. Think of what you use your home for. It's where you relax, cook, and eat. It may be where you entertain close friends or small groups of guests. You may have a home office for work. Residential needs tend to be focused on smaller groups and more relaxed atmospheres than you'd find in a commercial building, and the interior designer needs to ensure that the colors, lighting, furniture, appliances, temperature, and general layout meet these needs. In other words, the interior needs to be livable.

Designers and Architects

Since residential interior design is focused on livability, designers and architects must work closely together. Occasionally, the architect will take charge of interior design (Frank Lloyd Wright was famous for doing this), but more frequently the architect works closely with a designer whose sole job is planning the interior aesthetic. In fact, a single residence may utilize multiple designers who each specialize in one area of living: the kitchen, the bedrooms, home offices, etc.

In terms of architecture, however, there are a few major things that the designer will often add or change to the architect's plan. Does the designer envision a more open interior feel? Then they may suggest removing non-essential walls and adding more windows for natural lighting. Does the designer want a more intimate feel? Lower ceilings, fewer windows, and tighter spaces may do the trick. The designer's job is to manage architectural features so as to ensure the appropriate balance of private versus public space. All residences require both. Public spaces, like dining rooms or living rooms, tend to feel open and airy. Private spaces, like bedrooms, tend to be more intimate and enclosed. Interior designers work with architects to ensure that the physical building balances needs of living.

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