Commercial Vs. Residential Interior Design: What Are the Main Differences?

While some people might believe that there is very little difference between commercial and residential interior design, others assume that there is no cross-over all. The fact is, while both mediums are fundamentally different, they do share a number of qualities. For example: could a residential interior designer bring any value to a hotel renovation project?

In this article, we’re going to highlight the key differences between commercial and residential interior design to help alleviate any confusion between the two. Which service is best suited to the project that you have in mind? Should you deal only with an interior designer with one area of expertise or can you benefit from hiring a full-service interior design agency? Read on and we’ll tell you everything you need to know…

Commercial Vs. residential interior design: the basics

Choosing the right interior designer is critical in the overall success of your renovation project, but before we dive into the key distinctions between commercial and residential interior design, let’s start with the basics. What kind of properties and spaces are each concerned with?

Commercial interior design

Commercial interior design is concerned with public ‘commercial spaces’, whether private or customer-facing. Here are a few examples:

  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals and healthcare clinics
  • Schools
  • Office spaces
  • Retail stores
  • Community and fitness centres. 

Residential interior design

Residential interior design focuses on private homes and group residence projects, such as:

  • Private homes
  • Bedrooms
  • Bathrooms
  • Kitchens
  • Home theatres
  • Condominiums
  • Apartment complexes.

The overall intention

One simple way of distinguishing the two is through intention.

  • Commercial interior designers: will be adhering to a certain branded image. Is it a chain of restaurants with a very distinct style? What colour schemes and décor should a hotel utilise to be in-keeping with their brand while achieving a desired level of luxury?
  • Residential interior designers: on the other hand, tend to be far more focused on the individual design style, tastes, and preferences of the client whose home they are working on.

The experiences created

Another major difference between both commercial and residential interior design is the experiences that are being created.

  • Commercial interior designers: are obsessed with the user experience. It’s not just about designing a commercial space that looks pretty (although aesthetics is of course, very important), but a functional and well-optimised space that can facilitate a certain function. For example:
    • Offices: offices need to be well-optimised to promote good workflow and productivity. Not only is the spatial arrangement and furnishings used critical, but the design and decoration elements as well. The space must bolster morale, be easy to clean and maintain, and create a calming environment in which employees can thrive.
    • Restaurants: should be functional and inviting. The waiting staff should be able to move around quickly and efficiently while diners should be able to enjoy a certain level of comfort and privacy. Yes, the aesthetic charm of a restaurant is critical – particularly for businesses who want an ‘Instaworthy’ space – but they must primarily be optimised in such a way that enables serving staff and diners to enjoy their intended function effectively.

Commercial experiences are important and for a wide variety of reasons. How comfortable does a new student feel when they arrive at school? How easy is it for visitors to navigate a hospital? What feelings and emotions are evoked when a guest enters the lobby of a hotel? End users in any commercial premises have signed up for a specific experience and it’s a commercial interior designer’s job to ensure that those expectations are met – and exceeded!

  • Residential interior designers: are tasked with designing comfortable spaces that are tailored to a specific family of individual, demonstrating their personal tastes and requirements. For example:
    • The forever home: for retirees and people approaching their twilight years, their needs change. A residential interior designer will take these needs into consideration when designing a space for them. How can a space be optimised to make every day activities easier and more accessible to someone with mobility issues?
    • Family home theatres: some homeowners will have a variety of different ideas and requirements for their homes and a residential interior designer can help bring these to life. The family home theatre is a great example of this; transforming a communal space in the home to a dedicated theatre area with comfortable seating and mood lighting to boot.

Residential interior designers should be well-versed in people in order to fully understand and empathise with their client. What is their personal style like? How can you match their expectations and bring their desires to life, as well as promoting a certain lifestyle? How should each individual room in the house feel and function? There’s so much more that goes into it than most people think and relationship building is a critical aspect!

Sub-specialities / niche areas

Again, there will always be some cross-over between the two. Case and point: how would you qualify an interior designer who is designing all of the apartments in a condominium development? It’s a commercial client investing their money into a residential project which can be the cause of much confusion. In any case, as each individual residential unit will be designed to accommodate tenants and prospective new condo investors, a residential interior designer would be the right choice in this instance.

Additionally, there are certain qualities that both commercial and residential interior designers can bring to various projects. A designer with significant experience in residential interior design could certainly bring great value to a hotel renovation – particularly when optimising the hotel rooms for maximum comfort and luxury.

There are also various sub-specialities and niches. Some residential interior designers may offer a full-service and can work with every room throughout the house, whereas others may niche down and focus solely on bedrooms, kitchens, or bathrooms.

The same applies with commercial interior designers. You will often come across an interior design agency who will work on any commercial development project they can get their hands on, while others tend to niche down and focus on a set area of expertise, for example: restaurants, offices, and hotels.

So, what should you do when hiring an interior designer for your project? Must you hire a dedicated commercial interior designer who specialises only in that particular medium or can you work with an agency that offers both commercial and residential interior design?

The important thing to remember is that so long as you do your due diligence and thoroughly research any prospective interior design agency by reviewing their social proof, testimonials, and previous completed projects, you shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring this out.

A lone designer who offers both commercial and residential interior design services might not be as valuable – given that they spread their expertise too thin. However, an established interior design agency that offers both services will have a team of designers on the books – each with their own individual sub-specialities – in which case, you’ll be able to leverage far more expertise under one banner.

Final thoughts

As you can see, while both commercial and residential interior design have fundamental differences, there are some similarities between the two. Ultimately, it’s all about intention and desired experiences.

We hope that you have found this article helpful. If you are interested in exploring either commercial or residential interior design further, we invite you to contact us today. We employ a large team of dedicated interior design specialists, each with their own area of expertise. Whatever you need, we can help you bring your vision to life with expert precision.

Looking to Start your own Interior Design Project?

Get in touch below or find useful links explaining our Interior Design services.

Home Interior Design

We offer a range of home interior design services to help you create the perfect space for your needs. From designing a new space from scratch to renovating an existing room, we can help you achieve the look you want. We also offer tailored colour consultation services to help you choose the perfect shade for your walls and furniture. Anything from a full remodel to custom furniture, Instyle Deco Paris is here to help.

  • Bedroom Interior Design

    Our bedroom interior design services can help you to create a beautiful and relaxing bedroom that is perfect for you.

  • Bathroom Interior Design

    We offer a wide range of bathroom interior design services that are suited to your specific needs and preferences.

  • Kitchen Interior Design

    Our kitchen designers can help you create a beautiful and functional space that meets your needs and fits your budget.

  • Home Theater Interior Design

    Our home theater interior design services can help you create the perfect entertainment space for your home.

  • House and Condo Interior Design

    House and condo interior design services can be a great way to add some new life to your living space. Our team of experts can help you choose the perfect style and color palette to transform your home.

Commercial Interior Design Services

Are you in the market for a new office space, or just want to give your current one a fresh update? Our commercial interior design team can help! We provide comprehensive services from space planning and design to furniture selection and installation. We'll work with you to create a workspace that's both stylish and functional. Contact us today to learn more!

  • Hotel Interior Design

    We offer hotel interior design services that can help you create a unique and inviting space for your guests.

  • Office Interior Design

    We provide top-quality office interior design services that will help you to create a workspace that is both functional and stylish.

  • Restaurant Interior Design

    Our restaurant interior design services can help you to create a comfortable and inviting space for your diners.

  • Fitness Center Interior Design

    Gyms can be notoriously difficult to design. They need to be functional and look great, all while accommodating a wide range of activities and equipment.

  • 3d Rendering Services

    We offer high-quality 3D rendering services for businesses and individuals alike, bring your design to life. 

  • Custom Furniture Design

    From start to finish, we will work with you to create the perfect piece of furniture for your home or office.

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