A humble effort to dispel some misconceptions around the need of a professional for designing a small space.

If you work in a field were a visual or artistic component is involved, you have experienced this many times: people think that a lot of what you do is debatable and subjective, or that given time and a little effort, everyone could to it.
More subtly demeaning is the assumption that it is all just about talent.

Many completely forget the complex reasoning, the professional competence, and the technical issues that structure and inform our choices and the product of our work.

It recently occurred to me that this topic has many more shades of grey than I thought, when friends of mine turned down my help offer in the renovation of their apartment, because they wanted to “do it our way” and “have fun with it”. Of course, none of it was my intention, I just wanted to give then my professional expertise and relieve them from some of the nuisances of renovating, but they did not seem to understand that.

Let’s talk about this regarding Architecture and Interior Design and understand what lies beyond making a “nice space”.

Not an easy job

Working in architecture is incredibly stressful and complicated. During the planning phase you have to consider many variables and bring together different needs and constrictions to create a product of high quality, within budget. Drawing and creating effective presentations is time consuming, which put a lot of pressure into delivering results and progress to the client. And this is considered the fun part!

Then you have to find and manage the different contractors, the materials, the products, keep everything on schedule, solve problems on the go and often accommodate new client’s requests. You do all that moved by your passion and supported by your training, your studies and experience (and of course talent, if you are lucky).

Dealing with big spaces puts you in front of an increased quantity of decisions and elements, but planning small spaces requires a greater effort to find intelligent and custom solutions, in an increased difficulty of the challenges. Therefore, small spaces are not at all easier to design, and the benefits of an architectural planning are greater, since they enable you to take greater advantage of the limited space.

Instruction and qualification

Let’s take a look into what does it take to be an architect. We are commonly looking at five years of university with one or more degrees (bachelor and master), mandatory practice, examination and approval by the local Architectural College. Then if as client, you are hiring a firm or an independent architect, they usually have many more years of practice, which makes easily an overall 10-year training minimum.

With all that the architect has the knowledge, the academic and legal qualifications to assess the real estate investment, draw up the architectural plans, coordinate the project and its realization, making the best use of the existing conditions and constraints.

Furthermore, their training and knowledge allow them to see the project as a whole. Their competence is not limited to one field, but it connects and sums up every discipline involved. An architect saves you time and money because he knows how to plan, manage, and coordinate the entire project process, overcoming your concerns, fulfilling your demands and reaching your goals.

“We prefer to do it our own way”

Hiring an architect does not mean that you loose control over your investment, the personalization of your space, or that he imposes you his style. On the contrary the architect through his professionalism will make sure that you can concretize your vision and enable its realization with resources and competences, you do not have access to.

The architect will identify problems, find appropriate solutions, so that you will be able to make informed decisions, express your desires, and ultimately identify yourself in the final product, thus making the renovation or refurbishment process more enjoyable and reliable.

Does it justify the additional cost?

Many times people point out that an interior design project or an architectural refurbishment is not so difficult to justify paying a professional to do it.

The only case in which this affirmation could be true, is if someone is planning to randomly repaint a space and fill it with stuff he finds somewhere.

The architect’s work brings not only added value but also guarantees its realisation as intended. Therefore, the whole process (project and work) will not be more expensive if an architect is involved from the beginning.

Hiring a specialist in any area is always an investment when looking for quality. Throughout the whole process, the architect helps the client to make decisions that optimise their investment, in a constant search for the best quality/price ratio within the many construction options.

Also, a project from an architect significantly increases the value of your property, while also improving its functionality, performance and economy: this generates a surplus value that justify the investment by itself, either if you are looking to sell better your property or adapt it to your needs, making it more comfortable and cheaper to run.

Besides making things look pretty

A common misconception is that the main part of our job is about improving or creating a nice aesthetic. In reality an architect’s goal is to reconcile all project’s features and constraints, while still managing to give the architectural object identity and beauty.

Functionality, practicality, technological systems, regulations, detail planning, cost management, time scheduling, craftsmen and contractors’ coordination, products and materials sourcing, ergonomics, efficiency, light and acoustic design, structural engineering, thermal control, flexibility (we could go on…) AND beautiful design.

“A technically perfect work may sometimes be aesthetically inexpressive, but there has never been, either now or in the past, a work of architecture recognised as aesthetically excellent that was not also technically excellent. Good engineering seems to be a necessary – though not sufficient – condition for good architecture.”

“Un’opera tecnicamente perfetta può a volte risultare esteticamente inespressiva, ma non è mai esistita, né ora né in passato, un’opera di architettura riconosciuta eccellente dal punto di vista estetico che non fosse eccellente anchen dal punto di vista tecnico. Una buona ingegneria sembra essere condizione necessaria – benché non sufficiente – per una buona architettura.”

Pier Luigi Nervi – Italian engineer and architect

Why not another professional

Why should I need an architect, when an engineer can solve my technical problems, an interior designer can decorate my space?

Because an architect is THE professional that can find the right solutions and implement the best ideas for the space you want to live in.
Neither the engineer has the competence to create a comfortable and beautiful environment for your activities, nor the designer has the skill and the knowledge to integrate systems, materials, and space in an organic, technical, functional product. The architect combines all that in one person. Besides, you then have the great advantage of hiring just one professional, instead of multiples, saving you money and time.


Neither an engineer, nor a contractor or a decorator can replace an architect.
Contractors build what was designed by the architect. Engineers work together with the architect on the various specialities involved in the construction process, making possible the technical execution of the global project they developed.

Undertaking a renovation by yourself is certainly possible, but there is no quality guarantee, and it becomes a missed opportunity to create added value in your space and improve your well-being, productivity, and happiness in everyday life. Isn’t this a worthwhile investment?

A client expresses goals and needs, that the architect, and not the client, has the means to achieve and satisfy.
The ones that claim to not need an architect, are the ones that need it the most.

Links and references