Did you know that there are over 57,000 interior designers in the United States? If you are looking to change careers or go to college in the near future and are looking into interior design, you are in the right place. We are going to go over the difference in residential and commercial interior design to help you make a decision on which route to take.

Keep reading to learn the main differences.

Design Requirements

One main difference between residential and commercial is the requirements in the design. With residential interior design, the space has to be livable.

Clients have their own specific and unique needs to fit their lifestyle and their taste in decor. The interior designer has to create a personalized space that the homeowner is happy with.

Commercial interior design usually involves spaces that are much bigger than residential homes. This means that the designer has to deal with more technical requirements even with the most basic designs. There are plenty of things to think about, from special lighting to commercial window films and more.

Commercial spaces are also unique in their own design needs. For example, a museum, an airport, or a public library will require unique commercial interior designs.


The scope of the project is a major difference. With residential interior designing the designer deals with the planning of residential spaces. These include apartments, private homes, and condos. The designer’s job is all about the client in residential design instead of it being all about the business like it is in commercial design.

Commercial interior design involves designing commercial or business spaces, they play a large role in the success of any business. This means that there is a much wider scope to work with and much more responsibility. A designer might have to work in a bank, a mall, office spaces, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, spas, country clubs, schools, etc.

A commercial designer has to prioritize function and safety but without sacrificing aesthetics or style. For example, a cruise ship has to impress guests with beautiful bathrooms, modern decor, and breathtaking views while accommodating a certain amount of guests to maximize profits. The designer has to wow every guest that walks in while making the space usable, functional, and safe.

A talented commercial interior designer can transform a business that is failing into a booming one with some design changes. They should know what makes people come into a place of business and what turns people away. As a designer, you can specialize in bringing failing businesses back to life through new design.


Commercial interior design has more sub-specialties than residential interior design. The sub-specialties depend on the type of building that is being designed. For example, a mall will require a bunch of sub-specialties such as the food court, hallways, and individual stores.

As a commercial designer, you can opt to specialize in only restaurant designs or only movie theatres, bars, schools, boutiques, etc. Having a specific niche will make it easier to market yourself and show off your design style within those industries. This is also a great way to define your own personal brand to set yourself apart from the competition in the interior design world.

Residential interior sub-specialties will be the different rooms within a house such as a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and hallways. Residential won’t have as much variety when it comes to the sub-specialties of the project.

Some residential designers will take it a step further and specialize in a specific home design. You can opt to specialize in kitchen redesigning, or a home office organizer. There are also options when it comes to designing for new construction or existing homes.


When you are designing a residential home you do not have a brand image or business image to worry about. Instead, you are working to meet your client’s needs. You do not have to worry about a return on investment unless you are designing apartment units for a building.

Commercial interior design, on the other hand, will require the designer to take into account the business brand when coming up with the building’s design. A client will want something unique that represents their brand and that will also guarantee returns on their initial investments. As a designer, you will have to keep up with the latest trends in order to deliver the best designs.

Interior Design for Real Estate

Virtual staging is becoming more popular because people do not have time to tour homes for sale in person or they are not in the same state. An interior designer can specialize in virtual staging to help realtors sell homes faster.

With virtual staging, the latest trending designs can be brought into the virtual home to spark the buyer’s interest. Everything from greenery to furniture, to floor and wall colors, can be designed and staged.

Now You Are Familiar With Commercial Interior Design

As you can see there is a difference between residential and commercial interior design. If you are looking to go to school for interior design then we hope you can make an informed decision on which route to take, commercial or residential. If you are looking for a designer for your home or business, make sure to do your research and choose someone with experience that fits your needs.

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