Renovation Contractor vs Interior Designer: Which Should You Pick?

Doing up your new home can be pretty exciting, but also stressful and confusing. So, it’s only natural to ask whether you should hire a renovation contractor or an interior designer to renovate your home.

Well, it boils down to the scope of work, as well as your budget. Below are some of the questions you can ask yourself before deciding who to pick.

But before we get into that, we’ll talk about the difference between a renovation contractor and interior designer, what they do and the pros and cons of both:


What’s the difference between a renovation contractor and an interior designer?

Interior designer 

  • Designs your home’s interior 
  • Specialise in improving functionality and aesthetics
  • Will project-manage your entire renovation, working with contractors  

As the name suggests, an interior designer’s role is to design the interior of your home based on your objectives and lifestyle preferences. They do this by using sketches, mood boards and 3D renders so that you can get a better visualisation of the home. 

Interior designers specialise in improving the functionality and aesthetics of your home, and will consult you on the type of materials to use, where to source for the materials, the right colour choices, and furnishings such as decorative items and furniture.

Apart from that, they also help to project manage your home renovation, which includes working with contractors on timelines, ensuring that the renovation is up to speed, dealing with renovation hiccups, and updating you on the renovation process.

Renovation contractor

  • Executes the plans made by the interior designer (if any) 
  • May work with other subcontractors 
  • Typically don’t advise on design or aesthetics 

On the other hand, a renovation contractor’s job is to execute the plans made by the interior designer, and make it come to life. This means working with other subcontractors such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters and so forth. 

Though they usually don’t provide design ideas or advice, experienced renovation contractors that have been in the trade long enough also provide interior design packages, where they help to conceptualise the entire renovation project (including hiring an interior designer) and work closely with you. 

Also read: Renovation Contractor Singapore Guide: Best Practices to Follow and More


How to decide between renovation contractor and interior designer

Now that you know the different roles for both, below are some of the questions you should ask yourself. 

1. What’s your budget?

As you can tell from above, interior designers provide more services compared to renovation contractors and are therefore, more expensive to hire. Not only will you need to pay for their consultation and 3D sketches, but also for their time to oversee the entire project from start to finish, and managing all parties involved. Ultimately, what you’re paying for is the convenience of overseeing the project.

2. Do you want to be involved in the project?

While most are happy to take a step back and let the interior designer oversee the entire renovation process, if you want to supervise the renovation yourself, then you can work with a renovation contractor to manage the timelines and deliverables yourself.

However, note that overseeing your renovation is no walk in the park and can be extremely challenging; it requires commitment, knowledge, experience and patience. 

Not only do you need to source for your own subcontractors (which can be a tedious process as it means Googling and reading reviews of the contractors), but you’ll also need to develop a schedule for those who are involved, detailing the work, who’s responsible, when it has to be delivered and so on.  

Note: If you’re renovating an HDB flat, it’s advisable to use contractors that are part of HDB’s directory of renovation contractors (DRC). These contractors are familiar with HDB’s requirements when it comes to protecting the structural integrity of the building and safety standards. 

3. Major or minor renovation?

If you’re planning on small-scale projects such as renovating your bedroom, installing new carpentry, installing new tiles and installing a plaster ceiling, you can consider hiring a renovation contractor as you may not need an interior designer. However, if you’re going to overhaul the entire home, then an interior designer may be preferable as there is likely to be multiple ongoing ‘projects’ and sub-contractors to manage. 

Suggested read: 7 Interior Design Ideas To Add A Touch Of Everyday Romance To Your Home

4. How much design knowledge do you have?

You may spend a lot of time on Pinterest or read tons of interior design articles, but the real thing is an entirely different matter. 

Designing your home isn’t just about the aesthetics; equally important is having a good understanding of how to make space functional, the type of materials used, and ensuring that all the measurements and dimensions are correct. 

If you don’t have the right experience, it’s better to hire an interior designer so that he/she can consult you to better understand your preference, needs and how you intend to use the space. Remember, renovation contractors may not have the necessary design knowledge or be accountable for the design choices that you make, which means that you’ll need to be responsible for any design errors (and how to solve them).


Bottom line: Who should you pick?

Generally, if you’re tight on budget or only want to get minor renovations done go for a renovation contractor. If you’re a first-time homeowner and want to have the ultimate peace of mind, hire an interior designer.

Recommended read: Renovation Loan in Singapore: Which is the Best? (2020 update)


For more property news, resources and useful content like this article, check out PropertyGuru’s guides section

Are you looking to buy a new home? Head to PropertyGuru to browse the top properties for sale in Singapore.  

Already found a new home? Let PropertyGuru Finance’s home finance advisors help you with financing it.

Compare listings