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What is Interior Architecture & Design?

All you need to know about interior architecture and design; and the subtle differences between an interior decoration and interior designing course.

Did you know that we spend about 90% of our time indoors! We use the built environment, especially interior spaces, to reside, eat, sleep, bathe, mediate, teach, learn, work, exercise, shop, watch movies, have parties …the list is endless.

Whether it is a cup of coffee that we share with a special someone or the quiet space that we look for to cram for our exams, these spaces provide us the right kind of environment to meet our needs. In fact, this need for the right kind of built and interior space has existed since pre-historic ages. From the cave drawings of early man to the planned architecture of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro to smart-cities of modern India, our built environment has been a reflection of our existence and its evolution. 

Architecture, Interior Architecture and Design and Interior Decoration – these are facets of how we perceive, conceive, create and adorn built spaces to provide the intended experience to the user of that space. These built spaces may be permanent or temporary (exhibitions events, sets). They may be for a residential project or for a commercial space and may involve the use of the most technologically advanced fixtures and fittings or may use traditional features that have an old world-charm or use a combination of both! The permutations and combinations are plenty!

But what is the difference between Architecture, Interior Architecture and Design, and Interior Decoration?

Architecture is a broad-based field concerned with the process of construction. It encompasses all aspects of planning, designing and execution as per prescribed architectural laws and regulations. The focus here is more on the exterior design of a building. ‘Interior Architecture and Design’ and ‘Interior Decoration & Styling’ are specialised areas within architecture that focus on planning, designing, decorating or re-purposing internal aspects of the structure to make it usable for the client in accordance with their functional and aesthetic needs.

Venn diagram of architecture, interior decoration and interior designing courses
Relationship Between Architecture, Interior Architecture & Design and Interior Decoration and Styling

But aren’t ‘Interior Architecture & Design’ and ‘Interior Decoration’ the same?

Decorating a space means to make it beautiful.

Interior Decoration and styling is more focused on the artistic and aesthetic aspects of the built-space.

Design is all about making a space conducive to the various needs of the user. In this sense, design is much more than selecting colours of the curtains and arranging furniture in a room. It involves an advanced understanding of built environment and ergonomics.

Interior Architecture and Design is the knowledge of and the ability to intelligently apply design concepts to create functionally and structurally sound and aesthetically appealing interiors. It requires knowledge of concepts of design and technology (within architecture) such as construction, material, landscape, space design, conservation, services (such as plumbing, HVAC) and even adaptive re-use (reusing a building for a purpose other than it was built for, such as, palaces that have now been converted into luxury hotels). This is combined with an understanding of complex design processes, safety and sustainability, and demographics of end user.

In this way, an interior architect and designer is a specialist who –

  • understands the structural, hardware-related and softer aspects of finishing and furnishing a space
  • has a sound awareness of human history and anthropology, design theory and perspectives, materiality and technology, spatiality and styling to give the best interior space experience to the client or user.
Components of Interior Architecture and Interior Designing Course at IIAD
The Components of Interior Architecture & Design

Here is an example to better understand the work of an Interior Architect and Designer:

Let us say an historic 18th century ‘Haveli’ (mansion) is to be converted into a fine-dining Indian restaurant. While the outer shell of the building will retain the look of a haveli, the inner structure will be renovated or adapted to serve the new purpose. A built space with bedrooms, living-rooms, a kitchen and spaces that we find in homes will have to be converted into a space that has a large dining area, a bar, a kitchen, pantry, restrooms and other required spaces for a state-of-the-art restaurant. The structure will also have to adhere to fire-safety regulations. It will require new wiring circuits, electrical fixtures, and lighting as well as services such as plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning). It will also require furniture and installations, décor and curios to adorn the space. All of this work described in this example comes under the preview of the Interior Architect & Designer.

This is an example of adaptive re-use, a field that is fast growing within Interior Architecture!

Other interesting areas of work for interior architect designers are in:

  • Home and Office Interior Architecture and Design
  • Set Design (Temporary and dynamic in nature)
  • Exhibition Design (Temporary and dynamic)
  • Retail Space Design (Dynamic )
  • Residential and commercial landscape design and detailing
  • Furniture, fixtures and equipment Design
  • Accessories and Furnishings Design
  • Visual design for Interior Design companies
  • Interior Design in the health care and hospitality sectors

In the upcoming article we will discuss the possibilities in the interior designing courses and exciting opportunities in the area of interior architecture and Design.

Stay Tuned!

Industry trends that highlight opportunity areas for Interior Architect & Designers (Source: CII India Design Report 2015)
Industry trends that highlight opportunity areas for Interior Architect & Designers (Source: CII India Design Report 2015) 


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