What is the difference between residential and commercial interiors?

Interior design is all about adapting spaces to specific aesthetics and functionality. You can choose minimalist or cozy decor, whatever you prefer. 

When it comes to interior design, there are usually two main categories: residential and commercial. But what is the difference between residential and commercial interior design?

In this write-up, we’ll focus on the key differences between commercial and residential interior designs and what you can expect when working with designers from each field. 

Let’s get started, shall we?

What is Residential Interior Design? 

Residential interior design focuses on creating living spaces for individuals. Its goal is to make a house comfortable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing for the home dwellers. 

This type of design mainly emphasizes the homeowner’s personal preferences, lifestyle choices, and budget. Designing a residential space requires personal touches; the designer needs to incorporate thoughtful items into the decor. This way, the clients will feel connected to the space, and it will be easier for them to accept the place as their home. 

What is Commercial Interior Design?

All the commercial spaces you see out there are designed by commercial interior designers. Unlike residential projects, commercial interior design focuses on functionality instead of comforting corners. 

While designing a commercial interior, designers choose elements to support the goal of the business or brand. Designers must also pick decor that can create a positive experience for customers, visitors, and their employees. Commercial interior designers need to make the place functional and safe while being aesthetically pleasing. 

AspectsResidential Interior DesignCommercial Interior Design
GoalsPersonal comfort and aestheticsFunctionality and broad appeal
Client BaseIndividual homeowners and FamiliesPublic spaces, businesses, and brands.
Decor ChoicesLifestyle preferences of the homeownersMultifunctional 
Design GoalsComfort, personal preferences, and functionalityEfficiency, aesthetics, and brand expression.

Characteristics of Residential and Commercial Design

Let’s have a detailed look at the characteristics of residential and commercial interior design. 

Residential Interior Design 

Ease of Customization

One of the greatest perks of residential interior design is that clients can personalize the aspects according to their preferences. To do that, designers work closely with the clients to understand their lifestyles, values, and requirements to create a perfect living space for them. In this type of interior design, anything can be customized to enhance the quality of life. 

Scopes for Flexibility

While designing a residential project, the professionals can enjoy the flexibility of incorporating their thoughts. If the client permits, experiments can be made with the aesthetics of the place. The designers can play with the colors, textures, and furniture to create a unique style for each client. 

Creates an Emotional Connection

The designers get to know the homeowners personally. They connect emotionally to bring life to their interior projects. In residential interior design, the professionals work to create a peaceful sanctuary for everyone living in that space.

Commercial Interior Designs

Focuses on Efficiency and Functionality

In commercial interior designing, you have to work to optimize the workplace. The designer has to emphasize space utilization to increase the efficiency of the place. Also, safety protocols and maintenance should be considered while designing such places.

Maintains the Brand Impression

When designing a commercial space, it’s important to reflect the brand’s impression throughout the decor. This way, the brand’s identity and goals will be expressed, and customers will have a better idea about the organization. 

Follows Regulatory Compliance

Commercial spaces must be designed with specific health and safety protocols. The designer must also ensure better accessibility for customers and employees. Otherwise, the organization may face legal issues, and nobody wants that!

The Core Differences Between Residential and Commercial Interior Design

When it comes to interior design, commercial and residential projects overlap in many scenarios. Both designs aim to create spaces that suit the client’s requirements. However, there are some key differences as well. 

Now, let’s get to know the core differences between commercial and residential interior design. 

Intention of Designing

The designers’ intentions when decorating commercial and residential spaces are different. When it comes to residential spaces, the plan has to be cozy yet functional, vibrant yet soothing. The surroundings should be decorated to fulfill the personal requirements of the home dwellers. 

On the other hand, the commercial space has to be optimized to increase the efficiency of the employees. It should also offer comfortable and positive vibes to the customers. The designers need to make the place into a productive den that ensures customer engagement as well. 

Usage of Space

Residential design prioritizes the comfort and privacy of the homeowners. The designers must create a place where they can cook, socialize, and sleep without trouble. 

By contrast, in commercial interior design, the aim is to emphasize the use of space to accommodate all the employees and customers visiting the place. A business space needs to meet different operational needs. Therefore, the layouts have to be more structured and strategic to support diverse business goals. 

Materials and Durability

Furniture in houses needs to be comfortable and match the aesthetics of the homeowners. Yes, all furniture should be durable, but it doesn’t have to last a lifetime, as people may need to change their decor occasionally to break the monotony. 

Highly durable furniture is a must in commercial spaces. The materials of the chairs, sofas, and tables should withstand heavy use. Moreover, the furniture has to be easy to maintain. In short, the decor needs to be eye-soothing and practical at the same time. 

Designers should add furniture with sentimental values or unique pieces to enhance the living experience in houses. In official spaces, mass-market furniture will be the cost-effective choice. 

Rules and Regulations

Both residential and commercial interior designers must follow local building codes. However, residential projects generally need to focus on safety and zoning. 

Relationship with the Client

Designers need to connect personally while working on a residential interior project. The professionals need to understand the homeowner’s lifestyle, family values, and expectations of the house. Only then can a perfect home be created. 

For designing a commercial space, the designers need to engage with the business stakeholders to understand the impact of the design on the customers. Also, they have to create a place to ensure employee satisfaction and operational efficiency. 

What Does a Residential Interior Designer Do?

The job of a residential interior designer is to create homes for individuals and families. They take a space, enhance its interiors, and make it comfy, beautiful, functional, and safe for people who want to start a life there.

These professionals deal directly with the homeowners, understand their expectations of the place, and decorate the space accordingly. 

Here’s what they typically do:

  • Meet with the clients to discuss the design, functional needs, decor preferences, and budget. 
  • Plans the design according to the client’s requirements and budget. This planning involves creating floor plans, picking color schemes, choosing pieces of furniture, etc. 
  • One of the designers’ goals is to make the best use of the space they have. In this case, they must consider factors like lighting, room purposes, and movement flows. 
  • Selecting materials and products to fit the client’s choice and budget is one of the most important tasks in residential interior design. Choosing furniture, curtains, paints, and wallpapers according to the design plan is a complicated task; there’s no doubt about that. 
  • The designers also have to supervise the implementation of the design. They deal with the contractors, architects, and craftsmen to ensure that the design is completed correctly and on time. 
  • Interior design is not just about paint and furniture. The designers also have to pick the finishing touches, such as art pieces, fixtures, and decorative items, to bring the place together. 

What Does a Commercial Interior Designer Do?

Commercial interior designers help businesses and brands create aesthetically pleasing spaces with enhanced functionality. The designers must focus on branding, as the client is not an individual. 

These professionals optimize spaces for businesses that align with the company’s objectives. Here are the roles played by a commercial interior designer.

  • The designers deal with the business stakeholders to make the plan according to their vision, the nature of the business, and brand identity. 
  • While designing a commercial space, layouts are made to efficiently use the space to ensure employee workflows and customer traffic. 
  • The concept of the commercial interior designs should meet the business’s brand and goals. Every item in the space should have appropriate color schemes, materials, and styles that reflect the company’s image. 
  • The designers need to pick durable materials for furniture and decorative items. These items should also meet commercial standards to enhance the space’s functionality. 
  • Planning a commercial interior design is quite tricky as the designer has to follow strict rules and regulations regarding safety. If you fail to follow one of the rules, you’ll have to face legal issues undoubtedly. 
  • The designer also supervises the installation of interior elements. Moreover, they must conduct follow-up meetings with the clients to ensure satisfaction. 

What Skills Do Residential And Commercial Interior Designers Need?

Residential and commercial interior designers need to be creative and technical at the same time. They should also acquire interpersonal skills to understand the client’s expectations. 

Here’s a breakdown of the necessary skills for each type of designer. 

Common Skills for Both Residential and Commercial Designers


An interior designer should have a creative soul. Whether you’re designing a home or an office, you need to use your creative mind to give a unique identity to that place. Your creativity skill will help you understand color theory, texture, and decoration ideas to meet your client’s needs. 

Technical Skills

While designing a project, you may have to use software to create outlines. Also, interior designing requires drafting plans to complete the projects correctly. Hence, you need to gain some technical skills to excel in this field. 


To have a better understanding of interior projects, the designers should have excellent communication skills. If you want to make your client’s dreams come true, you need to socialize with them frequently. Moreover, you have to deal with contractors, engineers, and other professionals. So, acquiring communication skills is a must, and there’s no alternative. 

Problem-Solving Skills

As a designer, you’ll encounter challenging situations such as structural problems and budget considerations. With enhanced problem-solving skills, you can overlook these issues without breaking any sweat. 

Specific Skills for Residential Interior Designers

Customization Skills

Residential designers have to personalize spaces according to the homeowners’ requirements. Thus, they need a deep understanding of customizing decor styles to meet their clients’ tastes.

Be an Empath

While designing residential projects, you need to understand your customers’ sentimental values. Some may want to recreate their childhood home, or some may want to create a better place for their kids. You have to listen to your clients carefully, consider their emotional aspects, and create a home accordingly. 

Offer Flexibility

Even if you decorate the house by respecting your client’s choices, they may not love the outcome. And that’s quite natural. In that case, you need to be flexible with your plans, make adjustments, and finish the project on time and to the homeowner’s satisfaction. 

Specific Skills for Commercial Interior Designers

Knowledge of Codes and Regulations

As a commercial interior designer, you need to learn the relevant codes and regulations. While designing this type of project, follow the codes regarding accessibility, fire safety, occupational health, etc. 

Project Management Skills

Commercial interior designing is done on a larger and more complex scale. For this reason, strong project management skills are required. Otherwise, finishing the project on time and within the budget will become a hectic task. 

Brand Awareness

While designing a space for a specific business or a brand, you need to understand the company’s goal. This way, you can reflect the brand’s identity in your design. It will enhance the business’s image and increase the brand’s value among its customers. 

Final Verdict

So, what is the difference between residential and commercial interior design? Hopefully, you’ve got your answers.

Residential interior design gives spaces a personal touch; it turns a random structure into a loving home by focusing on the client’s preferences. On the other hand, commercial interior design aims to create a space with enhanced functionality and workflow while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing environment. 

Both residential and commercial interior designers share some similar skills, but the difference lies in their goals. Houses are more about personal comfort, while business spaces are about efficiency and appeal to the public. But in both sectors, the designers get the chance to show their creativity by choosing unique decor to make your property one in a million. 


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