During client consultations, this question comes up very frequently, and I thought it would be helpful to break it down for you if you're wondering the same thing! Every project is different, but for most remodels, the short answer is yes, you probably need an architect! But why exactly does it make sense to bring two separate teams on for your next design project?
Truthfully, architects and designers focus on completely different aspects of a home, all of which need to be working in concert with each other for the most efficient design process. The main advantage of an interior designer is that we focus on how people actually live in the space - we choose the things that people are touching day in and day out. Think about materials (flooring, tile, countertops, paint colors), lighting, fixtures, hardware…the list goes on. Do you need a certain finish for your flooring because of your little rascals (both humans and animals)? Do you need only pulls on your cabinets because you have someone in your household that has a hard time gripping round knobs? That's the level of detail that we can get into for each and every space.
Architects often call out “wood flooring” in their specifications, but they don’t specify hardwood, engineered, LVP, or laminate. They do go into a ton of detail in specifying how things are constructed, and help to organize different consultants that determine mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural aspects of the design. Some will do more design work than others - it just depends on the architect.
Architects also know building codes, complete the construction drawings, and go through the permitting process. Designers do design drawings that are not intended to be submitted as permit sets for the city. Even though it may sound like an architect should be brought on first, it actually works better in the long run for the client to bring both teams on together. If an architect is drafting construction plans while consulting with the designer and client to ensure that the exterior structure is supporting the layouts inside, and vice versa, there are future issues that won't even come up!
If a home is going through any sort of structural change (adding or changing any interior or exterior walls), plumbing or electrical relocation, or anything short of purely cosmetic updates, then it's time to find an architect that will help navigate through those items that require a permit.
Does this clarify things for you, or do you have case specific questions about your next project? Feel free to reach out and connect - we're happy to work through those questions!