Interior Design Consultant (aka interior designer) vs. Design and Build Contractor

What are the main differences between an Interior Design Consultant and a Design and Build contractor? What options work best for you?

Interior Design Consultant (aka interior designer) vs. Design and Build Contractor
126A Kim Tian Rd project: master bedroom.

Starting from the beginning, you think about getting your home (or office space) remodelled and renovated. You research and pick a certain style from various options available on the internet or in your social circle. The next step is to make this idea a reality and for this purpose, you reach out for help.

This step is probably the most crucial one. It decides the entire course of your renovation project and its outcome. Let’s see how.

Most firms in the market combine both the design process, and the actual building of your space, and you may have heard your friends telling you to pick a design and build contractor because they, at a glance, cost cheaper, provide you with all essential services, and often offer free design services (or rather, the design fees are parked in other expenses).

Design and build contractors lie between the expertise of a contractor and that of an interior designer, and are often more sales-oriented. Although they will (often) provide free design ideas as well as project management thrown into your renovation package, do not expect them to come up with different design themes and ideas to create a holiday resort like home for you. These companies have more expertise in the construction aspects of the renovation as opposed to the design aspect. Design and build companies do not charge consultancy fees for the design, and most fees are parked in one package.

Interior design consultants (IDs) on the other hand, are professionally trained in Interior Design. They specialise in spatial planning and design, and, as their title suggests, they will help you to design your interior based on your personal preferences and lifestyles. The services provided by IDs are more comprehensive compared to design contractors. They will help create design proposals and monitor the construction progress on your behalf, resolving any issues on site. Designers will also help you outsource the construction work to building contractors and provide additional services and advice post-renovation.

And for these reasons, interior designers will charge a professional fee for their customised design and project management services. If you place importance on design and service, and do not have the time to manage the renovations, an interior designer would be a better bet. However, if you are working with a tighter budget, a design and build contractor would work better, especially if the works are simple to execute, but you best care out time to oversee the work progress.

Commonwealth Ave. (HDB) project: open kitchen with island.

We’ve talked previously about the process of working with an interior designer consult.

Here is why you should approach an ID for your design and renovation

Professional approach

Interior designers are professionally trained to observe things that you usually might overlook. They can foresee potential problems and mistakes and will stand up for you and make sure it gets rectified.

Saving time

Depending on the involvement of the interior designer, the ID will take over most of the communication with the involved parties (contractors, suppliers, in case of commercial projects, this includes landlords and the right governmental departments to adhere to the local regulations, etc)

Project Management

IDs help manage the work for you. They will be the main liaison between you and main/subcontractors and suppliers. If something unexpected comes up (chances are 99.9%), they are always there to handle it for you, while representing your interests.

Technical issues

Renovation can be overwhelming. Sometimes, the renovation process is hindered by technical issues that the contractor didn’t foresee. The ID will look at solutions, involve third parties if needed, and keep the contractor accountable.

Stress reduction

It is a very stressful situation if you are not getting your desired results despite investing a handsome amount of your money and time. An interior designer may have access to several suppliers, certain (bulk) discounts, and usually has several options to get problems solved.


Consultants are independent and not bound to any firms or contractors. As sometimes, design and build firms may push you for their products and services with a higher markup. The ID’s priority is their clients and their interest. IDs work to get their clients quality products from reliable sources.

Custom and tailor-made solutions

IDs want to create a place that is uniquely yours. They are not in the business of repeating the same design over and over again — that won’t help their portfolio. They are looking at integrating new design trends and coming up with unique solutions custom-made for the location or brand.

Commonwealth Ave. project: master bathroom

Any advice for clients who are considering hiring design contractors?

Hiring a design contractor may be cheaper at first view since you will be paying directly for a package. And while it’s lighter on the pocket, you need to be more mindful about certain things with design contractors. For example, hiccups or custom changes are often a surplus and rarely covered by the initial quote.

So, here are some tips for you

  • Run thoroughly through their portfolio and find out what their level of involvement in the design process is.
  • Do your research. Check out whether they are registered on ACRA? Are they a private limited (pte. ltd.) or a sole proprietary? Are they likely to still be in business 6 or 12 months from now? What do their reviews say about their service? How do they deal with the situation when things go awry?
  • How is their communication with their clients? Do they reply to messages promptly? Do you work with one single person throughout the process? Are they cooperative and keep your interests before their interests? If something bad happens, do they stand by their client or by their contractors?
  • Do they offer you customised house plans or provide them from a cookie-cutter template?
  • Finally, we always urge clients not to buy renovation packages in advance as they reduce your choices and restrict you to certain quality and outcome.

All that being said, there’s probably no right or wrong option to choose from. Pick whichever fits your budget and makes you most comfortable.

Do you have any plans for home interior and renovation? Do you have any specific ideas or themes for your home in your mind? If so, we are just one click away. Reach out to Shan Wong Designs and voilà. Sit, relax and watch your dream turning into reality.

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. Stay in touch to get additional information about our latest projects and our professional tips.

Thank you.

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  • Design and build contractor = design contractor = sales designer
  • Interior design consultant = interior designer = ID