Who to Hire First—Designer, Architect, Contractor

Colorful eclectic dining room with bookcase interior designer Andrea Durcik

If you’re looking to take the plunge on a home redesign or remodel, how do you know who to hire first — designer, architect, contractor? It can feel confusing to know exactly where to begin, but we want to share why we highly recommend hiring a Designer first.

Clients often come to us without a clue of who will be their builder or architect, while some know who they’d like to hire already—and both are totally fine! And other times clients come to us and have already hired their architect and/or contractor. To help set you up for greater project success, we’re going to share our insight into who we recommend hiring first, depending on the type of project you’re undertaking.  

Keep reading to discover the most efficient way to assemble a winning team for your home redesign or remodel project!

Who Should Be Involved In Your Design Project

Interior Designer

Creating and implementing a design plan from beginning to end is extremely time consuming, and requires a ton of organization, coordination and project management. An interior designer handles all of this work for you, saving you time and allowing you to focus on living your life. They also advocate for you throughout the process with all involved parties, and help to save you from making costly mistakes you wouldn’t have known about.


Architects work closely with both the interior designer and the builder to bring a client’s creative vision to life. Often, architects are the ones who push the creative limits of the project together with an interior designer. Having a talented and professional architect can do wonders for the success of the final design! 

Architectural plans are also often required by many cities for the permitting process, so it’s good to check with your city and/or contractor to determine if you will need blueprints drawn up for the permitting process in your area.


The contractor is responsible for executing all construction, renovation and customization on your project. A skilled builder is essential to the success of the project! For more information about finding the perfect fit, check out our full post about selecting a contractor.

Structural Engineer

On some major renovation projects, a structural engineer will need to be involved. The role of a structural engineer is to ensure the structural integrity of the home. They are particularly crucial on renovation projects involving the creation of open concept spaces, the removal of many walls within the home, or the adaptation of roof lines and the like. They help to ensure proper weight distribution and identify the support structures needed to ensure that all upper levels and roofs are properly supported so that they don’t come crashing down. 

NEVER remove a wall within your home without consulting a contractor or structural engineer first!

Your contractor/builder will be the one to help you know if a structural engineer is needed for your project and typically can make recommendations for one.

Living room remodel

Getting Started

Hiring A Designer First—And Finding the Right One!

While it’s totally normal for a client to come to us with an idea of who they want as their builder or architect, we recommend you first start by finding and hiring an interior designer you trust—whether you’re building a new home or renovating. Though it can also work equally well to hire your Designer and Architect at the same time and have them work together in tandem (our preferred process!).

After you’ve hired your Designer and Architect, hire your Builder/Contractor. However, you can definitely start meeting with and vetting Builders/Contractors while your Designer and Architect are working on your design and architectural plans to keep things moving along in a timely manner.

A True Advocate for You Throughout the Process

We recommend hiring a Designer first because, here at EGI, we spend a lot of time at the beginning of your project getting to know you and really understanding your functional and emotional needs, as well as your personality and style. We then use all this information to create a truly special home that reflects you, and coordinate with builders and architects to bring this vision to life.  

Additionally, designers advocate for you throughout the process with all involved parties, and often save you from making expensive mistakes you wouldn’t have foreseen or known about.

Designers also have worked with so many contractors, architects and tradespeople over the years, that they are often well equipped to provide you with recommendations for who is reliable, skilled, and suited to fit your home’s design aesthetic. So if you are really unsure of where to start, we’re here to help you build your design dream team!

Eclectic dining room
Image via East & Gray Interiors

The Benefits of Hiring a Designer first

Don’t Make This Mistake! More Reasons for Hiring A Designer First

While many people think hiring an Architect first is the best plan, let me give you an example of how hiring a Designer first is beneficial for you. 

On one of our recent projects, we were hired after the architectural plans were already created and approved by the city. As we started going through our Deep Dive Client Interview process with our client (one of the very first steps in our design process) we learned that the client had a treasured credenza that had been in their family for generations that they absolutely wanted to use in their dining room. The architect was unaware of this and sadly had not included a wall long enough in the dining room to accommodate the length of this heirloom piece.

The only way for us to be able to fit this piece into the dining room was to reconfigure the location of the staircase in the home. This was not only timely, but costly as well, and could have easily been avoided if the Designer had been onboard earlier in the process, or if the Designer and Architect had been hired together at the same time and were working together in tandem (our preferred process!). 

The Value in Finalizing the Design Plan BEFORE Construction

By hiring your Designer and Architect first, you are figuring out your design plan BEFORE construction begins and BEFORE you receive bids from contractors/builders. This is beneficial to you in several ways:

  1. It will help you to receive a more accurate quote from your contractor/builder because they will be able to review the intricacy of the design plans, as well as the level of finishes you desire. This will help you to avoid all the change orders that happen when the designer is hired AFTER you’ve approved the contractor’s/builder’s quote, as well as help you to plan an accurate budget for your tastes and style aspirations from the start. And allows you to make any modifications to the design plan that may be needed to stay on budget BEFORE any construction begins. 
  2. Your project will run more smoothly and quickly once construction begins because all finishes and materials will have already been selected, allowing the ordering timeline to be appropriately coordinated with the construction schedule. This way contractors are never waiting around for materials to arrive, which is a huge contributor to project delays on most projects. 
  3. The contractor is able to assess up front the feasibility of the design plan, and work through with the Designer and Architect any modifications that may be needed, again, BEFORE construction begins. This saves time and money, and allows for greater creativity in the design modifications because the creative process is not being squeezed by a construction schedule that is already in process.  

When you find the right interior designer who brings experience, passion and project management skills to the table, you’ll be overjoyed at how seamlessly your full design team can come together and work together. 

Looking to find the right interior designer for your project? 

Find out what it’s like to hire and meet with an interior designer, or book a free discovery call with East & Gray Interiors to see if we’re a good fit for your design goals!

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Interior Designer Andrea Durcik Columbus Ohio

meet Andrea!

Traveling, animals, and all things design encompass Andrea’s life, fueling her creative energy every step of the way.

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