Taking Your Interior Design Experience Outdoors

Your interior design education can help create exterior environments.
Exterior design can include a tiled outdoor fire pit like this one

Interior designers are sometimes called upon by clients to help with not only their indoor areas but also outdoor environments of a home or building. They can take features of a space's interior into an outdoor setting, such as a patio, to create a unified look and feel.

Similarly, a designer can be inspired to tie in outdoor elements, such as a garden, with indoor spaces. Depending on a client's vision for an exterior project, it may be helpful to collaborate with or have a landscape designer take the lead.

Either way, your training and experience as an interior designer will allow you to provide valuable input in beautifying exterior spaces.

Differences in Interior and Exterior Designers

How do you know where interior design ends and exterior design begins? The responsibilities can overlap, but here are some differences for each type of designer.

Exterior/Landscape Designer

  • Integrating a property's landscape and garden
  • Examining how a design affects a location, structure, drainage, parking and walkways
  • Combining cultural history and nature
  • Knowing horticulture, ecology and weather and what works best in a region
  • Using geographic information systems to present visual data
  • Working in an industry with fewer regulations than interior design; most states require landscape architects to be licensed but not landscape designers

Interior Designer

  • Designing environments for many kinds of enclosed spaces, including boats, planes, buses and trains
  • Knowing textures, furnishings, wall finishes, accessories and kitchen and bathroom fixtures
  • Coordinating with many professionals, such as architects, engineers, contractors and plumbers
  • Supervising installations
  • Working in an industry with more regulations and an option for being licensed

Similarities in Interior and Exterior Designers

Likewise, the two careers have commonalities.

  • Finding new clients
  • Preparing cost estimates and bidding on projects
  • Conferring with clients to bring their vision to life
  • Determining a project's schedule and deadlines
  • Taking into account a space's purpose, use, architecture and lighting
  • Creating design plans and specifications
  • Designing with sustainability in mind
  • Integrating existing features
  • Picking materials and colors
  • Ensuring a project is in compliance
  • Keeping up with design trends
  • Working in self-employment
  • Working in offices and jobsites

Skills Needed for Both Types of Designers

  • Business and marketing skills
  • Artistic and drawing abilities
  • Architecture knowledge
  • Visualization abilities
  • Communication skills
  • Original and creative thinking
  • Technological skills such as using CAD
  • Analytical skills

Exterior Home Design

As your interior design education will teach you, elegance and comfort don't have to stay indoors. Whether homeowners want to entertain friends, enjoy nature or simply put their feet up and relax, a career in interior design can help your clients make the most of their outdoor spaces.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2018-19 Edition, Interior Designers,Landscape Architects; O*NET, Interior Designers, Landscape Architects.

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