Residential Designer

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Residential Designer


Houses are as unique as the individuals who live in them. Each one takes months, even years, of careful planning, consulting, model-making, and compromise. The design of the inside and outside takes time and patience to get just right. Residential designers are the masterminds behind these massive projects, organizing and overseeing the development of huge housing complexes, tiny country cottages, and wheelchair accessible homes, historical renovations, and additions to existing structures. They coordinate with architects, architectural technologists, civil engineers, construction crews, and landscape architects, directing each facet of the home's creation, ensuring the client's vision emerges just right.

Residential designers might work independently, and hire themselves out to developers, home owners, and civil engineering firms, or they may be on staff at architecture firms. Residential designers come up with design ideas for various living spaces, envisioning the interior and exterior design of the residence. They make sure the building will blend in with neighboring buildings, they ensure the plants used on the outside work well with the carpeting inside. Residential architects then develop these designs, meeting regularly with their clients to discuss the project, consulting about styles, features, colors, and materials to be used. Residential designers make sketches and models for the clients, including information about everything from wallpaper to plumbing. These designs are traditionally hand-drawn, however, designs and plans made with computers are becoming increasingly more common.

The job doesn't end there. Residential designers are often fully involved in the project. They may visit the onstruction site often to ensure the plans are being followed. The residential designer must also stay in contact with the architectural team, builders, electricians, landscapers, interior designers, and plumbers.

Residential designers must remember the importance of visualizing a structure before it is built, seeing both the inside and outside of the space. They work with a number of types of people, including small families and busy architects. They are organized, creative, and confident in their approach to each and every job.

Residential designers are very important to us. Residential designers make sure our homes are safe, comfortable, and beautiful, all at the same time.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Residential designers need to be extremely creative, including have the ability to visualize three-dimensional structures in their mind, and the ability to draw. They also need good math and science skills, as well as an interest in engineering. Residential designers need to be extremely well organized, and able to multi-task. They must also be comfortable with computers and design software. Residential designers need excellent people skills and the patience and motivation to see a project through to the end.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Create design plans for clients, including drawings, computer images, and models
  • Meet with clients regularly to discuss concerns, and provide progress reports
  • Consult with architects, landscapers, and interior designers
  • Supervise construction
  • The residential designer may be working on a number of plans at once, so might draw some sketches; meet with clients and construction companies, negotiating contracts and discussing plans; visit a construction site; and have dinner out with a potential client, all in the same day. Residential designers spend most of their time at work indoors, however, will spend time outdoors when supervising construction. A well-respected residential designer will get to travel if their clients are building homes in another city.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Residential designers usually work for architectural firms, as well as real estate and development companies. They may work independently, and contract themselves out to clients. Their hours vary. Some days may be regular, but when major projects are underway, designers may be at the office and on site for long hours, with fewer days off.
  • Residential designers work in offices, where they draw, use computers, meet with clients, and talk on the phone. They will also work on construction sites, which are dangerous enough to warrant hard hats and steel-toed boots.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Residential designers who start off working for an agency may choose to move on and open up a private agency on their own or with a few colleagues. They can always get into architecture, writing, or focus on interior design.

  Educational Paths  
Residential designers need some postsecondary education in industrial engineering or architecture. After this, they have to start at the bottom as an assistant designer, and work their way up from there.

It is a good idea is to call a local architecture or design firm and ask to speak to a residential designer to get a better idea about education and employment options.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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