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What to Expect Series: Session 2: Contractor Vs Designer Roles in a Renovation

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

When assembling your A team prior to starting a renovation, it is helpful to understand all of the different roles. For starters, let’s break down some of the major roles involved in the planning and design of your project.


The main difference between a designer and decorator is the scope of work they have the ability to work on. Decorators don’t make changes in structure or add in walls, but instead, focus on the staging of the space. This includes window treatments, wallpaper, accents, furniture plans, etc. A designer has the ability to come up with new plans and ideas for the renovation and will often be a part of floor plan changes, as well as all the decorating and styling at the end. If you are working on a decorating project and have no plans to make any major changes to the structure or layout of your home, a decorator can be a great option. If you are wanting to make bigger changes than that, a designer may be more suited to your needs. This is where our full service design often comes into play- where we take care of all the details that would fall under the scope of both a decorator and designer.


A good working relationship between a General Contractor (GC) and a designer is key, however there are many distinct and important differences between the two. A designer will create and manage the design details including the floor layout and material selections like flooring, tile, countertops, cabinetry finish, paint colour etc. An interior designer can offer you expert advice that you may need along the way. If you make a design choice that won’t fit with the layout of your home, the designer can present you with viable options that you can substitute or possible workarounds.

A GC will be the client’s point person responsible for the renovation or new build and will ensure the design is feasible in a construction sense and make the concept become reality.  A qualified GC is responsible for development and building permits, engineering and architecture, carpentry, subcontractor management and scheduling (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, insulators, etc), onsite safety, project budget, inspections of permitted work, cost tracking, and warranting the work completed by the oversight of the GC. The GC is responsible for carrying WCB and liability insurance to protect the client from the potential hazards of construction.

The GC will have experienced project managers to lead the construction side of the project and be responsible for all the areas listed above and for communicating with the designer. These project managers will be the client’s advocate between all parties involved on the renovation or new build. A good working relationship with effective communication between GC’s and designers can make your renovation/new build project a fun and enjoyable experience with results that you can enjoy for a lifetime.


We have been a part of our fair share of projects where the scope has crept and we have ended up acting as a “Project Coordinator”  This means that we have taken on roles outside of the general scope of an Interior Designer (we even coordinated a dishwasher repair once!) We will only take on the role of the Project Coordinator if there are three trades involved or less, such as a paint refresh and tile change.

However, we generally work on projects WITH a general contractor and together we ensure that everything signed off on becomes reality. We will work with the hired contractors and subcontractors to oversee that each design detail fits with the original plan. We will be involved in the renovation or new build process from start to finish and will troubleshoot any design issues that come up to take the worry and stress away from you.


We recommend asking friends and family for any referrals they may have. You can also research local contractors and see reviews via google or yelp. We have a long standing relationship with three amazing contractors in the Edmonton area and will happily recommend them for our projects. They are Quadrant Construction, Benjamin Matthew Contracting and Bouwen Construction.

One of the most important aspects of choosing a contractor, designer, or any other person to add to your team, is whether you connect. When you are able to see eye-to-eye with your team, you will be able to communicate better, be more honest with one another, and have more accountability to each other. Renovations often take many months, so make sure you choose a team that you feel good about working closely with for the long term.

Next Week...

Next week we are discussing some behind the scenes work we do to create your dream home, specifically drafting floor plans. In this session we will discuss:

  1. Renovations and additions

  2. Furniture plans

  3. Lighting plans/ceiling details

  4. What is required by the city for permits


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