What is Commercial Interior Design?

Often when I mention that DOVETAIL offers both residential and commercial interior design services, I receive confused looks and I’m asked, “Isn’t it all the same?”.  While interior design, be it residential or commercial, is based on the same set of design principles, there are key differences and complexities within each. Today we’re going to concentrate on commercial design: what it is, why it’s important, and how it’s different. 

what is commercial interior design lexington ky dovetail blog interior designers


Commercial interior design refers to the interior design implemented in any commercial space and it’s such a broad field! Think about it – any place of business – a bank, law office, optometrist office, airport terminal, hotel, your child’s elementary school, even your favorite grocery store - these places have been space planned and designed, whether good or bad, professionally or not. Someone decided how to lay out the booths and tables in a restaurant to maximize the number of customers to be served while still being compliant with local fire codes and occupancy loads. Someone decided what type of flooring was appropriate to put in the restrooms to reduce the risk of falling if the floor is wet. Someone also designed the lighting needed to showcase a featured retail display centered in the store. Commercial interior design includes all this and so much more. Commercial interior design involves the space planning and design of commercial spaces so that a business can function and perform at its best, while creating a particular aesthetic and atmosphere to meet the design goal of the client.


For the business owner, hiring a professional commercial interior designer to complete your space can save you both time and money.  We understand commercial grade finishes and how to apply them to ensure they withstand the wear and tear of everyday traffic. It’s also important to seek out a certified commercial interior designer. These professionals know local building codes and ADA requirements and can save you from costly design mistakes often found during inspections and permit applications. We also understand the sequence of construction and the importance of a project schedule and meeting deadlines so that your space is completed in a timely manner so that you can open your doors and conduct business as usual. Hiring a commercial interior designer is also a great return on your investment.  As a business owner, you’ve worked hard to develop your brand and an effective marketing strategy to advertise your goods or services; why not have your interiors do the same thing? Have your interior design work for you. Your brand, marketing efforts, and your interior design should be seamless to one another, working together to create a strong visual presence to your customers.  


Residential and commercial interior design differ in various ways, but one of the most recognizable differences is regarding finishes.  Residential finishes are typically for light-use. Commercial grade finishes are designed to withstand abuse in high traffic areas and can endure the everyday wear and tear from customers and employees. Unfortunately, many business owners opt for residential finishes because they’re seeking a residential look for their spaces.  Commercial grade finishes have come such a long way and there are so many products out there that have that same residential look but with commercial performance.  Your commercial interior designer should be knowledgeable of these products and guide you in the selection of high performing materials with the look you want to achieve.

Additionally, your commercial interior designer should have a working knowledge and comprehension of local building codes, ADA requirements, egress, and occupancy loads. These codes and guidelines are much more restricted in commercial design and they are constantly being updated and modified.  A commercial designer designs with the public in mind - and safety, as it pertains to the interior environment, is the number one concern. Understanding traffic flow, how people move throughout the space, understanding what’s best for the occupant’s well-being and space adjacency requirements are vital for function and safety when dealing with a higher volume of people using a commercial space.