In our office we work on two types of interior design projects, commercial and residential. In commercial interior design we are known for our work on condo and coop lobbies and hallways. In residential interior design most of the projects that come our way are stately suburban homes and compounds.

We are unique in that we do both because there are many differences between commercial (public spaces) and residential interior design (homes).

When a coop or condo building is in need of a lobby or hallway upgrade, many residents will show up and deliver their opinions on style, colors, materials, and more. Now, don’t get me wrong – receiving community feedback is an essential part of the design process. But people who have been through an interior design project for their own homes often have preconceived notions of how interior design works.

So, before I ever show a swatch or drawing I will outline for my clients the enormous differences between commercial and residential interior design. Here are some highlights.


One major difference between commercial and residential interior design are the materials we must use. High traffic public spaces (think of building lobbies or hallways) require completely different materials than even the high traffic areas of your home, particularly in regard to durability. This is because the volume of people (including kids!), move-ins and move-outs, FreshDirect deliveries, hand trucks, etc. moving through lobbies and hallways is gigantic compared to the number of footsteps you take chasing your kids around your apartment.

Moving past durability in terms of impact, a material’s cleanability is of vital importance, as well. For example, you may love the idea of placing a lovely natural sisal rug in your living room, but what a disaster it would be to place that same rug in front of the elevator leading to your apartment!

I’ve discovered that the key is finding a happy medium between luxury and durability, the needs of the space, and the aesthetics of the residents.

*** Please note: Public space design in residential buildings actually falls under the “Hospitality” heading rather than strictly commercial. The aesthetic hospitality designers are looking for is more akin to the residential world rather than office spaces so the materials offered bridge some of those gaps.

Building Codes

Elevator controls requirements, nyc interior design

Yes, no matter how creative the vision may be, we must adhere to strict requirements when designing public spaces. There are fire codes, building codes, and protocols within the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) that interior designers must take into account. Generally, the ADA codes will be reflected most commonly in bathroom accessibility, level hardware, ramps (instead of stairs) and the sizes of doorways.

In public spaces, entry access to the building (i.e. opening devices for doors), wheelchair access, the height of elevator call buttons and mailboxes all must comply.

Design Aesthetic

Sygrove Design, Marilyn Sygrove, Concierge Desk Design, Lobby Interior Design, Briar Oaks - Concierge Desk

Designing for an individual, couple, or family allows for personal expression and the opportunity to cater to individual wants and needs. Interior designers want to bring to life the vision of the owner, and budget is usually the only constraint. In commercial interior design projects, the public space must appeal to a larger audience.

My number one goal as a commercial and residential interior designer is to create spaces that make people feel good and be proud to show off. Regardless of the differences between commercial and residential interior design, what’s most important to us is that we transform our clients’ needs and vision into reality. I constantly amazed that we can turn out both types of interior design projects at the level that we do in spite of the differences between commercial and residential interior design.

Do you have an interior design project you’d like to discuss? Let’s create it together!

— Marilyn

Sygrove Interior Design Services

Sygrove Associates Design Group is an NYC interior design company. Our company’s founder Marilyn Sygrove is the lead interior designer on all projects. And she’s as tough as you are when it comes to quality, aesthetics, and coming in on time and on budget.

It all starts with a design consultation with Marilyn. She takes the time to thoroughly understand your design needs then personally directs all interior design, planning, and installation activities. Her work has been delighting clients, co-op and condo boards, and homeowners for over 30 years.

You can reach Marilyn by email at or call her directly at 212.757.0631.

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