What are the Differences Between Commercial and Residential Interior Design

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!


Contact Marilyn Sygrove directly at:
[email protected]

Interior Design For Corporate Spaces

Storytelling has existed as a form of communication for thousands of years. It provided our ancestors with a way of transferring lore from one generation to the next. Our brains process information most effectively when it is linked with raw emotion, as in a story. You’ll never lick a spoon fresh out of the freezer or grab a hot baking sheet from the oven with an uncovered hand – because your parents told you the story of what would happen if you do.

Today businesses take a keen interest in their narratives, too. It’s not enough to simply list a mission statement and core values on a website. To give their messaging more resonance, companies are looking for ways to tell their stories that go beyond marketing and advertising. As an interior designer for corporate spaces, I’m often called upon to tell the story of a business through design. A perfect example of this is the law office of Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, LLP (GDB).

GBD hired my firm in to renovate their offices in New York City. Through clever interior design choices, we were able to create a narrative in design that tells the story of the firm in a way that is subtle, yet powerful. I’d like to share some highlights of this wonderful project with you:

Let’s Begin With the Elevator Foyer

Despite being widely regarded as one of NY’s top firms by Martindale-Hubbell®, GDB’s first objective was to make visitors feel comfortable the minute they step out of the elevator. That led us to choose welcoming wood paneling for the elevator foyer. The warmth and texture of the wood evokes a feeling of humanity and sincerity. The brushed stainless lettering was custom created to match the firm’s logo and articulates clarity and attention to detail. Two of the firm’s core values. The subtle two-toned marble flooring expresses nuances of understanding and trust.

Through the merging of wood, steel and stone GBD is telling their story to every visitor that steps out of the elevator: “We are rock solid, but we’re people, too. Here, you’ll find warmth, attention to detail, and stability all in one place.”

The Reception Area


To reflect the company’s mission of unyielding transparency, we installed transparent double-entry doors that separate the reception area from the “work area” of the office. Once inside the reception area, visitors are greeted by a clean-lined reception desk with a decorative textured glass art wall panel to reflect light, inspire movement, and create openness; staying true to the company’s story.

We love the firm’s art collection and our choice of neutral furniture and finishes makes it really pop. The furniture, despite being minimalist in style, was “tushy tested” by a group of attorneys and the trusted office manager to ensure just the right feel for their clients. Talk about R&D!

The Conference Room

The conference room is dominated by a custom-made gorgeous and impressively long conference table with a built-in integrated communications system for easy access. The lovely pattern in the wood surface defines individual seats and keeps the table from being overly intimidating. Totally in line with the GDB’s story.

With openness and transparency in mind, we created a central visual buffer in glass, which provides spaces for privacy while allowing light to filter through.

The three large bowl fixtures over the coffee table flood are not only striking but also provide a deeply comforting source of light. It’s a bright room, but not intimidating.

The carpet was selected for its supreme durability. A mélange of dark and light fibers will foil the detritus of even the longest meetings. The wall treatment in charcoal and natural linen is the perfect backdrop for more of the firm’s lively hand-selected artwork.

Interior design for corporate spaces provides the wonderful opportunity for us to play the role of storyteller as well as an artist. It is through our use of design as means of exciting the emotions of our clients that we have had the opportunity to create spaces that excite staff, clients and fellow designers alike.

Let’s create spaces like these together,

— Marilyn


Founded in 1982, Sygrove Associates Design Group is the premier New York interior design firm for lobby, hallway and common area installations at high-end cooperatives, condominiums and real estate developments. Our residential and commercial interior design is timeless, functional, durable and easy to maintain, and projects are consistently on time and budget. That’s no accident – our president and founder Marilyn Sygrove is as tough as you are when it comes to quality and aesthetics.

Working closely with boards, residents and other stakeholders to build consensus, all design, planning and installation activities from concept to punch list are directed by Marilyn personally. She listens carefully before ever putting pencil to paper to make sure your space is as functional as it is beautiful. For a consultation please contact Marilyn directly at: 212.757.0631 or [email protected]