Although curb appeal is the favorite buzz phrase of real estate agents, it’s often a home’s interiors that matter most to occupants. The way various rooms feel, how they function, how they’re connected, spatial flow, and quality of light are all important factors when designing either large airy public areas or intimate retreats. The clients’ program often determines a floor plan layout, but once the plan is set, it’s the architectural detailing and finishes along with furniture and furnishing choices that create the atmosphere and quality of those rooms.

This collection of past Residential Architect Design Award winners in the architectural interiors category demonstrates what a big difference architects and designers make in creating appealing, livable, even joyful spaces. These lofts, apartments, renovated single-family structures, and even a few new houses were all recognized for their thoughtfully planned and finished interiors. The judges were won over by material choices for walls, ceilings, and floors that generate specific moods, glazing arrangements that bring natural light and ventilation deep into an interior, trim or lack thereof that defines areas, and flexible partitions or convertible built-ins that transform a cozy nook into a wide-open party space. Stephen Muse, FAIA, succinctly sums up the importance of good interior architecture and design. “The idea is to make the spaces similar enough to hold together,” he says, “but different enough that you have reason to move from room to room.”