Recently I had a few conversations with friends and discovered that they didn’t know I could help them with their remodel projects. Now to be fair, I do believe they knew I was an interior designer but either forgot or didn’t think I could do something that involved construction. It’s not their fault, they’ve probably never worked with a designer or have been confused because our industry has so much overlap in services. I often find that a good bit of my time is spent educating potential leads on what I do and how we can work together.
Thus, the reason for this post, so let’s dive in and clarify all of the ins and outs!
As a registered interior designer, I work with my clients to plan their projects down to every last detail so that nothing is a surprise when it comes to installation or construction. Planning ahead saves time and money because you don’t make mistakes, then have to pay to fix them, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. My full-service design firm plans new construction, remodeling, custom kitchens and baths, finishes, lighting, and furnishings for both residential and commercial spaces.Ok, so now that you know all the nitty gritty boring stuff let’s get to the fun part. WORKING WITH A DESIGNER!
What is it like to work with a designer?
Honestly, it’s a lot of fun for my clients because they can be as involved as much (or as little) as they want to be without any stress. They communicate their goals and style preferences to me and I do all the hard stuff for them. There are thousands of details and decisions that go into any type of project, not to mention there are millions of products available in the marketplace.
My first step is to listen to my clients, understand their styles and identify solutions to their design dilemmas. This occurs in the form of an in-person consultation where I meet on the project site (if available) and I obtain the full project scope, take measurements, shoot photos, provide them with on the spot design solutions, and discuss their needs, wants, budget and timeline. The project scope is a detailed list of everything that has to be done or decided for the project. I need to take measurements of the existing space so that I can plan how to transform it through moving walls or incorporating new furnishings. I want to ensure that I have photos of the existing space so that I can remember elements or finishes that are to remain. The consultation is a working meeting where I am providing design solutions and product suggestions in the form of ad-hoc design advice. Getting information such as the client’s expectations, desires, allowable budget and timeline for completion is critical to the success of any project. KCI charges a flat fee of $250 due to the work that goes into this consultation.
After the consultation, I propose all project work to the client in the form of a contract. This allows us both to have clarity on what will be accomplished during our time working together and how much it will cost for design and project management services. Once everything has been signed off on project work can begin!
The next step is project sourcing and this is where I go through and select options for every item that is necessary for the project. This process takes time as I have to coordinate design drawings, materials, finishes, cabinetry, plumbing, lighting, furniture, rugs, artwork, and accessories. Out of the millions of products in the marketplace, I whittle the choices down to the best of the best for my clients based on their design style and budget. These options are presented to the client in the form of physical samples and/or image samples. Upon meeting with the client, they will make their selections and it is common that they won’t select any one of the options therefore meaning that minor revisions will need to be made.
Once the client makes their final selections, all of the information is compiled into a final product design package. In remodeling, this package can be presented to a contractor for quote so that the client gets an exact match project bid. Remember when I said that planning keeps a client from spending unnecessary money by making mistakes? This is the step where most clients try to start, they want to remodel their space so they call a contractor and he provides a generic bid. They try to plan all of the elements as they go and often end up with huge decisions that are under a time restraint. This only adds stress and overwhelms the client, therefore making the process very painful for them. They usually end up picking something that they don’t want and then change their mind afterwards, which means they pay to have things removed and redone. However, my clients are able to rest and relax during this time period because they’ve already made all the decisions. All they need to do now is sit back and watch the transformation happen.
When I meet potential new clients for furnishings projects, they lament about how their space feels unfinished or it’s not exactly their style. This occurs because they aren’t looking at the space as a whole and building off of each item that’s introduced. As a designer, it is my specialty to curate your space with existing items and new items that achieve your desired final project look. When doing a furnishings only project, the process is the same but instead of doing construction we complete product purchasing. The exact item prices are included on the final design package and my clients know exactly what their items will cost plus how much it will be to have them shipped, received, inspected, assembled, delivered and installed. As the designer, I oversee all of the purchasing, order management and resolve any issues when items arrive damaged. The client is totally free to relax because I handle all the stressful things for them.
I always suggest that a client keep me on for project management during construction. This allows me to act on the client’s behalf so that I can coordinate with the contractor and ensure that what they decided in the final design package is being installed. If for some reason an issue occurs, I can investigate it and come up with a solution for the client. The client is always informed of what’s going on and of any issues during construction but I find it most helpful and less stressful for them when I present a solution at the same time as I present the issue. Again, this saves time and money!
One thing to note is the final punch list, once a project is substantially complete (mostly finished), I walk through and look at all the details with my clients. We compile a final project task list so that we can ensure a total project completion. I often hear horror stories about how a contractor just walked away from a project and left this list un-done. The client can’t even get them to answer the phone! When you work with a designer, they ensure that this won’t happen. Mostly these details affect the review that a client will leave about you and your company. I ask my clients to complete a questionnaire afterwards so that I may learn and grow from our experience together. Testimonials are a good way to find out more about someone and if you’d like you can read mine here.
Change is scary but it doesn’t have to be if you’ve got the right help! Working with an expert who knows what they are doing and how to guide you can make all the difference in the world. It’s my goal that everyone knows and experiences the benefit of working with a designer. So…