So you’re designing the house of your dreams…Let’s start with the (somewhat) obvious, you can’t do this alone! You may think you can and be motivated to, but the reality is, it is more difficult than you might imagine. A successful project always starts with one thing, a great team. Your dream space will come to fruition but you will need a handful of experienced, talented professionals on your side to get the job done. From your designer to builder, architect, and landscape designer to you, the client. Why do you need these people on your team and more importantly, how can you get them there? Read on to find out!
Your Designer and You
As Interior Designers and more importantly business owners, one would think that being selective about our projects and not accepting every client that approaches us is a peculiar business model. But in a market that has become saturated with designers with different levels of expertise and professional certification but with the same amount of passion for transforming spaces; we don’t want to be picky- we want you to be pickier and understand the differences that will help you make an informed decision.
One of the most important jobs as a client is to recognize that finding a designer that is a good fit for you is key to a successful project. Designers strive to have a range of projects broad enough to attract a variety of clients but cohesive enough that they do not lose integrity as a designer. What does that mean for the client? It means that choosing a designer for your project requires research and not just visual research. Before and afters are beautiful and images on Instagram and in magazines can be inspiring, but pictures will not tell you what it was like to work with an experienced designer. Initial design meetings to space completion takes about 3 years when working from pre-construction to a finished home. Project scale and size can vary, but nevertheless, you want to make sure the designer you’re going to be working with for that amount of time gets YOU.
Finding a designer you love is the first part, the second is to actually talk to them!. Jump on a phone call, grab coffee, stop by their studio. Are you able to be honest with them? Do they understand your vision? Is their timeline, (because it can vary depending on how many projects a designer has going at once), on track with yours? As a client, you will be making hundreds of decisions. The process can be overwhelming. You need to make sure that you are on the same page as your designer and in the same headspace so that all parties involved feel confident and excited about your new space.
While selecting the right designer might seem time consuming, in the end, it will be so worth it.
Tips and tricks: Use social media to scout designers. Search specific hashtags related to your vision on Instagram, i.e, #luxuryinteriordesign. This will pull images directly from designers accounts that have used that hashtag allowing you to see work from designers side by side, helping you choose more efficiently!
If you are adding on to an existing home or starting from scratch, an architect will plan, design, and oversee the construction of your project. This is different from a structural engineer, which you might also need if your project includes changing the architect of a pre-existing structure, so it is important to know the difference. Structural engineers and architects both design building projects. Structural engineers consider the strength and durability when designing a building, while architects focus more on the appearance of the building. Most architects are licensed to develop structural solutions for most residential applications but some are not. Your architect will let you know if you need both. In any case, you will need prints done so that others will know how and what to quote. Interior designers work closely with architects, so in most cases, your designer will already have a referral for you.
Builders put your house on the ground, literally. Which is why it is of utmost importance that you trust the people that will be turning each and every screw that holds your house together. From framing to electrical, HVAC, drywall, and plumbing. The builder will supply the necessary equipment, material, labor, and services to complete your project. They hire specialized subcontractors to perform either a portion or all of the work if they themselves do not have a team that can. After hiring an interior designer and possibly an architect, your builder is the next asset you should secure.
Tips and tricks: If the professionals you are working with do not have a referral for you you can go to a local real estate agent’s website to see custom and non-custom homes that have been built within your area. Looking through the postings can help you learn which builders are active in your area, the types of homes they are building, and the prices you can expect to pay. Reach out to the home owners if possible; were they happy with the build? If there were problems, were they fixed promptly and properly? Talking to people that are living in the home is the best way to get an understanding of what it was like to build a home with the given contractor.
The cherry on top of your project, the landscaping. Not at all an afterthought, your landscaping is an important step that should not be overlooked. It is important to know if you will be interested in softscaping, hardscaping, or both. Hardscape and landscape, while related, are entirely different. Landscaping projects overarch hardscape and softscape projects. Softscapes encompass grass, shrubs, vegetable gardens and other inclusions. Hardscapes include ‘hard’ landscaping additions such as patios, outdoor bars and kitchens, walkways, and retaining walls to name a few.
Tips and tricks: Depending on how green your thumb is you may want to ask what types of guarantees they offer. If a plant dies will they replace it? If a patio settles unevenly will they come back and repair it? Especially if a project involves specialized equipment, it is very important to have some type of warranty involved.
A good team that you trust to be your advocate on a project will ensure the project is successful. In my experience, the best projects are not necessarily the biggest houses or ones with the highest budgets – they are the ones where the client trusts the team.