Home Interiors – Clients Guide No2 – That First Contact with an Interior Designer – What to Expect!

A floppy haired extrovert prancing around in some outlandish get-up, gesticulating wildly and being highly opinionated in a loud effeminate voice! Now let’s throw all those TV stereotypes of what an Interior Designer is like totally out the window, in all my years in the profession I have never come across any designer that remotely fits this bizarre image… although some may have got pretty close (only joking!). On the whole we are surprising normal.

I am now assuming you have done your research and tracked down some names of Interior Designers or have been given some recommendations by others as who you could contact. It’s now time to hit the phone and talk with someone about the project you have in mind. No need to have loads of numbers to call just two or three to start is more than enough. You should go straight to the top and ask for the Design Director or Owner of the practice.

Start with a very brief background about your property; size, age, location, condition etc, and then go on with what you are considering as a project and what the main priorities you wish to gain from it are i.e. more space, an extra room, up-grading and refurbishment of existing etc. Once you have passed on this general information sit back and wait for questions to be fired back to you. These again are going to be fairly general in nature just to get an overall feel for what you have in mind and also the time scale you are also thinking of working to.

A realistic time scale is an important issue for everyone here; you would not believe how many first inquires I get from people thinking that it will only take a matter of a few weeks to design and have built their new extension and kitchen! ” I need it for Christmas” but we are already into October and have not even made a start yet… it’s not going to happen with all the best will in world! It’s worth you talking to a Designer just to get an initial feel as to how long the process from beginning to end is likely to take for your individual project – it’s likely to be much longer than you think!

The subject of Project Budget may also come up in the conversation you have with the Designer, but to be frank this means very little at this stage. However, if asked by you the Designer is going to be pretty reserved above giving any kind of budget figures over the phone about a project he knows very little about. On the other hand if the question about budget is asked by the Designer to you he is just fishing and trying to establish if there is any miss match in expectations on your part. Most potential clients do not have any real idea of a budget for their project (and why should they), and those that do usually have totally underestimated the likely cost against their “wish list” of all that they want from it. We have to put this subject on the back burner for the present and come back to it at the appropriate stage of the project, and that will be after some Conceptual Planning & Design work has been carried out. Trying to put figures without some form of reference on paper can be just a complete waste of time and can just produces a logjam in allowing the project to progress.

What the Designer on the other end of the phone will be trying to evaluate from the conversation with you is; are they realistic in their expectations, is this a valid project, is this person a potential client or just a time waster! Sorry to be so blunt about it but what the Designer would like to offer you next is a free no obligation visit; if they think there is not the remotest chance of this project going ahead they will not make the offer. It’s not that you have to pass some kind of test to qualify but it all boils down to business at the end of the day and how much bread they cast on the water.

Positively moving on – the Designer suggest to you that they really need to visit the property and see it in the flesh and have a much more in-depth discussion with you about your needs and requirement. It will also give them the opportunity to show you some examples of their work and tell you about exactly how they will carry out a project such as yours. Once they have had this meeting the intention will be to confirm back to you their Scope of Work and Fee Proposal (it is extremely unlikely this will be committed to at this first meeting). This should be a total free of charge visit without any obligation to proceed further. If you get a good vibe about this Designer you are likely to say “Yes” and make an appointment for them to come around and met you at your home.

THE FIRST MEETING

This should be a fairly casual and relaxed affair. The Designer will want to sit down with you and tell you about all what they have done for other clients, show you some examples of work and generally demonstrate their talents and experience. It’s all done to put your mind at rest that this person knows what they are talking about, and if you feel this is the case then they have done their job so far. The conversation should now move on to “Your Project”, giving you the opportunity to expand fuller your thoughts, needs and requirements from the project you have in mind. Why I say “in mind” is that it may well be that your ideas could be turned completely up-side down once the Designer has accessed the overall situation, but let’s face it that’s why you are talking to a Designer – fresh ideas and a clean pair of eyes! There have been many times when I have visited clients that think they have a clear idea of what they want and how it is to be done and then I go and throw a curved ball into the conversation. It’s not to be controversial for the sake of it but to get them thinking in a new way about their project which ultimately leads on to a better end solution.

The Designer would have no doubt been given the guided tour of the house by you pointing out all the issues as you walk around. Don’t expect instant solutions to be given by the Designer while you are on your tour, they will be absorbing everything in at a fast pace of knots and making some mental assessments for themselves – this is information gathering! They may pitch-in with some teasers ideas but will keep most under wraps to be pulled out later (after they have been appointed). What they don’t want is you taking all there “free” ideas and then saying “Thank you very much and Good Bye” and never to be heard of again – it happens and Designer are very guarded about this situation. So don’t expect any free design work, but what they will give you is some good free advice.

They will then talk about how they would carry this project out for you, explaining all the various stages that need to be gone through; depending on the individual requirements these will be tailored to suite, but usually breakdown into these four main stages:-

1/ Concept Design & Planning

2/ Design Development

3/ Detailed Design & Specification

4/ Implementation.

The aim for the Designer is to produce for you a document (Fee Proposal) that outlines exactly what they will be doing in each of these stages and what the associated fee’s will be, also an indication of time scale. Hopefully from this you will be able to decide if you wish to proceed. This document is likely to be sent to you a few days following this first meeting.

In my next article I will be talking more in-depth about this Fee Proposal document and Design Fee’s in general; the different kinds of fee structures and how they are arrived at. So look out for the third article in this Home Interior Clients Guide series by Christopher R Page.

Home Interiors – Clients Guide No1 – Interior Designer / Interior Decorator – What’s the Difference?

“Do you do Curtains & Cushions?” As a professional Interior Designer that’s the phone call we dread to receive!

It happens more than you may think; I then have to go on to explain (without sounding patronising) what this person really needs is an Interior Decorator, this will then no doubt follow-on with me having to further explain what the differences are between the two disciplines and try to steer them in an appropriate direction.

I don’t blame these people for getting the two mixed up; the general public have been feed hours and hour of TV “instant” make-over programmes and continuous glossy magazine features all under the misleading label of Interior Design. Also this has prompted those in the Interior Decoration and Soft Furnishing business to elevate their tile to Interior Designers; again I don’t blame them for doing this, it makes good business sense to up sell yourself. But the lines have become blurred as to what these two very different services offer – there is a market for the two approaches, but where confusion resides with the customer this has to be a bad thing!

So here with this Home Interiors – Client’s Guide – series of articles I will address the key aspects for client’s that have a Interior Design project in mind as to how they should go about searching for a Designer, what to look for, how they work and charge, how to get the best out of them and how a project gets off the ground to become a finished built reality.

ABOUT HOME INTERIOR DESIGN

Home Interior Design is not to be confused with Home Interior Decoration, as this tends to be only a skin-deep treatment to give a style change or “make-over” to a property. Home/Residential/Domestic Interior Design (whatever one may call it) is a much more fundamental approach to the way you live in a property and how a building can be made to work for the individual owners needs. This will not be just a coat of paint (some new curtains and cushions) it is likely to start with a in-depth rethink at how the property is planned and may involve some considerable changes put in place before one even thinks of decorations.

Interior Designers who specialize in Home Design can be viewed as Interior Architects, and their abilities should cover all aspects of building and architectural work to a property included minor/major structural alterations and building extensions etc. They will go on to cover all the “decoration” elements such as colours, finishes and furnishings, but this is not necessarily the starting point for a project. Kitchens, Bathrooms, Staircases etc are some of the core planning elements that can structurally and technically change a buildings layout; the flow and shape of a property can change dramatically when approaching these areas.

All the technical services that make up an Interior Design project will be undertaken by the Designer; Electrics, Lighting, Plumbing, Heating and Ventilation etc, all are fundamental that need to be design-in at the early stages of a scheme, even if it is just the principles of how these may work. It is becoming even more important these days with the opportunity for client to add-in to their project energy efficiency solutions for the whole building.

Many Clients only have a very basic idea or framework of what they wish from a project; it is however the Designers role to gain that information and drawer out of the Client the full details of their requirements, this then forming the project brief. This can be a very personal experience with the Designer asking questions on how you live now and changes you wish to make to your life style. Be as open as you can as this forms an important foundation for any new design, remember that the Designer is designing for you and not for them, so they need to know how YOU tick!

For most Clients they really enjoy this consultation, as this may be the first time that they have truly thought about their life style and what they really need from the project, apart from a floor, walls and ceiling. A good Designer will have the talents of a “pick pocket”, you will not know that so much information has been taken from you until you see the first concept design, and then you will realise that the smallest details have been included that reflects you and your life style.

HOW DO YOU FIND A GOOD DESIGNER

Personal recommendations are always good, but remember, the Designer has designed for the person who gave you the recommendation, so even if their project is not to your taste this does not necessarily mean that the Designer cannot design to your taste. If they were satisfied that the Designer produced a sound creative solution that matched their brief, then this Designer would more than likely be able to satisfy your project requirements.

Web Sites are a good way of looking at a Designers portfolio of work without making direct contact. Use the search engines and directories to track Designers that are within the broad area to where you live. It is no good having a Designer from Scotland if you live in London, and vice a verse, so aim relatively local of around a 50 mile search radius! Also be aware of companies that call themselves Interior Designers, but are really Home Furnishing companies and they are only really interested in selling from their shop or showroom. Offers of “free design service” will always have a sales agenda behind it. A true Design Consultant will be totally independent of any affiliated retail business and will use the global market to source what is right for your project, no commission or incentives involved.

Professional Bodies such as The Chartered Society of Designers have registers of designers in your area and can be contacted for a list. They also have a web site at you could visit. The Chartered Society of Designers is a body that vets individual designers to make sure they meet a professional standard, it starts with a student quantification “Diploma Member” and then “Member” (MCSD), and the highest level is “Fellow” (FCSD) and you should look for these qualifications or similar from your Designer.

I hope this has given you an insight into the world of Home Interior Design and if you are considering employing a designer is of help as to how to start to make a selection. Part of that selection process will be that first (no obligation) meeting with them; what can you expect to come out of this? Look out for the next article in this series by Chris Page.

Home Improvement Tips: Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

Reasons for A RedoHome improvement projects often begin with someone saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if… ?” usually followed by a wish for a remodelled kitchen or a room addition for space to accommodate every family member’s needs. More often than not, reality and dreams don’t coincide, due to limited funds for realizing the dream, or limits on the available space. The trick: turning your dreams into reality. Begin with a realistic evaluation of your needs. Homeowners usually consider home improvements for one of the following reasons.You may feel the need to update something that is out-of-date. If your kitchen colour scheme was perfect a few decades ago but no longer works, now may a good time to update it.Some home improvement projects grow out of an immediate need to replace broken or inefficient fixtures. If a sink, tub, or toilet needs to be replaced, consider taking advantage of the opportunity to do a makeover on the entire bathroom.If you’re preparing to sell your home, you’ll want to be sure to get top dollar from the sale. That’s great motivation for some home improvement projects.You have decided that staying put and improving your home is a better option than moving.Your family has grown and you need more space.Improving to Move? or Improving to Stay?Evaluate your plans carefully if you’re improving your home to list it for sale. Cutting corners may hurt your prospects rather than helping them. But don’t go overboard either. Potential buyers may prefer not to pay for some of the extras, such as a hot tub or pool. You’re better off keeping the changes simple.And remember that buyers who view your home may not share your tastes and may not appreciate the care you took to find just the right shade of green paint for the walls.You’ll find that improving to sell is easier if you can think about it from the prospective buyer’s point of view: What is important to the home buyer? Here are a few remodelling projects buyers are likely to find valuable:Adding or remodelling a bathImproving the kitchenAdding a new roomLandscapingAdding a bedroomAdding or enclosing a garage.If you’re remodelling because you want to stay in your home, you should still avoid over-improving it. You’ll probably want to sell it someday, and even if your house is the best on the block, it may be difficult to convince potential buyers to pay for the things you considered important. And when you consider making improvements, keep in mind the value of other homes in the area. Your home’s value should not be more than 20% above the average, which means that a $10,000 kitchen improvement project well could be a better investment than a $10,000 hot tub, especially if yours will be the only home in the area with a hot tub.Home Maintenance versus Home ImprovementsIt’s unfortunate that some home improvement projects are undertaken because something has broken. Replacing a leaky bathtub may be the first step to a major bath remodeling: since the tub has to be replaced anyway, why not do the whole room?While that might be a legitimate reason to remodel, avoid basing your home improvement projects on immediate needs. You’ll be better off if you minimize problems with proper maintenance. Examine every part of your home at least once a year. Check the roof, the plumbing, electrical wiring, etc. As soon as become aware of a problem, fix it. Making repairs when you’re first aware of them will help you avoid larger expenses later on. Keep in mind that maintenance does not add to the value of your home. Usually repairs are not improvements; they are necessities.Hiring Professionals May Save You Time and MoneyIt should go without saying that home projects can be expensive, so you may be tempted to tackle them yourself as a way to save money. That may be a smart move for small projects. You won’t have to wait for someone to fit your house into their busy schedule, and you can boast about having done the work yourself.But unless you’re very versatile, major home improvements are better left to professionals. If you decide to remodel the kitchen and plan to do the work yourself, will you be able to handle the plumbing, electrical, and carpentry work on your own?. And don’t forget that you’ll need to finish it quickly, because you won’t have a kitchen as long as it’s a “work in process” and eating three meals a day in restaurants could get expensive. Keep in mind, do-it-yourself jobs generally take more time. And you’ll be responsible for getting all the necessary permits and inspections.Hiring people who have the required experience can save you money and time, too. For example, these professionals can help you get a custom look using stock products, and that can be a significant savings. Getting something done right the first time will give you value that lasts for years.To find qualified and dependable home improvement specialists, check with friends, business associates, and neighbours for recommendations. Always get at least three references, and check them out thoroughly. Also check with the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce. Their numbers can be found in the community services section of your telephone book.Once you’ve located the necessary home improvement specialists, make sure everyone is in agreement about the design, the schedule, and the budget, and get the details down in writing in a signed contract.It’s also wise to check on professional certifications and licenses, where required, and be certain that the contractors you hire are fully insured and bonded. Your town or city Building Department can provide that information. And it’s very important that you make sure contractors carry workers’ compensation insurance: if workers are injured on the job, you won’t be liable if the contractor is covered. Request copies of their insurance certificates. And make sure that either you or your contractor have gotten any necessary permits before the work begins. Contact your local Planning and Zoning Commission for information.Here’s a quick overview of some of the professionals you may need to work with when you remodel your home:Architect: Architects design homes or additions from the foundation to the roof. If your project will require structural changes such as adding or removing walls, or if the design is complex, you will probably need an architect. Since architects may charge an hourly or a flat fee, make sure you get an estimate of the total cost: drawing up the plans for a major remodeling project can take 80 hours or more.Contractor: The contractor oversees the home improvement project, including hiring and supervising workers, getting the necessary permits, making sure inspections are done as needed, and providing insurance for work crews. It’s always a good idea to get proposals from one or more reputable contractors, based on the specific details of your project.Be sure each contractor bids on exactly the same plan so that you can compare their bids more easily. When you’ve chosen a contractor, make sure the contract specifies that you will pay in stages. You’ll usually pay one third when the contract is signed so that the contractor can buy supplies. The number and timing for making the remaining payments will depend on the size of the project. Do not make the final payment until all the work is successfully completed, inspected, and approved.Interior Designers: Interior designers are specialists who will provide advice on furnishings, wall coverings, colors, styles, and more. They help save you time by narrowing your selection, and save money because they usually receive professional discounts from their suppliers. When meeting with an interior designer, be sure to tell them about your personal style and preferences. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour, or you may be able to negotiate a flat fee of approximately 25% of the total project cost.