Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ask A Designer Tuesday

I often get emails from prospective clients wanting to know more about my design process and what it’s like to work with a designer. Before they take the plunge and hire me, they’re looking for a little insight into what to expect throughout the process.  There are A LOT of misconceptions out there about what designers do, why they charge the way they charge and how long the process really takes. So I thought I’d share some of those questions along with my answers with you all today. I'm thinking of making this a recurring series, so let me know what you think and  if you have any questions that you'd like answered, send 'em my way!

Keep in mind that every designer does things a little differently and I’m only speaking for myself.

Here we go!

1.  Are you going to come into my home, be really critical and tell me everything that’s wrong with it?

Absolutely not. We’re not on a reality show and I don’t feel the need to create drama by saying outrageous things to you in your own home. No one should make you feel bad about your home and if they do – you may want to reconsider working with them! I will however always be completely honest with you and explain why I am recommending you make certain changes or improvements.  My job is to create a stunning and functional space that you absolutely love and are proud of, not to tear you down or insult your taste. Clients hire me to tell them the truth and if we’re both open and honest with one another throughout the process, the results will reflect that. 

      Yes I’m honest but I also strive to be kind and respectful. 

2.  How long does the process of redesigning a room or group of rooms take from start to finish?

This is one I get a lot. While design and decorating shows on television make the entire process seem like it happens almost overnight, reality is much different.  Taking into account that custom furniture typically takes 12 – 14 weeks to produce, to be on the safe side, I usually give an estimate of 4 – 6 months for most projects. That being said, there are factors that can lead to quicker turnaround times; using trusted vendors with reliable quick ship programs and a client’s ability to make timely, confident decisions are just a couple of things that can speed up the process a bit. I know this time frame may sound like a really long time, especially when you can retail shop and come home with a new sofa the same day, but I promise you that your patience will be rewarded with a completely unique look that you’ll love and higher quality furniture that will stand the test of time. 

3.  I don’t need an entire room redesigned, can’t I just order a sofa through you?

Because I choose to focus on helping clients achieve a completely finished look and that requires my undivided attention, I am not available to sell individual items.

4.  Why do designers charge so much for their services when they’re basically shopping and picking colors?

If that’s all the person you’ve hired is doing for you, then you’re right, they probably shouldn’t be charging much because it doesn’t sound like they’re utilizing many skills. If you want a fully complete, cohesive room that is skillfully designed with your personal style, budget and needs in mind then you should hire someone who is capable of more than just shopping and picking colors. If you want a room that functions well for you and your family and your lifestyle, you should hire someone who is also skilled at space planning. If you want furniture that is well made, fabrics that are durable and will stand the test of time, you should hire someone who also knows how to recognize quality and who has experience with a variety of vendors and materials.

If you want your project well-designed, accurately ordered, shipped, tracked and installed without having to handle the mountain of paperwork or phone calls with vendors, shipping companies, receiving warehouses and delivery/installation crews, you should hire someone who is also skilled at the business end of design. It may surprise you to know that the majority of a designer’s time is not spent designing but rather handling all the unseen paperwork and behind the scenes work that isn’t glamorous at all. You’re not only paying someone to make your home gorgeous, you’re paying them to be efficient and organized with processes for handling all those mundane and sometimes stressful details between presentation and installation for you. You get all the gorgeous results without the papercuts!

5.  How much do you charge?

This is probably the question I get asked the most. In the past I charged by an hourly rate and gave an initial estimate of how many hours a project would likely take, then I would bill biweekly for my time. I’ve found lately that more clients prefer a fixed fee and truthfully I actually prefer to charge this way as well. I don’t like feeling like I’m being “nickel and dimed” and I’ll bet you don’t either. By quoting a fixed fee for the entire project up front (that is paid in installments throughout the project), you know you won’t be hit with any surprises. Because each project is unique, I don’t throw out a number until we’ve gotten past the in-person meet up and I have a complete understanding of the scope of your project. After we agree we want to work together, I’ll present you with a very detailed proposal for services so you know exactly what you’ll receive and exactly how much it will cost. The only exception to this “meet up” rule is E-Design, where I charge a flat fee based on square footage.  Even then, we’ll have a thorough conversation via email to ensure we’re a good fit.

6.  How do we get started? Will you come to my home for the initial consultation and give me a price?

I prefer to get to know one another a little bit before coming to your home. Before I even see the room in question, I want us both to feel confident that we are a good fit. I like to do an initial chat by phone so I get a sense of the results you’re looking for and you get a sense of what I can offer you to achieve those results. If at the end of the call we are both interested in moving forward, we’ll set a time to meet up for coffee and get to know each other better. Is this sounding like a first date?  In a way I guess it kind of is. 

We’re going to be spending a lot of time together so it’s important that we like each other and share some common ground.  You should also get a sense that I understand your quirks and what’s important to you. On the other hand, I can be silly and lighthearted and I have a wicked sarcastic side that just doesn’t work for everyone and that’s completely ok. If you want nothing to do with someone like that isn’t it better to know right away? If after talking by phone and in person we just don’t “get” each other and it doesn’t seem like we’d enjoy working together, we’re both free to walk away and no one has hurt feelings.

So there you have it! Answers to some of the questions you may have about working with a designer.  I hope I've demystified some of it for you and given you a little insight into what actually goes on behind the scenes. If you're ready to chat about re-designing your home, email me today to schedule your phone consultation.

I'd love to keep the "Ask a Designer" series going and also incorporate some of your design-related questions. So if you've got any burning questions that you're dying to ask, please email me and they may just show up on the blog!


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