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The Design Consultation: What's Included And What's Not

Updated: Jun 1, 2019

The design consultation is a very important part of the design process. We like to start with a free 30 minute discovery call or in studio discovery session where our prospective client has the opportunity to express the vision they have for their home, ask questions, and learn a bit more about what to expect before booking an in home design consultation.

Because we charge a fee for the design consultation, we want to make sure it is valuable to our prospective clients. The discovery call is a way to get a good feel for us before paying for the consultation

Although charging a consultation fee has become a common practice in the design industry, from time to time we will have someone ask why we charge a fee when another designer does it for free.

For the first few years of operating our business, we did not charge for consultations and often found that the prospective client wasn't as committed to the process as they could be. We would run into things like no-shows, to them being unprepared for the appointment. When a fee is involved, you are already making an investment in the process and will value it that much more. In return, we provide great value for your time and money

Just getting into the car, spending time away from other billable activities in the office is enough of a reason to charge for our time, but we certainly understand that you don't want to just pay for our joy ride to your home. We show up ready to work. Take a look back at this post about the consultation

So what's included in the design consultation?

The design consultation is a time to listen to whatever challenges you are having with the existing space, learn more about your vision for the space, how you'd like to use it, what your lifestyle is and how you'd like to feel in the space.

This means that we take a tour of your home and we ask questions about what is working for you in each space and what's not working. We then focus on the areas that you want to address for the scope of work we are about to embark upon. The consultation is all about grand ideas; ideas that we willingly give to clients because that is a part of the value we bring.

These ideas are just that, ideas. They are grand visions which could develop into something remarkable, or they may have to be tweaked somehow because they may cost more than the budget allows, or they may not be the best solution once they've been thought through more carefully.

It is the time for you as the client to be open and honest about your own grand visions for your home, without fear of the expense or other factors not yet determined

We typically like to cover things like the way the space will layout, the best materials to really showcase the space, the addition of millwork and other architectural elements, furniture pieces, lighting, art and window coverings. This means that we are verbally discussing these elements in the room. We are not making actual selections. Actual selections take time to develop and one element impacts the next, so we cannot design a space in two hours.

We may show you examples from our portfolio of a similar project or feature, or show you any ideas we have collected, or other online sources to help you visualize what we have in mind, but it is often not exactly as what we would design for you. We are typically designing something unique for you, so it doesn't exist to show you. This is why a design plan has to be later developed to address your unique needs.

The next step usually is discussing the project budget. Most times clients do not know what their budget should be, so we will do different exercise, like a budget worksheet to help clients determine a good range to consider. We have written several articles on budgets. Here's one you can dive into for some insight.

We will also discuss the timeframe, and even go as far as establishing a loose timeline for your project, that we later firm up. We then talk about the 11 step process that we use to make sure everyone is on the same page. We discuss how we work with your trades people, as well as the trades people we recommend to you. We talk about some of the challenges that could happen and how we solve them for you. Challenges like delays, backorders, damages. We talk about next steps and explain, or in some cases, do a run through of what to expect in the fee proposal

We try to allow enough time to answer any questions you have. We encourage prospective clients to make a list of questions before our appointment to make sure they are prepared. We also suggest making notes during the meeting based on how you understand what we are presenting.

It can be overwhelming, but we make our two hour consultations a value-filled time for a free exchange of ideas and information. You have an expert in your home and we want to showcase our expertise in a valuable way to you, so we encourage you to use us while we are there. We just ask that you understand that it is only the first step in the process that has many many steps

What's not included in the consultation

We don't run into this very often, but every once in a while we have a prospect that may assume that we can design a space in two hours. While it is not out of the question to sit at a computer and try to help you identify some specific pieces for your home if you want to go the DIY route, we cannot reasonably do the best job just looking at isolated pieces. We much prefer spending that time exploring ideas and the broad vision that we can later take the time to develop and fine-tune.

Design is considering the space overall and how each element relates back to the next. It is about layering and knowing what works for the space. That requires a thought process and some time to develop. This could be drawings, pulling fabric and color swatches together, doing a concept board to see how things relate to each other, or even doing a 3D rendering. Design takes time, and is probably the biggest chunk of what you will pay in design fees. While we can stand in a room and we can feel what the room needs - it's an instinctive thing, we also may develop that initial concept into something more brilliant. That is where custom comes into play. Often times we can dream up an idea and the only way to achieve it is to create it from scratch

So while we can provide you with great ideas, and solid guidance, we need time to make sure those ideas work for you.

We also don't re-arrange furniture or hang artwork at consultations. We never do that at any appointment unless we have our installers present. This means that it has to be a scheduled installation.

From time to time we will leave you with a handwritten list of paint colors if you ask for that - usually up to 3, as that is all we would reasonably have time to select. We do caution clients however, that paint colors are usually the last thing we select in the process of designing a space. If you called us in for a remodel or any changes to the fixed elements in your home, then it is not the time to select paint colors at the consultation. That should happen only after you've chosen wood/tile/carpet flooring, countertops, cabinetry. We can absolutely provide you with up to three neutrals, but it is really not based on anything and may or may not work with the new materials you choose.

The concise way to explain what a consultation is - You have invited an expert into your home to advise, guide, counsel you on what you are attempting to do. We in turn provide ideas, resources, concepts, expertise to help you make decisions and move to the next step.

One more question that we get from time to time is if the consultation fee is applied to the design fee if the prospective client hires us for the project. The answer is no, it is not applied to any future fees. The consultation fee paid at that point is for our time to travel to your home and provide you with expertise. We collect this fee ahead of time (prior to the meeting), to ensure that our focus is on the design work we are there for

How can you you schedule a consultation?

You can start by heading to our website and book either a free discovery call or the in home consultation. You can also book an in-studio session, which is also free but requires a refundable payment to hold your spot. All appointments can be booked and paid for at this LINK . All payments must be made before scheduled appointments.

What happens after the consultation?

The next step will be discussed with you at the consultation. It all depends on what was discussed and the scope of work, but typically our clients would like a full-service project. This means that they want us to manage their project in a turn-key fashion.

The next step is to send out a Fee Estimate Proposal which outlines the scope of work, our estimated design fees, the terms and conditions. This is the first of two agreements that you sign for a full service project. If you agree and are ready to move forward, a 50% fee advance is required to get started on the design. Check out the 11 step process for more details

In case you missed it, check out the Veronica Solomon Style Collection soon to be launched. Sign up for emails if you want to stay in the loop about launch date and how to get your hands on our beautiful parsons tables, desks and vanities

Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!


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