Renovating or building a new home without the help of an interior designer can be a big mistake!
We try to make it very clear on our website that we help our clients with renovations and new builds, as well as full service decorating, but that can sometimes get missed when a potential client is in the throes of researching and onboarding the team needed to build or renovate their home.
Many clients who have no experience working with a designer tend to think that their general contractor, builder and architect can take care of all the design work and execution of the build or renovation, and a designer only plays a role in the furnishings after construction.
But that is actually a very big misconception, which I am hoping this blog post will help clear up. I have written on this very subject before, that you can find HERE
The architect's role, includes how the home sits on the property, what is the style of the architecture and what the home looks like on the exterior. They are responsible for the layout of the interior with all the necessary rooms and traffic patterns in mind. But in essence, the plans by an architect can be very general and a loose interpretation of what the home will be like finished. They are for the most part, based on industry standards and not necessarily customized for daily living. This does not mean that this is always the case. There are architects who have the eye of an interior designer, or have interior designers on staff. But this post is all about opening your eyes to the realities, so you will understand the differences and be able to ask the right questions.
The builder's and general contractor's role includes assembling and managing all the trades people responsible for building or renovating your home, creating the schedule, manage the materials, interpreting and executing the plan exactly as drawn, communicate with you the client, manage the construction budget and manage job site.
Again, there may be builders and gc's with an eye for interior design or have an interior designer on staff, but typically they don't do any design work or make design decisions.
The interior designer is the glue that holds this entire group together. While an architect may have drawn up the plans, we can review those plans to make sure they work the best for your lifestyle. This is after deep diving and analyzing how you will use the home, your lifestyle and routines, your hobbies and your overall needs.
For example, during our initial conversations we understand that your kids all play sports, you have 2 huge dogs who love the outdoors, and your husband likes to ride his dirt bike on the weekends, but yet when we review the plans by your architect, we discover that there is only a tiny laundry room on the second level.
Of course your architect has planned for this very important function of doing laundry, as he should, but your family life means that you may want to have a much larger laundry room and even mudroom near the garage where you would enter the home after these activities. This may even mean a couple different washing machines, a laundry sink to support these functions and a large doggie shower for the dogs.
This is something that as a designer who knows your needs and how you live would be able to "redline" on the plans to have the architect rework. It is all about the way you want to live in your home and what makes life easier.
Something a bit simpler could be your dining room lighting plan. You may have expressed to us that you love entertaining and throwing great dinner parties. This means to us that you would need to have a large enough dining room to accommodate several people, and a sideboard or bar type cabinet from where drinks could be served. This would affect the placement of the ceiling fixtures and the type of switches used.
The list goes on and one for what we see on architectural plans that don't jive with the client's lifestyle and needs. This is not to say that the plans aren't great, we just always look for opportunities to improve the space to make it the best it can be for you and your family.
Some common ones we see:
- Double sinks in a master bathroom where there isn't enough room, or where it is not needed.
- Awkwardly placed windows or unnecessary windows that would interrupt the symmetry of a wall.
- Awkwardly placed light fixtures and electrical outlets. Bar lights in bathrooms is the default when sconces on either side of the mirrors work so much better.
- Odd arches, angles and niches. Especially angled fireplaces when they don't have to be.
- Extremely open floor plan when that's not how clients live.
- Cabinets that don't go all the way to the ceiling in situations where they should.
- Master bathrooms that are too large and not enough closet space.
- Awkwardly placed pantries or way too small.
- Kitchen islands that are loo large or small.
- Improper layouts for tile backsplash and shower tiles.
- Plumbing layouts in master bathroom.
- Floor plug placement. This is dependent on where the furniture will be placed in a room.
- Non-existent custom built-ins and millwork.
- Powder rooms being an afterthought or placed in odd areas on the lower level.
So at what point should you bring on an interior designer?
The answer is, as soon as you begin to think about your new build or renovation. We are great sounding boards to bounce ideas off of to help get you to your dream. We educate you throughout the process, help you onboard the other professionals if you don't already have them, review plans, materials selection, through to furnishing your home for the way you live.
We have a role to play from the very beginning, and you should not leave designing your home to the builder or contractor. They will often have opinions, but you need a plan that is carefully documented on paper, not opinions that are based on the status quo or what's easier for them to do.
This brings me to the materials selection, which I mentioned above is a part of what we do for you.
Selecting the right materials will help your new home look its best. There is no doubt that there are nice and affordable selections at big box stores like Home Depot and Floor and Decor, but as designers, we have access to a lot more unique materials and suppliers and we know how to bring it all together for you.
From the flooring, cabinetry, countertops, tiles, carpet, appliances, plumbing fixture, light fixtures, hardware, paint color and even grout color, we curate every single detail of every room to make sure it all flows without each room looking exactly the same.
Your builder or gc will often recommend some of the more cliche and mainstream materials, and that can be impersonal, unimpressive and boring. If you're going through the trouble of building or renovating, you need a designer who can bring you unique materials that will remain timeless. They can look like luxury without breaking the bank.
We can even recommend luxury materials mixed with more affordable materials for a great result. We know where to apply what for the best results. Take a look at my curation of handmade and vintage tiles on Etsy HERE.
When we select materials for your project, we meet with you to review samples of all the materials and explain how they all flow together, with layouts and elevations where needed, even with the furnishings through 3D renderings.
Once you have approved all the materials and materials budget, we prepare detailed spec books and meet with your builder or gc to review. They are given detailed drawings and layouts so that there are no questions what materials go where and how materials transition.
We know that there are many industry standards that are generally accepted by trades people that we as designers know are not the best, so we make sure that nothing is left to chance or their interpretation.
One example is backsplash tile layouts. It is generally accepted that the tile backsplash should run past the upper cabinets, when the countertop extends about 1.5" past the aligning lower cabinets. Most tile-setters will align the backsplash tile with the countertop and it therefore extends 1.5" or so past the uppers
This is actually not the correct way. Having the tile extend past the upper cabinets looks unfinished.
In the image above, it seems the tile runs past the countertop as well.
Our detailed tile layout elevation of the kitchen backsplash would clearly indicate that the backsplash tile should align with the uppers and not the countertop.
We also never specify "sidesplashes", that is the tile backsplashes on side walls where there are no upper cabinets.
These are some of the little details that we as designers will consider because we understand how they affect the overall quality of your project.
If you are using a production builder for your new home, and you have to make all your selections from their design center or showroom partner, we can still help you. Their material choices tend to be very narrow, but we can meet with you for your design meeting and help you make the best choices for your home.
We can also provide great guidance and advice about what materials you may want to install after market.
We also make site visits during construction to verify materials and make sure that the design is being carried out according to plan. We check on site conditions, communicate with gc and report back to you. You don't have to worry about those tiny details that can make or break your design - tile transitions, curb heights, electrical placements, trim details, tile layouts and so much more.
If you take nothing else from this post, take this one thought - The best case scenario is to bring on a designer as early as possible. We don't just help with furnishings, we want to make sure your entire home looks and functions at its best.
Many people make the mistake of putting all their time, effort and money into the building and renovation process, and at the end of it they still don't have a comfortable space to enjoy. Long after the builder or gc hands you the keys, you now have to live with the house. As beautiful as the four walls and hard surfaces may be, it is not a finished and comfortable home without the furnishings layer, and when everything is planned from the start, it makes for an amazing home that you will enjoy for a very long time.
With us as your designer, everything, including furniture, window coverings, accents, accessories, rugs, comfortable bedding, plush towels, organized closets and pantries, a homework area, office space, a place for the dogs are all planned for even before construction starts. Once construction is over, we swoop right in and install all the wonderful furnishings that makes your house a home. No time lost - you get to fully enjoy your home right away! Isn't that why you even did this to begin with?
Book a free discovery call with us to discuss your dream.
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Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!
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