Hello my Lovelies!
I trust that your Spring Break was amazing? Mine was like every other week; work and more work 🙂 I think I had 5 new consultations and 2 installations during Spring Break, but I did get a few margaritas up in there somewhere…..not during work hours of course 😉
So today we will continue with the series I started a few weeks ago about our process and what is involved in working with us as a client. It is my attempt to demystify some of the misconceptions and myths about what it is like to work with designers in general, and certainly working with Casa Vilora Interiors. I am amazed at how mysterious and secret-societyesque (that’s not a word 🙂 ) the profession of interior design seems to most consumers looking in from the outside. It really is no mystery, it really isn’t all that glamorous. In fact, it is like every other professional service out there – you work; you get paid for the time, value and experience you bring to the table. If you missed the last two posts, you can check them out here and here. In fact, I would strongly recommend that you start with those posts to get the real gist of our process
So today we talk about “Trades Day” which happens after the client signs off on our proposal and pays the retainer. By signing the proposal the client is agreeing to the scope of work, our estimated design fees, estimated hours, retainer and preliminary budget. At this point, everything is a fair estimate of time and money, until we have actually met with all the tradespeople that will be involved in the project and get their estimates/quotes to determine the final budget (at budget review meeting)
What is Trades Day?
Trades day is really a new concept here for us at Casa Vilora Interiors. We adopted it about a year ago, after listening to Kimberley Seldon (a designer and business coach) speak at High Point Market last Spring. It basically is gathering all the trades people that will be involved in the project all on the same day (with the appointments staggered a bit), and basically discussing the project on-site (sometimes with the client present), taking measurements and brainstorming. It is an amazing meeting of minds and an efficient way to start the process.
We certainly held these meetings on-site with the tradespeople in the past, but it was all on different days and whenever they were available and the client is sometimes there and sometimes not, and it was just not an efficient way to do things. Then we would wait for days, sometimes weeks to see the estimates slowly trickling in, or we would be calling and chasing people to get the numbers back. Ughhhh, it is exhausting just thinking about how we used to conduct this phase of the process. What used to take days, now takes a few hours and just one trip to the job site.
Trades day is now a well orchestrated process that clients have actually told me that they are impressed with. It shows that we are a professional operation and we value the client’s time and money.
Here’s how Trades Day really goes down
After receiving the signed proposal and retainer from client, I immediately send out emails to all the tradespeople I know I want to use for the project, asking them to give me a few days that they are available within the next week or two. It can be a very difficult process getting all these folks available on the same day, but two weeks notice usually works. In some cases for remodels, it is just my general contractor that I need to contact, who will then round up his crew. But generally I am notifying my electrician, plumber, finish carpenter (for millwork and built-ins), handy man (for any repairs), painter, drapery workroom, upholstery workroom (for any custom cornice boards or built-in seating), wallpaper hanger, faux painter, artists and hard window treatment installer (shutters, blinds). These are folks that I have worked with for a very long time and trust their work. In design, you are really as good as the trades people that you surround yourself with.
It is a great way for them to see first hand what is involved with the project, and we often come up with the preliminary concepts right there at that first meeting. Their expert eyes can often catch something that I may have missed and we can plan around those things. For example, my millwork guy may notice that the existing millwork maybe difficult to match with stocked pieces and will have to be fully custom vs semi-custom, or my drapery workroom may notice that there isn’t a lot of space on one side of the windows so the drapery design will have to take into account the existing conditions. The painter may notice that we may have to paint other areas that we didn’t plan to because there aren’t any visible stopping points etc. or because of the wall conditions we may have to use a certain finish. Often these are things I would catch myself, but it is easy to miss things if that is not your exact specialty. As the experts in their different trades, they are more in tuned with the elements of the project that pertain to their individual roles.
Each trade will receive their sketches and preliminary plans in a few days after Trades day, and are required to return their estimates back to us in a week or less. Some items we will get a solid quote back, where the number is definite and set in stone. Other items are subject to further developed drawings and a close estimate is enough for our budget meeting.
The client can choose to be present or not on Trades day. If the client already has some definite ideas of what they want, then I recommend that they attend some of the meetings. If not, they don’t really have to be there as it can be an overwhelming and long process. If the client already has their own trades people, then we ask that they be present for those meetings. We do recommend that the client interviews the general contractors that we recommend on remodeling jobs, since they will be entering into a separate agreement with them.
We do get asked form time to time if we markup the fees of our tradespeople, and the answer is, yes we do. We have long standing relationships with our trades. They are hand-picked and perfectly screened through a rigorous process that we have developed and fine-tuned for years. We have negotiated preferred pricing with them, which they happily give us because 1) we make their lives easier by making quick decisions, provide great guidance and keep the project on track. This means less client meetings for them, and they get clear directions with visual aides such as floor plans and elevation sketches to guide them and make their work easier, and 2) We are loyal to them, as long as they suit the needs of the project we are working on. We always bring them new business so they know they can count on us as a trade partner. The preferred rates that we negotiate with our trades actually benefits our clients as well, in that we split with these discounts with our clients. In most cases, our trades will offer us 20% or so less than they would charge a consumer who works with them directly. We take those discounts and we split it 70/30. This means that our clients are getting a reduced rate – 30% off whatever discounts we get.
Here’s an example – the painter would normally charge a consumer $1000 to paint a few rooms, when we are involved in the process, he would quote us $800 instead. We then charge the client $940. The client saves $60 off what they would have normally paid. We make $140 for the time it will take us to meet with the painter before the paint day, provide a detailed paint color spec sheet, meet to verify color with test samples on the walls, meet on paint day to make sure the correct paint has been ordered etc., meet at the end of the painting project to sign off approving the work. You can see that it is a win win all around – client gets a discounted rate plus even more time and involvement from us to make sure things are being done according to specifications.
For full remodeling jobs, even when the client hires the general contractor directly, but wants us to manage the project for them, we charge a 5% (of the remodeling budget) project management fee. This is in addition to our design service fee. This not only covers the extra time needed to work with the general contractor and his team to keep the project on track and to specifications, including additional site visits, it also compensates for some of the risks involved with assuming the role of the project manager.
So Trades day is a vital step in the design process. It definitely streamlines the process, and can even save the client valuable time and money
The next step in the design process is the Presentation Meeting, which is the fun part where the client gets to see the plans for the project. Please join us next week for Part IV in the series “The Presentation Meeting”
If you are considering a new project, be sure to reach out to us for more information. We are happy to answer any questions for you. You can even book and pay for your consultation directly from our website. Click here to get the process started.
Wishing You Beauty and Inspiration!