February 16th 2009

Use Every Room Every Day

All my clients know this one!  They have heard me say it a hundred times, are often frustrated when I keep bringing it up, and want to kiss me on the lips when it’s all over.  Whenever I am designing a space for clients, I ask one question over and over….

“What will you do in this room?”

Then I prod some more …

“Will you watch TV in your underwear here?  Read in the morning?  Pay bills?  Eat?  Homework?  Crafts?”

There is a rule in our design meetings…..use every room, every day.  If not, rethink the space.  Why give up real estate when you don’t even use the room?  Why not utilize that space to live in?!!?  There are exceptions to that rule, such as dining rooms.  Some people entertain occasionally and want a formal space.  That is absolutely fine, if you understand that is the purpose of the room.  But if you just want to have a room because you think you should, please reconsider.

I was working with a serial client (this is their second new home with us and several remodels) on a 10,000 square foot new house plus a huge finished lower level.  We went through each room that they originally said they wanted.  Their HOMEWORK (yes, I give you homework) was to go through each room and write down what they would do in that room.  At the next meeting, they gave me a handwritten list of what they would do in each room.

They were thrilled to say, “We don’t need a front library.  We would only use it maybe six times a year.”

Instead of cramming her desk in the Laundry Room, we gave her an office right off of the Master Sitting Room, next to her husband’s office.  After I went through each room in the house and worked on trimming each room to fit the purpose exactly, I looked at hallways and wasted space in the home.  The result was that the house went down to 8000 square feet!  (Do you know any builders that actually talk you down?)  This was a tremendous cost savings to them, plus with careful thought, each room was completely thought out and designed to be exactly what they wanted and needed.

Can you image how important that is in a smaller home?  The smaller the space, the more important careful thought is in the process.  Do you use every room, every day?  If not, call me and I promise that together we will find another use for it!

June 10th 2008

Trying to Afford Ourselves

Clients come to me to help them with all the decisions, big and small, that go into a custom renovation or build. I always tell clients that we can’t have everything we want, but we can have what is most important to us. Each decision can be a daunting task as there are thousands of choices today. Sometimes several choices, within each decision.

Case in point, in a recent meeting we began discussing countertop choices. Sounds like an easy question and they answered quickly…..granite. May the games begin! What kind of granite (name of the stone)? How does that stone relate to price (each stone is a different price which has WILD variations of price)? What thickness (2 CM, 3 CM, single or double thickness)? What profile edge (ogee, double ogee, bullnose, eased, etc….)? The list goes on and on. So, of course, the clients look at me like a deer in head lights and we begin from the beginning…..what we want, need and CAN AFFORD!

We control costs by controlling our perimeters of what we look for. After design meetings, I send the client to look at our regular vendors show rooms and meet with our regular sales reps with whom I already have negotiated great pricing and have a rapport with. The client knows that if they are unable to make selections or are uncertain, no problem, just bring samples back and we will discuss how the possible selections work with the total design. I let the vendor know the budget before the client ever meets with them. I talk with vendor about the design and what we are trying to accomplish and how. They know they must answer to me if they are trying to sell items outside the budget or re-inventing the wheel of design. Many times, I will go with the client to the vendor or showroom to finalize design choices after their initial meeting. Throughout the design process there are constant checks on where we are in pricing.

I met with a client yesterday who lost her mind in a stone warehouse the week before (without my knowledge). She immediately called me from the parking lot so excited she could hardly contain herself. She had found the most beautiful stone and decided to use stone on every countertop surface in the house. I immediately called the warehouse, asked for the person she met with and asked that they fax me a bid for the selections. When the fax came over, I knew there would be a problem. Her selections were three times what we budgeted for countertops, over $30,000. At our meeting, I showed her the fax. He eyes welled up with tears and she said, “Now what do I do?” I told her, we would go together to look at the materials and go over all the options.

We met with my normal rep (not the one she hooked up with on the sales floor). As we went over each stone, we talked about edges and thickness and price. We used alternate stone that was far less expensive without compromising the look on some areas and used the expensive ones on smaller areas (the island in the kitchen with less expensive stone on the perimeter cabinets). We put more expensive edging in the formal spaces. It took two hours and we got within our budget. She was thrilled and I was happy that we were back on track.

When there are so many choices, you have to make wise decisions on what to use and where. Unfortunately, most of us do not have unlimited budgets so we have to keep ourselves in check throughout the process. I completely understand because I am always trying to afford myself.