Thursday, April 21, 2011
Where Do We Start?
Just getting started on a new home or remodel project seems soooooo confusing! Should I hire the interior designer or the architect first? Is it the builder that can guide me through the treacherous waters of the initial phases? 'I want my yard to look like this' - should I get a landscape architect before I hire anyone else? It seems like there are so many choices...where do we begin?
In thirty-four years in the business I have been asked those questions countless numbers of times. To help clarify the issues I thought I might "standardize" the answer to help you get a running start.
Start with ideas! We always advocate that the client cruise through old home magazines like Veranda, Architectural Digest, D Home, Southern Living, Elle Decor, and Traditional Home to name just a few. Most ideas are not original so looking at pretty pictures helps solidify your tastes, and clarifies your thinking.
Group your pictures by rooms. A picture really is worth a thousand words, and grouping all the Dining Rooms together separate from the Family Rooms etc. ensures you get more of what you want in the design phase.
Measure all of the rooms in your existing home. Capture the room sizes on a 3 x 5 card. Having this information at your finger tips during the design process helps you to paint "word pictures" in your mind of the sizes that are being discussed. Maybe the architect is talking about the Dining Room being 13' x 17' - a quick look at your card may tell you that that is the current size of your existing Master Bedroom, but it will help paint a picture in your mind that can help you evaluate the size being discussed.
Purchase your lot or building site. Several years ago Molly and I started work on a fabulous home design before we closed the lot - boy were we surprised when the lot didn't close and our wonderful design didn't fit on anything else we were considering! Cities and municipalities all have setback requirements which regulate how close to the street or sideyards you can build. They become very important to the design of your home (or remodel). Also, deed restrictions which you would normally receive at closing have important design parameters that will need to be considered.
Build a Team! Initial members should include the architect; contractor; interior designer; structural engineer; and landscape architect. You should feel very comfortable with every member of the team. All team members should have and maintain the attitude that they exist on the team only to serve you. This is not the place for prima donnas - send them home!
Have a chemistry experiment... Give each member of our newly formed project team a simple assignment during concept design to see how they perform. If they don't perform well, or if they "can't play well with others", send them home. Your project team is no place for big egos! Not only do you want to feel comfortable with the abilities of each team member, you want to make sure that the different disciplines represented in the group blend well. If someone is not working out with a simple assignment, chances are they won't be a good long term player. Remember, second string players are always itching to get in the game!
Assign Design Development Tasks. As your project begins to take shape each different discipline should be looking at your home through different lenses. For instance, what is important to the structural engineer probably will not be important to the interior designer. That is not to say that some disciplines won't overlap - they will, but if the structural guy is placing furniture or selecting fabrics, we've got a real problem! Design Development should be a symphony! In a perfect world each project team member should have a very good idea of what you want by the completion of design development so that proper preliminary budgets can be developed.
Concept Approval. Once all the various disciplines have weighed in on not only their design but their preliminary budgets, if all looks within your expectations it's time to approve the concept.
Construction drawings. Just as noted above, every member should work hard on their own construction drawings so as to complete them by the time the architect completes construction drawings. Realistically the interior designer won't know all of your selections at the completion of construction drawings, but they should have a pretty good idea of where things are going so that they can help the contractor establish budgets.
Final Budgeting and Permitting. Upon completion of all of the construction drawings the contractor should be responsible for setting the final budget. This should include all of the other disciplines costs so that you can get a complete picture of the total project cost. When you approve the project cost you are ready for financing the project and applying for permits. You have finally found the starting line!
One Final Note: by introducing all of the project team members before starting concept design you will have a greater initial cost outlay for fees and services, but that should save you SUBSTANTIAL money in the long run! If every team member is doing their job they should be considering your wants and needs with a close eye on value engineering (read: saving money!) the project. We have found through the years that the most expensive project are the ones where the project team has not been built early and design has not considered better and less expensive ways to do the same thing. Remember: architects don't know cost - they know design! Rely on your other project team members to help you put your budgets together.