THE PROGRAMMING PHASE
While this doesn’t hold true for every interior designer or architect out there, it is quite typical for a designer to look at the house from a very different standpoint than the architect. In a nutshell I have found that the architect views it from the outside in and the designer views it from the inside out. In other words, we are trained to visually walk ourselves through the house, thinking about furniture, lighting, window access and materials. This is the beginning of what we call the Programming Phase of design.
That is what I had in mind when I reviewed the client’s drawings for the first time. Questions I asked myself were:
These are just some of the questions I ask myself while reviewing a set of plans for general layout. The next task is to look at the kitchen and bathroom layouts and cabinet designs. Many times these are “blocked out” but not detailed. It is left up to the client to decide if they want drawers or doors on kitchen cabinets. Do you want the bathroom sink to the left, center or right of the 36” wide cabinet? It can make a difference for certain uses. Lastly I think about furniture layouts and if the room sizes can handle the client’s needs. Are there too many windows and not enough wall space? Is the room too small for a full sofa even though the client already owns one?
Rarely do major changes happen at this time, especially to the overall footprint of the house. We adjust window sizes, move an interior wall or two, and make a closet bigger, that sort of thing. It sounds minor now, but you will not regret taking the time to think through and make these changes. Depending on the size of the house and the needs of the owner, some construction can begin while these decisions are being made. In this case, we were still waiting on the permit so we did not begin construction yet. But when we did, as you can see, there was a lot of land sculpting to be done!
INTERVIEWING INTERIOR DESIGNERS
If you didn’t interview interior designers in the beginning, long before your house looks like this it’s a good idea to have one on board. The best place to start looking is with friends and family if they have worked with designers in the past. You can also visit a couple of websites that will assist you in finding one in your area. www.houzz.com is probably the most popular site out there right now for ideas, product and professionals. You can also go to www.asid.org and find designers in your area as well as tips on how to interview one.
No matter how you find the designer, the most important question to ask, besides how much do you charge, is do you have any clients or photos of recent work that you can see and possibly talk to. The second most important topic is letting the designer know exactly what you are looking for. Do not get excited by extremely modern, austere looks if you own a lot of stuff you never plan to put away. You will not be happy with the design in the end. Be sure to explain with words or pictures what your basic needs are and what styles you like. Or if it’s easier what styles you don’t like!
For this job the client hired the architect and contractor first to get the ball rolling. The contractor and architect had worked together before and the client was quite comfortable with both of them. But due to the size of the house the things the client wanted, both recommended they find an interior designer. So off to houzz they went and found me. We interviewed and got to know each other a little so that I could explain to them what services I could provide, what I could not provide and how I charge for those services. Then I offered to set up viewings at a couple of my previous jobs.
I showed them two extremes so they could see that I meant what I said when I told them as long as they communicate their likes and dislikes, I was confident I could produce a look they liked. It worked and a few weeks later we were embarking on what would become a two and a half year relationship. The first item up was for the client to start putting together photos of what they liked and my job was to review the preliminary plans. This is the best time for the interior designer to enter a job because space planning is a big part of what we do. And we can catch things as they related to furniture and ergonomic details that the architect may not think of. Next week I'll discuss what I found and changed on the plans.
In this next series of blogs I will be going through the design process as it is used when building a new home. Going through this process, step by step, will help you as a client to understand the roll an architect, interior designer, contractor and you have in the process and the order in which each member is key. I think you will find that there is a lot of great information to be had no matter the size of your project. Relevant pictures will be included with each entry but if you are curious of the outcome, the full project is shown in several areas on my website, my houzz profile and my google plus page.
The design process is a very lengthy one, involving designers of several specialties. Although they do intersect from time to time, they do not always start their design knowing the other key players. Because of this, it is important that there be a lead designer coordinating and communicating with everyone so there are no surprises or hold ups along the way.
Initially the architect is the first designer on the job when building a new home, or any project that involves structural work. She or he must first determine the landscape attributes and relevant area codes to determine the maximum size the home can be. The client should have a good idea of what they want in their new home or addition before they interview architects. This is important because the architect should be creating the overall footprint of the new home based on your needs and wants, not just what is popular or will fit. Remember, pictures speak a thousand words.
Once the architect is secured and the size of the job is determined, you would have what is called preliminary plans drawn up so that you can interview contractors for the job. It is best to have the preliminary plans so that you can review any unusual or specialty details to be sure the contractor is right for the job. You also want to be sure there is a good working relationship between the architect and the contractor, although that applies to all of the members of your team, when it comes to excavation, foundations and other structural details in the project, these two entities need to communicate well with one another.
You are now ready to look for an interior designer. Next week I will talk about how to interview interior designers and what you need to do to get the most out of the interview.