Baby it's cold outside

Well, it's getting to be that time of year, the leaves are all raked, garden hoses are put away and shrubs are protected.  

Winter is the perfect time of year for planning your renovation project.  Although we do it often, building during the winter can be tough, especially if your house is open to the elements for any period of time.  But what's better than to sit by the fire and conspire about what your home could be.  

We have many clients that decide they need "more space."  Often times it's not more space that's needed but a better arrangement of your current space.  Sometimes it's parting with some "stuff."  Either way, try to think about your home in a new light this winter.  

Someone recently suggested to me that we swap our office and living room.  We couldn't be more thrilled!  Suddenly our living room is connected to our other living spaces much better and our public and private spaces are better defined.  It's a much better layout, especially heading into the holidays.  So try to think about your space differently.  

This is the time of year when you're spending more time inside your home.  Enjoy it!

 

 

Ask questions

The lesson for the day is:

ask questions

One of the things I learned early on is that every client has a hot-button.  There is some design aspect, feature or aesthetic that is critically important to that client.  Often, you the client, don't even knows what that thing is until you ask the right question.  

The key is to ask a lot of questions to get to the right question.  Whether you're a client or a design here are a few suggestions on how to get to the hot button:

  1. I had a young neighbor growing up and his favorite question was, "how come?"  And once you answered, there was a subsequent "how come?" that followed.  Usually that game would go on for several rounds.  As designers, homeowners and clients, constantly ask, "how come?" 
  2. Consider what you like (or don't) about your current house, a friend's house
  3. Ask yourself about your childhood home.  What was significant about it?
  4. Be silly. If you were a home improvement super-hero, whom would you be? I'd be Water-Droplet Man.  I don't like water in my house and I'd make sure that not a single unwanted droplet could penetrate the exterior.  And I know I have a client who would be AntiMouse Woman

If it only happened that fast!

You have to check out this video.   What a great primer for understanding a renovation!  I'm glad they added the disclaimer that this footage was shot over a 3 month period.   But it truly gives a sense of all the things that are involved with a renovation.   There are so many moving parts to it.   

I will say what it can't show is the emotional part of the renovation.   The time slaving over decisions, the heartbreak when something doesn't go quite as planned.  These are important to understand the process as well.

 

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A Better Experience - Communicate

It's hard to get things done, and for that matter done right, when you don't communicate.   I think there's an impression out there of the building industry that the drawings  produced are a set of instructions for the project.  Once the drawings are complete, why would there be any questions?

I'm sure that there are projects done, where the client has little or no input or where the designer has stepped out of the process.   I'm also pretty sure that these projects aren't great.   Sure they may photograph well, but how was everyone's experience.   The designer did his/her thing, the contractor did his/her thing and the client wrote the checks...project done.  Sounds like fun, eh?

What if we all talked throughout the project?  What if we came up against a problem and sat down as a team to figure it out?  Ok, it'll take a bit longer..maybe, but isn't it a solution that everyone has had a chance to weigh-in on?  A 1-hour meeting discussing the pros and cons of a particular detail is much better than a lifetime of hating how something looks when it's built.

Great projects happen because the teams communicates.  Whether it's through email, phone or face-to-face, the designer, builder and homeowner figure things out together.  Heck, if you want to use fancy software that facilitates discussion, I'm all for it!  But don't let things "just happen."   Communicate throughout the entire project.  It'll be better for everyone, trust me!

 

A Better Experience - Assemble the Team

I think we need a better building experience.  Why should it only be the 1% that gets to enjoy great design and a thoughtful building experience for their homes?  After being in the residential design and building industry for more than a decade, I've seen a lot.   I've seen wonderful designs be poorly built at the hands of a shabby builder, I've seen scratches on the back of an envelope transformed into a beautiful home, I've seen a perfectly designed and built home with homeowners to emotionally drained to enjoy it.   Why does it have to be this way?  I don't think it does.  

A better building experience is possible, I've seen it happen.   The most successful projects that I've been a part of are the one with the best team.   I define the team as all the major players in the process as well as the other seemingly extraneous partners.   The designer/architect, homeowner and builder are integral team members and should be engaged together from the very beginning.  Rather that the typical process of homeowner hires a designer, designer does drawings, drawings go to multiple contractors for multiple bids.  For the homeowner, this means you're no longer in the drivers seat.   Throughout the design process there is no design vs. cost discussion.   And unfortunately most of us have to adhere to some sort of budget!  So engage the builder as early as possible.   I understand the idea that a competitive bid situation seems to provide the homeowner with the best price possible.  In the end, the project cost will be similar no matter which builder you choose.  It's the experience that will be different.  If a builder understands that he will likely get the project if it moves forward, it will entice him to provide you with good information throughout the design process.

It is also important to bring in other partners such as other trades and consultants early in the process.   Lighting consultants, interior designers, engineers and even plumbers and electricians can all be valuable members of the team.   The more complex the project, the more important this early intervention becomes.   As the design becomes more real, consultants and partners can add important details that make the project sing!

As was writing this post, I was keep a list beside me of new topics.   It got me thinking about so many other good bits to share with you all.  Look forward to the next post on the importance of communication.  

Tails up and noses down!