Sunday, October 29, 2006

Many people planning to build a new home or makeover an older home are often surprised when asked if they have plans for their project. While a contractor may be able to draw a simple set of building plans, residential designers are experienced specialists who are trained to use space most efficiently and educated in all the newest trends and products available.
They not only design your project from scratch, but also spend time with each client to determine their specific needs, lifestyles, priorities and budgets to create a custom room, addition, renovation or entire home. Residential designers may best be described as a cross between an architect and an interior designer. The interior of your project is equally as important to them as the exterior.

Q: Why seek out a residential designer to design my project when so many contractors offer free design advice as part of their service?

A: Contractors generally tend to fill a client's requests in the most straight forward manner possible, keeping things simple to avoid confusion and spending any more time than they feel is necessary. Getting the job and building it are usually their number one priorities. By contrast, the residential designer's whole purpose is to sit down with you and work out your design puzzle in its entirety, with the emphasis on finding the best solution rather than the most obvious. A residential designer will creatively present options to you and point out their advantages. Helping you understand the complexities of the project fully before it goes to bid ( or worse, gets built) prevents misunderstandings and possible regrets about your choices.

Q: But isn't using a residential designer expensive?

A: Not at all. In addition to saving time and effort, it often saves you money. Most quality contractors are thrilled to get well-documented, professionally designed plans. They recognize that detailed plans with full specifications and interpretive detailed drawings result in a smooth-running project. A client who understands and wants exactly what he is getting saves the contractor from the potential barrage of change-orders, time and money over-runs, and bad feelings on both sides that can easily result from misunderstandings and/or ambiguities. Having accurate plans before the bidding process even starts makes it easier on the contractors AND the client. If multiple bids are obtained, everyone is bidding on EXACTLY the same materials, brands, models, quality expectations, etc.

Q: So when should I bring in a residential designer?

A: You should select and employ your residential designer as soon as possible. You need to have a basic idea of what you'd like to accomplish, but skilled questioning by the designer to help determine your hidden wants and needs is a very important part of the process. An incredible array of products is available and getting guidance from a professional saves you time and money. Questions about your site, lifestyle, budget, quality expectations, creative solutions, or suggestions for new/specialized products may even trigger your looking at your project in a whole different light. The designer takes practical everyday usage, future growth or change in use, and yes, even resale possibilities into consideration when creating your final design.

Q: What is the range of services that a residential designer typically offers?

A: It varies, but generally includes development of design options, schematic sketches, preliminary design presentation, final plans with notes and specifications, a custom lighting and electrical plan, miscellaneous details as required, interior appurtenance selections and schedules, all permit-ready.


Working with an experienced. residential designer should be a priority if your expectations are for a "one-of-a-kind" building project. He will be the first and most important member of your project team. The planning and building of any sizeable project involves large sums of money, many hours of honest communication, hundreds of decisions, and can take many months or longer to complete. The entire process should be taken very seriously but it should also be fun. After all, the designer's reputation is also always at stake.
Optional services would include, but not be limited to, color renderings and sketches, assistance in appurtenance selections and interior design, contract negotiations with your contractor, and project observation throughout the construction.