Designing from a Distance. It works.
I live in Berlin. Katie, my right hand woman, lives in Houston.
Most of our projects are located in the Houston area.
But how do you design projects in Houston while living in Berlin? I get asked often. To be frank clients have been hiring designers that live out of their town for as long as Interior Design has been an industry. It’s better to hire the person you’re comfortable with and whose designs you love rather than who is nearest you. In other words, we make it work. Let me explain our process.
When a person wants to chat with us about a potential collaboration I typically receive an email from our website contact form. Occasionally I’ll receive a Facebook or Instagram message but it’s usually through the website. In any case we reply with basic information about our services and requesting time to schedule a call.
I do a video call or voice call, client’s preference. I do prefer to see you as it helps build trust, both ways, and I get to see your house.
In this phase we discuss how involved you want to be in the project. If you want to do some shopping or if you want to handle the ordering then we plan for that now. We’ll discuss the positives and negatives of each situation.
Scope of Work
In this next phase I determine a scope of work. That’s everything that you need from me and is different for every project. I provide an estimate of design cost based on our discussion. If it’s decoration only then I provide an estimate of time we’ll spend on the project and guidelines of furniture, rugs, etc pricing. Once the scope of work is approved we can get specific on cost of items. If the project is a new construction or remodel I provide selection and design cost based on square footage. I provide a separate estimate for furnishings.
I’ll email you the estimate and set up a time to discuss the details with you. I like to give you time to review it, think things through. Almost always this leads to an increase in the scope of work. Which is fine! I just amend the scope after our discussion and send it back for final approval.
This is the phase that takes longer than expected, almost inevitably. The media has done a fantastic job depicting design as quick and easy. And it’s not. The more that gets planned up front, before any demo or construction, the better chances for less delays and change orders during construction. We do a lot of dotting I’s and crossing Ts in this phase. We do initial drawings, select lighting, hardware, tile and tile designs, millwork layouts, counter selections, flooring selections etc, etc.
If your project is decoration only this is the time we’re developing a concept, pulling fabrics, designing window treatments, drawing furniture floorplans, selecting furniture and rug options, pulling ideas for accessories, etc.
The timeline for this is entirely dependent on your space. It doesn’t take as long to furnish one room as it does to select materials for a 4000 square foot new construction for instance. But that’s also something we discuss on the initial call.
Then we schedule a presentation.
If you’re in Berlin I present the design details to you at your home. If you’re in Houston Katie will meet with you at your home to present our design, with samples and pricing, to you. If you’re not in Houston or Berlin we mail you a package of samples and do a video call to give you the full presentation.
Implementation- Phase One
This varies a bit depending if you’re a construction project or decorating project or a construction turned decorating project.
So say you’re a remodel, now is when you’re taking our initial drawings and ideas to contractors to have them give you estimates.
We’re going to go to your home and take a ton of pictures and some measurements (if your home is out of town we fly in for this). If you don’t have an existing floorplan we’re going to have the house measured and put into a CAD drawing, that’s an additional but necessary cost. And truthfully it’s more cost effective to hire this out rather than have us do it.
Then we get very specific in our plans and elevations. We draw every detail on every wall. This is crucial in the communication with the contractor and the subcontractors. We specify everything.
We’re also making a master spreadsheet for purchasing. The purchasing will be handled by you or the contractor depending on your agreement with them. Jamie House Design doesn’t purchase construction materials.
At this phase in Decoration we’re ordering and receiving products at our receiving warehouse. Window treatments are being made. And we’re scheduling your final installation.
Most of this takes place off site so far. We’ve been having weekly calls and emails with you to keep you up to date on the process.
Implementation- Phase Two
This is typically a very long phase.
At this point you’ve hired a contractor. We’ve shared the purchasing spreadsheet with the contractor and the ordering is happening. Whatever needs to take place at the jobsite (your home is now a jobsite) starts here. Demo is first, then moving walls as needed, then electrical, flooring, etc. Your contractor will provide an estimated (because something always throws the schedule off) timeline and we’ll base our square footage fees partially on that. We’ll also begin furnishing phase now if you’ve only been in our construction phase.
If your project is in Houston or Berlin we visit the jobsite weekly to be sure all is going according to our design and to answer questions. If your project is out of town we’ll do weekly calls with the contractor to answer questions and see the jobsite progress and, depending on the timeline, will travel to your city a couple times in this phase. This is in addition to your weekly calls with us. Often times we’re texting with the contractor almost daily as well. I can’t stress the importance of a professional contractor for your project. Regardless of where your designer is located your contractor will make or break the project.
For decoration projects this is when the room is painted or wallpapered and lighting is installed.
Finally at this phase you no longer have tradespeople in your home daily. We do a final walkthrough with the contractor to make a punch list of outstanding items. Ideally those items are fixed within a few weeks. In this point we’re saying our goodbyes unless you’ve carried on with furniture and decorating with us. If you have then we’re installing the furniture, draperies, and rugs. We’re accessorizing bookcases and decorating. We’re handling issues that arise so you don’t have to. We will travel to you for this if your project is outside of Houston or Berlin. We’re there daily, usually all day, till you’re installed.
For decoration projects this phase is installation! It’s so satisfying for everyone to see the final products in place in your home. Our installation process varies slightly depending on the project.
The answer to designing from a distance is extreme communication and detail. We text and email with each other often, and as much as you’re comfortable with really, as well as the weekly call. Katie is sending me texts and emails a lot along with calls. We’re in touch with contractors via text mostly, that seems to be their favorite communication tool, but constantly. Drawings and design details I send over are extremely detailed. Down to hanging your existing artwork in salon walls and which bowl to store the fruit on your counter in. It works. We’re good at it.
I hope that helps you understand our process. We know it can feel hard to trust people in your home, it’s intimate. We’re here, even when we’re in different cities, to alleviate the stress and headache. We see the big picture and plan each detail to make that picture come to life. I am fortunate enough to have been designing homes for fifteen years. That experience provides me with the knowledge of knowing potential issues and avoiding them or at least gracefully fixing them when they arise. Our job eases your burden and provides you with houses that feel like homes and businesses that feel like your brand. Contact us and we’ll discuss how we can best serve you.