JOI Blog fans:
I was planning to post an article this week outlining the process of working with an interior designer. I found when writing, that the "Initial Consultation" step was rather extensive, so I am dedicating this post to that topic. Enjoy!
The first step in acquiring interior design services is scheduling an “initial consultation”. A proper client-designer relationship should not take place without this step, whatever one should choose to call it. An initial consultation is basically what the name implies---a first meeting between the client and the interior designer. It is usually at the client’s home, and extends for a period of between 90 to 120 minutes. My fee for a first consultation is $150 per hour. Charging for hours spent should be consistent among all professional interior designers, at least when that designer is billing the client directly. Today, people are reluctant to pay a single penny for anything unless it is absolutely necessary. The investment, whether big or small, needs to be fully justified. To many, a simple initial consultation does not seem worth $150. However, in the case of MY company, it is a highly necessary part of the process. Not to mention that charging for product and/or services is a given for companies that wish to remain in business. Sadly, since people will take what they can get for free, it is common for clients to take advantage of certain designers that choose not to charge for the initial consultation. They ask for opinions on colors and room layout, and once receiving what they need, proceed to not hire that designer, hence cheating the designer out of their time and mileage spent. The charging of a fee for an initial consultation is necessary for the services provided, time spent, and insurance for the designer should the client decide not to move forward. In the case of my company, should the client decide to move forward and purchase a design package from me, I then credit the consultation fee towards the design package (depending on the size of the project this may not be applicable). So in a sense, the design consultation IS free. Nevertheless, clients have the right to know the functional value in the “initial consultation”. I will take the opportunity to explain in this post.
During the initial consultation, I first get to know the client and their personality by having relatively general discussion---chatting. General social discussion may seem irrelevant to a design project but that is entirely untrue. Discussion on various topics such as the client's job, family, pets, and regular recreational activities helps enormously with getting to understand the client’s personality and lifestyle, which in turn helps with creating a space that is perfect for them. A good design is one that is attractive and livable. A great design is one that harmonizes with the client’s inner self, and enhances their lifestyle. To achieve this, “chatting”, while sometimes brief, is critical. While listening, I can formulate in my mind the sort of design that is compatible with the client. Not to mention the fact that I love getting to know my clients and connecting with them as friends. A job is not enjoyable and may not go as smoothly if a designer has not established a friendship/compatibility with the client. I usually set aside 2 hours for an initial in-home consultation, because the “listening” takes just as much time if not more than the design input itself. After chatting, I then address the space in question with the client. Hypothetically, lets say the kitchen.
I listen to the client's concerns about the current functionality of their kitchen. Lack of functionality is usually more of a problem than aesthetics, but both are discussed in great detail. In the words of famed 19th century architect Louis Sullivan: “Form ever follows function”. Another phrase commonly used is “the kitchen is the heart of the home”. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then it MUST be personally pleasing to the client---not just some cherry cabinets and a slab of granite. Those materials, while attractive and popular, have been used now to the point where a client’s newly updated kitchen looks just like every other updated kitchen on the block. This is the design aspect where general contractors tend to fall short. See my post Contractors Prefer Designers . Sure, the now standard cherry and granite combo tends to have good resale value. But resale is not the ONLY important thing when remodeling one's kitchen.
|What is now a rather generic cherry and granite kitchen--- it lacks warmth and personality
In the initial consultation for kitchens, I collaborate with the client on how they currently use their kitchen, and how they would prefer to use it if they changed it, assessing what tasks they would like to perform that their kitchen does not currently accommodate. One common issue with kitchens is poor traffic flow. For couples that enjoy cooking together, a certain layout and alignment of appliances is required so both users are not constantly bumping into each other. Another major problem is entertaining compatibility. A client that entertains groups regularly will tend to need a larger more open kitchen layout, with plenty of seating capacity. Also, if a client hosts Thanksgiving dinner for instance, they usually desire double ovens, as well as a prep sink. Homes built in the 1990's and prior do not tend to comply with this need. The list goes on and on. I listen to all their current problems and wishes, and from that information I am prepared to deliver an ideal design. Outstanding kitchen remodels cannot be performed in a period of 2 hours, but without the 2 hour preliminary consultation, a project can become rapidly discombobulated.
The initial consultation is not just an opportunity to sell future services, but it is a critical part of the overall success of a project. There is one exception. You will see many ads promoting “free initial design consultation” in home improvement publications and online. In these instances, the “designer” is a salesperson whose goal is to sell a room's worth of product--- not to offer free design advice. Spending a complimentary hour with one of these sales reps usually does not provide any significant information, other than rough price estimates, that are never accurate in the long term. It is a method of converting a client’s inquiry into a sale. See my past article on this: "Is Free Design Service Really Free?" Professional interior design services are, for most, a worthwhile investment. But of course they are not necessary for everyone, and for some the expense is just not an option. In the case of homeowners that are truly at a loss of how to approach their room, I offer a new service called “Concept Design”. "Concept Design" For homeowners who are curious about interior designers--- their process and value, I will be featuring another post next week on the other stages in a project beyond the initial consultation. Stay tuned, and be sure to contact me if you have any questions!
|A warm, inviting, and personalized kitchen