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Why You NEED an Interior Designer During Your New Build

February 12, 2024

I serve clients coast-to-coast with services ranging from virtual interior design, paint color consultations, 3D renderings... I also do a little bit of blogging.

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Classic, timeless bathroom designed by Phoenix interior designer Ashley Poe

If you’re considering a major renovation or are building a home, you may be wondering who you need on your build team? If you have a general contractor and architect, do you still need an interior designer? Or, do you only need the designer for the design aspect, and once construction is underway, you’ll be off to the races?

This is a common question we are asked, so in this post, we’re going to share how we work with contractors during construction to save our clients time, stress, and money.

Yes, as an interior designer, we are able to interpret your aesthetic and style and bring it to life through beautiful finishes and furnishings. 

But we also have to know a great deal about construction methods; the impacts of plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and structural systems on interior components; residential building codes; interior finish materials and appropriate installation methods; cabinetry and millwork fabrication; maintenance requirements for products and materials; and strategies for using and modulating light sources.

Still with me?

Yeah, it’s a bit more complicated than accessorizing a room.

Keep in mind, by the time your project is under construction, we’ll already likely have an exhaustive knowledge of the specific details about your design. Armed with that intimate knowledge of your project, when we make a visit to your construction site, we’ll be able to recognize both potential impacts of work completed, and critical requirements needed for work to proceed.

In other words, as your interior designer, we’ll have insight into what may affect project progression, and what issues may or have arisen that could impact the final delivery of your design.

Yes, of course, your contractor and tradespeople (painters, carpenters, electricians, plumbers) have invaluable expertise in their particular trade. No one can do what they do — they are enormously skilled. And your general contractor brings inestimable value to the project, in cost-estimating, construction sequencing, construction site safety requirements, permitting and inspections, ordering build supplies, and much more. (Note: while we aren’t licensed general contractors, we have been designing residential homes in Phoenix for over two years).

But, a general contractor and their subcontractors won’t really know the design intent the way we do as your interior designer. Not even close.

We’re the only people who can see the BIG picture (oftentimes even more than our clients can – which is what makes us so good at our job!) and know how construction activities may impact proper execution of the approved design.

We’ve seen many, many examples of installation and fabrication issues in completed homes. Meaning, the design wasn’t implemented properly. IF an interior designer had been onsite during the critical time when certain events occurred, those issues may have been easily avoided.

So, here’s a glimpse into how we support our clients during the construction phase of a project, either while making site visits, or while continuing to monitor installation progress and coordinate details via other communication channels.

01 | We are the point person for all questions or concerns that arise regarding the design of the space.

Because we are intimately familiar with the nitty gritty aspects of EVERYTHING design-related in a project, we are consulted throughout the project on anything that might impact the final outcome.

02 | We provide specific instructions to installers or tradespeople.

Once the design is approved by our clients, we provide thorough documentation of the design via plans, elevation drawings, detail drawings, and specification sheets. Our clients are always amazed when they see the size of their spec books that include details on every single thing chosen for their project, plus drawings for installation, when applicable. No detail goes unturned! Our spec book is a multi-page document detailing everything from grout color to lighting fixtures.

But even with these detailed documents provided, questions of interpretation or intention do still arise. Relying on the installers to guess at the designer’s intent is NOT the way to go. We WANT to be consulted throughout construction to make sure any changes that need to happen in field are aligned with our client’s overall vision for their home.

03 | We answer questions installers and fabricators have about products, materials, and furnishings. 

For example, if something came up related to extended lead time on an item already approved, we are there to determine whether the project can absorb the delay, or whether another choice should be made. And if we decide another choice should be made, we’re there to make the new selection and ensure it works with the other elements already chosen, so our clients aren’t scrambling to pick something on a moment’s notice, hoping it will work!

Or, if we help a client choose natural stone slabs for their countertops and provide drawings of where to make the cuts in the stone so the veining and coloring is best highlighted (or hidden). Sometimes these decisions are made on site once the material is in place and from experience, we know our clients typically don’t want to be responsible for where their slabs are cut. Talk about “no turning back”!

04 | We ensure the installation matches the design intent.

There may be instances where something needs to be installed a certain way for the purpose of aligning with a detail of another component —a domino effect. The installer may not realize this. But because we have a big picture view of the project, we’re able to make sure everything progresses according to plan, and in accordance with our client’s intended design outcome.

05 | We troubleshoot unforeseen issues that arise during construction.

It’s inevitable that — during demolition, or even construction— something problematic will happen. (In fact, we recommend to our clients to have an additional 5-10% of the total construction budget in a contingency fund just for situations like these.)

Maybe measurements were off by a half inch, or walls and corners are not plumb, or a mechanical chase or plumbing lines were hidden within walls in unexpected places.

One thing we are known for, above all else, is for being excellent creative problem solvers. We come in to determine the optimal course of action to deal with the issue and provide our client with our recommendations so they don’t feel alone in making decisions during a stressful construction project.

06 | We help make on-the-fly decisions when it comes to changes.

As much as we’d love to say once the design is approved, nothing changes, but in a large-scale construction project, it’s inevitable that some changes will need to be made once construction is underway. 

When this happens, we work alongside the construction team and our clients to assist with and review change orders. A “change order” is an official document that details the approval of a change to any aspect of the project — whether it’s the design of a specific feature, the elimination of an element, or the addition of a detail not originally specified. You do NOT want to risk any change discussed being forgotten, misinterpreted, or overlooked. Having this paper trail is SO important.

Not to mention, because these change orders are official documents, if work is done incorrectly or charged incorrectly, you can refer back to the original plan documents and the change order to find a remedy. We’ve also had instances of clients who did NOT approve change orders or authorize the additional expenses that came along with them, but their contractor certainly tried to collect. These change orders protect both our clients, the contractor, and us, ensuring that all changes being made are approved and acknowledged by all parties.

07 | We advocate for our clients to ensure everything is done right the first time.

Let’s say the plumber is just about to install the garbage control switch to the right of the sink, but the homeowner is left-handed. Or say that the same plumber is installing the shower head at standard height, but the client is particularly tall. These, among many other things, are the details a designer can help ensure are executed with the client’s best interest in mind.

08 | We open our clients’ eyes to what is possible.

When our clients are building a home or tackling a large-scale renovation, they want to make sure they’re investing their money wisely. That means, they want their choices to make sense for their current life stage AND their future life stage (assuming they’re staying in the home for a while). They also want their design to be timeless. Yes, you can change just about anything in a home with a good construction team, but it’s important to get it right the first time.

We provide insights and ideas into what is possible – what we’ve seen done on other projects that turned out beautifully, ways they add more natural light or avoid future function issues by making simple changes, selections they can make that will create a timeless look they’ll love forever. 

With our years of experience, we’ve seen a lot, and always love when we’re brought into a project from the beginning so we can help our clients fully maximize the investment in their construction project.

Having an interior designer involved during the construction phase of your project ensures you won’t live with regret that something wasn’t executed exactly to your liking, or that you missed an opportunity to make your home truly unique and perfect for your needs. And, as you might guess from reading this post, we save our clients hundreds of hours of time and years of stress simply by being there from start to finish.

If you’re about to embark on a large-scale renovation or new build project in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area and don’t want to do it alone, we’d love to chat with you. Click here to submit a project inquiry form.

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