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Our Project Phases Breakdown

Modern transitional whole house renovation rejuvenation by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors, featuring new elongated waterfall island with space for open seating.

We've discussed bits and pieces of the process of a design project over the course of the blog, and today we're consolidating it all together for a detailed review of what to expect when you work with us on a full service design project! Design projects are a big undertaking, and knowing what to expect can alleviate a lot of questions that may keep you from moving forward.

If you're considering embarking on a design adventure for your home, take a look at what happens through the design phase, purchasing and project management phase, and the delivery and installation phase!

Modern transitional whole house renovation rejuvenation by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors including updated all white kitchen featuring new elongated waterfall island painted in blue with space for open seating.

The Design Phase

After the design fee proposal has been accepted and the letter of agreement is signed, the real fun begins! During this phase we develop a unique design plan based on your project goals and needs while incorporating our own creative ideas. We are here to help translate who you are and what you love into your surroundings and we start with lots of questions like... What is going to make you feel peaceful and taken care of in your home? Is a game room/media room important for your family? More storage for your favorite shoes? A huge kitchen for cooking and hosting family and friends? A big comfy sectional for cuddling? Keeping a vintage armoire from your grandmother?

It's important as we have these conversations to be honest with yourself and with us about your lifestyle as well as your investment amount so that we can formulate the best design plan for you and your family's home. While we were raised to believe it was rude to discuss money matters in polite conversation, it's definitely crucial to a successful design project. We provide all of our clients with a furniture budget investment guide during our onboarding process and help our clients develop a budget that suits their style and desired quality and aesthetics. In the long run, having these money conversations openly and honestly saves design time and therefore our clients' money by selecting items that fit the correct criteria from the beginning and who doesn't want that? NOTE: For construction projects, we include an exploratory design phase when possible (i.e. clients hire NLI first, before construction is underway).

The design concept phase typically takes 4 to 6 weeks from the initial visit, although it may take longer depending on the size of the project and consists of a series of meetings and presentations as we research and narrow down infinite possibilities moving from initial concept to final design. This is truly a collaborative process, and our foremost interest is in respecting you, your investment amount, and your lifestyle, and creating spaces that support you in that lifestyle. Please know that you can be as involved as you would like to be. Most clients are busy and prefer to let us take the lead, but our dialogue is always open to feedback throughout the process! The final design plans, including floor plans and fabric and finish samples, are presented in person and revisions are made if necessary. Here we can talk through the details and revise to make sure you love your new space!

Modern transitional whole house renovation rejuvenation by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors including updated all white kitchen featuring new elongated waterfall island painted in blue with space for open seating.

The Purchasing and Project Management Phase

While our clients have approved their design, paid their invoices, and eagerly await their new spaces, this stage is actually a very busy one for us behind the scenes. I always describe this phase with the example of feeling like you're holding your breath while juggling, sometimes standing on only one leg or then flowing into a backbend, oh and your hair's on fire! This time during a project is both exhilarating and exhausting as the vision starts coming to life.

We are fielding inevitable issues with backorders, or missing parts, or any number of things you as a client or consumer could probably never imagine going wrong. Part of our unwritten job description is the ability to stay flexible and adapt when things happen (because stuff always happens). Any issue, big or small, that arises will be handled by our team behind the scenes during the process. It's part of our full service customer service.

Before we purchase any trade items on your behalf, you will receive a proposal that details items to be purchased along with all known associated costs. After proposals are approved and invoices paid, we work diligently behind the scenes, placing and following up on all orders placed by NLI, tracking shipments every step of the way. We cover our bases with both physical calendars up on the wall (#oldschoolandOCD) to track shipment dates for multiple items and clients, and we have our digital calendars as well. Both of these calendars get updated and synchronized as items ship, get delivered to our receiving warehouse, or go on backorder.

All orders placed through NLI are shipped to our receiving warehouse, where they are unwrapped, inspected for damage, and stored safely until our installation day. Our full-service clients can rest assured knowing that we are on top of the logistical process of procurement and will handle all the moving parts and resolve any issues that may arise from ordering to install. We also strive to keep our full service clients informed and in the loop by sending weekly updates.

While we are waiting for the larger furniture items to come in, we continue work on finalizing our styling plans for smaller decorative items as well! That might include finding accessories on multiple shopping trips together, repurposing pieces that clients want to keep, or pulling from our bulk decor inventory that we purchase throughout the year at various markets and other vendors. Everything associated with a project stays at the receiver until installation day, aka when concept becomes reality!

Modern transitional whole house renovation rejuvenation by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.

The Delivery and Installation Phase

Based on my experience with potential or new clients, there is some mystery regarding the delivery and installation phase. Let me just start by saying that there is no such thing as free shipping. I know, I know...your email inbox may beg to differ. You probably have at least a few messages offering codes for free shipping. Everyone is so used to seeing those words free shipping that it's something most people come to expect. Here's the deal...when you see the words free shipping, just know that, for the most part, shipping costs are being rolled into the cost of the item.

So if shipping is truly not free, let's discuss why that is. Think of the logistics to move something from one side of the country to another and all of the human hands that touch something to get it from here to there. The people who wrap and pack items for shipping, load it onto freight trucks, drive the freight truck to a delivery agent, then unload, reroute, and repeat until said item arrives at its final destination...well, someone's got to pay for that... not to mention the truck's gas, insurance, etc. It all adds up and in sum, that cost is accounted for at some point. While we don't always know exactly what freight and delivery costs will be up front when we place orders for our clients, we do include estimates on our project proposals for clients based on historical data we track from each and every project. Now that we've cleared that up, let's move on to the why's and how's when it comes to using a receiver.

For our full service design projects we {almost} exclusively specify to the trade only items. While some of the smaller items we order for clients can be drop-shipped via UPS or Fed Ex, all of the larger pieces (think sofas and large case good items) travel via a freight truck (otherwise known as a semi-truck) from our various vendors across America to a local delivery agent known as a receiver. In case you're wondering why a semi-truck can't just pull up to your front door, let me stop you right there. Long-haul freight trucks are well, long, and huge and cannot maneuver tight residential streets plus most do not have a lift gate meaning they must unload at a facility with a loading dock and a team of people who unload each truck's contents using a forklift.

Another prime reason for using a receiver is that every project has more than a few different vendors and therefore accepting deliveries directly at a client's home would be more of a piecemeal way to complete the process. This way, everything arrives in one central location where it is inspected, logged into inventory, then rewrapped and stored together until all large pieces for a project have arrived. We're always holding our breath once we receive shipping notification from the vendor while we track shipments to our receiver here in Houston, just waiting and praying for all to go well during transport - anything can happen on the road, or sometimes packaging comes loose or is done incorrectly. Stuff happens and this check right in the middle of the process helps so, so much!

It's important to note that any item that arrives with visible damage to the outside packaging will be refused immediately by the delivery agent and sent back to the vendor directly. As each piece is inspected, any damage is noted and pictures are taken. Once we are alerted, we work behind the scenes to take care of any issues including working with the vendor to obtain a replacement or we call in our furniture repair specialist and he works his magic. This is part of our full service customer service...we take care of any headaches so you don't have to. Are you feeling the love for full service yet? Wait, it gets better.

Not only does each piece get inspected prior to delivery, any item that requires assembly will be assembled by our wonderful delivery team (for anyone who has put together items on their own, you'll know this is worth every penny and then some). Smaller items get drop shipped to our office to avoid additional fees, and we inspect everything before it gets stored until prep day prior to install. Prep day we double check our install bag (packed to the gills MacGyver-style with random things like Super Sliders, rug tape, swiss army knives, Goo-B-Gone, Windex, and paper towels just to name a few ) and triple check our project's smalls inventory then load our van.

Once install day arrives, one of my assistants and I will meet the drivers from the receiver at our client's home to guide the operation. Typically we also schedule our installer for custom window treatments on delivery day so that custom drapes get installed first before the moving guys get started. If we have art to install, our art installer works around the moving guys in rooms where they are not setting up furniture. #NLITeamRocks

Depending on the size and scope of a project, delivery day may actually mean multiple days. For larger projects, we plan ahead to set up all furniture, drapes, and art on the first day, while the second day is all about final styling. I highly recommend to our clients that they be out of the house during the actual install, or at the very least, hunkering down in a different part of the house where they can still be surprised by the final reveal - there's nothing like it! As one sweet client said in her review..."the furniture white glove delivery was a thing of beauty to watch" and I can assure you we try our very best to go above and beyond every step of the way during a project but especially on delivery days.

Modern transitional whole house renovation rejuvenation by Houston interior design firm Nancy Lane Interiors including updated all white kitchen featuring new elongated waterfall island painted in blue with space for open seating.

Is there anything we haven't covered here that is still confusing? If you have any questions of any part of this process, we're one email away!


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