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What To Know Before Starting a Home Design Project

Transitional hallway art gallery featuring our clients' kids treasured art pieces by Houston residential design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.

If you haven't been through the rollercoaster of a ride that is a home remodel or new build, trust me when I tell you that it can be an overwhelming process! In my experience, I've found there are a few key things that can make or break the design process for you from the very beginning, especially now with the massive delays we're seeing across the industry. If you're on the verge of hiring your architect or interior designer, or simply talking through your next home reno with your spouse, keep these tips in mind to ensure that your timeline stays as close to the projected length and, more importantly, that you and your partner come out of the process still liking each other!

Updated paint scheme in this transitional breakfast nook by Houston residential design firm Nancy Lane Interiors.

If both spouses want to be part of decisions, both spouses need to be at all meetings.

I've seen how this plays out plenty of times to be able to say that it's tough on one decision maker to translate everything we we present in any given meeting to the other spouse or partner that wasn't there because it always leaves room for error, forgotten details, and miscommunicated ideas. Bottom line - if you both want to have a say in decisions, no matter how small, plan to be there for every single meeting. This also keeps us on track by not having to take extra time to present a second time to explain what the other person missed in the last meeting.

Things always go wrong. We're all human after all.

I like to use the analogy of wedding planning for this process - expecting that everything will go exactly how you think it will or how you've planned it to go on your wedding day is a recipe for disappointment. Same thing goes for a home design project. Why? Because we're all humans and humans make mistakes sometimes. Whether its a problem with manufacturing, a delivery mishap that caused an issue, someone dropped something and it broke...things happen. BUT the silver lining is that I'm there to handle all the details for full service projects! Our goal is to handle any issues immediately as they arise. In fact you may not ever even know about a hiccup here or there since they're handled as they happen but just factor in, like life in general, glitches will pop up so prepare yourself mentally for that reality.

Also, I'd like to mention something I don't think a lot of designers will tell you. There's a time, usually around procurement, as the plan has been approved, orders placed, and the waiting game might ask I doing the right thing? How's it going to turn out? Just know this too is normal and it will all be A-ok.

Deadlines need to be shared at the beginning of the design process.

If you are really set on being able to host Christmas for your family in your brand new home, or let's say you want your new home ready for the baby that's on its way, you should share that in the very first meeting. That way, we can provide realistic expectations for you in terms of timeline and completion. Something I suggest to those who have never undergone a major project like a new build before, especially these days, is to double the amount of time you think you need to complete the project. That might be overdoing it, but it's always better to factor in more time than you need rather than being disappointed that it cannot be completed by your deadline.

Providing feedback quickly is critical to staying on task and meeting timeline projections.

I like to think of the feedback process as a ping-pong game between your family and our team. If I hit the ball over the net, I can't make the next move until you hit the ball back over the net. Receiving feedback on design decisions within 24-72 hours of a meeting or an email keeps all of the moving parts of a project working to the benefit of your project! I've had a couple of projects where clients took WEEKS to respond between emails. Let's just say that's not optimal or conducive to maintaining momentum in a project.

The opinions that truly matter are the ones coming from the people who live in the house.

I fall into this trap myself sometimes, asking for the opinions of others, but if I had any advice to give to keep your sanity intact through a design project, it would be not to share the design process or ask for design opinions from family or friends that don't live in your house.

Their preferences are not your preferences, and the lifestyle needs you and your family have are completely unique to you. We take great pride in making sure children's spaces have that child's input as much as possible, or older parents that might also live with you. As well intentioned as your friends or mother or whomever might be, their opinions can sometimes sway you to make design decisions at the time that you regret later on down the road.

Remember that you will live in this space 24/7, so how you and your immediate family like the colors, textures, furniture, art, lighting, and architectural features is truly the only thing that matters.

Lead times for furniture are running 4-6 months instead of the normal 2 months.

Access to raw materials, shipping issues, decreased staff capacities under social distancing restrictions, and increased demand for furniture all contribute to the current {very} extended lead times. The industry as a whole is experiencing these delays, and I don't foresee everyone catching up until 2022, so be prepared for this extra time to be part of your timeline.

Asking for a budget isn't a manipulation tool.

You might be starting to see a trend - we are adamant about managing expectations from the beginning of the design process. Budget is definitely a critical factor in being able to do this. Asking for a budget absolutely does not mean that we will spend every last dollar of that budget just because you tell us what you can afford to spend on this project.

Think of it this way, knowing that you can comfortably spend $25,000 for a two room remodel, or $100,000 for a first floor remodel gives us a chance to say whether your budget is realistic or not, depending on your preferences for quality and aesthetics.

Being honest from the beginning is the best policy. We're here to keep the process realistic, manage expectations and deliver on the vision you have for your home, all the while operating within honest budgets, timelines, and a client's preferences.

Did any of these tips surprise you? Let us know in the comments below!


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