What should the customer know about your pricing (e.g., discounts, fees)?
Generally speaking our design fees are a mixture of hourly design and fixed sum. We always present our scope and fee proposals to the client in a written form (via email) so that all scope and fees are understood before work begins. We often provide an estimate of the total hours we expect a project to take to help provide some context to the Client to budget for our fees.
Above all, once the contract for design services is in place we do not want my fee to become a Achilles’ heel in the design process. We do not want the owner worried about how much our time is costing every time they talk to is or every time we meet. Quality design happens in an organic nature at all times of the day.
Travel: For projects that require travel we will often add additional time and expenses to cover my travel expenses.
Retainer: We always require a retainer for our fees, required to commence the project. It is often between a quarter and 1/3 of the overall fee. It is nonrefundable.
Phases: We also often break my total fees up into smaller phases based on the level of design required for the project, that will allow the Owner to stop or pause the project between phases with no obligation to additional fees if they decide to stop the process.
What is your typical process for working with a new customer?
In most cases we offer one complimentary one-hour consultation to meet with you at your property and make sure we are a good fit both in terms of personality, level of interest, and budget.
We will discuss your construction budget, timing/schedule, and offer a broad range of design fee options. We then create a written proposal that outlines the detail scope of the work and fees so that there are no surprises and expectations are set. In the end Steven's goal is to make the design process fun and enjoyable.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
Steven has a five-year Bachelors of Architecture from Kansas State University, an Associates degree in Environmental Design from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and over 20 years of architectural experience in both commercial and residential projects with budgets ranging from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Steven has a North Carolina general contractors license. Although he no longer builds, he offers his experience as a contractor in design and project management and can assist you with budgeting and the contractor with estimating. Many of the projects my portfolio were built by construction companies that I either worked for or owned at the time.
Elizabeth holds a Bachelor's of Science in Interior Design from Florida State University and has nearly 10 years experience in residential and commercial Interior Design.
How did you get started doing this type of work?
After Steven got his degree in Architecture he started working for commercial Architecture firm in North Carolina. He got valuable experience on very large projects with complicated budgets but never got to work directly with the end-user, the Owner. It was always a high-level executive or somebody who would never actually be working in the building. He started looking for ways that could affect people‘s lives in a more personal manner and discovered that working on custom homes and renovations allowed him to work directly with the families and owners and that always made for a more enjoyable and higher quality product.
For me Steven and Elizabeth, Architecture and Interior Design is a means to impact people‘s lives in a positive manner. Even the smallest projects can have a profound impact on a person‘s quality-of-life.
What types of customers have you worked with?
Steven has worked with clients that have extensive experience with remodeling or new construction as well as clients who have never built a project before and this is their first experience.
We work with Contractors and developers all the time.
We work extensively with civil engineers, mechanical engineers, plumbing engineers, structural engineers, 3rd party interior designers, and other specialty trades like acoustical and equipment designers.
Every project is different and every project has a different level of design required. Most importantly we want to work with people who are passionate about their project and are excited and willing to think outside the box. Every project for us is an opportunity to do something new so we always finding new ways to solve old problems.
Describe a recent project you are fond of.
Above all, we want projects that allow me the design flexibility to be unique and different, challenge the status quo and find a new solution to an old problem. We want the project to represent the owner but also represent a little bit of us. We want to use materials in a new way, and force the owner to experience their life in a positive manner.
Steven is most fond of all of the historic properties, both both residential and commercial, that he has saved from demolition through the restoration or preservation process.
He is most-proud of my volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity and some other local organizations that specialize in homes for the disabled ... delivering a project that makes someone’s life better is our my mission.
Steven, what advice would you give a customer looking to hire a provider in your area of work?
My advice is to ask a lot of questions and do lots of research. and not just on Houzz or Thumbtack, or Angie’s list.
Verify that who you were talking is licensed and qualified to do the work. And don’t always rely on references. If they give you a long list of quality references, ask them to provide you two or three names of clients who might say something bad about them, you want to talk to clients who may have struggled with the builder or the architect, that may not mean they are bad or do not deserve the work, but it’s important to know that the professionals you were hiring dealt with complicated situations and have found reasonable solutions. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows! Understand who you’re talking to, are you talking to an architect or simply a draftsman. I am a licensed architect in the state of North Carolina and I compete all the time with draftsman and designers who do not have the same license, ethics, insurance, and experience that I do. Apples versus Oranges. The best advice I can give you is that you ask for those credentials and make sure you were truly getting what you were paying. It is illegal to advertise or market yourself as an architect without a license in place.
Steven, what questions should customers think through before talking to professionals about their project?
Always ask for a copy of their professional license for both contractors and architects.
Rather than asking for references, ask them to provide you with names of clients that represent projects that didn’t go quite according to plan. Every project has its complications and its challenges - there is no perfect project. Asking for references to challenging clients allows you to get an idea of how old the designer or contractor deals with adversity.
Make sure their portfolio represents the scope of work, quality of work, and general aesthetics that you’re interested in your project. If you want a modern home, do not hire an architect that only does classical design! Do not hire a contractor who specializes in kitchens and baths to add a master bedroom suite to your house or do a detached garage. Experience is important.
Ask how they run a project.
do they have in-house trades people to do framing, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, drywall/paint, cabinetry, finishes and trim? Or
do they hire those trades out as subcontractors (which is just as good).
If they hire them out ask who they use on a regular basis and go talk to those trades as well. If they have the staff in-house, ask to meet them, or atleast ask to meet the person who would be tasked with managing YOUR project or projects like your.
Asked to see a draft copy of a construction contract, and make sure it contains provisions for how to negotiate if things go bad ... arbitration or mediation? Who pays for the lawyers? What do they charge for change orders or other changes of work? How do they deal with communication? Who’s in charge of the job? What are their hours of construction? How do they deal with smoking on the job site or other drug use? Above all, you must hire someone that you can work with, even if they are a little bit more expensive than the competition.
You are hiring a relationship.