When designing, there are all manner of situational problems that can work against us. Our fine-tuned process helps us navigate through these issues smoothly. Here is one example of how that plays out in real-life.
If you read this month’s e-newsletter, you saw that Elle Décor recently featured one of our projects. It’s always a treat to be recognized by a publication we respect. You can see all the photos in my portfolio.
There’s bound to be a level of craziness behind any beautifully styled space, but this project had its own brand of chaos. I thought this would be a prime opportunity to reveal a little bit about what happens when we are designing with a unique challenge. There are limitless problems we come up against: time constraints, distance, powerful emotions, availability limitations, and more. How we meet those dilemmas and make the experience effortless for you all comes down to our orderly process. From the design presentation to the installation day, and every moment in between, we manage both the big picture and the little details. We handle the design, of course, but also the bids, budget, ordering, scheduling, and more.
Let me give you a little background on this project, and then show how our process helped us navigate our way. In a nutshell, our clients were living in Paris, six months pregnant, and moving to the States a couple weeks before her due date. Let that sink in for a moment. Wow, right?! They had already purchased their property in Back Bay, but it needed to be renovated and designed while they navigated a stressful overseas move and the final months of pregnancy. When they arrived, their home needed to be not only ready and livable, but attractive and functional, too. We met our deadline and scored at welcoming their new family into an exquisite home.
At the heart of our success was building relationships. Most importantly, we grew a relationship with our client. We were both new moms, so we talked a lot about things like baby-proofing and what little ones did or didn’t need. We had spoken quite a bit during the planning, and met in person when they traveled here for the design presentation, so throughout the project, we were working from a level of trust and comfort. Our team was honest about setting expectations at the very beginning and realistic about what we could deliver. It was also critical to create a healthy working relationship with the builder. Construction is the biggest variable in a project like this because some lead times are simply out of our control. By working as a team, we (the builder, clients, and us) came up with a balance between our priorities, wish list, and timeline. On non-construction elements, we were once again able to pull from our vast resources. If a piece of furniture had a 20 week lead time—simply not an option—we could problem solve by tapping a local upholster to create something custom for us.
While the work was being done, we acted as both the project manager and the designer. We were the eyes and feet on the ground continuing to move the process along. We could be there when our clients couldn’t. Because we are so used to working remotely, we used that technology to our advantage when communicating with our clients. Even though there was a six-hour time difference, we could send them things electronically, and it wasn’t necessary to set up too many phone calls. Because of the tight timeline, we were vigilant with scheduling. We were constantly coordinating with the different subcontractors so they could be working at the same time, in the right order, not interfering with each other’s work, and generally moving forward at a clip. When time is of the essence, any desire to be easygoing kind of has to go out the window. We spent a fair amount of time hounding people for what we—which actually means our clients—needed.
Even during the craziest projects, there are always other things happening. I think I’ve spent the last 12-13 years tying to figure out that balance of priorities. Because the beginning and end of a project is the busiest, we make sure to stagger our start times. Even when things are scheduled with intention, we hit turbulent stretches where we are all running around for a couple weeks. Our firm is adequately staffed so everyone can pitch in and help. Everyone knows that we just need to get through it, and we do what we have to do. When a project is very time intensive, we have smart, talented people to fill in the gaps.
When you have organized every detail you can, including Plan B and C contingencies, there comes a point when you have to cross your fingers. This home happened to be on the fourth floor of a brownstone, so many items had to be craned up through the windows. I’ll never forget when we were lifting the client’s great- great-grandparents’ crystal chandelier, during a snowstorm, no less. We all held our collective breath, and it made it! Though the moment may not be so dramatic, we can always count on a situation like that during every project. It’s important to remember that try as we might, we can’t control every detail, and sometimes it’s our turn to trust.
Of course, our goal is to make any project as easy and stress-free as possible for our clients, but there are few specific ways these particular clients helped us meet our collective goal.
• They shared their ideas and opinions early on.
• They were quick to make decisions and turn things around.
• They trusted our judgment, expertise, and vision.
Every project and has its own needs, but when we are on the same page about expectations and participation, we can overcome the obstacles to create spaces that are beautiful and functional.
Until next time,