A Good Designer Avoids Six Problems

All too often, the project’s designer is an afterthought, if she is even a consideration at all. Contrary to popular belief, the designer should be one of the first thoughts, whether building a new house or remodeling a kitchen. The truth is that an excellent interior designer wears many hats throughout a project, keeping the flow and ensuring success.

The Contractor and the Designer

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? More importantly, who do you talk to first, a contractor or a designer? As the owner of a design-build firm, I can tell you that the designer comes first. Harris Renovations handles large, custom remodels from beginning to end, making us intimately familiar with the construction process. My husband, the very manly general contractor, will tell you, “Designer first!”

Are there general contractors reading this now scoffing and spitting, possibly cursing my name? Yes. Let’s clear the air quickly before a riot ensues. A good designer will involve the contractor – her husband or whomever – shortly after the initial consultation with the homeowner. A wise designer will want a contractor’s input if the project is beyond cosmetics. The two should be a team.

What Does the Designer Do?

The functions of the designer will vary based on your project and your preferences. For the sake of this article, I will explain how I work as a designer in different scenarios. It’s worth noting that I am a Kitchen and Bath Designer certified by the NKBA, though the stretch of my design demands reaches every corner of a house.

Regardless of the scenario, I can identify six pitfalls I, as your designer, can help you avoid. Most commonly, I work with the construction crew of Harris Renovations. However, the design services of Harris Renovations are offered independently. I have worked with contractors who build new houses, starting with the blueprints. Regardless of your situation, you must avoid the following danger zones.

The Designer Avoids the Imaginary Plan

Long before I get a phone call, my clients have been daydreaming and planning for quite some time. Typically, at the first appointment, I am greeted with a Pinterest board of ideas and, if lucky, a floor plan of the future space. Of course, I work with clients who need help to tell me their favorite color. It isn’t easy to get a feel for their dream result, but that’s my job.

Ideas are great and vital to get the ball rolling, but they aren’t a solid plan. A professional with experience and quality software needs to make a construction plan. If investing in a higher-end remodel or building a new house, you must see blueprints and 3D renderings. These are the crucial tools that ensure the designer, the contractor, and you are on the same page.

In a remodel, the designer is more than equipped to provide the floor plan and 3D renderings. In the case of new home construction, you will need to assess your needs and requirements. I recommend an initial consultation if you want to use Harris Renovations’ design services for your dream house. I have provided plans to new home builders, allowing them to avoid the higher costs of an architect.

The Designer Avoids the Eager Contractor

All too often, a well-intending contractor will make purchases for items that he considers standard or obvious. However, the homeowner probably wishes they had input on said purchases. Some prime examples are shower heads, shower handles, sink faucets, baseboards, doors, doorknobs, toilets, light fixtures, sinks, grout colors, cabinet handles, etc.

Unfortunately, these items are the details that the homeowner doesn’t know to specify beforehand. Once installed, the homeowner may not even realize they weren’t given a choice. The alternative for contractors who don’t work with designers is to send the homeowner all over creation to pick these details. This is overwhelming and time-consuming for the homeowner, and, almost inevitably, it will delay the job for the contractor.

Homeowners often know what they want their final space to look like, but they do not know how to execute the look. Since Harris Renovations has a designer (me), our clients don’t have to worry about pulling the look together while the contractor swings a hammer. My job, as the designer, is to provide options to clients for the decisions they need to make, the decisions they don’t even know they need to make.

The Designer Avoids Thinking Inside the Box

That figurative box out of which they tell you to think is pretty important. If you get stuck inside said box, your custom home or fabulous renovation becomes nothing but a cookie-cutter image of what everybody else is doing. Inspiration pictures and home improvement shows are great (FYI – home improvement shows are a HUGE lie). But if you’re collecting the same ideas as Sally, Sue, and Sarah, then won’t all of you have the same kitchen, bathroom, or entire house?

As a designer who spends her life trolling the industry for the most up-and-coming ideas, I bring innovation to your project. It’s more than just trends and sweet ideas. Yes, being trendy and sassy sweet is important, but being on top of function and technology is imperative.

Here’s one example. Incorporating a pocket door instead of a hinged door is smart. We’ll take it a step further. Let’s welcome the designer who recognizes the functional wall space lost because of the required framing given to a pocket door. She asks the contractor to make a modification to that wall’s framing. Lost wall space is lost no more.

You’re getting an appliance package for your new kitchen? You’ve got the perfect French door refrigerator selected? Have you compared the different counter-depth refrigerators? Because if you don’t go with counter-depth, the walkway in your new kitchen will be terribly impeded. And not all counter-depths are created equally. I bet this designer will be happy to help with that. She might even recess that full-depth refrigerator into the wall where no one else thought to recess it.

I could beat this dead horse all day long. We constantly need to burst the box open. Oftentimes, it’s a box that I’ve already burst. Or, it’s a box that reminds me of another box that leads me to create a new box-bursting experience. Please, let me burst your box.

The Designer Avoids Decision Overwhelm

Maybe the thought of all the decisions makes you hyperventilate. Put down the paper bag (please don’t use a plastic bag for hyperventilating) because you have a competent designer at your fingertips. The design process should not be rushed, bombarding you with every all at once.

Portfolios are a powerful tool for me in the design process with my clients. They allow me to provide options within my client’s budget, and I can present the choices in a way that is not overwhelming. It would take my clients hours, if not days, to shop around for everything I provide in their portfolios.

In addition to the robust portfolio, I love to look at samples with clients. Notice that I said, “look at samples WITH clients.” I don’t send you to a flooring store and tell you to pick something. I don’t send you on a scavenger hunt for tiles. And I don’t leave the four-inch-thick Sherwin-Williams paint deck with you and make you decide. We have conversations about the choices. I will give you my thoughts and input, but I will also listen to yours. We will select items you will love and look great in your space.

The Designer Avoids Budget Explosion

Although anything can break the bank in a remodel or new build, some things can bust the bank much faster than others. If you don’t have a designer keeping you on track in the candy store, you can quickly fill your bag too full. What candy store? Perhaps it’s just me, but I consider the granite yard Candy Land! If your estimate is based on builder’s grade granite, and you fall in love with exotic granite, your budget just went out the window.

As someone in the industry, I am familiar with the cheap, the expensive, and everything in between. Selecting something cheap may cost you more in labor later. Likewise, I can spot something overpriced pretty quickly. Sometimes a splurge is justified, and I can find savings somewhere else. Juggling the budget is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the designer.

The Designer Avoids Conflict

Conflict in construction? Surely not! Surprising as it may seem, conflicts arise when your home is torn apart and your life is turned upside down. Shocker! Or, even more surprising, you will experience conflict and tension while building the home of your dreams, and the timeline has gone entirely out the window. Gasp! Do I have magic pixie dust to sprinkle and solve everything? Sadly, no.

Communication breakdown is the number one reason for tempers to flare. A good designer can be a liaison and an advocate for the various parties involved. I see all sides of the construction process – the homeowner, the contractor, the subcontractor, the vendor, and the manufacturer – and I understand the challenges they all face. Coordinating with them and communicating is imperative to avoiding conflict. Will I always keep everyone happy? Sadly, no.

Personalities, circumstances, and the nature of construction will always result in conflict. Having a designer extinguish the fires when they happen will keep them from becoming a train wreck. And nobody wants a train wreck.

How to Hire this Designer

My design services come with every remodel completed by Harris Renovations. We focus on higher-end kitchen and bathroom remodels in the Carthage, Missouri area. It is best to contact me eight to twelve months before you want to start your project. I do not work with other remodeling contractors in our area. See my contact information at the bottom of this article.

For new home builders, Harris Renovations does not currently build new houses, but my design services are still available. I have provided plans to new home builders, saving them the higher costs of an architect. I recommend contacting me to see if we are a good fit. See my contact information at the bottom of this article.

If you are not in the Southwest Missouri area but are planning a remodel and would like some design help, please reach out! I provide tele-design services, working with DIY or contractors. I also offer house plans via tele-design. My contact information is as follows:

You can email me directly at wharris@harrisrenovationsllc.com or text me at 417-208-0206.


Picture of Wendy Harris

Wendy Harris

Wendy Harris thrives on greasing the wheels that make the engine run. She loves all things customer service and lives for the logistics of business. Though she may never swing a hammer, she is passionate about every project that Harris Renovations takes on. She considers her clients to be her friends, and she believes this industry is personal. If it is important to the client, then it is important to her.

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