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Before You Design Your Addition

Before you design your addition/renovation, become familiar with these basic code issues and design considerations.

If you’re designing your addition or renovation yourself, there are basic code issues and design considerations that you need to keep in mind. Look to the International Residential Code for specifics (Building Planning, chapter 4) and to the Massachusetts amendments. 

The following is a list of basic code issues that come up in the course of a typical project:

  • Hallways must be at least 3 feet wide and 7 feet high.
  • Stairs in Massachusetts must have a minimum tread of 9 inches and an 8 ¼-inch riser.  The headheight over the entire stair must be 6’8” minimum.
  • The minimum size of a bedroom is 70 square feet, with a minimum of 7 feet in one direction. 
  • A room under a sloping ceiling must have all of the required floor area with a ceiling height of 5’, and at least 50% of the required floor area must have a ceiling height of 7 feet or more.
  • A loft accessed only by a ladder cannot be considered anything other than storage.
  • Habitable rooms must include windows. The area of the windows must equal 8% of the floor area for light, and 4% of the window area must be operable or mechanical ventilation will need to be incorporated.  

Bedrooms

  • Every bedroom in a single or two-family home must have a secondary means of egress. This could be a door or a window.  Massachusetts code allows a window with a 5 square foot opening, 21” x 24” minimum clear opening. The maximum sill height of this window is 42 inches. This is to allow the firefighters to access the room with their equipment in case of emergency.  In most cases, a non-compliant window will be allowed to remain in an existing bedroom, but check with the inspector to be sure. 
  • Bedrooms in a basement are tricky due to egress requirements, see above.  The required window must have a window well that is big enough for the firefighters to use in case of emergency.  If a basement is mostly below grade you will likely need to dig out around the bedroom window.  

Third Floors

  • Third floor renovations can be complicated and the regulations vary from town to town. There are restrictions on what can be built on the third floor — usually, 50% of the area of the second floor may be developed on the third floor. The area is calculated using space of a certain height, which varies from 5-7 feet to all useable space. 
  • Restrictions on dormers vary from one town to another, so check local zoning before planning. 

A bathroom CAN open onto a kitchen, but it just feels gross. 

In my interactions with people designing their own spaces, I’ve heard all of those issues come up.

Besides being aware of all these rules, here are some bigger picture questions to ask yourself as you’re beginning to design your addition:

1. Think about your furniture and where it will be able to fit in your renovated rooms. Be sure to examine bed placement in a bedroom, including the width of the bed and the nightstands.  Ideally, you will be able to fit a king-sized bed and two nightstands against at least one wall in the room.  

2. Think about the adjacency of rooms and their uses. How will you and your family be using the spaces? People dream about open plans, but what are they like in reality, and how well would they fit your situation? Keep in mind that life can change a lot in five or ten years. Kids get older, for example. 

3. Speaking of getting older, if you plan to stay in your house for a long time, think about making it easy for people with limited mobility to live in or visit your home. Look into Universal Design, a process of inclusive environmental design that strives to make spaces as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, without the need for special modifications or assistive devices.

4. Finally, if your home is a condo, your project may be more complicated, or not allowed.  For example, you are probably not going to be able to build an addition onto your space. Making structural changes or moving a toilet may impact other units. Check your condo rules before you start planning your project.

When you consider all these basic code issues before you start designing, you will have a smoother, happier renovation.

Not sure how to add all these codes into your dream renovation? I offer a free Project Coaching Call! Contact me to set up a time for our call: http://demiosarchitects.com/free-coaching-call/

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Lead, mold, and asbestos

toxins in home remodeling

Nothing is more important than having a healthy home. Lead, mold, and asbestos threaten the health and well-being of your family. Every homeowner needs to know the risks and remediations for toxins in their home.

  • Lead-based paints were commonly used in housing until they were banned in 1978. If your house was constructed before then, there’s probably lead paint somewhere in it. Lead is a toxic metal that can cause serious health problems, especially for children and pregnant women. Lead paint can’t be completely removed, but the hazard can be mitigated by scraping, chemical peeling, and other methods.
  • Mold can grow where there’s excess moisture, which can be caused by leaking pipes, poor ventilation, damp basements, ice dam leakage, or rain seeping in through the roof or window frames. In addition to causing health problems, excessive mold can jeopardize the integrity of a building’s structure.
  • Asbestos was used in building insulation, walls, flooring, and structural fireproofing until it was banned in 1977. Asbestos poses a minimal hazard if it’s not damaged or disturbed, but a renovation or maintenance project may produce airborne asbestos fibers that are highly toxic. Before you begin renovations where asbestos is present, professional asbestos abatement is required both by state and federal law.

What if there are toxic substances?

When there’s a risk of toxic substances being dislodged in the house, a contractor must practice containment to keep the dangers from contaminating your home, and even getting into your neighbor’s yard. 

“There’s an expectation that that type of work practice should be happening no matter what, and frankly, it often doesn’t,“ Ron Peik, president of Alpine Environmental, told me recently. Ron has extensive experience with lead paint abatement, mold remediation, and asbestos removal. Based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, his building restoration service has been featured on numerous episodes of the popular PBS series This Old House, helping the renovation experts handle complicated lead paint and mold problems.

What are the EPA Rules?

The Environmental Protection Agency issued its Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) in 2010. It requires that “firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes … built before 1978 have their firm certified by EPA … and follow lead-safe work practices.” Massachusetts has its own certification standards, called the Lead Safe Renovator Rule. 

“Your painting contractor, or your building contractor that’s doing a renovation, has to be, at the very least, either RRP or LSR certified,” Ron explained. Homeowners can look up their contractor’s license number on the state or federal website, to make sure they’ve received the training. 

“But just because they have the license, doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to follow the work practice. So, it’s buyer beware,” Ron cautioned.

Can I stay in my home?

A lot of my clients ask if they can stay in their house during construction. “It’s a very good idea to remove yourself from that home,” Ron told me. “Dust is a major component for any construction, whether it’s new construction, just a simple renovation, or a major gut rehab. There’s dust everywhere. When you’re working in an old home, there’s a very good chance that you’ve got lead paint, there’s a good chance you’ve got asbestos. It’s never recommended to be in the house.

Of course, if you’re just doing a limited renovation, like a bathroom, you might be able to live around the work. But for the most part, it’s better to get out during the construction phase. It’s just not worth it to risk the health of your family.

Although you don’t want to be living in the construction site, if your contractor asks you to visit, maybe to make a decision or view the progress, you shouldn’t be afraid. “If they’re following the proper protocols, regulations and work practices, it should be a safe and clean worksite,” Ron told me.

He added that you should never visit “in the middle of the demolition, or in the middle of the lead-safe work, when the mess is being made. Those are really restricted work sites. You have to be wearing suits and respirators, and making sure that you’re not getting any of the toxins in the dust into your system. And if we’re doing asbestos remediation, as part of a renovation, those areas are strictly restricted to licensed asbestos workers.”

Plan Ahead!

It’s always important to know ahead of time what your contractor is planning to do. When it comes to dangerous toxins like mold, asbestos, and lead, it’s essential to get your contractor to put their actual work practices in writing before they start work.

“As an architect or a homeowner, you want to make sure that you get it in writing: What is that contractor going to do for a work practice, what are they going to do to isolate and contain the work area?” Ron said. “You know, people act like it’s going to double the price of the job, but it’s really not a substantial increase in the price. And it’s also the right thing to do, which makes it an even easier decision.”

Don’t know where to start? Get a FREE Project Coaching Call with me http://demiosarchitects.com/free-coaching-call/

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How to Choose a Contractor

Contractor

Do you need a contractor?

Technically, no. Homeowners can pull a permit for work on properties that they own. The bigger the project, the better off you will be with a contractor as part of the team.   Sure, you can do the contractor’s job yourself — plan the project, hire subcontractors, supervise them, and make sure it all goes according to plan. It isn’t easy to do, which is why they get paid the big bucks. 

It’s not unusual for a contractor to charge 15% of the total cost of your project — 7½% for project coordination, and 7½% for overhead — in addition to the costs of work. For a $200,000 project, you’ll add $30,000 for the contractor.

What will you get for that money?

Someone with knowledge, experience, and connections. Contractors have existing relationships with the subcontractors, which can be very valuable. If problems arise, a contractor may get better treatment than you would. An electrician might not be very concerned about disappointing you, but if the electrician wants the contractor to hire her for future work, she’s more likely to show up when she’s supposed to.

Most projects require complex sequencing. You might start with a foundation, then rough carpentry, electrical, and plumbing, and then it all has to be inspected before you can move on to the next phases. If you don’t time that right, your project can get delayed and that could cost you extra money as well as time.

For all that can go wrong in a building project, if you have a contractor, you have an experienced person there in your corner to back you up.

Where should you look for potential contractors?

Start by asking people you know. Maybe a friend, or friend of a friend, has talked about their renovation project. Ask if they were happy with their contractor. 

Advice from an architect (me):

  1. Look at the website of the contractor.  What do they say is important to them? What vibe do you get from their marketing materials?  How large is their company? Do they even have a website? Many contractors I’ve encountered are proud of the fact that they don’t have a card, don’t have their name on their trucks and don’t have a website.  Of course, this means that you will only be able to get their number from someone who knows them. 
  2. Call up the company and talk to the person who answers the phone.  Was that enjoyable? Did you feel like they were interested in talking with you? 
  3. If you can get the contractor on the phone, talk to him about your project and ask him what his process is.  Does he seem interested in your project? Are you enjoying your conversation? If the answer is yes, send him a PDF of the drawings of your project and ask him to contact you for a site visit if he is interested.  Do you really like him? Have you noticed any red flags (things that make your heart sink or make your stomach feel a little wrong. The biggest one for me at this point is being grumpy and resistant to meeting in person.)
  4. If you have an architect on the project, the architect should be there for the walkthrough of the project to talk to the contractor about potential challenges and to help you evaluate the contractor.  What is his demeanor and attitude during the walkthrough? I recently interviewed a contractor who kept sighing and saying how much work the project was going to be. That was pretty obvious. 
  5. Call the references and ask about the bad times.  How did the contractor handle conflicts, mistakes, misunderstandings, and changes? 
  6. Don’t ask contractors that you don’t like to give you estimates for your project.  They may not give you a good, comparable price if they don’t want the project, you’ll be wasting your time and theirs.  

Advice from a contractor (Allen Carpanella of MBA Building Group, Reading MA):

  1. Slow down and plan out everything before contacting a contractor. 
  2. Take a team approach, get your architect working with the contractor for the best result.
  3. Ask for referrals from a similar-sized project and actually call them.
  4. Visit past projects in person with the contractor.  Ask questions about his process. Look at the overall quality, keeping in mind that projects might be a few years old. While walking through with the contractor, he or she will describe challenges that they met on the project and how they solved them. Ask them about problems on the project and how they solved them.
  5. Ask them what insurances they have.  
  6. Decide how much hand holding you are going to need during the project, contractors vary in how much management they offer. 
  7. Be realistic about your budget, and tell the contractor what it is. Do not get excited by a low number once the estimates come in.  If you hire someone for a low price who ends up losing money on the job, he could walk away leaving you to find someone else to finish the job.  This is going to cost you more in the end, not to mention the frustration and aggravation. 
  8. Have a full set of documents ready for pricing.  The set should be 90-95% of the way there. The documents should include floor plans, elevations, structural drawings, demo plans, specifications detailing finishes, 
  9. Hire someone you trust. 

Ask candidates about their subcontractors, at least the ones they use most often. Who do they use and why? Some contractors have carpenters, electricians and/or plumbers on staff, which makes them more reliable and easier for the contractor to schedule and properly sequence into the flow of the project.

Conclusion

The contractor is a person you will be in a deeply personal relationship with for many months.  The relationship will include money issues, promises kept and broken, misunderstandings, and many expectations to manage. In the end, hopefully, there is love. If you aren’t feeling the love from the beginning, walk away. 

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Old People and Technology

This video is a bit of a rant about stereotypes.  I personally love learning new ways of doing my job faster and better.  

When I was in graduate school there was a bit of controversy over the gaining popularity of the computer as a design tool.  This was back in 1992-1996, when we were still taught drafting by hand.  A prospective student asked the head of our graduate program if SCI-Arc had a computer department- “the computer is just a tool, we don’t have a pencil department” was his response.  I still wonder what that REALLY means.  Self-proclaimed Luddites refused to embrace the new technology and waxed poetic about drawing and building by hand.  Some people used computers to generate forms, but I don’t remember any drafting software being used.  I don’t think laptops were a thing then (only one person that I can think of in the school had a cell phone, the rest of us used the pay phones by the cafe).  I do have fond memories of drafting, of my lead holders and lead sharpeners and the electric eraser that felt so high tech and finding interesting drafting dots, the way that the sharp lead buried into the paper, the wider bit at the end of each line. I also have unfond memories of sweating onto drawings and tearing the paper and smudging the drawings and erasing holes in the drawings and not lining up the drawings correctly when putting it back on the board and so ending up with a non-orthogonal mess.  Drawing the same thing over and over and over was part of the education process, I suppose.  

In my practice I gave up hand drafting for AutoCAD in about 1999, then after 17 years switched to a 3D program.  I admire hand drawing, but the computer is faster and more practical for the renovation work that I do.  I get a lot out of it and I think my clients appreciate it too. 

Some people are interested in new programs that help them get their work done more efficiently, some people want to stick to what they know and love. They believe that their _______ (phone, drafting method, AOL) has served them well over the years and doesn’t need to change. 

I believe that this isn’t a function of their age as much as their interest level and personality type.  

At 52 I’m looking at ageism as a crazy social construct.  It makes no sense!  Don’t get me going about that again.   

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Questions and Comments about my Legendary Project Coaching Calls

Aren’t architects too busy for free calls?

I only schedule a few a week, I love to hear what people are up to and hopefully I can help steer people in the right direction.

But I don’t even know what I’m doing, I feel a little lost.  Shouldn’t I wait until I have something to tell you about before I call?

If you’re starting to think about renovating, give me a call.  I can help you figure out where to start. 

Are you going to record my call?

Possibly, if that is ok with you- that way I can share the highlights with others who might be wondering what happens during a call.

Can I have a Project Coaching session when I run into you at the supermarket?

I’d always like to say hello, but I only conduct the sessions over zoom (online screen sharing) or- if you’d like to have a face to face conversation- we can arrange a meeting at my office and chat over coffee or sparkling water. 

How can we design a project in 20 minutes?

The call is meant to give an overview of the path you will need to take to accomplish your dreams, an overall vision.  We won’t get into designing your project. 

If you aren’t going to design my project for free over the phone in 20 minutes, why should I call?

The Project Coaching Call is to explain the project progression, and to break down what can be an intimidating and overwhelming process for many people.  People don’t know what they don’t know, and hopefully I can help shed light on what the whole process will entail.  

You seem kind of snobby in your photo.  I don’t think I like you. 

OK

I don’t know what to say to you.

Once you sign up for a call, I will send you a questionnaire to fill out.  This will help to organize your thoughts and to give me an idea of what to expect during the call so that I will have helpful resources available to you. 

My husband is not into my ideas for the house.  It feels pointless to even talk about it.

We could talk about why your husband is against the project and come up with some good persuasive arguments for it.  Or maybe your husband is right!

How do I sign up for a call? 

Send me an email at kewm@demiosarchitects.com with your availability and we will find a time that works for both of us. 

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8 common mistakes to avoid while renovating

Today I’ve got a written version and a video version of my advice about 8 common mistakes to avoid while renovating. Each project is different and will have custom mistakes to avoid as well- I love finding- and helping people avoid- those mistakes!

Here they are, in no particular oder-

1.

Budget isn’t realistic

So many potential clients come to me with a very low budget.  $100,000 is definitely a lot of money, but it doesn’t go too far in construction in the Boston area.  Renovations are difficult to budget for since taking apart an existing house involves so many unknowns.  I’ve noticed that many on-line sources are completely unrealistic on construction costs. Moving one wall involves demolition, framing, plaster, flooring, electrical- and repairing the area around the moved wall.  

2.

Hiring a contractor just based on price, especially if his price was far lower than other contractors interviewed

You are entering into a relationship with a company that may involve some stressful moments.  The relationship will definitely involve a lot of money. Hire a company that you feel comfortable with, they and their subcontractors will be spending the next 4 to 6 months in your home.  If one company’s price is far less than the other bids, look into the reason for that. Asking for itemized bids will be helpful in comparing bids and determining what might have been excluded from the low bid.  

3.

Not researching zoning before submitting a plan

Planning a whole addition that isn’t going to be able to happen without special permission wastes time and money.  You’ll need to research setbacks, lot coverages, open space requirements and square footage maximums before designing your addition.  

4.

Changing your mind frequently during construction

Going through a thorough planning process will help to minimize changes during construction.  It helps many of my clients to see the space in a 3D computer model as the design evolves. A few small changes during the course of construction are likely, so review the process for change orders with your contractor before construction begins, and keep track of the change orders during construction.  $6000 here and $2000 there adds up quickly.

5.

Choosing materials that you don’t love because of a difference in price that really isn’t that significant in the grand scheme of the project

Make at least one splurge on finished materials, something you will love and be thrilled to see every time you enter the room.  I chose a 2” carrera marble countertop for my kitchen, something I fell in love with and a far cry from my planned concrete countertops.  Seeing the sunlight on the marble and appreciating its depth and glow still makes me happy 10 years later.

6.

Ordering cabinets before finished space can be measured

The cabinet company should measure the available space after the space has been plastered and is ready for the cabinets.  At the very least, they need to wait until framing is complete. Plans and reality can differ significantly, especially if changes have been made to the plan.

7.

Planning to live in the house during an extensive renovation

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, and it depends on the nature of the renovation. If you can’t seal off the area under construction for the entire project, consider moving into temporary housing.  Renovating creates a ton of dust and debris. There will be early morning construction noises. There may be dishwashing in the tub. Setting up a temporary kitchen helps. Living on a construction site adds to the stress of the project.

8.

Making choices based on resale

Avoid making design moves that are just odd.  Other than that, when are you planning to sell the house?  If you plan to be there for 5 more years at least, then design for yourselves.  We can’t know who the next owners of our houses will be and how much of the house they are going to want to change.

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Hoarder House episode 1

We’ve owned two houses. The first house wasn’t done until the day it went on the market and I suspect our current house will be the same. Many architects I know take on these projects as a labor of love. My husband and I fall for old houses in distress.

This is the first episode of Tales from my Hoarder House. We expect to release an episode every month. I hope that you enjoy it.

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Older, Better, Faster, Stronger

OLDER, BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER

Those words are stamped on a gold ring that I wear around my middle finger of my left hand.  I had the ring made for myself after my 52nd birthday, to remind myself that I am where I want to be and just getting better each year.  A few men joked about me being 29 on my birthday, and this year it really got to me.  Why is being 29 better than 52?  I’ve been studying and practicing architecture since today’s 29 year old was a baby. I’m going to celebrate that!  

We’ve got an issue with anti-aging in this society, and I wonder why it serves anyone to keep feeding that idea.  If today’s 29 year old doesn’t die first, she will eventually get to be 52, and lucky her.  52 is experience, strength, gaining on wisdom and speed.  

How does Older, Better, Faster, Stronger translate into a design philosophy?  Anyone remember the Six Million Dollar Man?  “We can rebuild him…better, faster, stronger”.  What would the bionic treatment look like in a house?  Pretty exciting to contemplate.  Reviving old houses with the latest technologies and setting them up to protect, inspire and comfort for the next 100 years, that is a fun career. 

Since I was a little girl I’ve loved old houses. I grew up in houses from the 1700s that had been modified and expanded through the years. I don’t just love the old grand ladies with their curved doors, stained glass and turrets, or the ones with the wide pine floors, hand forged door latches and windows’ walks. Just a regular old house steals my heart, the kind that has been around for a while and seen generations of families come and go, each leaving their mark. These solid and hardworking houses deserve a new life, and my mission is to give it to them.  Older, Better, Faster, Stronger.

There is nothing I like more than meeting a house that has been neglected for a while, or lived in hard.  The rugs are almost liquified and a nondescript grey.  The wallpaper is peeling, often several layers.  Turquoise or pink toilets and tubs are hard to look at for all the grime. Sometimes there are holes in the flooring, birds nesting in the soffits and 50 years of tobacco stains on the ceilings and walls.  The new owner is excited and hopeful, and I’m there to help her every step of the way from imagining an expanded floor plan to finding and securing a builder to planning her housewarming party once the project is complete. 

Other houses aren’t as down on their luck, they just need an expansion and a face lift. Their owners want to bring the house into the 21st century and be ready to face the future.  The future of the family might require reconfiguring and adding space while the future of humans living on the earth requires added insulation, alternative energy sources and an environmentally friendly renovation. 

Older, better, faster, stronger design approach looks at the existing building and site and determines how it can best serve its people using sustainable practices and advanced technologies. The process respects an older home and her history, and acknowledges that although they are older, the houses can keep up with the times.  They don’t make them like they used to, as they say.  With some attention to detail, her best assets can shine.

I have plenty to say on this subject, so stay tuned.

On my right hand I wear a silver ring stamped BADASS, but that is a story for another day. 

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Practicing while Female

Much has been written lately about female architects, or women in architecture.  Should we just not discuss it and do our jobs?  Should we highlight our accomplishments as architects and have special exhibitions of our work?   Should we attempt to figure out why women leave architecture?  Does being female while practicing architecture even deserve discussion?

It never occurred to me that being female and being an architect would be an issue. I grew up listening to “Free to Be… You and Me” by Marlo Thomas.  I was almost 6 when it came out in 1972 and all I remember is listening to it constantly.  I believed everything on the album, and why not? Throughout my teenage years I was somehow ignorant of the struggles that women still had in the workplace at the time (early 80s)  and could only have believed that the liberation movement was history.  It is entirely possible that a
s a teenager I was completely self absorbed and not very thoughtful about big issues.  I ended up going to a women’s college that confirmed that I could do whatever I wanted to do.   By graduate school I was part of a class that was over 50% female, so I still hadn’t had an inkling that my becoming an architect was going to be a problem for some people.  Sure, my grandmother told me that I should choose a career “more suitable to a woman” but I paid no attention.

Now that I am 50 and have been paying attention for a while I am aware of gender inequality and bias but what I don’t understand is- why?  Why is it inappropriate for a woman to be an architect?  The following is a list of the reasons that I have been able to come up with:

As a woman I won’t be taken seriously by the contractors.  In fact, this rarely happens.  As the architect I am the agent of the owner and so they don’t really have a choice but to consider what I have to say- but beyond that I really have had great and respectful relationships with most of the contractors that I have worked with over the past 20 years.  Sometimes it is the subcontractors that have a problem with me, but rarely.  Once a framer told me to go shopping which was so out of line that I was confused for a few minutes.  A plumber I was interviewing for work at my own house said to me “Lady, you’d be a nightmare to work for” which I took to mean that he didn’t want the job.  Now that I think of it, does that have to do with my gender?  I could be a nightmare for that man as a man or a woman, I suppose, but I can’t imagine him saying “Sir/dude/buddy, you’d be a nightmare to work for”.

As a female architect I won’t be able to lift really heavy items as might a male architect. Architects don’t have to carry formwork or bags of sand or stoves around.  However, it is true that I can’t carry those things.  This may have more to do with me personally and being 50 but the reason is irrelevant since I won’t even attempt to carry the stove.

As a female architect I don’t understand how a building goes together because construction is only interesting to men. I have nothing to say about this other than- it just isn’t true.

I can’t think of any other reasons, but if you can think of additional reasons, please leave them in the comments.  Wait, don’t.

You may have already guessed that I do not believe one’s gender is an impediment to a successful architectural practice.  In the end, clients would be well served to choose an architect with whom they can relate, who will listen to them and interpret their ideas and goals, who is knowledgeable about codes and construction trends, who shares their values in terms of environmental impact, who understands their lifestyle and will help design a suitable space for them.

Here is the real burning question- where are all of the female general contractors?

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Being the client

Every once in a while, it is probably good for me to be the client. I’ve had two very disappointing design experiences this summer.  I am filled with a buyers remorse so acute it makes my eyes burn.  This morning it occurred to me- maybe this is the way my clients feel sometimes.  I hope not, but it is important for me to be sensitive to the fact that they may be panicking and regretting their choice of designer (me).

This summer I am reworking my online presence and I needed a new logo.  I went through an on-line site where a designer is chosen by the client based on their portfolio.  I was desperate and wanted something fast.  At the same time I wanted to pay someone for their time, so I chose the highest cost logo design that I could.  I looked at the logos and chose one a designer whose I thought looked hand drawn but thoughtful.  I wrote to her, sent her my current logo and some favorite recent images of mine. She sent me a design questionnaire but before I had a chance to fill it out (less than an hour later, I would have filled it out but I was driving to the Cape) she sent me her first draft.

Ugh.  You only get a few revisions.  I tried not to worry.  I wrote to her again about what I wanted and made more concrete suggestions, didn’t hear back, wrote again, didn’t hear back, wrote again.  This was over a couple of days.  Sure, that isn’t much time but my original deal was for a 48 hour product!  I had asked for feminine and strong, architectural and handmade.  I wanted to be wowed with a great idea.

Oh well.

Later, during a different project,  I freaked out over color choices.  Someone had chosen dusty purple and dusty rose for me.  I told myself  that to the designers I am probably an impossibly old lady and all old ladies love dusty rose and dusty purple.  Of course I was over reacting and I’m over it now, I simply asked for something different and guess what- I got it!  But at first- having been presented with a draft of the product with no explanation or narrative- I felt misunderstood and unheard and as thought I had wasted so much money and time.

What did I learn from this?  Be responsive to clients, to be otherwise just frustrates anyone.  Set a schedule that I (as the designer) can live with, and let the client know what is going to happen when.  Give people options.  Draw up the option they said they wanted and a couple of versions of it.  Most people I work with want to be involved in the design process, and they already have an idea of what they want.  My job is to make their dreams come true, as I like to say.