Category Archives: Design Professionals

Clients Want Magic, Not Mystery

Why do clients hire you?  Because you can create extraordinary spaces that they can only dream about doing themselves.  So why are some clients hesitant to hire you?  Because they are unclear about what they are committing themselves to.  They want the finished design but are not sure how much it will cost, how long it will take, and who makes the final decisions.

Nothing makes a hesitant client more nervous than a lack of clarity.  You are an experienced design professional, and they expect that you can give them straightforward informed answers to practical questions about budgets, schedules, fees and markups, product selection, and so forth.  Of course, you and I know it’s not that simple.  Clients often don’t know what they want and frequently change their minds as the work progresses.  You don’t want to put yourself out on a limb by promising a budget or schedule that will have to be revised later.

Instead, talk over with the client how you work and what your expectations are for how you will work together.  One of the most frequent complaints of disgruntled clients is “the designer did not tell me” or “the designer never said.”  So tell them, or better yet have some printed information that you can review with them.  I am not talking a contract or letter of agreement; that will come later.  I am talking about “gray areas” that can become a point of friction, such as whether you charge for expenses, and if so, how much and for which expenses; how much a deposit you require and the charges it does and does not cover; how you bill, how often, and any fees for late payments; what constitutes a “sign off” from the client on a purchase or phase of the project; and the like.

Your business practices should not be a black box for the client.  Spending a few minutes up front to clarify for the client how you work will decrease their anxiety and help prevent ill feeling down the line.  Take the mystery out of hiring a designer and let the magic begin.

Good Contracts Make Good Clients

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

Have you ever heard that old expression? While it may have a rather antisocial ring to it, the point is that all relationships benefit from boundaries. In fact, “good fences” aren’t high stone walls that block all communication, but rather ones that are low enough to allow neighbors to interact, while maintaining some restrictions.

That same principle holds true for interior designers in establishing healthy working relationships with their clients. In these cases, good fences are good contracts or letters of agreement, ones that set forth appropriate expectations and boundaries with clients to minimize the potential for conflict and misunderstanding. I’ve spent my whole career on both sides of the proverbial fence – on the designer’s side and the client’s side! I’ve incorporated the lessons I’ve learned from both perspectives into a Letter of Agreement that I wrote and sell on my website.

Better yet, I’ve recently updated my Designer Lecture Series with more valuable information on this and may other aspects of running a successful design practice, broken down into a set of digital downloads. Here is a short segment from my signature presentation “Deciding What You Are Worth and Charging It!” in which I address the importance of securing a proper letter of agreement.

See the full selection of new digital downloads is available here (http://dmcnyc.com/products/)

Find Your Match in 2014

Working with an interior designerHow Would You Work With A Design Professional?

Every client approaches a design project in their own way.  There are clients who already understand and appreciate the value of hiring a professional. They look to an interior designer, architect, lighting professional or landscape designer to complete a project.  It may be these clients appreciate professional services after struggling with a do-it-yourself project, or after applying lessons learned from other aspects of their lives. I count them among the converted.

More and more, there are other clients who don’t want to work from the sidelines. They want to have a more active and engaged role in their design projects. And they believe the only way they can accomplish that is to go it alone – to do it themselves. If you’re one of them, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way.

Do-It-Yourself Doesn’t Mean Do It All By Yourself

At iMatchDesigners, we recognize that many clients want to be really hands-on with their projects.

Not only do we think that’s OK, we encourage it. We pair you up with a designer or design team that is suited to working collaboratively with you, to the extent you desire. That way, there’s no need to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes. You take the lead. We’ll follow.

I look forward to introducing more clients to the benefits of using iMatchDesigners, and “converting” more do-it-yourselfers, in 2014.

But most of all, with all business considerations aside, and on behalf of the iMatchDesigners family, I wish you Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year!

All the best,
Lloyd

P.S. I just posted a new video “trailer” to the iMatchDesigners YouTube channel. I welcome you to access it via the link below, to check out some of the other videos there as well, and keep your eyes out for more to come in 2014!

Request Your Consultation Appointment

The Secret Behind Great DIY Interior Design

South Beach style meets Hampton chic in a beautiful outdoor living area in Sag Harbor, New York.The term “Do it yourself” has become so common that the acronym is nearly as recognizable as LOL or OMG. It’s DIY. And although people have been applying the DIY philosophy to more and more aspects of their everyday lives, no place has it been more apparent than the industry where it all seems to have started – home improvement.

Home-centric cable channels, the Internet and a slow economy have coalesced in a perfect storm to undermine the design professionals perceived value. Although, ironically, even the biggest do-it-yourselfer relies on professional advice and instruction at some point to accomplish a task, whether it’s reading a book or article.

So why stop there?

Great Do-It-Yourself Design Comes from Great Professional Input

Hiring a design professional doesn’t have to relegate you to sitting on the sideline, if that’s not where you want to be. Working with a designer can be a collaborative experience, one where you are part of the process. The problem is that not all designers work well like that, nor do all clients. The resulting horror stories have driven each party into their respective corners, designers in one and the DIY crowd in the other, taking a lot of innocent people in the middle with them.

As a broker for interior designers, architects and landscape designers, I created iMatchDesigners to serve as a conduit between the client and the talent, because there is so much more to the design process than mechanics of light, color, texture and pattern, and scale and balance, especially from the client’s perspective.

There are the human qualities of personality and temperament that can play just as large a role in the success or failure of a project.

Can you think of a more personal act than inviting someone into your home and entrusting him or her with the responsibility for enhancing your living space? I sometimes joke that it feels like I’m running something akin to a dating service, when I see how close some of my clients and their designers become.

But isn’t that the way it should be?

If you are ready to apply your definition of luxury to your real
property’s interior or exterior spaces, please call us at
+1 (212)777-5718 x6 or *protected email*

Are you really saving money?

Are you really saving moneyLiving through the recent global recession has shifted the way many of us think about the value of services and products we pay for.  In fact, value-consciousness is a rising force in the marketplace. It’s not simply that because of the recession, we’re more inclined to bargain down prices and offer less in order to feel more confident in the value of the products and services we buy.

Easy access to information online is also helping to support a more value-conscious approach from consumers.  People feel that with a list of vendors and options being so easy to find, getting someone to accept a low price offer is something everyone should do.

The result? Consumers feel compelled to bargain hunt, or make willingness to meet a low-price offer a requirement for doing business.  Often this can work against their best interests.  Just because you find someone to accept your low offer, you don’t ensure you’re getting a good deal.  In fact, the deal may be detrimental to you over time, rather than to your advantage.

It’s true that people lost financial wealth and confidence with recent crises in capital and residential lending markets.   But work life and home life continues.  Business owners still need to renovate or move into new spaces.  Homeowners need to update rooms and furniture as things wear out and needs change.  We all respond to evolving values and lifestyles.

People still look to professionals like interior designers, architects, landscape designers, and contractors to make the changes they’re looking for.

Here’s the difficulty: the cost of running professional services has not really moved down.  While income has been going down, expectations and demands from clients have been going up.

These two ingredients are like a recipe for unhappy relationships between design professionals and clients.  The professional design community needs to keep to a high standard of creativity, originality, and current familiarity with materials, techniques and styles.  Otherwise, clients won’t get the satisfaction and results they’re looking for.  And clients who want the latest, best, professionally recommended solutions expect to pay for expert design and implementation; it’s supposed to be a win/win.

But with too much stress on cost-cutting, design firms and contractors feel forced to slash margins deeply, often by letting go of more experienced higher paid professionals, and asking less-experienced staff to put in longer hours.  There’s nothing wrong with cost savings, but in the long run, what happens for the consumer?  What happens to the professional community?

In the end, the cost of excessive price pressure on professional services is paid by the client.  It raises the risk of job dissatisfaction on both sides, in the form of less design creativity, more mistakes from inexperience and lack of oversight, and ultimately in projects that  are not as responsive as they could be, because no one wanted to invest in the time and expertise needed to create the best solution.  The difference between good design and great design is that the latter needs time, nurture, and support.

Of course, despite the economy and temptation towards bare-bones pricing, there are firms today who keep busy without compromising their fees or creative edge.  This is where, I believe, you’ll find the healthiest of relationships between client and design firm.  The client regards professional fees with respect, and the designer works to satisfy – not someone who just “keeps the lights on” — but a valued and preferred client.


Are You Really Saving Money is cross-posted on iMatchDesigners; A longer version of this article was published in The Epoch Times, in a series of regular columns by Lloyd Princeton.

Indecision

How to resolve indecision when hiring a designerEver feel like you have too many choices? A quick trip to the grocery store proves beyond a doubt that we live in an age of choice. On the shelves you find all manner foods, cleaning supplies, vitamins — you name it. Each does the same job, with a variety of options.

Frankly, I think we have too many choices! This feeds indecision, which leads to

  • too much time spent researching our options
  • anxiety over whether we have made the right choice
  • projects that stall soon after starting

Sometimes the level of indecision results in no choice at all.

I often see people become overwhelmed with choices when they approach the design industry. You have numerous firms and a lot of talent to choose from, especially in places where top design talent congregates, like New York and Los Angeles.

With that in mind, I want to talk about the protocol to follow when you interview anyone for any project. It can be summed up in one word: respect.

When you announce your opportunity and start the process of hiring a professional, you’re triggering a certain degree of excitement. You called; the people you’ve called are going to get busy focusing on your needs. At this point you are responsible for giving honest information about yourself and your project. The designers you approach need to determine what stage you’ve reached in your decision process, and if you’re a potential client for them.

If you cut through indecision before you begin the interview process, you will save everyone time, energy and resources. When you have clear ideas about what you are looking for, you give yourself the best chance to find the most fitting match for your project.

If you are clear and candid, and speak openly with the design professionals you are considering for the work you have in mind, everyone benefits.

To smooth your way to hiring the right designer:

  • Know what you want up front
  • Ask for it
  • Be clear about whether you are just gathering information or you are ready to start your project

Whether the interviewee is the designer you want to work with, or one you decide does not fit your project, this honest communication and respect helps everyone work well together and get what they need. Everyone deserves respect and honesty. If you want someone to be transparent with you, then offer the same to those you meet along the way.

 

Indecision is also posted on IMatchDesigners.com

Create a Great Outdoor Living Space: Tips From Top Designers

We’ve had a mild winter and early spring, on the East Coast. Now that the weather is so inviting, everyone is looking at their outdoor spaces and ways to enjoy them again.  Whether you’re dreaming up your first summer barbeque on a Manhattan terrace or in an open space, now is a great time for some professional tips on landscape and garden planning.

When to Start

When is the right time to start planning for summer activities? Depending on your idea, the time may vary from a week to six months or a year ahead. When your plans turn to building something like a pool, pergola, tennis court, or even a nice landscape garden, you’ll want to make sure to have time to enjoy it when all the work is done. You want to give yourself ample time to choose the right architect, review the plan, and allow for practical matters like permits and construction.

Work with Nature’s Timing

Connecticut-based landscape designer Janice Parker, says there are 2 times of year that are optimal for planting.  We have from April 1 through the end of May, and in fall between Labor Day and November.  These are not big blocks of time, especially if you’ve still got to decide what to plant.  When your plants are purchased and you’re ready to have them professionally installed, you may find many others are trying to do the same thing, with a limited number of landscape designers to do it.  Finding – and scheduling – a good design firm early will give you the chance to take in your beautiful new landscape with time on your side.

Landscape designer Mario Nievera, who works in New York and Florida, reminds us that some “perennials need a full winter (dormancy) before they look full and healthy.”  So, once you’ve gotten the plants in the ground, you can look forward to enjoying the best display a year from now.

Our West Coast friends have lots of sun and no freezing in winter. Still, your seasonal planning has other challenges.  John Feldman, who leads a landscape design firm in Santa Monica, has to factor in rain and soil conditions.  Sandy soils near the beach, and hillside soils with silt have to be stable enough to build on.  So your timing may need to account for rainy months.

Factor In the Approval Process

For those taking in the view in your dream apartments, in New York or San Francisco, you have your own unique factors affecting your plans, according to Stephen Suzman of San Francisco. Some buildings may limit garden installations to certain times, such as summer.

“Customers only begin to think about their gardens in spring and have the fantasy that their garden will be ready by Memorial Day or by the 4th of July at the latest! They have no idea about the complexity of garden design, the availability of installers, of materials or the length of time an approval process might take,” Suzman says. No matter where you live, getting the most enjoyment from your outdoor space means giving yourself ample planning time beforehand.

Get Your Team Talking

When your plans include siting a home and developing your landscape, you’re wise to talk with your landscape architect early. Feldman points to the advantages you gain when your home architect and landscape architect meet early on. “Landscape architects can, depending on the topography of a site, help the architect to site a home and other structures on a property to maximize the site’s potential including views and solar aspects. They can shape the budget early so that a proper expectation is held by all involved and so that amenities and/or materials are not compromised later.”

So whether you are preparing your terrace or your riding trails, you’re wise to work with design professionals now.  Especially if you want to enjoy your new pool in the summer of 2013!


The Epoch Times published a version of this article as, Get Ready For a Great Outdoor Living Space.

Price Versus Cost

weighing a decision

When weighing a design decision, consider your long-term cost, the benefits of enjoying high quality products and workmanship for years, as well as the price tag.

One of my favorite insights about how we think as consumers comes from John Lawhon. In his book “Selling Retail,” he opens up the difference between the price and cost of something.

At first you might think he’s making too much of a small thing. But if you stick with him, you discover something really important about how we make buying decisions.

Let’s say you buy a coat priced at $300. It serves you for two years, and then it’s done. Your cost is $150 per year. Let’s say your other option is a coat priced at $1200. It lasts 10 years, costing you $120 per year. When you look at the cost over time, the luxury coat actually cost less. Plus, the luxury coat comes with much higher quality fabric, tailoring, style, and you enjoy wearing it a lot more than the other one.

This line of thinking can help us make important buying decisions. But in my work with architects, designers, and their clients, I see many people getting bogged down because they’re just not used to looking at cost and price this way.

I see many people on the fence about how to proceed with purchasing decisions in their design projects.

Once they do proceed, I often see them choosing the less expensive products or services instead of the better quality options available to them, even when these superior products and services are ones they can afford.

This same price versus cost rule applies here.

But when applied to home furnishings and home improvements, we have the added factor of the impact on resale value and longevity. For example, a furniture piece of exquisite workmanship and beauty can be restored with updated fabric or finishes. You don’t need to replace a high quality item, as you would a lower quality piece that simply wears out or lacks timeless design quality.

This isn’t to say you should always buy the most expensive item. But when you’re able to look at your purchases as investments in quality over time, you’re more often able to enjoy live for years in a setting that fills you with satisfaction and joy, and at a lower cost and preserving the value of your investment whether you keep them or sell them later.

This also appeared in iMatchDesigners as Price Versus Cost

Reclaimed Materials for Home and Business: A Guide to Green Design

Reclaimed wood plays a major role in the warmth of this modern Hollywood Hills master suite

Reclaimed wood plays a major role in the warmth of this modern Hollywood Hills master suite

Do you love the idea of going green? If so, there are numerous ways to rethink, reuse, and incorporate reclaimed materials into your home or business interior. Reclaimed materials are increasingly available for homes and businesses. In the market today, you don’t need to compromise on style for sustainability. Vintage and antique elements are currently rising trends in design and architecture. Here are a few suggestions for using reclaimed materials:

    1. Flooring

Refinish your hardwood floors instead of tearing out and installing new flooring. You gain unique character and fine wood quality by using a reclaimed wood floor made from de-constructed buildings or reclaimed logs. Generally, this type of wood has distinctive appearance and high quality from old growth wood, bringing unique charm to your home. If a reclaimed wood floor isn’t for you, check out cork or bamboo flooring. Cork and bamboo are sustainable, as they grow naturally and quickly. Other beautiful flooring options are made from recycled glass, concrete and soapstone.

    1. Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets, as well as bathroom cabinets are excellent places to use reclaimed wood or bamboo. By reusing a beautiful, antique furniture piece as a stunning kitchen island or a bathroom vanity, you can achieve a gorgeous focal point in your room . Another remarkable and unique look for the kitchen is to reuse metal cabinets together with reclaimed materials. One simple approach is to replace knobs and handles on your cabinets with carefully chosen vintage hardware.

    1. Countertops

Concrete is one of the most popular and durable materials used for countertops today. Concrete can be stained, is easily customizable and texture can be added to the surface. Bamboo and paper-stone are other options for countertops. Paper-stone is a sustainable composite of recycled papers mixed with non-petroleum based phenolic resins and creates a finish almost like corian or granite.

    1. Furniture

Furniture pieces constructed of reclaimed materials can be extra durable. Some pieces are often large and bulky and made from tree trunks and large machinery parts. Other furniture pieces are crafted using a strong and sturdy frame, covered with natural materials, like cotton for long lasting durability. A professional designer will help you rethink how you might use existing furniture in your green design.

Get Your Guide to the Wide World of Green Design

Using a variety of reclaimed materials enables you to achieve a one-of-a-kind look. If you want sustainable, earth-friendly and breathtaking beauty, an experienced designer is your guide through the vast options available to you. If you are looking to redecorate your space, our green interior designers, architects and landscape professionals offer knowledge and expertise to bring you stunning results. Get connected to your green team — just ask us for a referral.

Find a good interior designer: 5 benefits of the right choice

How to find a design you love — and a designer you’ll love working with

A good designer brings about the look you love.  But that’s not all.  Choosing your designer wisely means looking for more than someone to fulfill your vision for your project.  A good choice of designer must also meet your needs for budget, timing, and personal compatibility.

At iMatchDesigners.com, we look for the best fit for your personality, your budget, and the look you love. To find a good designer, first, find an inspiration for the kind of results you want from your interior design, landscape or architectural project. Search our images on our design portfolio page — free — no membership required. Then we will help you choose your designer with care. A good choice should offer these 5 main benefits:

  1. professional creativity
  2. solutions to your needs
  3. the right fit with your budget
  4. a timeline you both agree on, and
  5. a personality you can work with

Our referrals take the guesswork out of finding the right type of designer.

Because we work with design firms all over the world, we have inside knowledge about how different design firms work, and what kind of projects they have completed with excellent results.

The benefits of using our referral service include finding a designer to match your temperament, financial terms and the style you want to achieve.

Tap into our inside knowledge of how each firm works as a business. Our hand-picked, personal referrals to specific firms match your criteria from creativity to compatibility. Get beautiful results for your home or business – on your terms. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation.

Related information to help you find a good interior designer, landscape professional or architect:

How to Hire and Interior Designer: Choosing and Interior Designer Yourself

5 Biggest Decorating Fears and How to Face Them

Design talent matching service helps retailer expand into a new market