Perhaps the greatest compliment we continue to receive from our clients, besides our attention to detail and our organizational skills, is that we don't have just one style nor one look. After all, it is not our project, it is the client's. We strive to design each project so it reflects the client, their style and taste. And we take the time to ensure that the design work we are creating is both functional while being practical.
Take for example a new client in the Coachella Valley... in a gated community in a single family residence. The home they bought was nothing more than an upscale track home. And one thing we learned from them right from the start is that they didn't want anything that was just ordinary.... something that reflected their own personal design sensibilities and styles. So we talked about their objectives so we would know where to begin and where to take the project as the design evolved.
I told them..."The key to any successful design project is that we take the time to have an in depth conversation and truly understand how we can be most helpful, learning about your preferences, discovering your expectations, setting a time frame to start and to complete and then mapping out a plan to take our clients there, step by step. Our role is much more than being a designer. It is about being your educator,... working thru the decisions on the layout and space planning,... then establishing the design specifications of the interior finishes, furnishings, architectural features, cabinetry and fixtures. We want you to be a savvy consumer because it makes the decisions so much better."
For me, the best part of the work is being an "interior educator".... that is... giving the client the best information and knowledge we have based on our 30 years of experience and education. Design isn't just about picking colors. That's decoration. Design is 3-dimensional in its form and functionality and determine the best solutions to client objectives. And when clients are educated in their options, moving forward is a great deal easier.
So when we provide our "interior education"... it becomes easier to make those important and timely critical decisions. We strive to provide our best advice and wisdom in a personal, down-to-earth manner so as to make the best choices that are "right" for themselves and "proper" for their project. It is a logical approach and one that makes it easy for the clients to grasp and understand.
UPDATE: This has been one of our most popular posts and we've updated it with new information. Check it out.
Whether a single space or a complete home, remodeling any place isn't ever all that easy. There are many and numerous decisions that need to be made.
And we should know. With more than 30 years of experience, we have assisted clients in making the right decisions and getting everything on a firm foundation to begin with.
First of all,there are all those pesky decisions that need to be made and questions to be answered.
- What style and color?
- How much should this cost?
- Will it be worth the investment over time?
- How much of a disruption will there be in your life?
But just as important a design decision is assembling your design team and that means hiring the contractor for the project. Many clients we work with have great apprehensions about that part of the project and with good reason. It isn't always easy to find the right mix of personality, workmanship, business ethics and reliability no matter the field or profession including the profession of general contracting. Sometimes it is a gut reaction about how they presented themselves or the work they have done in the past. After all, good client referrals should be an important deciding factor.
But there are other ways to help make such important decisions and to make sure the relationship you build doesn't fall apart in the middle of the work.
Here are some tips we wanted to share.
#1 Make all the design decisions that you can up front. Decide all the things you hope for before you bring in the contractor,... even the little details. Make a wish list of the things you'd "like to have" but are not able to commit to because you don't have all the information you need. And if you don't have a clue at all about what might be possible, that is where we come in as your designers.
#2 Request that contracting bids be submitted in writing with all the details and terms clearly explained. And of course, that would lead to having a written contract with a timeline, payment schedule and how changes to the work will be handled.
#3 Request the names of past clients who would be willing to let you see the work they have completed in the recent past. That way you will be able to see the "fit and finish" of the work they have done.
#4 Before you sign on that dotted line, verify the license and make sure it is in good standing by visiting your state's governing license board. In California, it is called: Contractors State License Board(CSLB) and you get get more information by going online to: www.cslb.ca.gov - or - calling (1) 800-321-2752.
#5 Ask whether your contractor carries general liability insurance and worker's compensation for any directly hired employees. Call your homeowner's insurance agent to ensure you are covered should some unforeseen circumstance occur such as water damage due to a broken pipe.
#6 You might try to research your contractor's name online for additional reviews but you should also consider the source. We have found that some referral sites are not as "accurate" as others so check more than one.
#7 Any contractor performing $500 worth or work or more ( including materials and labor ) must be licensed by the CSLB to work in California. Also, contractors cannot ask for a deposit of more than 10% of the total cost of the job or $1,000 at the inception of the project.
#8 Find out directly from your local building department whether your project needs a building permit and confirm that your contractor will obtain all necessary permits.
By following these tips and tricks, the decisions that you need to make will lay the foundation for a better remodeling project. If you have questions or other concerns, you can post your comments below. Or just give us a call and we'll do our best to start you out in the right direction. (760) 322-3784
By: Michael A. Thomas, FASID, CAPS
The Design Collective Group Inc.
The kitchen is an important component of any home and getting it arranged properly to make the most of the space is critical. A kitchen can be filled with beautiful materials and high styled appliances but if the layout and space doesn't function as intended, it won’t be successful.
And because creating a new kitchen takes a lot of time, energy and dollars to get it just right, it makes good sense (and cents) to plan the kitchen on paper by first considering how you plan to use it before you think about how it will look.
We came up with five questions that can form the framework around which your design plans will develop. Grab a pencil and jot down the answers to the following:
(1) What types of cooking do you plan to do in your new space?
While cooking is a daily necessity for most, others look at it as a place to develop their culinary skills while, others see the kitchen as a space for entertaining. And if you do entertain, consider how you use the area… a casual affair or for a more a formal gathering?
(2) Who else may be using the space with you?
Consider the three critical tasks of prep, cook and clean-up and then think about the traffic patterns that you need in order to keep from crossing paths with others. Too many cooks can indeed spoil the broth when there are many in the same space. And if you entertain frequently or hire a caterer for special events, you might need an abundance of counter space.
(3) How long will you be in this residence?
A great kitchen that is both functional and attractive can provide you with a great return on your investment (more than any other room in the house), but kitchens can also be an arm and a leg. So in your budgeting, be cautious that you don’t over-design since you may not recoup the dollars spent. Consider the resale values of your neighbors and review what others may be doing to update their space. You might also speak with a real estate agent to provide some guidance.
(4) Which appliances are needed and which might be a luxury?
Cook tops, refrigerators, microwaves and ovens will make up the single largest expense in any kitchen. But while other kitchen equipment like a warming oven or a second dishwasher may seem like a luxury to some, it may be essential to you based on your specific needs, so identify what you might like to have and set aside a few dollars for any special piece of equipment at the beginning of your project.
(5) Do you, a member of your family or anyone who may visit have special needs due to a mobility issue?
Plan your kitchen to have added functionality. For instance, use handles instead of knobs, design cabinetry with full extension drawers and additional lighting can help everyone but may be really important to those who might be elder or have a physical impairment.
With answers to these questions in hand, your next step is to bring in the professionals. An interior designer or a kitchen planner who has a thorough understanding and wealth of experience in creating great kitchen spaces will be an important key to your success and to that of your kitchen.
And where do you start? Start by giving us a call. (760) 322-3784
In these days it is hard for consumers to differentiate one business from another. One promises personalized services, while another offers an amazing sale. And then again, yet another one says they can have it product delivered with free shipping. It can be confusing to make the choice with whom to do business.
And when it comes to figuring out what design firm to hire or even if you need or want an interior designer, it just isn't always easy. And we get that.
Take for instance, Hilton and Marriott Hotels. Both strive to offer their guests a quality experience and expectation. Same thing with Delta and American Airlines. What often sets these businesses apart is often a the choice of “location, location, location”.
Consider Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
Both grocers say their unique selection and quality goods keeps customers coming back. Each has created a strong brand and a loyal following. It may be hard to compare them in the marketplace, though Trader Joe’s is now whopping Whole Foods butt with very competitive pricing. So consumer choice could be about price.
What about the difference between Ford and Toyota? Both produce equally reliable vehicles with lots of price points. Making a choice of one SUV over the other is often about the style and design.
Recently we were invited to freshen up a New Jersey project in a high rise building overlooking Manhattan, a residence that we had fully renovated for a the client in 2002. And it got us to thinking about what motivated the client to return to us for this work.
In contemplating those thoughts, we concluded it was a choice,… that this client believes their interior design experience would again be rewarding and successful as it had in the past. Sure, it is the expectation of good service and quality design and competitive price, but beyond that, what factors sets set us apart from the pack? We put pencil to paper and came up with these five things that set us apart.
1. We Are Practical In Our Design And Organized In Our Projects
The design of an interior is first and foremost about function. If a space doesn’t do what is intended, then no matter how good it may look, it will at some point be a failure. So we work hard to make sure that the design we offer has practicality built into its DNA. And for a project to be successful, ordered, checked on, delivered and installed, it has to be organized and managed well.
We spend a lot of time documenting, communicating, explaining, cajoling and it shows at the time of installation. Nothing ever works like clockwork in this profession. It is how you handle the unexpected that can determine the success of the project and one has to be organized to manage those challenging times.
2. We Do Not Follow The Trends; We Follow The Clients
Trends in design are deadly because if you get caught up in a certain style and it falls out of favor, the interior will appear dated in a short period of time. Think about past designs like harvest gold appliances, lava lamps and paisley-printed recliners covered in Herculon fabric. OK… perhaps I am showing my age as a mid-century modern baby boomer. But the best design, the one that is timeless, is the one that reflects the good taste of the client. And if the client doesn’t have good taste, then there is always the interior designer. One comment we hear regularly is that our projects just don’t look like one another. We LIKE to hear that because it means we’ve been following the desires of the client and interpreting those desires into a well designed space.
3. The Three “E’s” Top It All : Expertise, Education and Experience
Effective design does not happen because someone has a good flair for placing pillows. Effective design happens because it is built on a certain expertise, ongoing education and years of experience. Those three “e’s” give the design professional the ability to handle difficult issues when if they arise or if something goes sideways. And difficulties do arise and things do go sideways.
But being engaged with the client and the project means handling the challenges quickly and finding solutions to those challenges. It is also important to know when just the right design is working and when to edit and delete. We see many interiors where the space is so busy, the eye doesn't have a chance at absorbing what the design statement is about. That takes skill and patience. (And by the way, we are quite adept in placing pillows with the appropriate karate chop in the middle. )
4. We Are Very Hands On And Some Times Our Hands Get Dirty.
We know some designers who infrequently get out of their office and inspect their job sites. You can’t be a designer by sitting in front of a computer and drawing cabinets and creating specifications. We believe that the designer needs to be checking out the progress of the work from time to time and in nearly all cases, is on the job site during deliveries and installations. After all, you can’t write a specification on how to toss a pillow so it lands just perfect in the corner of that tuxedo sofa sectional. You have to be there to toss the pillow, check the wall paint color, help with the delivery of the kitchen cabinets, place the rug on the floor just right, install the light bulbs in the lamps and hang the art. And that’s why sometimes our hands get dirty.
5. We Build Relationships That Endure With Clients and Colleagues.
Finally, we have clients that we have done and continue to do business with for nearly thirty years. And we have accounts with our vendors such as Palecek Furniture that go back an equal amount of time. It is about building relationships that become meaningful assets in the long term.
And just like the New Jersey client that is having us back this summer, we are comfortable with one another and our expectations are high. That comes from not just doing the job right but being right with the client.
Interior design is about creating spaces that impact the human experience. And great design when created with care and experience creates an opportunity for the client to enjoy their life with family and friends over time.
Each year 75,000 people and 2,000 exhibitors meet in a little village called High Point, NC for the semi-annual furniture market, a trade and wholesale event for interior designers, along with furniture and retail stores.
This year, there were so many warm and cool neutral colors in upholstery, lighting and accessories that one could draw a conclusion that neutrals are “back in style”.
But for me, neutrals never left to begin with. They have always been “in vogue” in my book.
The reason is that neutral colors are both classic and timeless. They can visually expand spaces, minimize problem architectural features and serve as background to an art or book collection. They are ideal for those individuals who are unsure about a color choice especially those color choices that typically tend to be more fashionable or time specific. Neutral palettes can be subtle and stylish, creating spaces that are quiet, restful and soothing. But they also can be big, bold, warm and energizing.
Yet for all the reasons noted, some believe that neutrals are only whiney white, boring beige and stodgy gray. It does not have to be that way. With tones as varied as luscious latte, cinnamon biscuit and driftwood gray, neutrals are anything but boring.
Tweaking colors is also an easy way to put pizazz in a neutral palette. Walls with just a slight bit of olive, a washed out plum or a wee touch of cocoa can make a very strong and dramatic background especially when combined with bright white for the trim, moldings and doors.
And finally, be aware there is a certain hidden power in a neutral color scheme. It allows you the freedom to layer in patterns in a room, freshen up a space with colorful accessories, change the art, create different focal points, and make seasonal changes almost on a whim.
Such is the case with a recent project. The client had the perfect space to "shape shadow" the walls in her living room by adding grey charcoal tones to the fireplace and again at the entry. We hung some amazing art, added a wool rug woven in three neutral tones and placed the white leather nut-shell chairs on top. The result was crisp, clean and certainly not boring.
A while back, I was nearing the completion of a design project for two clients, Barb and husband Bill… both pretty awesome people. Both with very definitive ideas on how their home was to be re-designed.
Near the end of the project, Barb began to lament about the end of the work and the working relationship we had developed over the last few months. I, too, would miss the scheduled calls with “Bubbly Barb” as I once called her and the weekly job-site meetings with the contractor, an individual who was invaluable in interpreting my designs while at the same time hovering over the client’s budget as though it was his own.
Like a well-oiled team, both of the clients, the contractor and the designer managed their small-scale remodel of a historic home despite a number of unforeseen and totally unexpected challenges. (Things happen when taking an old structure apart and carefully putting it back together.) Yet persistence, in this case, prevailed permitting the completion of a pretty remarkable home.
In one of our last meetings together as a team, a day when the sun shown thru freshly washed windows that bounced off polished wood floors and the last of the furnishings and cabinets were being installed, Barb sat at her new glass topped table, stretched out her hands and gave out one long sigh.
As I sat down opposite her, she paused for a long moment, looked toward me and said how much she and her husband appreciated my contributions and creative efforts and just how nice it was that I would take on such a small little job.
I said, “Well,.... we all know that size doesn’t matter.” Barb and I both broke into laughter at that remark.
“The reality is,” I told Barb, “that smaller projects are often the most fun, ever so challenging and frequently the most energetic. Time and budgets are often limited so the designer needs to be ultra creative.”
I went on to say I believe that everyone should have access to good design. Most designers I know strive to have every client feel that they are receiving the best possible service and value during our time together. It’s a pretty simple concept and I go to great lengths to make sure that the designs we create on the client’s behalf are imaginative and resourceful, the service exceptional, and the process from start to finish rewarding and enjoyable.
But Barb quickly remarked, “But wasn’t this one extra special?”
“This project was indeed quite special because you and Bob were special from the onset. I like to work with clients who realize the difference good design can make, who so appreciate the design process by providing me with an opportunity to bring new ideas to the table, and to let me elevate the project to places the client may not have anticipated. That's what its all about, Bubbly Barb.”
For me, as an interior designer, that is the biggest perk of all.
I told her as our meeting concluded that afternoon that this wasn’t the end of a project but the continuation of a great professional friendship.
Sometimes my work just doesn’t get any better.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a new client and her husband, both now in their late 60s, and during the initial interview discovered that they had never engaged the services of an interior designer, despite having built a new home, and remodeled two others during their some 39 years of marriage. It seems it was never something that occurred to them.
But in their newest project, they felt the need to reach out to a professional who might be able to present fresh ideas and help coordinate the numerous decisions that are a part of any significant remodeling project such as theirs,... a three bedroom, three bath condominium in a gated community in Indian Wells, CA.
One of the "new" ideas we discussed - new at least for them - was to incorporate the seven principles of universal design into the interior to help reduce and/or eliminate architectural barriers... you know,... those pesky things in a residence that hamper mobility and independence.
I could tell by their reaction that this was something fairly radical to them. "Just imagine... a home with greater accessibility, no matter age or ability. Just imagine... a home that supports independent living. Just imagine... a home that sustains the quality of life."
As I moved thru the interview, they began to respond well to the concepts such as wider doors and halls, levers on the doors rather than knobs, increased lighting levels and a no-step entry into the home. But as they contemplated such ideas, including a no-curb shower, they expressed real concerns that their home would begin to look like,.. and in their words..."like it was built for someone who was crippled."
I wasn't surprised at their response. I have heard similar concerns over the last 25 years. But I was quick to respond... "Why not have a home that can "grow" with you, adapt to your needs and give you an increased measure of safety and all the while,...just looking smart and sexy?" They were yet not convinced so I needed to show them a few ideas.
We had just recently completed an "accessible" master bathroom project in Palm Springs, CA and the results were amazing. Sharing the photos with them, they began to see my vision... a space for now and forever. An interior that is accessible, functional and nearly maintenance free. A home that will make living just more comfortable. A design that is amazing to live with. And the plus side... increased value should they decide to sell it at some point.
Master Bathroom Project Featuring Accessible Design Elements
This bathroom features many universal design features including lower counter tops, non-slip flooring, handles on faucets, doors and drawers, increased levels of lighting, a European entry into the shower, and a bench inside the shower. The shower floor has low-voltage wiring that gently heats the floor and the "sliced" mosaic stones creates a texture to reduce the possibility of slipping on the wet floor. The tub has a small deck that creates a "seat" so one sits and turns into the tub.
Well.. after seeing the photographs of that bathroom, it still took a little persistence and prodding to get the clients to accept my design concepts but they are now engaged and fully onboard with the ideas. Currently, we are interviewing contractors to build our team, explaining our vision of accessibility and applying universal design principles to the interior, educating each team worker how important such elements are in helping these clients stay in place.
• But it isn't easy.
After explaining the scope of the work and the "accessibility" features we had put in the clients' design to the very first contractor we interviewed, he responded, "I just don't see the value but I guess,...to each his own."
Ok. Well,...Thank You Very Much.
• Next Contractor.
Everyone likes first hand knowledge. So we were thinking... What do you do when your house floods or you incur other disasters like earthquakes, tornados or windstorms? So based on our own experiences when we lived thru Florida hurricanes, those of clients who have had damage from major storms ... plus the general advice we have read recently,... We offer this list of things to consider when disaster strikes.
1. First and Always... Ensure physical safety - everything else can be replaced - you can’t so don't put you nor anyone else in any type of jeopardy.
2. Take a deep breath. You are in a marathon now, not a sprint - everything will take much, much longer than you want it to. You will be dealing with the federal government (national flood) and they move at their own pace.
3. Take pictures - lots of pictures. Establish how high the water was inside and outside of your house. Take pictures of structural damage that is critical to the "building envelope" such as doors and windows. If a flood, you need to prove how deep the water was as part of your flood claim. Use a yardstick or ruler on the outside of your house to establish the high water mark. Make a written list of the main items that have occurred damage and with a date and time stamp.
4. Remember.... File your claim as quickly as you possibly can. You will need to get in line to meet with your insurance agent, adjustors and contractors.
5. Flood insurance will not reimburse you for loss of use, so any hotel or lodging expenses will be out of pocket. But you may be able to use the receipts from lodging against your taxes.
6. Save all receipts - all of them. One way is to to take pictures of all your receipts.
7. Order a POD or storage container to be delivered to the residence FAST as they will sell out fast since everyone one will need one that have to empty out rooms or entire homes.
8. As soon as the water recedes, start mitigating the damage. Shopvac out what water you can, remove the wet carpets, remove the baseboards and start removing wet sheetrock. Cut a line about 2 feet up the wall. The straighter you cut, the easier the rebuild will be. Bag debris/insulation etc and take it outside. Save a square of ruined carpet and ruined carpet pad for the insurance to verify replacement value - if you have multiple carpets, save multiple samples. - Your goal is to get anything wet out of your house so it can begin to dry. Don’t worry about removing glue down hardwoods, let the contractor handle that during the rebuild
9. Take pictures of any damage you see such as wet sheetrock, wet carpet, wet furniture, anything you want to claim - document. For contents, document individual items - each shirt, book, etc needs to be enumerated and documented for the claim - if you say 20 books on your claim, you need a photograph where 20 books can be individually accounted for - be exact and over detailed.
10. Be very careful about hiring “the experts” ...those companies that will bring in fans, etc and eat up a lot of your claim check by “drying” your house - once the walls are open, the studs will dry in time. Every dime you spend renting expensive blowers is money you can’t use towards granite countertops or tile upgrades when you rebuild. Fans, your air conditioner a dehumidifier from Home Depot will do the job. You can spray the studs with bleach as they dry out.
11. Be careful hiring contractors - ask for multiple references, ensure they use sub-contractors they know - they will be busy and be prepared to wait. We saw a huge influx of so-called contractors flooding in Florida after the hurricanes in 2006. And some were not licensed to perform any time of contracting work... just a tool box and a pickup truck.
12. Plastic storage tubs work better than cardboard boxes for storage of your undamaged stuff.
13. Wear a mask when you begin to dig around as mold and mildew will likely be an issue. Look for the tell tale signs of wood, sheetrock or other materials becoming black, grey or dark green. Those are sure signs of things growing.
14. Have a LOT of patience. Be very nice to the adjustor - he or she will be valuing your loss and establishing the rebuild - every dollar counts, so be a pleasant memory for the adjustor, rather than “that” person.
15. No matter who your insurance company is, all flood claims go through the federal government, all money comes through FEMA, so the time between the adjustor visiting your house and you getting money takes weeks/months - be patient - it is challenging and horrible waiting, but you are dealing with the government and all the other claims that are in flight as well.
16. Your first estimate will likely be less than you expect, so work with your contractor to file a supplement for things that were missed. Be wary of working with 3rd party arbitrators as they will take a percentage of your total claim, not just any extra they get you in the supplement.
17. Accept help when offered and be specific - if someone asks “what can I do?” tell them something specific - I need candles, contractor bags, sandwiches - be grateful of those that reach out and be honest with what you need.
18. You will get through this. It will not be easy. It is a struggle, but you will get through it. Lean on your faith, your friends and family. Call in favors and trust that karma will provide much needed blessings.
19. Don't blame yourself for such natural disasters such as the one that Houston is experiencing,... nor for not preparing in advance. Things like this happen and many of us that have experienced such challenging times may still not be prepared as we should. We have started a small "earthquake survival kit" that surely will not fulfill all the personal needs such the "big one" hit... but it is better than nothing at all. And we continue to add to it over a period of time.
20. Eat well. Get sleep. Rest when at all possible as you will need all the energy that such events require to manage.
Help Hurricane Harvey survivors! We used to live in Houston and we are amazed at the depth of destruction and devastation that is occurring in South East Texas. Those people will need help... your help. This is NOT a time to sit back and reflect that other people will be stepping up. This is YOUR TURN to do something... no matter how small... but collectively offer resources for these organizations.
• Please see the following organizations for donations to those affected by Hurricane Harvey:
Also check out this excerpt from article by NPR’s Pam Fessler:
“… Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, has some words of caution for those who want to help. "This is not the time to be donating products or even services," he says. "That's frequently the urge, and most often that is the wrong thing to do. ...With the floods blocking off streets, when warehouses are not available, there's no place for these products — there's no place to store anything, there's no place to distribute anything. And that's going to be the case for some time."
Instead, he says, people should give money to groups they trust, and that have the ability to provide aid where it's needed most.”
It has been a long while since our blog was updated and the website spiffed up but you see,...we've been busy. Since we opened on El Paseo in Palm Desert in the fall of 2016, we've been happily working on a good number of interesting projects, designing golf club facilities, meeting rooms and their dining spaces, assisting with a full remodel of a client's single family home, two kitchen updates, master plan for a estate residence and of course, ....getting acclimated in our new studio.
We were blessed to find such a good location and so happy to have great business neighbors along El Paseo. And while there are things we miss about the Palm Springs downtown experience, this location is much more centered to the valley and to our growing family of clients.
We have expanded our product offerings in several areas,... from flooring to window coverings to upholstered goods and developed partnerships with several main line furniture manufacturers. And we are still passionate about something. We remain advocates for sustainable and barrier-free design in all interiors, from condos to castles, from second homes to weekend getaways. We love creating spaces that support independency, no matter age or ability, while making it both function and look great.
Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Springs, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.