Working With Casa Vilora Interiors – Part V – Installation & Project Closure

Hello my Lovelies!

Today we conclude the series that we have been blogging about “Working With Casa Vilora Interiors”, which gives you some behind-the-scenes information about the process to hiring us and what to expect.

I know it has been a lot of information, but if you have ever considered hiring us, or any designer for that matter, I urge you to go back and read the first four parts to this series. You can find them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Recently Completed Living Room

Recently Completed Living Room

The installation and project closure has to be the best part for the client. This is when everything comes together in their home. They are finally able to enjoy the beauty, function and comfort of the design first hand.

But getting to the installation is no easy feat from the designer perspective. There is a lot of planning, scheduling, organizing and orchestrating that goes on behind the scenes – especially on larger projects.

As we order products for our clients during the project management and administration stage, they are all shipped to a commercial warehouse facility with a loading dock. Most of our vendors require that, as items usually arrive on large trailers that are difficult to maneuver in a residential neighborhood. Shipping to residences can be accommodated, but it usually comes at a higher freight cost. In any case, we want to be able to track all items as they arrive, and our warehouse does a very good job of receiving and inspecting and sending us a report of items received, and a report of any damages so that we can file a claim immediately. We also do not want to inconvenience our clients by having several different items shipped to them on different days. These items will often need to be unboxed, inspected and sometimes assembled. Not what I want my clients to be responsible for during the design process. They hired me for easy and fun – that’s definitely not easy and fun :-)

Our policy is to have everything sent to the warehouse and then they are all delivered on the final installation day, which we like to call the “BIG DAY”.

There are a few exceptions to this. Fabrics for custom window treatments, bedding and pillows are delivered to our studio where they are inspected, tagged and delivered to our workroom for production. Window treatments are actually installed days or weeks before the big install day. This is because custom window treatments take time to install and it lessens the stress a bit on install day. We also install wallcoverings before the installation day.

A few days before the scheduled installation day, a list is sent to the warehouse of all the items which need to be delivered. This is cross checked and sent back to us to make sure they have all the items ready to go. A checklist is also sent out to the client to let them know what to expect on the big day, and to prepare the home for installation. We ask that items that will not stay in the rooms be removed, pets be put away, and the home is carefully cleaned. We also ask that our clients maybe leave for the day, so that there will be some element of surprise at the big reveal and walk through. The home will sometimes look like a bit chaotic (but controlled :-) ) as we are in the process of putting it all together beautifully. We work with a great group of people who are very skilled at loading the truck, unloading and placing items in the client’s home. A lot of care is taken to not scratch the floor and walls as they move items in and out of the home.

When all the larger pieces have been placed and all the art has been hung, this is when I work the final magic of styling the space. Adding the final accessories layer, is what gives the space personality, and this part is the most fun for me :-)

Adding a few books, a floral, some ceramic pieces, or some things that the client has collected, makes the space complete. I often try to incorporate things that my clients already own to make it more personal to them – so that each piece has a story tied to it. But I also fill in gaps on bookcases and table tops with items found from local retailers

Casa Vilora Interiors

After the styling is done, it is time to clean up the areas and call the client to give them a tour of their brand new space!

This is where they can see the items they have approved in person. It is also when they get to see the smaller items which they had not seen before during the presentation. This is truly the most exciting and rewarding moment – ranging from screams, to hugs, to tears, to not being able to find the words to speak for a few seconds :-)

In most cases when we go shopping for the styling items needed for the room, we will purchase a few more items above and beyond the budget that we feel would make the space even better. It is good to have extra items because it is not always easy to determine how much of the smaller items you will need until you start to put things in place. The extra items are left in for professional photography, which usually happens a few days after the big installation. Our client can also choose to purchase the extra styling items. Otherwise, they are packed up and taken away. We definitely leave the spaces complete, cohesive and beautiful, but the extra pieces just adds a bit more pizzazz

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The main purpose of the walk through is to get clients acquainted with all the new pieces in their home, how they function, go over the benefits and features, and discuss any  manufacturer’s warranties for each product. We also look for any deficiencies or any oversight on our part. We ask clients to make a note of anything that needs to be addressed and we will go back to correct it in a few days to a few weeks. This could be anything from a ding in the wall, to a scratch on one of the pieces to something major like a broken window. Things can happen, but I am happy to say that we do not have instances where we have to go back for any major fixes, usually not even minor ones.

Clients are usually super excited and emotional on install day, so we do give them a few days to report things back to us. We also follow up to make sure that they are enjoying the space and are happy with the way it feels and “lives”. If everything is satisfactory, we ask that they sign off on the project closure form and complete an optional survey or review, and that signals that the project is a wrap. The final invoice for freight charges are sent (if charges were above the estimated charge) or a credit is issued (if actual freight charges were below the estimated). This happens within a week of the big day! When the professional photos are up on our website, we send our client a link to seeing their project in photos.

After doing this for close to ten years, install day never gets old. We as designers live for that moment. When the client walks in to their brand new space, and the words out of their mouths is “this is just what I wanted” or “I love it”. It is truly so much more than just a beautiful space to look at. It is enhancing their lives and promoting well being and practicality.

If you would like to be walking into a brand new space sometime soon, then it is time to reach out to us to schedule your in-home consultation. Click here to book now!

Wishing You Beauty and Inspiration!

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Working With Casa Vilora Interiors – Part IV – the Presentation & Purchasing Phase

Well hello there! I know, I know, it has been a couple of weeks since my last post. With Easter last week and Spring break the week before, things got a bit crazy around here with work thrown in the mix.

Today I will continue the series I started a few weeks ago about working with us. We follow a 15 step process, because our goal is to always delight our clients. Following this process keeps things on track – there is a lot that goes into a design project. A lot happens behind the scenes to keep each project moving in the right direction. Communication and setting expectations is key to a successful designer/client relationship

Recently Completed Living Room Project

Recently Completed Living Room Project

In case you missed the first three parts in this blog series, you can catch up on them here, here and here.

We will talk about the presentation and procurement part of the process in today’s post. This is the part to get really excited about! This is where I show the client all my awesome ideas for improving their space and make their dreams come true.

Let’s start with the presentation

The presentation happens about 3 weeks following Trades Day (sometimes longer depending on the scope of the project). We meet the client in their home or our studio to go over every single detail of the project. During the weeks following Trades Day, we are working diligently on all the pieces that will come together for a beautiful result. Preparing for the presentation involves:

  • Supplying drawings, sketches and other details to all the trades people involved in order to get their estimates/quotes in
  • Calculating costs on the estimates and quotes
  • Preparing all drawings and renderings – floor plans, elevations, furniture layout, lighting and electrical plan, cabinet details, 3D renderings and window treatment elevations
  • Selecting all finishes – flooring, cabinetry, countertops and backsplash materials, appliances, lighting, hardware, plumbing
  • Developing color palette – paint colors, wallcoverings
  • Sourcing furniture – case goods and upholstery
  • Sourcing drapery hardware
  • Sourcing fabrics and developing a palette with several patterns and textures
  • Sourcing accessories, art and accent pieces
  • Preparing the furnishings proposal work sheet – this is a document that includes all the furniture and upholstery being presented with detailed information such as the manufacturer, dimensions, description, MSRP, discounted price to client, fabric option (if applicable), and lead time
  • Preparing the budget breakdown spreadsheet – each item is listed with the price to client in one spreadsheet for easy reference
  • Physical samples of all materials – this means we need time to request and receive samples from our vendors and manufacturers
  • Digital mood board with images of all the pieces for each room – a separate board for each room
  • Inspiration images to illustrate our concept if needed

During the presentation, we first go over the design concept and how the overall design solves whatever challenge that exists in the space. We then go over the floor plans, 3D renderings and elevations and then the furnishings. With each step, we ask the client for feedback to see if we are on the right track. We finally go over the overall budget for what we are proposing. We welcome both positive and negative feedback from our clients during the presentation. After all, we are still getting to know their likes an dislikes. We nail the design almost every time, but there are times when the client will request that we make some minor or even a major change to the design. A major change may sometime change the overall concept, but we will happily do it because we want the result to be what our client loves and will be happy with for a long time. There are up to 2 revisions that are included in the design fee. Anything beyond that is charged our standard hourly fee.

At the end of the presentation, client is required to sign off on the Letter of Agreement (LOA) (which is an addendum to the original proposal contract) and pay the deposit of 75% of the total budget for us to move to the procurement phase. Even if there are minor revisions needed, the signed LOA and deposit are required. If there is a major rework needed, we will ask for another draw on the design fee and not the 75% deposit.

There are some design firms who will prepare three versions of their presentation that they call the “good, better, best” option, where they show the client three different options at three different price points. But I find that if you really listen to your clients needs you only need one perfect plan for them. Showing three options is overwhelming to the client, and shows that you are not quite sure what they want, so hopefully one will work. It’s like playing eeny meeny miny mo. It is a lot of wasted time that someone is paying for – most likely the client

The presentation is a very effective way to help our clients visualize our vision for their home. We use the best technology and software to communicate these ideas to our clients, and having the actual samples present allows them to touch and feel the textures that they will be living with in the finished space.

Once everything has been finally approved (and check clears :-) ), the procurement phase begins

The Procurement Phase (And Project Management Phase)

This is where we put on the project management hat and get to ordering all the tiny pieces that make up the whole design. Just imagine for a second all that is involved with creating one custom pillow for a client – there are literally about 14 steps that go into just that one tiny part of the room (You can read an article I wrote about it here). Imagine multiplying that by thousands.

For each item we order, there has to be a purchase order (PO’s) created (sometimes more than one). For example we may order a custom sofa from one vendor with a C.O.M. fabric (customers own material). This means we need a purchase order for the sofa vendor, the fabric vendor, the trim vendor (if there is trim). All these PO’s must be either faxed, emailed, or called in to each vendor. We then have to receive acknowledgements from each vendor that they received the order and hopefully get a status on the items at that point. In some cases, we hear the three words that designers hate to hear “back ordered” and “discontinued”. Arrrgghhhh! :-). When an item is discontinued, there is still hope. There may be some stock left. If there isn’t, then you are out of luck and must reselect another item with the client (I really do not like making these calls to clients, but it happens). When an item is on backorder, you are typically given an estimate of when it will be back in stock. we do not ever trust this date, because it is always subject to change……and it often does. Sometimes the item is that special that we are willing to wait (with client’s approval). Other times, we will move on and reselect.

Once all acknowledgements and CFA’s (cuttings for approval) are in and payments sent out to vendors, we then have to check on the orders maybe once every coupe of weeks. This is a very necessary step that I have learned the hard way that you must do. Sometimes something happened that the order cancelled and you were not informed, and you are thinking it is in production when it is not. Most of the time, things are moving along swimmingly, but I have learned to not take that for granted. Once we get the shipment notification, we also track that to make sure things are on track. We have all our items shipped to our commercial warehouse with a loading dock. There they receive all items, unbox, inspect for damages, assemble if needed and store until installation day. All installations happen on one day versus several shipments to clients. We never ship items directly to clients because we need to be able to track items as we receive them and inspect them for damages. Even on the rare occasions where we use online retail sources for a few items, we still have them go to our warehouse.

Items do come in damaged from time to time. Our warehouse notifies us right away of incoming freight and send us pictures of any damaged pieces so that we can file a claim with the vendor. The items are typically replaced very quickly and do not affect our timeline too much. There are times when it does. If the damage is minor, we can sometimes have it taken care of locally and file the claim for the vendor to pay for the repairs.

These are some of the things that happen behind the scenes that our clients don’t have to worry about dealing with themselves. This is what they pay us to do, manage all aspects of the project.

Fabrics, lining and hardware for window treatments, pillows, bedding and local upholstery are always shipped directly to our studio. We have to prepare the drawings and paperwork that go to the work room along with a clipping of the fabric for identification purposes. The rolls of fabric are then hand delivered to the workroom and we check in on the progress every 2 weeks or so, to make things are on track. I have heard horror stories from other designers that the expensive $300/yd silk fabric was applied inside out on a chair or whatever……Yikes! We follow a very detailed and strict protocol to make sure that never happens.

For remodeling projects or anything that involves carpentry, electrical, plumbing, painting etc where we engage trades people who will be working on-site at the clients home, we make frequent site visits to the jobsite to make sure that things are being done to our specifications. This requires a lot of meetings with the general contractor, reviewing drawings and instructions to make sure we are all on the same page. It is always better to be available to solve any discrepancies before something is installed and has to be ripped back out. Knock on wood – I have never had to do that :-)

A final note on the Procurement Phase

We often get asked if designers make money on the products that they purchase for clients. I cannot speak for any other designers out there; I can only speak for us – and the answer is of course we make money on the items we purchase on your behalf. But the client also saves a lot of money by using us as their purchasing agent. Some designers actually feel the need to apologize for actually making a profit on their design projects – we are a business and not hobbyists so we are in business to make a profit. We certainly want to stay in business for a long time to help more clients enjoy a beautiful, functional and comfortable home. We are very fair, and operate our business with honesty and integrity, so no apologies here for wanting to make a profit and a good living doing what we love.

Here are a few keys reasons why this is a win/win for both client and designer

  • Let’s start with retail purchases. When you as a consumer goes into a local furniture store to buy a piece of furniture – let’s say a sofa, the store knows that this piece will be the only piece you will purchase from them. If they are lucky, they may get you to come back for those chairs you were checking out in the window. But stores know that the likelihood of you returning for multiple purchases is slim, so there are no real incentives except an occasional holiday sale. On the other hand, these stores know that as designers, we have several clients to buy for, and we will return time and time again and purchase from them, so they offer us a “designer discount” up to 20% off retail as incentive for us to return to them. This discount that we receive is ours and not the client’s. It is based on our loyalty and relationship with the store and it does cover the time it takes for us to meet with the store rep, and choosing the right piece, the right fabric and finish and arranging delivery and tracking etc. All the work that is involved in getting that piece of furniture safely into your home. So we have earned that small amount of money, so it is not appropriate for a client to ask for our discount on retail purchases. if the discount is more than 20% (usually not) then I don’t mind sharing it with the client.
  • Most of the purchases I make for clients are from wholesale, to-the-trade-only sources. The vendors that we have accounts set up with do not come as easily as some clients may think. We often have to buy-in to their program. That is, meet sometimes expensive minimum opening orders and subsequent orders, purchase their sampling and maintain orders throughout the year. It sometimes takes a long time to get to the level where you can have certain vendors, and therefore we nurture those long standing relationships. We do receive designer prices from these vendors and so we are able to sell these pieces to our clients below MSRP. Our vendors give us a pricelist of the suggested retail prices and in some cases an IMAP which is the lowest price we are allowed to sell that product. We could certainly sell at the full retail as the vendor suggests, but we do offer all our clients a percentage off the discount that we receive (typically 30% off our discount)
  • When we provide the convenience of a one-stop shop, where we source and purchase furniture on your behalf, we are acting as a retailer. This is a separate service from our design services. This means that we assume the same risks and liabilities that a regular retailer assumes….sometimes even more. Not to mention all the additional time it takes to get that piece of furniture safely to your home. Being able to make a small profit offsets the risks and liabilities involved. Just like a consumer would not think to walk into Walmart or Target and ask how they arrived at the price they did for a certain item, it should be the same for designers.Trust me, we are sometimes giving away the kitchen sink just to get that special piece that will be perfect in your space. We have an emotional connection to your project – our reputation rides on its success, so we have your best interest in mind, and that includes your budget. Too often however, some clients think that it is ok to ask for our discounts and expect us to give it all up to them. While we are willing to share, we also must make a profit to cover the expenses we have as business owners – overhead, utilities, insurance, employees, car expenses………and so much more.
  • What designers bring to the table when it comes to the purchasing phase is a turn-key experience for our clients. We make it convenient by sourcing and presenting to clients only the pieces that will work for the space – keeping their budget and other needs in mind. We also ensure that we source quality items so that they will last a very long time. We manage all the potential problems and issues that are inevitable with purchasing furniture, so that our clients don’t have to. We provide clients with prices that are always below retail. We are there on installation day to place the items beautifully in your home and style it to perfection, which is really what makes a project look beautiful and cohesive. We know the right vendors to purchase from – vendors who will stand behind their products.

Trust and transparency is such an important aspect of our business, and so we do include our pricing policy in our LOA and explain this information upfront to our clients. We completely understand that design can be expensive, but we thoroughly respect your budget and stretch it as far as we can to give you everything you dream of. We have had some amazing clients that understand that what we do as design professionals here at casa Vilora Interiors takes experience and knowledge and time. It is an art-form and we are great at what we do. They want us to succeed, and as long as they know that they are being treated fairly, they trust us to deliver what we promise.

Join us next time as we cover the final part in the series on Working With Casa Vilora Interiors Part V – The Installation and Project Closure Phase. We look forward to seeing you back.

Please feel free to chime in by leaving a comment below

Wishing You Beauty and Inspiration!

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Working With Casa Vilora Interiors – Part III – Trades Day

Hello my Lovelies!

I trust that your Spring Break was amazing? Mine was like every other week; work and more work :-) I think I had 5 new consultations and 2 installations during Spring Break, but I did get a  few margaritas up in there somewhere…..not during work hours of course 😉

So today we will continue with the series I started a few weeks ago about our process and what is involved in working with us as a client. It is my attempt to demystify some of the misconceptions and myths about what it is like to work with designers in general, and certainly working with Casa Vilora Interiors. I am amazed at how mysterious and secret-societyesque (that’s not a word :-) ) the profession of interior design seems to most consumers looking in from the outside. It really is no mystery, it really isn’t all that glamorous. In fact, it is like every other professional service out there – you work; you get paid for the time, value and experience you bring to the table. If you missed the last two posts, you can check them out here and here. In fact, I would strongly recommend that you start with those posts to get the real gist of our process

So today we talk about “Trades Day” which happens after the client signs off on our proposal and pays the retainer. By signing the proposal the client is agreeing to the scope of work, our estimated design fees, estimated hours, retainer and preliminary budget. At this point, everything is a fair estimate of time and money, until we have actually met with all the tradespeople that will be involved in the project and get their estimates/quotes to determine the final budget (at budget review meeting)

What is Trades Day?

Trades day is really a new concept here for us at Casa Vilora Interiors. We adopted it about a year ago, after listening to Kimberley Seldon (a designer and business coach) speak at High Point Market last Spring. It basically is gathering all the trades people that will be involved in the project all on the same day (with the appointments staggered a bit), and basically discussing the project on-site (sometimes with the client present), taking measurements and brainstorming. It is an amazing meeting of minds and an efficient way to start the process.

We certainly held these meetings on-site with the tradespeople in the past, but it was all on different days and whenever they were available and the client is sometimes there and sometimes not, and it was just not an efficient way to do things. Then we would wait for days, sometimes weeks to see the estimates slowly trickling in, or we would be calling and chasing people to get the numbers back. Ughhhh, it is exhausting just thinking about how we used to conduct this phase of the process. What used to take days, now takes a few hours and just one trip to the job site.

Trades day is now a well orchestrated process that clients have actually told me that they are impressed with. It shows that we are a professional operation and we value the client’s time and money.

Here’s how Trades Day really goes down

After receiving the signed proposal and retainer from client, I immediately send out emails to all the tradespeople I know I want to use for the project, asking them to give me a few days that they are available within the next week or two. It can be a very difficult process getting all these folks available on the same day, but two weeks notice usually works. In some cases for remodels, it is just my general contractor that I need to contact, who will then round up his crew. But generally I am notifying my electrician, plumber, finish carpenter (for millwork and built-ins), handy man (for any repairs), painter, drapery workroom, upholstery workroom (for any custom cornice boards or built-in seating), wallpaper hanger, faux painter, artists and hard window treatment installer (shutters, blinds). These are folks that I have worked with for a very long time and trust their work. In design, you are really as good as the trades people that you surround yourself with.

It is a great way for them to see first hand what is involved with the project, and we often come up with the preliminary concepts right there at that first meeting. Their expert eyes can often catch something that I may have missed and we can plan around those things. For example, my millwork guy may notice that the existing millwork maybe difficult to match with stocked pieces and will have to be fully custom vs semi-custom, or my drapery workroom may notice that there isn’t a lot of space on one side of the windows so the drapery design will have to take into account the existing conditions. The painter may notice that we may have to paint other areas that we didn’t plan to because there aren’t any visible stopping points etc. or because of the wall conditions we may have to use a certain finish. Often these are things I would catch myself, but it is easy to miss things if that is not your exact specialty. As the experts in their different trades, they are more in tuned with the elements of the project that pertain to their individual roles.

Each trade will receive their sketches and preliminary plans in a few days after Trades day, and are required to return their estimates back to us in a week or less. Some items we will get a solid quote back, where the number is definite and set in stone. Other items are subject to further developed drawings and a close estimate is enough for our budget meeting.

The client can choose to be present or not on Trades day. If the client already has some definite ideas of what they want, then I recommend that they attend some of the meetings. If not, they don’t really have to be there as it can be an overwhelming and long process. If the client already has their own trades people, then we ask that they be present for those meetings. We do recommend that the client interviews the general contractors that we recommend on remodeling jobs, since they will be entering into a separate agreement with them.

We do get asked form time to time if we markup the fees of our tradespeople, and the answer is, yes we do. We have long standing relationships with our trades. They are hand-picked and perfectly screened through a rigorous process that we have developed and fine-tuned for years. We have negotiated preferred pricing with them, which they happily give us because 1) we make their lives easier by making quick decisions, provide great guidance and keep the project on track. This means less client meetings for them, and they get clear directions with visual aides such as floor plans and elevation sketches to guide them and make their work easier, and 2) We are loyal to them, as long as they suit the needs of the project we are working on. We always bring them new business so they know they can count on us as a trade partner. The preferred rates that we negotiate with our trades actually benefits our clients as well, in that we split with these discounts with our clients. In most cases, our trades will offer us 20% or so less than they would charge a consumer who works with them directly. We take those discounts and we split it 70/30. This means that our clients are getting a reduced rate – 30% off whatever discounts we get.

Here’s an example – the painter would normally charge a consumer $1000 to paint a few rooms, when we are involved in the process, he would quote us $800 instead. We then charge the client $940. The client saves $60 off what they would have normally paid. We make $140 for the time it will take us to meet with the painter before the paint day, provide a detailed paint color spec sheet, meet to verify color with test samples on the walls, meet on paint day to make sure the correct paint has been ordered etc., meet at the end of the painting project to sign off approving the work. You can see that it is a win win all around – client gets a discounted rate plus even more time and involvement from us to make sure things are being done according to specifications.

For full remodeling jobs, even when the client hires the general contractor directly, but wants us to manage the project for them, we charge a 5% (of the remodeling budget) project management fee. This is in addition to our design service fee. This not only covers the extra time needed to work with the general contractor and his team to keep the project on track and to specifications, including additional site visits, it also compensates for some of the risks involved with assuming the role of the project manager.

So Trades day is a vital step in the design process. It definitely streamlines the process, and can even save the client valuable time and money

The next step in the design process is the Presentation Meeting, which is the fun part where the client gets to see the plans for the project. Please join us next week for Part IV in the series “The Presentation Meeting”

If you are considering a new project, be sure to reach out to us for more information. We are happy to answer any questions for you. You can even book and pay for your consultation directly from our website. Click here to get the process started.

Wishing You Beauty and Inspiration!

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Working With Casa Vilora Interiors – Part II – The Designer/Client Agreement

Welcome to part deux of this series I am doing here on the blog, that is meant to educate consumers and shed some light on some of the “behind the scenes” stuff here at Casa Vilora Interiors. Last week we discussed The Consultation and why we charge for it. Click here in case you missed it.

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Today we will be talking about the Designer/Client Agreement which is a very important step in the design process. The agreement protects both the client and the designer, and sets the tone for a successful outcome

During the initial 2 hour consultation, we set aside a few minutes to go over the Letter of Agreement with the client. This is a part of our commitment to transparency and setting expectations upfront. We go over “How we work” which is our mission statement and our 15 step process. It gives the client a step by step guide of what they can expect during the design process. It is also a great opportunity for them to ask any questions or express any concerns or apprehensions they may have. Sometimes clients are ready to get started and will sign off on the project at the first meeting.

In most cases, we email the client a proposal within 2-3 business days following the initial consultation. The proposal outlines the scope of work as we understood it from the consultation, the estimated number of hours it will take to complete the project, the design fee for completing the project, the estimated time frame, the budget estimate, the retainer required to get started, the payment and billing schedule, and of course the all important terms and conditions. We will explain these parts of the proposal in more detail below. Once we receive the signed proposal of acceptance and the required retainer, we move to the next step of the process “Trades Day” which will be part III in this series.

The Scope of work – In the proposal, we list every single detail of what is required to complete the project. There is a general scope of work which involves programming, measuring, preliminary drawings etc, and there is the specific scope which outlines the unique needs of the project from start to finish. If the project will involve engaging the services of an architect or building designer, or a general contractor, that is also outlined in the proposal. The client will sign a separate agreement with the general contractor, but we may act as the project manager, and our duties in this regard will be outlined in the proposal. The client can hire their own general contractor, or we will recommend a couple that we have a good relationship with, but we encourage our clients to interview them and make sure that they are comfortable with the way they work. Although we work with these trades people regularly, they are not employees of Casa Vilora Interiors and we therefore cannot be held responsible for the way they work. The client is also free to act as their own project manager for their project, but it requires a lot of time and knowledge about the design or remodeling process for it to be a successful decision. Most clients don’t have the time or desire to manage their project and will happily hire us for this role as well. Most people aren’t aware that the general contractor’s role is not necessarily to manage the project. Some do by default, but their role is to manage the trades people, order materials and focus on the construction aspect of the project. The project manager’s role is to manage the the integrity of the project; making sure that the project is progressing according to specifications. It is a checks and balance system where the client can be assured that their project is progressing nicely

The estimated number of hours – Estimating the number of hours that a project will take is actually very difficult to do. This is why we indicate in out proposal that it is an estimate to the best of our understanding, but the actual number of hours could be more or less. If the hours end up being less, we will credit back the client at the end of the project. If the hours are more, we will bill the extra hours at a slightly lower rate than our standard hourly fee (10% less). We pull from our vast experience with similar projects to closely estimate the number of hours for each project. It is very important to us to be able to give our clients a pretty good idea of their total design fee upfront instead of open billing, where they have no idea what their fee will be until the end. Hours can range from 20 hours for a small project to over 150 hours for a larger remodeling project, so it is important to give our clients a good idea of where their project falls in this large spectrum

The design fee – Obviously this is a very important aspect of the proposal. We feel that it is important to disclose this information upfront as best as we can. Our design fee is hourly and  is based on the estimated number of hours for the project, therefore our fee is also an estimate. Our proposal will actually breakdown how many hours each phase of the project is estimated to be and the fees associated with that phase. For the administrative phase, we actually charge 10% less than our standard design fee. At no time will our design fee be less than $2500 for a full scale decorating or remodeling project. (We have several design services such as eDesign, one day makeovers etc with lower, and even fixed fees – the above applies to full scale projects). We also charge a project management fee for remodeling projects (5% of remodeling budget). This fee is above and beyond the fee for our role as the Interior Designer. The project management fee includes additional services and working closely with the general contractor.

The retainer required – A retainer is required before any design work begins. It is payable once the proposal has been signed and accepted. The retainer is basically collecting a portion of our design fee upfront. It is typically either one third or half of the design fee estimated based on the size of the project.

The payment and billing schedule – This is where we outline all payments required and when they are due, as well as regular billing intervals

The estimated time frame – This is another item where we try our best to estimate upfront to give our clients a good idea of what to expect. No one wants a long drawn out project. Estimating the hours upfront keeps us accountable to our clients throughout the project, and we try hard to avoid delays. We pull from our experience and knowledge with similar projects, and factor in a few weeks of delays. Of course, there are things that will come up that are out of our control, but we are committed to communicating with our client throughout the process, so they are not in the dark about potential delays. Time frame can range from 4 weeks on a drapery project to 6-12 months in a major remodeling job. Giving our clients an idea of the time frame will help them better prepare for this process

The budget estimate – During the initial consultation, we discuss the budget for the project. Very often, the client isn’t sure what the project will cost, and will tell us they don’t know, or they will throw out a number that is often too low for what they are wanting to accomplish. A part of our job is to help our clients develop a reasonable budget for their project. We have several exercises that we use to help our clients come up with a reasonable ballpark number for their budget. We often include an estimated budget breakdown for each phase of the project in our proposal. We also recommend that our clients set aside a contingency budget for unforeseen expenses, especially when it is a remodeling project on an older home. The exact budget will be later defined after we get estimates back from trades, and materials and furnishings are selected for the project. We work very closely with our clients to get this right. When the budget is determined for the project, a 75% deposit minimum (sometimes the full amount) is required as deposit to procure items for the project

The terms and conditions – This is the legal stuff that protects both our clients and ourselves. We make it very clear what our role is in the project and even what is not included in our services. The terms and conditions includes:

  • Additional services – any services performed during the project that is not included in the original scope of work. For example, we include the number of site visits we expect to make for the project. If we are asked to make more site visits than we included in the proposal, then we do charge for additional services
  • Other matters – Any disbursements we make on behalf of the client and the project which must be reimbursed
  • Our purchasing services for the decorative and merchandising phase of the project. We include the process to proposing the furniture pieces and how we calculate the cost for each piece (which is always less than retail). We also include the terms for  purchasing custom items, our return policy on items that are returnable
  • Final installation and project closure – the procedures for the final stage of the project
  • Termination of project – In case there is a default, the project can be terminated by either party within certain parameters

So there is a lot of important information covered in the proposal. The signed proposal signals the beginning of the project which is followed by Trades Day where we invite all trades to meet at the project site to discuss and measure so they can provide their quotes (this will be covered in Part III). Then there is the big presentation which is our design ideas and visuals for the project (This will be covered in Phase IV), and at this meeting, a final Letter of Agreement is signed off (basically an addendum to the proposal agreement) and a defined budget is agreed upon. We later hold another budget review meeting to make sure we are on track

You can head to our website for more information about how we work and what the client’s role is for the project. You can also check out our FAQ’s page to see the answers to some of the common questions we get here. You can also schedule and pay for an in-home consultation from there.

Join us net week as we discuss Part III “Trades Day”

Wishing You Beauty and Inspiration!

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