The Value of Teamwork Across Design Disciplines
Five important steps to take for any new house or remodel.
Last summer, I was hired to help a family furnish their newly built 5,000 sq. ft. home. What should have been a dream project was in fact anything but. The clients had spent the previous eighteen months designing and building their dream house without any interior design input or consideration of what it would take to furnish the home properly. With less than two months to go before their planned move in date, they were starting from scratch. It was the clearest example I'd seen to date of the value of a multi-disciplinary team approach to a project and what can happen when a project team is not in place or in synch. The homeowners, and their general contactor, focused solely on the build phase and waited until it was substantially complete before bringing in interiors professionals. Not unexpectedly, there was quite a bit of dissatisfaction with the end results of the project.
I asked a colleague of mine, Bob Ernst, president of FBN Construction in Massachusetts, his thoughts on the value of teamwork. Bob's firm builds high-end homes and renovations of all sizes and has many years of experience working with homeowners, designers, architects and, of course, members of all the building trades. One of Bob's first points was this: "We don’t have a choice; when we accept a job, we ARE on a team." All team members, starting with the client who establishes the goal of the project, must understand, communicate and accept the specified goal, and work in tandem to accomplish it. Collaboration improves when the project goal is clearly articulated to all parties and the roles of each team member are clearly defined.
Here are five important steps to take for any new house or remodel:
- Create a team, set a goal: Establish who the team members are, make introductions and get buy-in from all parties on the stated goal, or desired outcome, of the project. For instance, is the goal, or outcome, to get the house built buy a hard deadline, to get it built under a tight budget, or both? Make sure all team members understand the goal so that decisions made all along support the effort.
- An up-front interior design consultation: Working with these clients early on, I could have helped them articulate their needs and desires for each individual room and the house as a whole. A few hours of consulting time to produce floor plans with furniture layouts and window covering plans could have netted them big long-term savings and higher overall satisfaction with the house as built.
- Budget: Based on the above findings, a rough budget could have been produced in order for the clients to be better prepared for the purchasing phase of their project. A simple list of necessary furnishings (4 queen beds and mattresses, 1 king bed and mattress, 1 sectional sofa, 1 coffee table, 20 windows to cover, etc.) with estimated price ranges would have netted a reasonably accurate budget for planning purposes.
- Timeline: A clear timeline should have been created, moving the project seamlessly from point A (building) to point B (furnishing) to point C (moving in). Starting with the projected move-in date, it’s simply a matter of moving backwards from delivery date, to order date and so forth to the "start" date. And, of course, one must add in some time for delays due to back orders and other similar industry issues. Any home building project is stressful and anxiety ridden. Additional stressors of budget and time shortfalls were avoidable had there been a good working plan with budget and timeline.
- Communications: Installation guidelines and product specifications should have been shared throughout the process with the various trades, reducing the need to retro-fit elements such as electrical systems.
Regardless of the size of the project, there is a team in place, be it a team of two or two hundred. In fact, this team includes not only those "on-site" but all the manufacturers of every product used in the project. Manufacturer's who provide clear product specs and installation guides, reliable quality control and shipping, and good customer service play a vital role in meeting the established goal of a project. We buy products and services from those we like and trust and we like people who want to work with us. A team approach to a project shows that we value the establish goal of the project, and therefore, we value the client.
Linda Merrill is a residential interior decorator based in Massachusetts. Linda's design style can be described as "comfortable luxury" and she believes in working closely with clients throughout the entire design process. Her clients are mainly located between metro-Boston and Cape Cod and the Islands. Linda writes a nationally regarded design blog called ::Surroundings:: and is the host of the design podcast series The Skirted Roundtable.