Behind the Scenes: Finding a Designer

People often ask me: What is the design process? How do we get from an idea to a permit-approved set of plans? The answer varies depending on the project’s location, size, and type. But there are few common denominators. Enter… drum roll please!… 

Behind the Scenes! A series of posts to help you understand what I’m doing back here. You know, behind the scenes.

Phase 1: Finding a Designer

If you have a building project in mind, finding an Architect or Home Designer is a great place to start.

BUT, finding a Builder, Interior Designer or Project Manager is also a great place to start. This article should really be called: “Behind the Scenes: Finding an Architect, Builder, Interior Designer, or Project Manager”… but that seemed too long to fit in your email inbox so just keep it in mind.

 
Behind the Scenes: Finding a Designer @MeldrumDesign
 

1. Ask friends.

Have friends done projects of a similar size and type? Ask around for recommendations. Word-of-mouth is one of the quickest, cheapest ways to find a trustworthy Architect or building professional. 

2. Get online.

Check on your friends’ recommendations. Look through the company’s websites. Check out their Yelp reviews, Google reviews, and/or Facebook reviews.

You can also find Architects or building professionals on websites such as Houzz, Home Advisor, and Angie’s List. A lot of those listings are paid advertisements but you can find some fantastic deals. In fact, for the first 6 months of my business I relied heavily on paid leads from Home Advisor and referrals from my dad, the land surveyor.

But remember, and it’s hard to say this humbly, I am a very capable designer and business person. Not everyone on those websites will be good enough for you. When interviewing a “stranger” for your project, it’s extra important to call multiple references (Step #4) and ask for proof of insurance (Step #5). 

3. Setup interviews on site (your house).

Most companies offer a free initial consultation. (I usually do remote consultations unless the project is right around the corner. Yay for video chats!) It’s important that the Architect or building professional see the “before” whether this happens in person or through photos. They’ll know almost immediately if they’re a good fit for the job.

Be prepared with a list of questions. There are lists all over the internet: “questions to ask an Architect or Contractor”. Here’s a great one from Houzz: 11 Questions to Ask An Architect or Building Designer.

Oh and stay safe. You’re smart so I don’t have to list all the rules about inviting a stranger into your home.

4. Call references.

This person will be a big part of your life for 6 months, a year, sometimes longer. They’ll have some control over your money and they’ll know every detail of your personal space. You need to trust them. Unfortunately, there are many companies who take advantage of their clients or have dreadful business management practices. Some are just terrible people.

Call at least two references, even if you got the lead from a friend. You never know what you’ll find out.

5. Insurance & Stuff

You’re investing a lot of time and money into this project, make sure you’re protected. As an Architect, I carry General Liability insurance and Professional Liability insurance. A Builder’s insurance should be more extensive. Angie’s List wrote an article about it: What Paperwork Should My Contractor Provide?

If you really want to cover your ass (that’s lawyer speak), it’s a good idea to ask the contractor AND subcontractors to sign a lien waiver form EVERY TIME you pay them. I know, it’s a lot of CAPS, but this is important.

Also, remember to let your building insurer know about the project (if you’re a homeowner, talk to your homeowner’s insurer). And if you’re extra nervous, you can take out separate construction insurance.

6. Get an estimate.

I rarely offer fixed fee pricing. Usually I work hourly and will give you an estimate before we begin. (Fixed fee means I have to significantly pad my number in case you or your project happen to be a pain in the tail. I don’t think that’s fair to my kickass clients who take on some of the design process themselves, so I charge hourly.)

Getting a quote from your building professional for their services or the cost of construction will help you figure out if you’re a good fit for each other

That being said, trusting your gut (Step #6) is more important than the building professional’s price. A sneaky Architect or Builder will underbid the project and then charge you up the wazoo for changes during the process. It’s no bueno.

6. Trust your gut.

Again, you need to trust this person. They should be your guide, your advocate, the person keeping you informed when others want to keep you in the dark.

I’m a big proponent of gut feelings. If the building professional makes you feel uncomfortable, move on. If they are calm, comforting, and make you feel excited about the project, go with it. Be sure to double check yourself (steps #3-#5) and then hire them!

7. Sign Something

Before you get into the fun part, make sure you sign an agreement with your Architect or building professional. If they’re on the ball, they’ll ask you to sign something and pay a deposit before they begin work. 

You should read through the entire agreement and/or run it by your lawyer. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or changes.

Whew! Exhausting and time-consuming but worth it. You just laid the ground work for a successful project.

Next Step: Researching Your Property

Last Month on Social Media:

I'm on a quest for area rugs for our new house! 🏡 This sketch took me 15 minutes and although it's not pretty, it's SO helpful. 🖊 Do you do this when you're shopping for furniture/decor or am I just an architecture weirdo? 🤔

I'm on a quest for area rugs for our new house! 🏡 This sketch took me 15 minutes and although it's not pretty, it's SO helpful. 🖊 Do you do this when you're shopping for furniture/decor or am I just an architecture weirdo? 🤔

My sister and I riding bikes in Santa Cruz, CA! 🚲 I am so thankful for the flexibility to take advantage of travel opportunities. I was attending a cousin's wedding in Monterey so stayed with my sister for a few days beforehand. 👭 I worked while she worked and we hung out on lunch breaks and in the evenings. It's lucky she (and the rest of my family) are so fricken cool. 😎

My sister and I riding bikes in Santa Cruz, CA! 🚲 I am so thankful for the flexibility to take advantage of travel opportunities. I was attending a cousin's wedding in Monterey so stayed with my sister for a few days beforehand. 👭 I worked while she worked and we hung out on lunch breaks and in the evenings. It's lucky she (and the rest of my family) are so fricken cool. 😎

This is the upstairs of the condo from my last post. 👉🏻 A work in progress, but isn't it awesome!? We were tight on space but this client loves his AV tech. 📺 So I designed a wall of bookshelves to hold a tv, projector screen, lighting, and all the necessary equipment. 📽 To the right of that is the office loft.  We've had a lot of bumps along the road with this one. 😬 Can't wait to see it done.  Beautifully executed by @TProDR

This is the upstairs of the condo from my last post. 👉🏻 A work in progress, but isn't it awesome!? We were tight on space but this client loves his AV tech. 📺 So I designed a wall of bookshelves to hold a tv, projector screen, lighting, and all the necessary equipment. 📽 To the right of that is the office loft.

We've had a lot of bumps along the road with this one. 😬 Can't wait to see it done.

Beautifully executed by @TProDR

Back in November, I spent a week working in San Diego. ☀️ Hooray! These clients invested in grey water storage tanks. So cool... Their roof gutters filter rainfall and feed it into the tanks. 🌧 Water is expensive in SoCal so they'll save tons of money on irrigating their raised beds and drought-tolerant back yard. 👌🏻  If money was no object, what would you do to make your home more sustainable? (FYI, sustainable homes have a higher initial cost but you save oodles in the long run.)  *I'll be in San Diego again in a few days. I still do lots of work there and travel back 4 times a year. So if you're in SD and need help, let me know. I have one consultation spot still open for this trip! 😊

Back in November, I spent a week working in San Diego. ☀️ Hooray! These clients invested in grey water storage tanks. So cool... Their roof gutters filter rainfall and feed it into the tanks. 🌧 Water is expensive in SoCal so they'll save tons of money on irrigating their raised beds and drought-tolerant back yard. 👌🏻

If money was no object, what would you do to make your home more sustainable? (FYI, sustainable homes have a higher initial cost but you save oodles in the long run.)

*I'll be in San Diego again in a few days. I still do lots of work there and travel back 4 times a year. So if you're in SD and need help, let me know. I have one consultation spot still open for this trip! 😊

This is the project manager and client in his new bedroom in San Diego... Guys, check out this combo of finishes. 😍 Durable, wood look-alike floor tiles with a real reclaimed wood wall. The wall will serve as the "headboard". 🛏 Can't wait to see it with the wall sconces, panel bed, and new rugs. This place is gonna be lookin' goooood. 😁  Need help with the finishes in your home? Message me! 👋🏻  Also, if you're looking for a project manager in SD, message me. Ed Earl is amazing. 🙌🏻 Seriously.

This is the project manager and client in his new bedroom in San Diego... Guys, check out this combo of finishes. 😍 Durable, wood look-alike floor tiles with a real reclaimed wood wall. The wall will serve as the "headboard". 🛏 Can't wait to see it with the wall sconces, panel bed, and new rugs. This place is gonna be lookin' goooood. 😁

Need help with the finishes in your home? Message me! 👋🏻

Also, if you're looking for a project manager in SD, message me. Ed Earl is amazing. 🙌🏻 Seriously.

When I'm struggling with a design, I have to get off AutoCAD and back to basics: trace paper over a print out! ✍🏼  This is one of my Maine projects. We're adding a big front porch, adding onto the kitchen, creating a new bathroom and utility room, and converting the garage into a den & craft room.  It's a lot to do in a tight space. Luckily, this is my specialty. 😄

When I'm struggling with a design, I have to get off AutoCAD and back to basics: trace paper over a print out! ✍🏼

This is one of my Maine projects. We're adding a big front porch, adding onto the kitchen, creating a new bathroom and utility room, and converting the garage into a den & craft room.

It's a lot to do in a tight space. Luckily, this is my specialty. 😄

We went to Quebec City back in January for Mike's birthday. 🎉 It was gorgeous and freezing. 🥶 We took refuge in the Maison de la Littérature; an old church turned library. ⛪️ Jesum croe it was incredible. 📚 The natural light ☀️ and way they honored the form of the church was perfect. I'm in love.

We went to Quebec City back in January for Mike's birthday. 🎉 It was gorgeous and freezing. 🥶 We took refuge in the Maison de la Littérature; an old church turned library. ⛪️ Jesum croe it was incredible. 📚 The natural light ☀️ and way they honored the form of the church was perfect. I'm in love.

More Quebec City love... this is the view from the ferry terminal! 🌅 You gotta love a city with beautiful transportation terminals, right? 🤣  That's Mike standing at the window. Check out the ferry graphics on the window to his right. ⛴ So cool.

More Quebec City love... this is the view from the ferry terminal! 🌅 You gotta love a city with beautiful transportation terminals, right? 🤣

That's Mike standing at the window. Check out the ferry graphics on the window to his right. ⛴ So cool.

There's something hauntingly beautiful about a windowless, masonry room wrapped in heated scaffolding and glowing in the afternoon light... or is that just my nerdy architecture brain? 🤓  This room awaits our skilled masons. Soon it will be a bedroom.

There's something hauntingly beautiful about a windowless, masonry room wrapped in heated scaffolding and glowing in the afternoon light... or is that just my nerdy architecture brain? 🤓

This room awaits our skilled masons. Soon it will be a bedroom.

 
Big things happening over here at Meldrum Design HQ! 🤗 Literally! Finally got myself a shiny new plotter (large format printer for those who don't speak archie nerd). 🖨 So awesome to be able to offer this service to my clients and building industry friends... I feel even cooler because of the makeshift vacuum box "table" it's sitting on. #DIYchic? 😂  Big thanks to @RuncibleStudios for giving me the inspiration and info to get this done. 🙌🏻

Big things happening over here at Meldrum Design HQ! 🤗 Literally! Finally got myself a shiny new plotter (large format printer for those who don't speak archie nerd). 🖨 So awesome to be able to offer this service to my clients and building industry friends... I feel even cooler because of the makeshift vacuum box "table" it's sitting on. #DIYchic? 😂

Big thanks to @RuncibleStudios for giving me the inspiration and info to get this done. 🙌🏻

Communicating with the Code Enforcement Officer is all part of the job. 👷🏼‍♂️ Luckily, our CEO on this project is a great guy. He's the ideal balance of understanding and firm... CEO's are a very important part of the building permit process. 📃 They ensure that buildings are actually built in the code-compliant way they were designed, protecting our future tenants AND the resale value of this apartment building. 🏢

Communicating with the Code Enforcement Officer is all part of the job. 👷🏼‍♂️ Luckily, our CEO on this project is a great guy. He's the ideal balance of understanding and firm... CEO's are a very important part of the building permit process. 📃 They ensure that buildings are actually built in the code-compliant way they were designed, protecting our future tenants AND the resale value of this apartment building. 🏢

 
 
Check it out! I was featured in West Coast Maine Magazine. ⭐️ Yep, it's a weird name for a Maine magazine but the article's not bad!

Check it out! I was featured in West Coast Maine Magazine. ⭐️ Yep, it's a weird name for a Maine magazine but the article's not bad!

This might be the most fun I've ever had at work. A couple years ago, the client moved to Portland, Oregon with almost no furniture. 🤭 He hired me to fly up and, in 5 days, we furnished and decorated his entire apartment. Portland has incredible consignment furniture shops so we bought a ton of second hand stuff and infilled with Ikea, Target, and Amazon... The space is small but flexible. For example, the desk doubles as a tv stand. 📺 And the "coffee table" doubles as an ottoman and a seat!  Do you need help with your interiors? I offer in-person AND remote design services. Message me. 😊  And for more info on this project, check out the article I wrote. http://bit.ly/2EVhgB8  (Recognize this space? It's the living room from the article in my last post!)

This might be the most fun I've ever had at work. A couple years ago, the client moved to Portland, Oregon with almost no furniture. 🤭 He hired me to fly up and, in 5 days, we furnished and decorated his entire apartment. Portland has incredible consignment furniture shops so we bought a ton of second hand stuff and infilled with Ikea, Target, and Amazon... The space is small but flexible. For example, the desk doubles as a tv stand. 📺 And the "coffee table" doubles as an ottoman and a seat!

Do you need help with your interiors? I offer in-person AND remote design services. Message me. 😊

And for more info on this project, check out the article I wrote. http://bit.ly/2EVhgB8

(Recognize this space? It's the living room from the article in my last post!)