Great Conversation on Linked In – What are the benefits of using an interior designer/architect as opposed to just going to a contractor for design services?
Excerpt from comment by Jeff Polastro, Decorative Painter
– Nice discussion. I would like to add my two-cents here, since there are a lot of architects and designers answering this question, and not too many contractors. I am a contractor. A decorative painting / artist contractor. I have worked with design/architectural firms such as Robert A.M. Stern, Samuel Botero, The Offices of Thierry Despont, and many others – this is to give you a sound foundation for my clientele. I have also worked directly with clients as a hired contractor and color/design consultant – to bypass designers – in very high-end residential here in New York City.
Firstly, I will just say that I tend to veer away from projects that exclude either designer or architect (one acting as designer, as well), because they are my umbrella, my persuader, and my insurance (not legally speaking – I have my proper insurance – but their professional insurance). Clients need nurturing, reassurance, and a professional diligence that contractors do not definitionally have. Designers and architects have to make themselves available 24/7 for the client by picking up the phone at 11pm on a Saturday or Sunday, attend galleries, go to Rome, go to upholstery shops and carpentry shops, go to artists’ studios, then to Cuba, to shoe stores, to printing facilities, watch the dog for the weekend, and pretty much finish it off by relacing the shoes of color-uncordinated client after putting the finishing touches on the newly furnished 4-6 year project from foundation to last sewn seem on the final couch pillow. Then this process starts all over again for the second, third, fourth, fifth…project in different locations around the world for the same client. Their job never ends. It is a lifelong commitment, if the relationship is solid.
Not for me! Period. I have abilities, for sure. But I am not a designer, nor architect, nor do I ever want to assume either position. My work on a given project can last 2 days to 1 year, and that’s all I want or need for my company. Contractors, even GCs, should not over-occupy themselves with the kind of relationship that is demanded from a designer/client type.
Finally, aside from all my personal desires and non-desires, on a professional level, it is, again, more difficult for a contractor to communicate with a client on design concepts when the client is unable to see ‘the whole picture’. This is a common problem. In this case, I’ve seen builders destroy and rebuild walls and rooms 2 – 3 times in the absence of a designer or architect. Without an architect, I have seen ventilation gone wrong because there were no proper layouts on the blueprint. I have seen staircases being rebuilt because the scaling wasn’t right on the blueprint, etc. etc. Without a designer, I have seen a client purchase 7 chandeliers, only to cry after returning the seventh. I have seen a client choose silk upholstered walls in a hallway that leads to a bathroom/steam room (I’m sure you all know what happens to silk with variations in climate change). These are simple issues. I haven’t even begun to get into the issue where clients find themselves millions of dollars (not thousands, millions) over budget and try to screw over the contractors that have redone their work 6 times because of his/her insecurity to make decisions. I, personally, have had to get a lawyer involved with a close client (at least I thought so) for this very reason to finally get paid my contractual balance. Then I lost that client. And did not want to return. This would probably not have happened if she had a designer, and my work would have been completed weeks quicker (giving me a higher profit margin on that project).
All-in-all, designers are a must. So much so, that I usually decline projects that choose to forego them.