In this regard, he explains that, for a portion of what a design fee might be on any particular project, the firm offers a conceptual floorplan that enables the client to see what is being proposed.
“The client is actually invited into the office and can see this concept on the computer in 3-D. This enables us to compile a line item proposal so the client knows what he is going to get and for what price,” he notes.
Baker adds: “We are now being compensated for the time it takes to prepare a presentation, and the client can see what he is getting – which makes him more excited to start the project.”
The firm also creates a very specific budget for the client, with the itemization of products required.
“This has eliminated uncomfortable discussions about blown budgets,” he says. “The client is told that this process will get him halfway through a full-on design, although it is not going to give him complete drawings and specifications. It will get him enough so that, if he chooses, he can get competitive bids and know they are all based on the same information.
Baker estimates that after some 50 “scope of work” sales agreements conducted by the firm, only three have elected to not move forward with the project.
Baker, who handles the sales and design aspects of the business, notes that a first-hand design approach is what works best for the firm.
“I have learned an awful lot about kitchen and bath design through the school of hard knocks,” he explains. “The rest has come from reading trade and shelter magazines, correspondence courses, trade show seminars and association-sponsored events.
“Our design philosophy is to give the customer what he wants for his budget and make sure it is safe while keeping an eye on quality and service,” he explains.
Baker also cites the firm’s staff of nine – which consists of six field employees, two full-time and one part-time employee – as adding a critical element to the design process.
“I believe that our staff’s people skills improve our overall capabilities and direction in a much greater way than anything else,” he says. “We have been able to learn design [properly] since we were actually involved with building projects. That has had a major impact on our design approach.”
He continues: “For instance, we have always made it a point to get our clients to make all of the selections for products and major materials for their projects. We feel it is very important from the emotional and psychological side of remodeling to have them as involved as much as makes sense.”
Baker explains that, as clients “shop” for and select products, they are invited into the D&J offices to review and adjust the layout as dictated by their selections. Although the firm concentrates on kitchen and bath remodeling, it also offers a variety of other services, such as moving bearing walls, replacing flooring, and door and window replacements.
Remove and Improve
The firm also specializes in “remove and replace” kitchens, where they are called in to gut the existing space, create a better layout and use of the space and replace everything in it.
But, he is also quick to note that the firm does not “engage in changing house ‘footprints’ in any way.” In fact, when a call comes in for an addition of space for a kitchen or bath, D&J is quick to refer it to other National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) contractors in the area.
“Most of these homes have adequate space; it just needs to be used more efficiently, which sometimes requires removing a partition. But, the majority of our projects have very little framing work done in their scope,” he says.
To offer a clearer indication, Baker cites two projects that the firm recently completed.
“One was a galley-style kitchen in a 1928 home that had been remodeled previously – with disastrous results. We updated the kitchen and nook area by using painted shaker cabinets, granite tops, stainless appliances and a wood floor to match the rest of the house. The kitchen looks like it has been there since day one even though it is brand new!” he says.