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What do you see as the keys to a successful collaboration?
“Communication is a crucial part of a successful collaboration. When two designers work together, it’s very important to know what each does best, and therefore establish which one is the lead [person] with regard to the project. Sometimes that’s fairly easy to do. For instance, an interior designer would be better suited than I would be for dining rooms. If I am working with an architect, generally he lets me submit my designs as part of his project. Of course, you need to be able to communicate with the homeowner, as well. It is vital that there is strong communication in terms of designing within a budget that the homeowner may have. We may have fantastic ideas, but we could be wasting our time if it doesn’t fit the client’s budget. I also recommend working with a design professional who has comparable experience and talent, so that there is a good comfort level with the person you are collaborating with [throughout the design process].”
Michael Noble, CMKBD
“I think the most important thing to remember is to listen to what the clients want and try to give them a design that fits what they want. Of course, it should still hit budget, and you want to make sure they are not making a mistake. Sometimes they want something that you know may not work but you have to approach it gently. The same holds true when working with a contractor. You have to try and get them to interpret what you are trying to do for a client. We have contractors that we can refer, so a lot of times it is someone that we have worked with before. If not, you try to meet with the contractors that they have brought in. When I pick contractors to refer, I first consider budget, then personality. I also try to give clients two or three different names so that they can interview those people. They usually feel comfortable because we have used them before. Working with someone that you are comfortable with is the ideal collaboration. There are challenges too, though, such as making sure that your interpretations are not misconstrued. The more you communicate it and the more it is written down, the smoother a project will go.”
Suzanne Rybacki, designer
“Without a doubt, the main thing is communication. Everybody needs to know what to expect and what can be expected, and that is not just verbal but also in floor plans and elevations. Drawings also have to be accurate, as does anything that is dimension-related. Any type of footnotes, such as notes to installers or electricians or plumbers, should be clear so that there are no surprises. If there is a homeowner involved, then you are going to get into questions of who has final say, whether it is the interior designer, the contractor or kitchen designer. I think that has a lot to do with how your company portrays itself. Designers need to clearly define the guidelines and expectations of the customer. Designers should also be careful not to get too many people in the middle, and not get everybody’s opinion. This is especially true when issues come up in terms of how to fix something or how to design it to best suit the customer.”
Michael Scardina, designer
The Kitchen Center of Winston Salem, Inc.
“I think that one of the big things is pricing. It’s important to always be up front with the pricing and don’t have hidden costs. You also want to keep the contractor in the loop with what you’re talking to the customer about. If we run into a situation where someone on staff is not clicking with a customer, we try to pass the customer to someone else on staff to see if they click better, so personality is also a consideration. To create a strong collaboration, I like to look at the type of house or design that is being done and try to match that with the right contractor. I also want to make sure that the client is going to gel well with certain contractors. That has a lot to do with it, as well.”
Todd Kosakowski, president
Bernhardt’s Remodeling Center
“I’ve always found that my most successful collaborations came as a result of me and the person I was working with being able to check each other’s design. I try to have a running conversation with the people I am collaborating with because it gives me that sense of having someone to fall back on. This is important because there’s always that possibility that even though you look at something a million times, you may miss something that the other person will see at first glance. I think it’s great when you have somebody who can offer as much knowledge – or more – than you can. It always gives you a good feeling to know that you can depend on somebody else. There are always going to be times when you think that you have the proper plans set up, but getting a different view from another designer makes things better.”
Brooke Hamilton, president/owner
Kitchen Visions and More
“The main thing is for the customer to get connected with a designer so that their needs are met, especially in terms of their qualification level and personality. If their personalities don’t blend well, then the entire process is not going to go over well. They have to be in tune with one another and that is achieved by the salesperson listening to what the customer is asking for. Communication is probably one of the biggest things that we as designers need to strive for, especially for customer needs. As designers, we need to always be talking to the other design professionals, making sure that we are on the same page. You may be thinking one thing and the other designer may be saying another, but you have to take both views into consideration when looking over a design together. As far as the main challenges, I think that many times – especially in new construction – designers see a layout or kitchen for the first time and automatically get ideas in their heads as to what they want to do. The trick is to not think about your ideas only and consider what the client’s needs are for the project.”
Marcy Sobczak, design/sales
Williams Kitchen and Bath
Grand Rapids, MI