When you’re planning to invest in a major home-improvement project, there’s nothing much more important than clearly communicating your vision to your local Portland remodeling company.More than just detailing the what, where, when, and how, your communication with your remodeling professional needs to convey the sense of style that you want the finished product to embody. And how do you do that? With spoken words, written words, photographs, and even hand-drawn sketches.
First, THE PHONE CALL
Starting from the top, your first contact with a prospective remodeler or design-build company should be by phone, not email. Some things can’t be conveyed, or sensed, in writing. On the phone, you’ll be able to pick up a lot of clues about the person you’re going to be dealing with. Is he or she attentive to what you’re expressing about your remodel?
Does he or she seem willing to be available by phone throughout the project? During this phone call, you can ask some questions that will help you sort out prospects, such as does this company often work in the style you’re aiming for, will it be available in the time frame you need, and can it handle the scope of project you have in mind?
#1 BRING YOUR VISION
For your first face-to-face meeting with your potential designer or builder, bring along magazine clippings or images you have saved from your online research. During your envisioning stage, it can be helpful to keep a notebook with you in which to jot down ideas and inspirations that come to you throughout the day.
Those notes will be helpful when you’re trying to transmit your vision to your builder. A Houzz Ideabook, which you can create on the Houzz website, is an ideal way to save digital photographs and floor plans that will show what you have in mind. When the photos and diagrams you’ve saved don’t quite match your situation, just pull out a pad and pencil and do a quick sketch. You don’t have to be an artist or architect to get your idea across.
#2 CLARIFY THE ROOM’S PURPOSE
When you present your vision to the designer, it’s critical that you tell him or her how the room will be used. If you’re not sure how you want to approach it or you’ll be using the room for multiple purposes, start by telling a story.
Outline how the room is currently used. Walk through your normal day as it includes the room. Identify all the problems you currently have, as clearly and simply as possible. This will help your remodeler to figure out the best solutions. You could even try to express the intangible by saying how you want to feel when you’re in the room.
#3 SETTLE YOUR PREFERENCES IN ADVANCE
Remodelers love a homeowner who has some degree of flexibility, but you should still have a few preferences figured out in advance. For example, if you want exotic or antique reclaimed hardwood flooring and you won’t settle for anything less, it’s important to make that clear from the beginning. Outline the common elements for your remodeling project, and make a list of preferences for windows, walls, flooring, doors and more.
This is also important for things that you do not want. Homeowners often have a specific style in mind, and it may be easier to convey by discussing elements that you would rather not see in the design. This has a double effect of clarifying your expectations, and decreasing the chance that you will need a change order to get rid of something you don’t like.
#4 THE LINGO
It doesn’t hurt to make yourself comfortable with the design vocabulary specific to your vision. Can you tell the difference between Craftsman, art deco, industrial, Victorian, Southwestern, and farmhouse style?
Be sure to pay attention to whether your designer knows what you’re getting at. If he or she starts talking about exposed beams and dark-wood paneling for your midcentury modern design, you’ll know there’s a problem. We wrote an entire blog dedicated to design-build remodeling, it's advantages, misconceptions, and more.
#5 TAKE AN ACTIVE ROLE IN NEGOTIATIONS
There’s a point after the first or second discussion that you may want to hand over the reins to your remodeling team. And while it’s important to let them create a design that meets your needs and that they can successfully execute, this wouldn’t be a good time to check out. There will be moments where you need to consult on the finer points of the design, to confirm that it looks good and works with your vision.
Take the opportunity to clarify your goals, if the design doesn’t quite achieve them. It’s better to fix it now than to try to reverse course later.
#6 SPECIFY A BUDGET
During your introductory discussions, it’s imperative that you be honest about your budget so that the designer/builder will know if your plan is even feasible. Start by doing a little research into the cost of certain types of projects.
There are Portland-specific cost guides available to help you see the average price for similar projects in your area. That way, you know that you have the general budget to accomplish your plan. He or she will have the knowledge to tell you if it’s not, and to suggest possible revisions to get your dreams to match up with the reality of your budget.
#7 BRING A FRIEND TO HELP
The ability to communicate effectively with others is a skill that some people spend their lives developing. It’s not always as easy as it seems, and your ability to get your point across also depends on the person receiving the information. If you own your home as a couple, it’s vital that both of you get a chance to relay your needs and expectations for the room. Even if only one of you is going to use it, it’s worth getting additional perspectives on how the project and the final result will affect the flow of the house.
If you’re the sole homeowner, it might be worth bringing in a friend or family member who’s familiar with your design goals and good at expressing them. That way, you can come at it from multiple perspectives, with a higher chance of hitting the target.
#8 DON’T STOP COMMUNICATING
Once you and the designer/builder have agreed to work together, you’ll need to put everything in writing, including as much detail as possible about what you want your room or rooms to be like when the job is finished.
And by all means, continue to communicate, daily, with your remodeling company as the work progresses, making sure that the dream that was in your head is taking shape in wood, tile, stone, and steel just the way you’d envisioned it.