Types of design services

A design project has numerous phases to it; design, planning, management, procurement, supervision etc. Each of these has its own set of challenges. As a designer, the fee you charge would be based on the combination of service you provide to the client during the course of the project. For a majority of clients, one of these three service packages will fulfill their requirements:

  • Pure design consultancy
  • Design plus management
  • Design-build (turnkey)

The main concern here is your time. You are charging the client for your time, but if there is a misunderstanding on the amount of time the client expects versus what you are offering, things can fall apart very quickly.

In my early days of running a design studio I was often confused about which type of design service to offer my clients. Often I would ask them directly, but obviously that was a bad idea. As a professional you need to be able to gauge the level of interest, involvement and capability of the client. So in this post I’ll share my thoughts on the three common types of design services and what to keep in mind when choosing between them.

  1. Design consultancy 

Just design, the client is able to execute the project without you, he just needs design ideas and a few material options before he takes the project forward. You’ll create the concepts, spec sheet and all the supporting drawings and 3D’s. You should set a limit to the number of revisions and be extremely frugal about your time on site. None of the contractors or vendors will be appointed, negotiated or managed by you. Offer three or four site visits, just to make sure things conform to the designs, but also offer a pay per visit option in case more visits are required.

This is an efficient way to work on a project, you are able to focus on the creative part of the project and leave the tedious site work to the client and his team. Overall this works out more economical for the client as well.

Be careful about the project budget here, if your designs don’t fit into the client’s budget then they are useless to him, so start with a project estimate before getting into the design process, otherwise you’ll be stuck redesigning the entire project. Also, your drawings will have to be accurate and clear, otherwise any errors in your drawings will get executed the same way and you won’t be around to make the necessary adjustments.

This works with a very limited number of clients, usually clients who have managed construction project before with offices and assistants who can take over the project management, vendor appointment, procurement, rate analysis, negotiation etc. Be careful when assessing whether a project is suited to this model. Every client thinks they can manage their own project, but when things get rough they expect their designers to step in to handle all the on-site problems, which is fine as long as the fee is high enough or the client is willing to renegotiate.

  1. Design plus management 

This is the most common model followed. You design the project, source the products, coordinate with the contractors, and are a constant presence through-out the cycle of the project. You will help the client negotiate with all the vendors but won’t get involved in payments, all bills will be raised to the client and he will make payments directly. This type of a project will take up a lot of your time and mindspace so charge accordingly.

The main difference between this model and the previous one is that you are responsible for managing the work on site, which includes appointing the contractors and vendors. The best part about this process is that you are in control of the project and its outcome.

Site visits are still tricky so be clear about how many visits you are offering, but account for about twice those many visits. You will have to explain the difference between project management and site supervision to the client; ideally it is the client who appoints a site supervisor, but if the client expects you to have the site supervised then charge him a monthly fee, to cover the cost of a daily supervisor, over and above your design fee.

Also be very clear about who gets to pick the vendors. In this model it is always best to get your own teams involved as you are comfortable with them and know their strengths and weaknesses. If the client insists on having some or all of the vendors appointed by him then make sure you still reserve the right to refuse anyone who doesn’t follow your protocols. Contractors who are appointed by the clients directly will avoid coming to your office for planning meetings, they expect you to be on site whenever they need you.

This model works best for clients who live close to the construction site and are generally available and willing to be involved but still understand that they need professional help at every step. As mentioned earlier, this is the most successful model I have come across; it allows the client to have some level of control without having to take on the burden of project management. He is involved in every step so is less likely to feel cheated, atleast not by you.

  1. Design/Build (Turnkey)

In this model the client pays you the entire project budget and leaves the design and execution completely up to you, profits come from the difference between the estimated and actual cost. On paper this sounds easy, but in fact it can be quite challenging. You will be responsible for all aspects of the project and won’t need to run minor decisions by the client. You can buy the products from wherever you want, appoint teams as you please and organize the project schedule to your convenience. The client has agreed to pay you a certain amount and in return you have agreed to handover the project by a certain date.

These kinds of projects are inherently full of hidden costs and escalations. It’s almost impossible to forecast the contingency expenses and budget overruns that might occur on site, and one has to budget for a high profit margin just to account for this. Also, you will need to be very specific about product brands for fixtures and appliances, any changes in the agreed upon brands will be viewed with suspicion. Project delays are another big concern as a lot of delays are caused by the client themselves or by situations outside your control, such as the recent lockdowns.

Be very clear about the payment schedule. Any delay in payments will throw the project off completely, so try and setup the payment schedule accordingly and insist on being paid on time. Also it’s best to have your accountant involved from day one. There will be hundreds of bills on either side and without proper accounting you might end up paying more taxes than necessary. You will also need your accountant to explain the details to the client at the time of billing.

This model works best for NRI’s or outstation clients who basically aren’t around to interfere. If the client lives in the same city and seems like they will be on site often, avoid making any hard commitments on time and budgets.

 

So that’s it from me, hope this was helpful. We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.

 

 

 

How to make design proposals that will win you more projects

The two major challenges one faces when pitching for a design project are:

  1. Other vendors quote very low rates (and increase it later).
  2. Clients don’t understand the complexity of a design project.

Both these need to be addressed in your proposal. A good proposal should help convert the lead and set you up to execute a successful project.

In today’s times designers and builders face tough competition. It’s common for home owners to get multiple quotes for their design projects. Apart from boutique design firms like you, larger players like LivSpace and HomeLane also pitch for renovation projects. With that in mind it’s essential to make a great impression upfront. Your project proposal is the document that will differentiate you from the clutter and build the trust that is essential to win projects.

What does a winning proposal entail?

The secret to a successful proposal is to anticipate the questions in the clients mind, and then respond to those in a concise and sleek proposal. The client wants a team of experts whom they can trust. Forget about name dropping and heavy discounting, instead focus on highlighting your integrity and process.

So what are these questions in the clients mind? 

Well It’s not very hard to know what the client is thinking: What will my project cost? Why will it cost that much; How much time will it take? Why will it take so long; Who are you? Why should I trust you.

While these questions are straight forward, the way you answer them is key to building trust. For example when forecasting a project budget don’t offer a thumb rule based ‘rate times area’ calculation, instead do a detailed breakup or BOQ. A good estimate itemizes the tasks and products that you believe are right for this project. Similarly when it comes to the project timeline, don’t just throw out a number like ’90 days’, qualify it with a breakup or gantt chart that helps the client appreciate the importance of sequencing the tasks correctly, and the expertise required to manage a project efficiently.

This gives the client an insight into your expertise, process and transparency. Everyone involved understands that the budget will evolve, but it’s important to present the base document in way that sets up the scope of work clearly.

Presentation is extremely important. Sending a rough excel sheet or a badly designed document will create a bad impression. Yes you are busy and have limited resources, but if you don’t care enough to compose a nice proposal, you don’t really care about this project.

Lastly, don’t try to win projects by charging a low fee. Remember the client is about to spend a lot of his hard earned money and is extremely insecure of being cheated out of a large sum, trust is his foremost concern. It’s your job to make him understand the complexity of the project, and why he needs a trustworthy professional like you to manage it. If the client is impressed by your proposal he will be happy to pay an appropriate fee for your service.

Do leave your comments and share your experience with design proposals.

Vaastu tips for your apartment projects

As an apartment owner there’s not much you can control in terms of room orientations, plumbing, entrance direction etc. Still it’s important to bring as much positive energy into your home as possible. With this in mind we’ve curated some Vaastu tips that are relevant for all types of apartments.

1] Never have exposed beams visible in your home, in case you do, consider a false ceiling with recessed lights.

2] Recommended vaastu colors are blue, green and yellow.

So find ways to incorporate these into your interior palette. Avoid painting any wall black.

3] Wooden furniture in regular shapes are good for harmony, avoid round or oval shaped furniture. Sheesham, Chandan, Sagawan, Sal or neem wood are auspicious types of wood for homes. Keep furniture atleast three inches away from walls.

4] Place mirrors on north and east walls only, as positive energy comes in from these directions and you don’t want to reflect those away. Use square or rectangular shaped mirrors and place them 4-5 feet above the floor. Don’t place mirrors opposite your bed.

5] Cleanliness is important. Make sure wall paint, flooring, appliances etc. are fresh and well maintained. Dirt and faulty electrical appliances attract negative energy.

6] In the kitchen, place the cooking hob in the south east, cooking should be done facing east. North east direction is best for kitchen sink

Hope these help you create a positive home that brings prosperity and good health for you and your family.

Picking the right color palette

Picking the right color palette and style is key for a good renovation project. But most of us are confused about how to go about this, It’s hard to know where to begin; here is our advice on how to get started.

Inspiration piece

This is a great way to begin. Think about an artifact, a piece of furniture, a rug, lamp, clock, anything that you already own or plan to get for this room, once you have this in mind use it as a jumping off point and pick a color that either compliments this piece or contrasts with it. Your room style should also be in line with the style of the selected inspiration piece.

 

References

In case you don’t have an inspiration piece in mind, you can browse reference images and identify a primary room color that you would like to incorporate into the design.

Complete the mood board

Mood boards are made up of colors, textures and patterns that define the style and design of the room. Once you have a picked a primary color you’ll need to create the entire mood board to complete the design, the color palette will be a set of colors that are either monochromatic (shades of the same color), analogous (corresponding colors) or contrasting the primary color selected.  The patterns and textures are derived from your preferences of style (contemporary, minimalist, classical etc.) and habits.

Hope this gets you inspired and helps you get started on designing your dream home.

12 Balcony Design Ideas your clients will Love

Here are some balcony design ideas which we have curated from various online sources. We hope you like them!

Balcony design with a bamboo wall, swing sofa, wooden and pebble flooring (source: Cuded)

 

Rustic balcony design with some plants, wooden flooring, and raw wood furniture (source: Cuded)

 

European balcony design with some plants, magazine rack and basic furniture (source: DecHQ)

 

Balcony design with a wooden feature wall, log wood table, and bench seating (source: DecHQ)

 

Balcony designed centered around colorful furniture and decor (source: DesignRulz)

 

Balcony design with plant beds and artificial grass (source: DesignRulz)

 

Balcony design with metallic orange furniture and a colorful rug (source: DigDig)

 

Balcony design with simplistic modern furniture and plants to liven the space (source: DigDig)

 

Balcony design with a metallic mesh screen, outdoor rug, kitchen herb garden, and simple furniture (source: MigDesign)

 

Balcony design for the golfing enthusiast (source: Orvis Grand)

 

Chic, modern balcony design with glass windows, and a metal-wood fusion rack and black patterned tiles (source: Slideco)

 

Modern Balcony design with a wooden feature wall, plant racks, full glass windows (source: Urban Ladder)

 

Checklist when Starting your Interior Design Project

If you’re starting to plan your renovation, here’s a starting checklist which will help you get off the ground and also help you plan the early phases of getting your project off the ground.

General

  • List out your scope of work so you don’t forget when talking to a designer/contractor
  • Meet 2 contractors and get quotes
  • Think about where you will store all your stuff (if any) in the rooms/apartment you plan to renovate
  • Think about where you will stay during the renovation

Budgeting

  • Pick a tentative budget, keeping something aside for décor and furniture, after you have a rough estimate of what things cost (for which you can use the BuildingBlox estimator)
  • Identify what you want to retain in the existing home, this could be furniture, flooring, woodwork, doors, windows, electrical wiring etc. this will help you remove these items from the budget and get a more reasonable quote.
  • Determine the goals of the project (e.g. increase storage, modernize space). This will allow for a meaningful discussion with your team, as well as prioritize decisions

Design

  • Browse the internet for room design ideas; this will help in creating the final look and feel of your space
  • Think of a color palette; pick a primary color for the room and some complimentary colors to match

Balcony Design Ideas for Home

The balconies in our homes are often significantly under-utilized, mostly because we don’t know what to do with them. If you live in a city like New Delhi where the heat can be extreme and the winters quite chilly, that problem is compounded because your window to use the balcony is not very long. Yet a nice balcony design can accentuate your adjoining room and bring a cozy feel to the apartment. Here are some of the major components of balcony designs that help define that look.

Plants

Balcony plants are one of the best ways to make your space come alive and break the monotony of bricks and concrete. Depending on the season, flower pots can add a lovely burst of freshness. You can also buy colorful pots to give that pop of color. Get creative and hang planters on the wall or from the ceiling instead of putting them on the floor. Depending on how far you’d like to go, you could even construct a green wall.

Source: digsdigs.com

Balcony Furniture

Instinctively you might think of putting a couple of chairs and a small table in your balcony, but you can vary it up with a Chaise lounger or a small foldable table for your laptop. You have plenty of options to play with in terms of colors and materials of furniture; there’s the cane furniture look, or the eclectic color look, or ethnic Indian look, or the modern straight line feel.

Source: onekindesign.com

 

Flooring

The balconies of your house probably come with standard tile flooring but you could modernize it with the wooden look, or even consider putting a rug. Though the latter may be tedious to maintain and keep clean. Artificial grass also a popular option these days if you’re going for a garden theme.

Source: home-designing.com

Décor

Like with every room, the décor is one of the final elements which help your room really come together. Balcony décor elements to play with include cushion covers, pots, lamps, and even rocks/stones.

Source: decorating-hq.com

10 tips to Save Money on your Renovation

Image Source: Moneycontrol.com

So here you are, ready to start a new renovation project. Surely, one big thing on your mind right now is the money that you’ll be spending. You’ll have plenty of people come to you and try to increase your budget, but we’re here to suggest a few ways you might be able to save money on your project.

  1. Compare quotes from a couple of companies
    • Don’t just go with the cheapest, look at the detailed specifications closely and judge professionalism
    • Often your local contractors will leave smaller details out which impact costing later on, or won’t tell you the brand of material they plan to use thereby reducing your quote in order to get the project.
    • A professional with proper documentation and scope definition up front leaves less ambiguity for some of these scenarios
    • Professionalism comes at a cost in the short term, but in the longer run
    • Note: BuildingBlox is happy to discuss any other competitive quote you might have received (that includes details)
  2. Commercial tiles where its not visible (behind kitchen cupboards)
  3. Repair doors & windows & get them polished instead of putting new ones
  4. Pick and choose where you want to spend more (e.g. hardware is a good idea)
  5. Designs – if you’re one for trendy designs, keep in mind that you might have want to redo it once the trend changes in a few years, at which point it will be expensive. Consider going with something that you will like for a longer time for items that are harder and more expensive to change (e.g. tiles, flooring)
  6. Make sure your specifications are as detailed as possible. The more you detail out and think of up front, the less likely you’ll want to make changes, which then cost money and time. In other words do invest some time and money in planning up front
  7. Bathroom design suggestion – use basic sanitaryware but pick nicer taps, faucets
  8. Plan 10-15% for contingencies because it does happen
  9. Reuse components if possible
    1. Wood chaukhats, doors for example. Other wood if sure its termite free
    2. Glass if you are replacing windows or partitions
    3. Latches
    4. Electrical fixtures, appliances – fans, lights, ACs, gysers
    5. Kitchen appliances – microwave, oven, toaster, mixer, fridge
      (take a look at our appliance calculator sheet to budget your appliance costs)
    6. Furniture
  10. Products
    1. Pick product brands that fit your price segment. E.g. Jaquar, Kajaria/Nitco, Crabtree fall in the midrange good quality product band. One can always go up the price range but you don’t need to if you’re trying to save money
    2. Use 1-2 shops to make your purchases as opposed to spreading them out. That allows you to negotiate better

 

Wardrobe Design for a man’s closet

Designing the perfect wardrobe in a limited amount of space is the key to keeping your clothes well organised and always looking your best. These tips should help you plan the perfect closet.

Modular Wardrobe

As a general rule a man’s closet should be modular and divided into 2 sections, the larger area should be dedicated to hanging space and a smaller section should be given to shelves and drawers. The main hanging space can be divided in two halves (top and bottom) as nothing in a man’s closet is longer than a shirt, at the bottom of the hanging space one can plan a shoe drawer which does not need to extend beyond the height of a running shoe. The open shelves are used for casual wear like t-shirts, shorts etc. and drawers for underwear, socks etc.

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Maximise Hanging Space in your Closet

For men it’s all about hanging, provide the most amount of hanging space for jackets, shirts, pants, suits etc.

Organizing Accessories in the Cupboard

Belts, socks, ties etc. tend to get lost easily in unorganised closets. The key is to keep them visible and easily accessible. For ties and belts use efficient slide out racks. For socks and briefs use compartmentalised drawers to make sure they are all in pairs and easy to find.

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Shoe Storage

Men’s shoes tend to be simple and don’t usually extend beyond the height of your average padded running shoe, so build a show drawer across the whole closet to maximise shoe space.

Packing Away Seasonal Clothes

If your closet height is more than 7 feet add a loft area on top for seasonal clothes like sweaters and jackets.

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These basic principles can be achieved in a number of configurations, so browse through options online and find the one that suits your requirements. If you have more space some of these concepts can be extended to a walk-in-closet.

 

Wooden or uPVC Windows and Doors

Updated Feb 2019

Doors and Windows today are not just restricted to being made of wood, but are also done in UPVC and aluminum. When it comes to windows, in our experience, more and more people are opting for UPVC over wood. This post should help you get a quick sense for the plusses and minuses of one over the other.

UPVC Windows and Doors

Nowfloats_DoorsWindows

A shift from wooden to UPVC windows and doors is happening in India because UPVC tends to cost a little less and requires less maintenance over its lifetime. They are less susceptible to moisture, which also helps in our hot and humid environments. They are also fire proof and termite resistant to top it all off.

Where UPVC doesn’t score well is in their design and color selection compared to their wooden counterparts.

In terms of brands of UPVC windows and doors in the Indian market today, you’ll find Finesta, Encraft

Wooden Doors and Windows

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Wood is a good insulator, and therefore provides better protection from the heat and cold than other materials. Wooden windows are also eco-friendlier, given they use wood (natural) vs. PVC (manufactured) and also require less energy to manufacture. Most of all they tend to look better than UPVC windows and doors. If maintained well, wooden doors and windows tend to last longer than UPVC.

On the flip side they are more expensive to make, require more time and money to maintain, and under moist/humid weather conditions show more wear & tear. For your reference, our experience suggests that the cost of wooden doors and windows is around 50% higher than UPVC. However, if you’re still looking to go with new wooden doors, you might consider reusing the existing frame (chaukhat) and save some money.

Repairing Old Doors & Windows

If you don’t need new doors and windows you could always consider the repair option. A good carpenter can fix up your old wooden window and frame, and the painters can help paint or polish it to make them as good as new. This turns out much cheaper than any of the above.

PLEASE NOTE: In both the wood based options above, please make sure you don’t have termites (deemak) in any of your other woodwork or else you risk it spreading to any new wood being brought in.