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.

 

 

 

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.

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

Renovation Project Estimation: Things Contractors Say

You’re starting to think about renovating your space, and like anyone who isn’t from the industry you might be wondering how to wrap your arms around the s#!^ contractors say to you during the estimation process. Here’s a brief guide on preparing yourself for your contractor conversations.

Your Project will cost <some unreasonable amount>

Money

This is always the starting point for any renovation discussion. Contractors will throw out a number just to try to anchor customers with a large figure and leave some room for negotiation. What you should do at times like this is get extremely analytical and ask them to break down the figures in detail so you understand what all goes into it. E.g. break it down by task, discuss measurements, unit rates of labor, products needed along with their costs (BOQ).

I will use the BEST quality material, don’t worry

Compromising on product quality is an area where contractors commit the most fraud. It’s an easy way for them to make more money because you aren’t monitoring them 24×7. Ask them to make a Bill of Quantities (BOQ), containing the product list and prices, for your project. This will allow you to buy products on your own if you find a large cost difference. Note that when you provide the material, wastage tends to be higher because workers care less about how much material is used (they aren’t paying for it).

I will deliver on time 100% guarantee

On Time

Contractors almost NEVER deliver on time, so you will need to do two things. First, ask them to make a written commitment on the schedule and accept a monetary penalty for each day of delay. They likely won’t be willing to do the latter but its worth a shot. Second, be prepared for a 25% extension of the timeline so delays don’t hurt you as much. Finally, try not to change the scope of work too often and let them go about their business. The more you micromanage, the more likely they are to miss the overall deadline.

I can do all kinds renovation work not just painting

Be very careful of this one. A lot of contractors who specialize in one area (e.g. painting) will try to take on complete projects to make an extra buck. They will then try to find people to do the other tasks. However, teams who have not worked together before are at risk of making more mistakes leaving you suffering. Ask the contractor about their last few projects, the kind of work they did, what went well, what went wrong, pictures from site, and references of clients.

This wasn’t in scope and will cost extra

Scope discrepancies can lead to major battles between you and your contractor. Its best if you write it all down on paper up front and make him sign it. Later on he cannot come and add on extra costs saying that something wasn’t included in the scope of the project.

Please give me money (payments every other day)

Unless agreed on before starting out your project, contractors will arbitrarily come and ask you for money – sometimes when they have a cash crunch on another project. Create a schedule and agree to milestone based payments, this will also incentivize them to achieve their milestones on time.

Budgeting your kitchen renovation

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It’s never easy to commit to a kitchen renovation. One is always concerned about the noise, disruption and the cost of renovating. While some disruption during the process is inevitable, at least when it comes to budgeting your project we can help. Here are a few tips on how to establish a renovation budget.
Identify what you want to keep
If looking to do the project within a budget one should consider re-using parts of their existing kitchen. Your oven, fridge, chimney and hob could be reused if in proper condition. If you are fine with the location of your water inlets and outlets then you can save on redoing the plumbing, and the same is true for electrical work. You might even consider reusing the original flooring.
Set priorities
What is the goal of the renovation? Do you want to Increase space, change the look and feel, or make it more functional for your changing requirements? Make a priority list of what you care about, this will help you pick and choose tasks when fitting the renovation into your budget.

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Modular Kitchen Renovation Cost Breakdown
Most modular kitchen companies will give you a rate that seems quite low, but one must note that they are only referring to the cabinets. When it comes to a holistic budget one needs to consider the cost of plumbing, electrical, tiling, painting etc.
The cost of renovating a typical 8’X 10’ size kitchen with branded materials and midrange specifications should be around Rs. 4 Lacks. The budget break down per task is as follows:
Modular cabinets: 40% (includes good quality hardware, and laminate finish)
Electrical: 17% (includes hob, chimney, fans and geyser)
Plumbing: 11% (includes kitchen sink and faucet)
Tiles: 7% (floor and walls)
Doors and Windows: 12%
False ceiling: 3% (includes recessed lights)
Kitchen Counter: 3%
Misc. civil work: 7% (includes demolition of existing kitchen, waterproofing, painting etc.)
Please note that this budget doesn’t include larger appliances such as a fridge, OTG or microwave oven.
Also it is always advisable to keep an additional 15% of the budget available for unplanned tasks that might come up once your old kitchen is removed.
This basic thumb rule guide should get you on the right track in terms of preparing a budget, you can go high end with your cabinet finishes if your budget allows it, or cut some costs down by choosing not to redo the electricals and plumbing as mentioned before.
And finally to avoid going above budget, stick to the plan
How much extra you spend is completely dependent on you, once you have decided on a reasonable number, stick to it. Making changes through the course of a project leads to cascading budget increases that will surprise you at the end.
Hope these tips help you plan your upcoming kitchen renovation.

Bathroom standards to keep in mind

Bathrooms are important to get right, a badly designed bathroom can get you off on the wrong foot each and every day. Keeping this in mind here are a few things you must incorporate into your next bathroom remodelling project.
Bathroom Colors

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Pick the right colors to reflect your personality. Weather you go for a contemporary charcoal and white palette or a Mediterranean blue theme take the time out to research your color choice and if possible find the right reference image to start with.
Bathroom Clearances
Make sure basic standards are met. Here is a list of things that you must make sure of:
WC location – Minimum 20 inches is recommended from the center of the toilet to the nearest wall or obstruction.  This means a span of 40 inches is recommended for the toilet.  The recommended clearance in front of the toilet is 30 inches.
Toilet paper holder – The standard placement is 8-12 inches from the front of the toilet seat to the center line of the toilet paper holder, at a height of 26 – 30 inches.
Standard washbasin height – Standard vanity height or washbasin height starts at about 30 inches high and goes up to say 43 inches.  At the lower heights most people will have to stoop to use the sink. Standard vanity cabinet depth is 2 ft.
Standard Shower dimensions – The minimum recommended size is 32 x 32 inches. If you can fit in a rectangular shower of 36 inches by 48 inches or larger you’ll be more comfortable.
Note: Shower enclosure door should open outwards (for unobstructed entry and exit into the wet area)
Bathroom Lighting

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Good bathroom lighting needs to be a combination of overhead and task lighting. Use a mounted or recessed light overhead for general illumination. You’ll also want to light the vanity area with some excellent task lighting, which can be a fixture above the mirror or sconces on either side. Additionally, you need to light the shower area with a dedicated overhead light.
You also should avoid light pointing directly down on your head because it will be harsh and unflattering. Instead, position your ceiling light over the walkway area so you’re lit from behind rather than directly in front of the vanity.

We hope these tips will help you with your next project. If you have any suggestions or opinions on this please do share your comments with us, we would love to hear your renovation stories.

What goes into a Bathroom Renovation

If you’re tearing down and renovating a bathroom, you may not know what exactly it involves. All you may have seen are bathroom designs you’ve found online and shared with your contractor. Here’s a brief checklist to educate yourself.

 

Bathroom Demolition
The first step is tearing down the existing bathroom. It could be entirely internal if the walls don’t need to be moved. Specifically you may need to remove the wall tiles, floor tiles, fittings, and woodwork. Demolition always goes hand in hand with debris removal, so make sure you have someone to manage it for you (contractor or 3rd party).

Lighting & Electricals
A well-lit bathroom makes your daily experience a lot more pleasant. Given that false ceilings are becoming common practice in the bathrooms nowadays, ceiling lighting can be considered. As for the rest of the electricals make sure to provision for a water heater, at least 1-2 open points for things like an electric razor or hair dryer, a pressure pump if needed, and an AC if you feel like splurging.

Bathroom Plumbing
Plumbing is fairly typical in a bathroom. Check your water pressure before the walls are plastered up and the fixtures are installed, so that if pipe routing needs to be adjusted, or provisions for a pump need to be made it’s a LOT easier.

Waterproofing your Bathroom
It is extremely critical to get waterproofing right. We recommend that you waterproof the floor and about half the height of the walls in the bathroom for extra protection. This is done before any tiles or flooring is installed.

Bathroom Tiles
There are plenty of options out there for bathroom wall tiles. It all comes down to your choice and budget. From multiple Indian and imported wall tile brands, to unbranded ‘Gujarat’ tiles, you’ll find a lot out there. If you have storage space, buy an extra box for later (years to come). Sometimes you need to break a small section of the walls to resolve plumbing problems and matching tiles come in handy.

Flooring
You can use tiles, marble, or granite for your bathroom flooring.

False Ceiling 

It’s not uncommon nowadays to have a false ceiling in your bathroom. Keep it simple would be our suggestion. One downside of false ceiling is that if there is some kind of water seepage from the floor above, the false ceiling will need to be replaced. Regular ceilings on the other hand are cheaper to fix.

Woodwork
You may choose to get some storage constructed under your sink (vanity), or elsewhere in the bathroom if you have space. This comes in handy to store things like bathroom cleaners, towels, soaps, shampoos etc. Using waterproof board is a good idea to give your cabinets extra protection against moisture.

Counter Top
You may want to put in a granite/marble counter top around your washbasin based on the type of look you’re going for.

Doors & Windows
More and more people today are choosing UPVC doors and windows. While UPVC doors may not quite work out in the bathroom, windows are a good idea given UPVC is more resistant to moisture than wood and last longer.

Shower Enclosure

A modern bathroom today isn’t complete without a shower enclosure. It adds character and utility to your bathroom. Toughened glass is pricy, so an enclosure adds a significant expense to your bathroom renovation.

Bathroom Fittings
Last but not the least is the bathroom fixtures, which includes your washbasin, WC, and plumbing fixtures like your shower fittings, sink faucet, and WC faucet. The pricing of these vary vastly depending on the brand you choose. Some of the brands in the market include Hindware, Jaquar, Kohler, Grohe.

 

 

Reducing air pollution during home renovations

One of the biggest contributors to indoor air pollution in apartment buildings are home renovations. If not done carefully the dust and chemicals spread through the ducts and shafts and are able to cause damage to quite a few residents. While there is no way to completely remove this unfortunate side effect of home remodeling, there are things that can be done to keep it in check.

Painting walls of an empty room. Renovation house.
TIMING
Whenever possible, work at a time when residents are likely to be out; 9 AM to around 6 PM is a fair window. While it is tempting to maximize working hours, it starts to become disruptive to the other residents.
BARRIERS AND CONTAINMENT
Cover all ducts and openings in the apartment during the process, this will contain the particles and one can control the damage.
Keep containers of paint and other chemicals closed whenever possible. And keep it all confined to as small an area as possible, for example if painting a room, keep the door closed and windows open so that the chemicals aren’t spreading to the other rooms unnecessarily.

Painting supplies

CLEANING
Get the site cleaned every day at the end of the day. Remove debris in proper containers. Also ensure that workers on site, clean their feet and clothes before leaving a site so as to not spread particulate around the area.

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VENTILATION
Keep the appropriate windows open and consider putting a standing fan on site to be able to direct the air out.
STAY OUT
And finally the most basic thing to do, stay away from a work site as much as possible, if inspecting the site make sure work is stopped and the site has been ventilated. Wear a mask whenever you do visit. Definitely keep children and pets far away from site.

Keep these tips in mind when renovating or share them with anyone who is planning a renovation, a little consideration will go a long way to improve the indoor air quality in your building.

How to design your home like a pro

Interior design is a specialised job and no one can replace what designers bring to the table in terms of combining functionality with design. Still, there is a large section of home owners who don’t have the kind of budget that allows them to splurge on the personalised services of an interior designer.
For those home owners, who deeply care about design but would just like to do up their space themselves, here are some tips on how.
Find Home Décor Ideas online, and break them down into elements
There are high quality home design ideas all over the web, websites like pinterest and houzz will allow you to browse thousands of designs for each room. Start saving the ones you like and break each image down into elements. For example if you like a kitchen image, identify what you like about it, whether it’s the colour scheme, flooring material, woodwork, accessories, lighting, wall tiles etc. this will help you list your requirements.
Map images to products
Carry the shortlisted images to the market and start selecting materials that will help you achieve the final look you want. Show these images to the shop owners and they will guide you.
Room Color Schemes
Pick a colour scheme that best defines your look, once established try and be consistent through different rooms.

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Feature walls
Design feature walls into your rooms. For bedrooms pick the wall behind the bed and give it contrast in colour or consider using wallpaper, for the TV lounge create a wall feature behind the TV and maybe a picture wall in the living room where you can arrange family photos in an aesthetic way. This adds an element of personality to the rooms.

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Lighting
Design the lighting with care, pick rooms where you want to create a false ceiling with embedded lights, decide where you want to add some hanging lights (dining table, breakfast counter, living room)

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Accessories and décor
This is the most personalised part of the process, be picky about the kind of mirrors, decorative bowls, planters and baskets you want to have displayed in your home. Identify the locations and design the appropriate shelves and tables that need to be installed in order to create the look you want.

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Keep these thoughts in mind when designing your own home, if so inclined make some sketches to discuss with your contractor, and we are sure you’ll fall in love with your new home once it’s ready.

Have you designed your home recently? Share your experiences with us in the comments section.