With the arrival of computers and programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, the world experienced a flood wave of newly hatched “graphic designers”. Sure, they might be prodigious navigators of the above mentioned programs, but were they really putting out good looking product? Well, that all depends on how high you set your standards. If you ask your mom what she thinks of your drawing, she’ll probably say she loves it. But to a more critical eye with the discerning perspective gained by education and experience – most would argue “no” on that point.
The advent of HGTV has had the same kind of impact on the architecture and design community. Because they make design, remodeling, construction, and indeed – equity building – look so easy, everyone and his mother think they can do it too – just as quickly, beautifully, and on the same budget! Okay, back up…. reality check…. Behind the scenes, with a designer who has been given a carte blanche, working with often donated materials, and a partially invisible construction crew consisting of specialized teams of volunteers working around the clock, perhaps what you see is possible. At least on TV. In real life, however, this is not the case. Creating an appropriate, delicious design solution, which synthesizes the clients’ desires and personalities with the budget restrictions and site requirements at hand; researching and sourcing the right materials (which includes accommodating for production as well as lead- and delivery times); producing construction documents; going through the permitting process; securing and scheduling the work of a team of competent and reliable contractors and sub-contractors, takes time – as well it should.
However inspiring, and capable of whetting your appetite, the carefully orchestrated design programs and featured make-overs may appear, they are not a realistic portrayal of the voyage from creation to realization. It’s marketing at its best, and it is easy to get sucked into. In actuality, HGTV is not much beyond an enticing platform for pushing the wares of the program’s product and advertising sponsors – all in the name of the equity-arms race. So, it is important to be realistic about what your goals are for your particular project. Decide what is important to you, and be careful not to get caught up in consumerist hysteria. Are you going to enjoy it for years to come, or are you moving in a couple of years?
With the recent economic slump we’re in, the housing market has slowed down considerably. The business of house-flipping seems to have come to a screeching halt – at least here in Portland. It’s important to realize that sinking lots of money into the prospect of the potential gains of a future sale (as per HGTV), is shaky business indeed. The inherent value of the improvements you make to your environment is highly subjective – unless of course they are part of the infra-structure, keeping you warm and dry. If you build to sell, a slew of variables and unknowns dictate whether you will ever see that money again. However, investing in quality-of-life enhancing measures to increase the well-being of yourself and your family, (or you and your employees) for the long term – that’s a totally different story. When the time comes to build or renovate, you have to make a lot of choices. Ask yourself some questions:
Am I capable of visualizing the end result? Do I know how to save money in some areas so that I can splurge in other places to get the result I’m after? Do I know what the best products out there to improve the energy efficiency of my project are? Can I recognize and reorganize any underused areas in my house that may be converted to better serve the purpose of this renovation? Can I exercise shopping restraint when confronted with a “good deal” that I don’t really need? Do I have the visual discipline and chutzpah to elevate and refine this project to something special that I will love for years, while still controlling my costs? Do I know where and how to secure all the products I need and want? Do I know enough about interpreting drawings and construction to pull this off? Can I properly convey my desires to my builder? Can I build it myself?
If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, you’re good to go! Chances are that your project will be a good one, and that you do indeed possess what it takes to pull it through successfully. But if your answers were mostly “no”, I bet it would be worth your time and money to hire a designer or an architect. But you’d have to promise him or her not to expect that your project is going to come together over a few days, and on a $3,000 budget, like on HGTV. Good design that is appropriate for you, and the execution of a successful project involves lots of mutual listening and trust. That in itself takes time.
More on the client/designer process in a future posting…