7 Questions to Ask Clients Before They Start a Renovation – BDA featured on Houzz ideabook

Extended with design touches – The Irish Times (Thursday 22nd October 2020)
October 22, 2020
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7 Questions to Ask Clients Before They Start a Renovation – BDA featured on Houzz ideabook

The full ideabook from Houzz (22nd October 2020) can be found here.

Four professionals on Houzz share what they like their clients to consider before embarking on a project

Amanda Pollard Houzz UK Editorial Staff. Journalist and content editor specialising in interiors and architecture.

Before you start discussing Planning Permission, dimensions and materials, it’s a good idea to go back to basics with a new client to get a clear idea of what needs to be achieved. We asked four professionals on Houzz to tell us the key things they ask homeowners to think about before getting started on a renovation.

Contributing professionals: 
Joe Robertshaw of Place for Humans; Susan Van Meter of SVM Interiors; Nicky Percival of Nicky Percival Interior Design; Michael Frain of Bright Design Architects

What problems do you want to solve?
The best designs often come when finding a solution to a problem, says Joe Robertshaw, who asks clients to forget any solutions they’ve seen elsewhere. Instead, he suggests they tell their professional what doesn’t work in their existing property.
“When a client starts the conversation with, ‘I would like…’ or ‘we are looking to add….’ I want to know why they need it, what problem they think this is going to solve for them,” he says. “I ask this to gauge whether their initial ideas will actually solve the original issues, or whether they have fallen in love with an aesthetic that is potentially completely unrelated.”

How do you want to feel in your new space?
Susan Van Meter asks clients to think about the key elements they feel will bring them the most joy – the must-haves and deal-breakers. “I ask them how they want the final result to make them feel,” she says
Nicky Percival emphasises the importance of colour psychology and asks clients to think about which colour palette would work for them emotionally.
“It’s not just about the development or the build, but rather them, their personalities and their lifestyles,” Joe agrees. “I ask them to think about the way they use and move around the space they currently have. This will help them broaden the answers to the first point. What would enhance the property to fit around them or what is it lacking completely?”

What do you and your partner disagree on?
“If the clients are a couple, we ask both parties to prepare a brief,” Michael Frain says. “This can help to establish the key items required, and also identify early on any potential differing views and needs. These can then be investigated as part of the design process and the optimum solution established.
“Once on site, trying to make changes can have several knock-on effects, or might not be possible if alterations would affect Planning Permission,” he says.

What’s your real budget?
Susan advises that clients should have a clear idea of how much they’d like to spend and communicate this to the professional. “The designer will then be able to fulfil the requirements of the project more effectively, saving both client and designer time and money,” she says.
“The client needs to be honest about the budget from the outset,” Michael says. “Part of the role of the professional is to then see what can realistically be achieved for that budget – and if it doesn’t meet the brief, we can discuss whether the budget or brief need to be adjusted.”
Michael recommends this happens as early as possible. “Otherwise, there will be a much more painful conversation in store once tender prices come back from builders. It might literally entail going right back to the beginning, with the knock-on impact on timeframe.”
He adds that this discussion can also establish whether you’d need a longer term masterplan, where the works are broken into phases. “Typically, phase 1 would take care of fundamentals, such as electrics, heating and insulation, phase 2 additional living space, and phase 3 additional bedrooms,” he says. “This obviously varies based on client, property and budget.”

When do you want the project to finish?
“Having a clear timeframe is critical to the success of any project,” Michael says. “Working out an overall programme – even an outline one – at the start with the client can really pay off in the longer term.”
By identifying potential issues early on, you can find solutions, he continues. “A deadline, such as works needing to be completed by a critical date, might rule out a scheme that requires Planning Permission, for example,” he says. “Ideally, time to consider initial design options is usually time well spent, as clients may be living with these key early decisions for a long time.”
Michael recommends clients factor in an extra month to the programme. “If a builder says it will take six months, but clients don’t need to move back in for seven months, this can significantly de-stress the entire build process.”
To make this process easier, consider using Houzz Pro’s timeline tool, which will enable you to plan out a clear schedule of works and share it in real time with your client.

What do you want from me?
Nicky emphasises to clients the importance of communicating all their practical needs for the project. “I ask them who else is involved, such as architects, contractors and specialist craftsmen,” she says. “Also, what is my level of responsibility – do they need me to project manage and, if so, for what specifically? Who will I need to liaise with?”
Other things Nicky recommends clients ask themselves are whether the building is listed or in a conservation area, and whether they have strong feelings about sustainability or ethically sourced products.

How can I make your space feel like home?
Joe asks clients to forget about resale value and think instead about the everyday value their renovation will bring to them. “There seems to be an unjust balance, with the emphasis on the resale value within property development, which I feel is wrong,” he says.
“There’s a train of thought that goes along the lines of, ‘If we add the fourth bedroom, it will have more value to others when we sell….’ rather than thinking of how to use and maximise the space for themselves now,” he says.
“A home has an unspoken language that can express the love, happiness and warmth it has witnessed and helped to create within its walls,” he continues. “To me, that immediately adds more selling value to a property, if people can walk in and feel a loved home. This runs more than just paint deep.”