Though ignorance and naiveté can be comfortable and nice to hide behind, they have no room in the building and renovation process! It is crucial that you, the client, make yourself an active and knowledgeable participant. Of course, you rely heavily on your General Contractor (GC), who is in charge of the entire project, but you should also understand the process, know the construction team, and what each discipline provides. If you understand how they make decisions, report back to you, how payments are made, and are active in the decision-making process and the timing and coordination of their respective services, you will be a more satisfied customer in the end.

Whether it is a new building or renovation of your own home or business, you will be working with an army of sub-contractors whose roles you need to know and understand. These subcontractors are the trades that work under your GC, but ultimately still work for you. Examples of these would include the obvious, such as the plumber, electrician, HVAC installers, carpenters, and painters. However, this often includes the window and door installers, the landscapers, insulation providers, window treatment installers, flooring and tile installers, sound system experts, custom finishers, driveway pavers, and more.

Educate yourself about the process and people, because a good General Contractor will welcome your interest and involvement, and if they have done their job well, you will be well informed from day one. But you do need to establish this relationship right from the start in a respectful and professional manner. It is good to have a written list of questions each time you meet with the GC and to have them promptly answered and recorded. Most GC’s provide an agenda for these meetings which helps immensely! Recording these meeting notes, whether the meeting is planned (weekly updates) or impromptu (oops, something happened!), will help the project run as smoothly as possible. I always appreciate when the GC has these written job notes as a formal part of his records, highlighting the “who, what, and when” of each step. When this happens, it is an interior designer’s dream-come-true as the project is a much less stressful and bumpy affair!

If all of this seems intimidating, never fear, because this is where the interior designer becomes even more crucial! Since the designer has been through this before, they are a great asset as they represent the client to the architect/builder and to all the sub-contractors. Once hired, they represent YOU in all project coordination. Your interior designer knows the right questions to ask, knows you and your needs and expectations, learns to know the construction team, what to expect, how things should run, and keeps tabs on the whole process for you. A good interior designer should know the specific vocabulary and expectation of the trades and builds a good relationship with the team, always respectfully starting with the GC. The interior designer represents YOU, and is there to make decisions and to ask the hard questions when problems arise.

Remember, your key to success for your interior design project is to educate yourself, and to have a trusted interior designer by your side!