Being a high-end residential designer, the hardest part is to be looked down by the commercial designers. It is hard to be hired by commercial design firms as a high-end residential designer. I know most commercial design firms think we high-end residential designers are decorators who do rich people’s draperies, but in fact, we do know more technical and structural stuff than you think. When we worked on projects with different professionals such as architects, structural engineers, AV consultants, GCs, landscape architects, lighting designers, millwork shops and so on, we actually worked very closely with these professionals in much detailed manner.
Most commercial designers worked on large-scale projects with very tight schedules, so they overlooked the details and focused on the overall projects instead, and because commercial projects were usually in large square footage, commercial designers’ tasks were divided in order to focus on certain tasks. For example, some designers will always do CAD drafting but will never write any purchase order. Some designers will always specify FF&E but will never supervise the job sites. Without knowing the full procedure of design, it is not possible to create any well thought through design.
Many commercial designers usually will not consider the small design details such as how the materials should meet or end at joints as carefully as the high-end residential designers. They won’t bother to know how the AV consultants to wire the automatic draperies or how the metal shops to weld or plate the metals, either. I believe they honestly just do not have the time to really care about these things, so they handed these things to other professionals completely and let them take care of the details and moved onto another project. Therefore, it created a situation that you let non-designers handle the design details. That is why many commercial spaces look great from far distance but when you walk closer, you will spot many poorly designed or executed design details.
Sometimes when I read some articles talking about luxury stuff for the hospitality projects, I was like, what?! you are talking about this in 2014?! I have used this stuff way back in the early 2000! That is right! When the high-end/high-tech stuff just came out to the market, they were usually expensive and limited in quantities, so they could not be used in the commercial projects which usually have more restricted budget and require larger quantities of products in stock, whom were those high-end/high-tech products sold to if they were too costly for commercial projects? well, to the high-end residential clients, and after few months or even few years later, cheaper knock-offs came out, and then you started to see these products pop-up in the commercial projects such as hospitality or retail spaces everywhere. So, high-end residential designers always got the chance to experience the cool stuff before anybody else.
One last thing I think most commercial designers never can achieve is having the luxury design taste or the ability to tailor-made very unique designs. The stuff they designed or specified always have, I am sorry to say, the cheap and modular look. I know they try hard to make some of the spaces they designed look luxury and custom designed, but even I stayed in some of the super high-end luxurious presidential suites at 5-star hotels, and when I paid attention to some of the designs such as coves, moldings, base boards, cabinet kicks or drawers, I was always amazed how cheap those details looked and how much the millwork looked like modular furniture.
I am not saying commercial designers are bad. I simply just want to let you know if you are looking for a designer to design your luxury home, please look for the designers who are specialized in high-end residential design or the commercial designers who also have extensive high-end residential project experiences. If you hire a commercial designer who does not have any high-end residential design experience to design your luxury home, I do not care how famous the designer is, he/she might not meet your expectations, and will be very likely to disappoint you throughout the process.