Ever since the housing market crashed in 2008, I have realized the line between commercial and high end residential projects has been blurred. In the pre 2008 era, there were lots of custom built-ins and high quality furniture that designated to high end residential market used in high end residential projects, but now we can see many less expensive modularized commercial grade cabinetry and knock off furniture that used to be selected for commercial projects used in high end residential projects. In terms of project deadlines, high end residential projects now are asked to be completed just as quickly as commercial projects without considering maintaining high quality craftsmanship. Without high quality materials or craftsmanship, I once wondered if we still can call high end residential projects high end? But considering the high end residential project clients are still just as rich as pre 2008 era, I believe I still have to consider the residential projects coming from these affluent clients as high end, but in reality, these clients’ mindsets are no longer truly high end. Therefore, I think we should call today’s high end residential projects commercialized residential projects.
Has anyone asked you to recommend any general contractor or formal employee? Yes, and I also have asked for references on general contractors and employees. Asking for references may sound making sense before hiring anyone, but I realized it actually created blind spots for my own judgement.
I needed a designer who was analytical and technical oriented but I ended up getting one who was outgoing and talkative. This designer’s formal employers told me she was great! She was a pretty good presenter and a good sales person who had great taste on FF&E, but she was not very good at drafting and not very technical oriented. She had very limited experiences on construction and job site supervision. So, she might be great for other design firms but not necessarily suitable for me.
I also worked with a designer who had bad reputation from one of her ex- employers, but I looked at her resume and found she was working for that particular design firm for over 10 years, so I wondered if this designer was so bad, why the employer who bad mouthed her kept her for so long? Later on I found out that particular employer did the same thing to all of her formal employees who left her. If she felt everyone who left her and moved on was basically a traitor, of course there will be no good designer for her.
I also tried to find a GC for a high end residential job, and I found one who had really good reputation. Well, I soon realized he was very fast but was not very detail oriented, then I also realized this GC had done mostly commercial projects and had limited experiences on high end residential jobs. No wonder his craftsmanship sucked!! He might be fast which most commercial project clients liked, but his lousy workmanship really couldn’t deliver the quality work the clients were looking for. So, I couldn’t keep working with him on high end residential projects in the future.
After these 3 incidents, I definitely stopped relying on references as much and used my own judgement more before hiring anyone.
When I saw or heard the word high-end commercial, retail or hospitality design, I always laughed inside. I was fortunate to have the opportunities to design all these spaces mentioned above, and based on my own experiences, I have only seen really high-end residential projects, but for the commercial, retail or hospitality projects I worked on, they were called high-end, but actually they weren’t.
I had the chance to design a client’s own residence and his jewelry shop, the client demanded the quality of the designs for these 2 projects must be “high-end”. So, I proposed a super luxurious wall sconce for his 12K s.f. residence which cost 8 grand a pop, I proposed 8 but the client loved it and said I want 10. Meanwhile, I selected a nice wall sconce for his jewelry shop, with the retail project in mind, I picked an $650 sconce, and proposed 8, the client loved it but asked me to find something looks similar but less expensive, and I did, the new selection cost $500, he again said “I loved it! but is it possible to look for a similar one with lower price?” I replied “with the look and quality, the price is the best and it meets the budget, and I don’t think I can find anything else with this design but less expensive.” So, the client said “then find someone to knock it off.” I am the designer who hates people copy other people’s designs, so I lied to him saying I couldn’t have the sconce knocked off in cheaper price, so I had to find another one. The final selection was $450 a pop, less expensive, visible medium-low level craftsmanship, but it looked very similar to the very first $650 one, and the client was very happy and said “Good job! It is $400 saving right there!”
I totally understand where he was coming from, because if that project was a 300-room hotel, $5 less expensive stuff per room will generate $1500 savings, this kind of mentality for commercial, hospitality and retail projects makes a lot of sense, and it is smart and no-brainer, but if you call it “high-end”? I totally disagree. Well, maybe the look, definitely not the quality or craftsmanship.
Just read an article about what interior designers can do to help homeless people. Oh! Dear! Here we go again. I just read about a fashion designer designed clothes for homeless people to keep them warm, and a hair stylist helped cutting homeless people’s hairs, the fashion designer and hair stylist instantly became internet sensations, and both their popularities and businesses boomed as the result. What a good business strategy! But please stop using homeless people to be your free commercial actors or guinea pigs. Interior Designers!! If you really want to help homeless people, give them jobs as design interns at your firms, how’s that? No related education or credential? Well, you tell me how many interior designers out there were majored in interior design in colleges, and how many of them passed NCIDQ exam or are licensed and State registered?! Believe me, offering them jobs at your firms will be more helpful than design their “high-end” homeless shelters. Stop giving starving African children expensive toys!! It’s the same theory. They need food!