Today we want to let you in on the process of long distance design. Lori Dennis Inc. now boasts clients across the country and around the world! How were we able to do that? Well it wasn’t always so easy. Of course social media, press, and being on television syndicated overseas helps garner the attention of potential clients abroad, but one thing it doesn’t do is prepare you for the process.

The Process of Long Distance Design

We start with phone or skype calls like we would on any other project to discuss scope, budget, timeline, style and other consultation questions. Then we agree on and sign a contract. So, the same as local projects… But then we spend a bit more time developing a clear communication plan:

Developing a Communication Plan for Long Distance Design Projects

Communication is key and could make or break a project.  Be clear at every phase to avoid wasting time or making mistakes.  It may take more time in the beginning but will save time in the end.

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Technology and Communication Rules!  

Luckily, it’s easier than ever to communicate electronically from around the world to share a current space, inspiration ideas, design process and construction. Some of the ways we engage with clients all over the world include:

  • Saving favorite inspiration images through Idea Boards on Houzz, Pinterest Boards, Drawings, Renderings, Floor Plans and Elevations.
  • Film a walk thru of the space and describe the existing situation.
  • Film a client’s reply to design presentation for reference.
  • Use Skype
  • Share Screen on computers to explain concepts and design selections.
  • Share files and texts over email and phone.

You name it! We also have them submit:

  • Floor plans if available
  • Existing photos of every room and every wall
  • Inspiration images to express style, wants and needs in each space

 * Must be very clear in all photos – noting what you like and don’t like, and what you’re referring to in each saved photo.

Next, Design Team creates an overall look, feel, style for the home.  Client then approves or revises with additional communication and proceeds, creating full construction line drawings to include New Walls, Electrical, Lighting, Material Finishes, Furniture, Exterior, along with elevations for each room/wall.  

Getting Clear Client Approvals

Then, the Design Team develops the interior design of each room providing optional selections for each piece within the agreed budget. (ie. choice of sofas, rugs, chairs, lighting, tables, beds, finishes, architectural details, etc…..) The client then makes selections or requests a couple revisions. At this point, there should have been a clear direction on the look of the project and would only expect to have a few revisions. Design Team provides final selections. Client approves.  

The Purchasing Process for a Long Distance Design Project

The Design Team starts the purchasing process, requesting quotes to gain pricing and availability. Before each purchase, client is to approve one final time. Design Team places orders, tracks delivery, any damages / exchanges, delays, etc.  Depending on the source, items may arrive at the home or a receiving warehouse. If all items go to a receiving warehouse, the final installation will be determined as soon as all furniture has arrived.

  • When designing abroad, you do have the issue of being able to make less site visits. This means as the designer, you have less control over making sure you get the correct measurements. Make sure you have good measurements of both the space and the furniture selected. This includes dimensions of wall to wall, windows (width, height, how high off the floor), doors, ceiling height, outlet locations, etc. Video walkthroughs with the client of member of the design team on site help mitigate this issue.
  • Double check that furniture and appliances will make it up stairs, around corners, through doorways, etc. Or that a light fixture doesn’t hang too low and hit people’s head. Make sure the furniture allows for enough walking space throughout the room.

Working With a Contractor or Architect on Long Distance Design Projects

Design Team works on Project Management to make sure all the design trades are working together smoothly, on time, on budget, etc. Similarly, working with local vendors on custom items like Furniture, Drapery, etc. also requires clear communication from both sides, approved drawings, etc. (Essentially a rinse and repeat of the steps above with each participating design trade)

  • Working with a Local Contractor from a distance requires a lot of details and clear communication.  Try to be as precise as possible, and make sure the contractor feels comfortable to call and ask questions and clarify throughout the construction phase. This includes communicating all adjustments in the field so all teams are aware of the situations.
  • The contractor provides the quantity needed for all materials (flooring, shower walls, counters, etc.) and the Design Team finalizes the construction drawings in a clear way to show tile layout, floor layout, lighting and electrical outlet locations, plumbing and appliance locations, etc.
  • The Design Team provides the Contractor with all specifications on plumbing, appliances, lighting and materials. Clear all material selections with the contractor to make sure it’s approved, to code and appropriate in the space.
  • The Contractor keeps track of all deliveries, inventory, damages, etc. and communicates with the Design Team when issues arise (and they almost always do). When items arrive damaged, the contractor is to let design team know as soon as possible, and provide info on the damage, condition of packaging, etc to submit a claim and get replacement pieces as soon as possible without causing further delay.

Try not to panic when issues come up.  It’s an opportunity to find solutions. Be open, be flexible, be patient, be kind. Once these are sorted out, it’s time for final installation!