These tips apply to Commercial as well as Residential design, and most can be applied by the professional designer, facility manager, and home owner with equal benefit. They truly make a big difference to a project with little additional effort, improving overall satisfaction in the end result as well as the design and construction process.

  1. Keep it Simple. The temptation exists to make a design and residential design build associated drawings unnecessarily complex. If your project seems overwhelming and confusing (even if the drawings are very detailed and accurate), it will often ‘frighten’ a bidder into quoting high in order to cover himself/herself from costs incurred by possible oversights. Make the drawings as complete as necessary, but only as complex as they have to be to tell the story. As a general rule, the more complicated something is to draw or explain, the more expensive it will be to build. Anywhere you can simplify the design or at least streamline the drawings will translate directly into dollars saved.
  2. Near misses in color are worse than contrasts. If you have a difficult color to match (blue is notoriously difficult), either have a feature material that brings in multiple shades of the color you’re after to tie it all together, or go with a shade significantly darker or lighter.
  3. Don’t forget the ceiling. It’s often as important as floors or walls, and a great opportunity to make a design stand out (since this surface is often ignored). Utilize furr-downs, moulding, or at least an interesting paint color (doesn’t have to be extreme, just not plain white…Don’t go too dark unless going for drama, as ceilings usually appear darker than on the paint chip because of the contrast between the light fixtures and the surface).
  4. Not everyone can read plans. Don’t insult people’s intelligence, but understand that most people don’t do this for a living and have a hard time judging scale and proportion. Help them out with ‘visual aids’ and mock-ups.
  5. Under Promise, Over Deliver. Classic advice in any business. Don’t just talk, Wow them with results. Do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it. Meet deadlines. If there is an issue (they are inevitable), own it and solve it. Communicate.
  6. Bang for the Buck. In any design no matter how tight the budget, plan for one attention grabbing element or focal point (even if it means compromising a bit somewhere else – a few cents per square foot shaved off the flooring for instance can go a long way towards buying one stand-out feature). This can be a gorgeous glass tile (even just a touch in a niche or on a backsplash), a dramatic painting or creatively framed print, unusual piece of furniture, or a stunning faucet in a powder room. Dollars spent on the “Wow” can be minimal when averaged across the whole project, but make the entire space look far more expensive.

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