If you consider homeowners to be collaborative partners in a new or remodeled kitchen or bath, then all projects will have some degree of collaboration. But there are times when designers want to expand the team even further…to invite, or be invited by, other industry pros – including architects, builders, interior designers, lighting experts, landscape architects and more – to gain insight and ideas into areas that may be beyond their expertise.
This month, KBDN asked several designers to share their thoughts about collaborating with industry professionals, including with whom they collaborate and the benefits it brings to projects. And, since asking more people to be involved in a project can create a greater opportunity for complications, they also shared tips for ensuring successful collaborations.
Steinberg Custom Designs
Most frequent collaborative partners: “I have had great success with architects, landscape designers, developers and contractors, as well as stone masons, tile setters and cabinet makers. Sometimes I’m the first person on the project, other times people bring me in. If I’m the first one on a job, I make an evaluation and suggest who else should be involved. For example, if it’s a major addition, an architect might be required. It’s important to know when you need help, and to seek it out.
“I typically work with the same groups of people. We know each other and it’s fun to work with people I have a history with. We also know how to work together and we know what the expectations are.”
Benefits of collaboration: “I love to work in teams because everyone brings a lot to the table…as long as everyone remembers that the goal is for the project to turn out well and for it to be easy on the client.
“While I work predominately on the inside of the house with the layout, finishes, etc., that doesn’t mean I don’t look to the outside and think about how it would be great if, for example, a screened porch opened up to a garden. If I am working with a landscape architect, we can talk about it.
“Also, I’ve found that architects are wonderful house designers in the sense of structure, placement, siting, etc. However, their forte is not always in the home’s interior layout and use. Often, contractors and architects I work with will have me tweak a kitchen layout to reflect how a client will realistically use the space…to perfect the kitchen and get rid of useless areas, improve the flow and create a space that reflects the client.
“A truly great project is one that brings clients’ dreams to life. They may not know how to articulate what they want, but if you spend enough time with them, you will know what their dreams are. I recently worked on a project in Boothbay Harbor where I designed the pool house entirely and the interiors for the main house and guest house. I worked with a talented landscape designer and an amazing contractor. The project came out great because we had a great team, including the client. In the end, it was a true reflection of her because we all spent time getting to know her and channeling what she would want.”
Tips for successful collaborations: “Remember that a great idea can come from anywhere. Sometimes the most extraordinary things start when someone says, ‘This might sound crazy, but…’ That thought can be the start of many amazing projects, and it can be the trigger for unique features that make a space special.
“The other thing is something my parents told me when I was growing up…it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. Be willing to give credit to the whole team. Any great idea a team member comes up with can be shared by all and can become a wonderful success for everyone.”
Most frequent collaborative partners: “I would estimate about 40% of my projects have been in collaboration with architects, a few of which I’ve consistently worked with for the past 10 years. Typically, they will bring clients to me for remodeling projects.”
Benefits of collaboration: “The architect usually provides the overall design (big picture), and they look to me to provide another perspective on the overall function of the kitchen. I will work with the client to help choose the cabinet door style, colors and the working details of their kitchen. I get into the personal information and specifics about how the client will work and live in their kitchen.”
Tips for successful collaborations: “Maintain respect and diplomacy and be open to other ideas. In the design industry, we all have our own ideas about what looks good and what works best. When an architect brings me a drawing, I need to be considerate, even if I think there is a better option. Keep in mind there is never one right way to design. It’s important to be open and to discuss options available. When you have a good working relationship with others, they are open to your ideas as well.
“Also, never undermine another design professional in front of the client, or behind their back. And lastly…drop the ego.”
Design Galleria Kitchen and Bath Studio
Most frequent collaborative partners:
“Because of the market we are in, most every project is a collaboration with someone else. When doing remodeling projects we don’t always collaborate with others, but when the project expands beyond the walls of the kitchen or bath, the homeowner typically engages someone else. With new construction projects, we work with architects and builders, and a lot of the time there will be an interior designer as well. We offer interior design services, but we focus on kitchens and baths, so oftentimes the homeowner will hire an interior designer who will specialize in furnishings, fabrics, etc. The beauty of collaboration is that everyone can focus on the part of the project they are best at so it benefits the project overall. It’s difficult to be a specialist at everything, so we all work together to create something unique.
“It’s also important to remember that collaborations often occur with everyone involved in a project – including plumbers, electricians, even [the people] in our office – and they are all integral parts of making a project come together successfully.”
Benefits of collaboration: “Clients get multiple people looking out for their best interests. I find that clients get impressive projects when they pull together a group of people where each has his or her own individual specialty so that everyone can focus on their part, yet work together to make all of the spaces cohesive.
“Having others involved in a project also creates a nice ‘checks and balances’ for a project. If you only have one person in charge of everything, who is checking the work? Collaboration is also often what makes a space beautiful. If one person is doing something extraordinary, it pushes others to step up.”
Tips for successful collaborations: “The number one thing I’ve learned through the years is that, sometimes, people successfully do things a certain way. Then someone else comes into the mix and sees a different way of doing things. That person may not want to change. But be open to everyone else’s ideas. You don’t necessarily have to do them, but you have to be willing to discuss them and hear what other people say.
“Don’t be so set in your ways that you aren’t open to new ideas. That’s how we all learn and grow. When someone else brings an idea to the table and you try it, it may become your new way of doing something. You end up getting pushed further, getting pushed outside of your comfort zone. At Design Galleria, we push ourselves, but we also welcome the opportunity to work with others to stay ahead of the game, to bring something new and special to each project. Our trade, as a whole, needs to be pushed, to allow others to be involved to take a project to a higher level.”
Dybdahl Design Group
Most frequent collaborative partners:
“When we collaborate with other industry professionals, it is most often with architects. We also enjoy working with independent interior designers who bring clients to us. We find that, many times, people have been working with a designer for years, and their projects come to fruition much more quickly when we work with that designer because he or she already knows what the client likes, which can narrow down the selection process.
“I’m working on a project right now with an interior designer who we’ve collaborated with for years. They are great professionals to work with, but they don’t always know the detailed workings of a kitchen.”
Benefits of collaboration: “Collaborating with others helps make a project move along more quickly, because, as I mentioned, if we’ve been brought into the project by another professional, they already know what the client likes so we will only show them certain product selections.
“Collaborating also brings cohesion between a kitchen and/or bath and other areas of the home. For example, if an interior designer has worked on a dining room that is open to the kitchen, they can help us make sure the kitchen has some of the same appeal. It’s about putting together a comprehensive, cohesive package so everything works together. You wouldn’t want to order a Ferrari with Mac truck tires or a Dodge bumper. Elements don’t need to match, but they should complement each other.”
Tips for successful collaborations: “Ask opinions of others, then listen. Some designers don’t necessarily want to share, but sharing can make a project run much more smoothly.”