Friday, March 03, 2017

You are worth something

You are worth something!

I just found this blog post that I had started writing a few years ago and never finished.  I though it may be of interest to you.

I am so tired of working myself ragged and then to be told by the customer that they won't pay me. I find it humiliating, firstly that i have to ask them for payment, then that they say they won't, after they have the information you have provided them, used it and then bare face look at you in the eye and bring up a complaint or something that was never mentioned earlier that they aren't happy with. It makes my blood boil. It takes me a lot to get angry, but when I do I get really mad! I am now mad and should probably not be writing this in this state but hopefully by doing so it will mean that some of you can lessen the risk of it happening along the way.

I wrote that about two weeks ago, I am no longer mad just disappointed in myself for not having a better process. The scenario I was talking about was not an interior design project, as that I have systems and processes for. It was a design and build project, (this means that you work with a client to get the design they want, process it, then get a build contract signed and then proceed with building consent and build the new home.) Unfortunately there is a lot of work at the front end of this type of project working with architects, designers, engineers and quantity surveyors compiling all the necessary information. This is the time I spent with the customer/client. This time is not accounted for until we get a contract, so therefore I work in the hope that I will do a good job, the price is right and the clients like what is presented to them. If not, I am out of pocket and I have to deal with a situation that is not ideal for anyone.

That was how I was working, and I was quickly loosing faith in my ability. The problem was I wasn't in control of the process as I was on contract to a company and this was their business model. For me the model didn't work and I had invested a lot of time and positive energy helping people so I had to stop. This took me too long to realize and I began to think that my time wasn't valued. Believe me it is and you need to make sure you get paid for it. Don't sell yourself short, don't get yourself into contracts where you work for nothing. Have some faith in your ability and back yourself - you are worth it.

I would just like to note that working as an intern or volunteer to get experience is different. It is a valuable way to forward your chosen career, so as you gain experience you will be be worth paying for!
Look after yourself, sorry it has taken me a few years to start wring this blog again.

If you are interested in running a business yourself - here is an article that may be of use on Planning a design business.

Lee Brown

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bathroom Choices

Bathroom Choices

What do you need in a modern day bathroom?

Bath - Vanity - Shower - Toilet - Bidet - Heated Towel Rail - Demister Mirror - Heated Floor Tiles - Heater - Extract Fan - Stereo - TV?

As our lives get busier the time we spend looking after ourselves is diminishing. Way back in time - taking a bath wasn't a luxury like it is now - it was the only way to get clean. Now in the time it takes to fill and prepare a bath we could have already run through the shower, got dressed and be onto sorting out our hair! Does it have to be this way?

From a design perspective we put so much effort into creating a bathroom that looks fantastic and has all the modern conveniences that will save water, power, keep our towels warm, make sure we don't get cold feet, keep the bathroom dry and healthy, yet we don't instruct our clients how to use it.

I start with the bath - too often now I hear people saying to me; "No we don't want a bath - we don't have kids at home anymore so we won't need it and it just collects dust that we then have to clean".
To be fair - I also thought I could live without a bath and I have kids. Space was a factor in that choice for our house and I regret it every day. I wish we had put in a bath. I have to place a very large bucket in the bottom of the shower for my youngest to have his bath in the shower! Kids love to sit in water and play, it is a great way to unwind and relax. I do believe that as adults we forget all these little tricks we use on kids and don't apply them to ourselves. I often get home from a busy day at work and feel like sitting in a bath of hot water to soak and forget the day, switch my mind off and relax. A shower just doesn't do that for you. A shower is refreshing but I don't find it relaxing.

Luxury bath
Pure luxury - relax in this bathroom

Then we have the design discussion of having a toilet in the bathroom versus having a separate toilet room. The pro's and con's - having it on the bathroom is a great way to save space in your design, it is also very convenient if you are using the bathroom to be able to go to the toilet without having to run down the hall half dressed or with a towel around you and back again. But if you are going to start using the bathroom like I explained above for some quality personal and relaxing time in the bath - the last thing you want is someone wanting to use the toilet and knocking on the door interrupting your peace. If you have multiple toilets in the home this isn't an issue. If you have one bathroom you do need to think seriously about having the toilet in a separate room.

luxury bathroom
Luxury of space in this bathroom

Showers? Do curved showers really save space? They do on a drawing, but once you are inside one they are pretty cramped. This is why I always say to clients - try before you buy. Go to the bathroom stores and go through their showrooms, stand in the shower, put your arms up as if you were washing your hair - do your elbows hit the side? Are your feet standing on the waste? This is one of my pet hates - the shower waste is often placed right in the middle where you stand, I find that very annoying.

Glass shower door
Popular Glass walls and shower door with tiled walls - plenty of space here to wash your hair
The same can be said for all the other items you need for your bathroom. Sit on the toilet, all toilets are not the same, some are higher, wider. I always look for ease of cleaning in my bathroom fitting selections also, especially if you have more than one bathroom that you will have to look after. The bath is critical for you to try. Some are very narrow and not wide enough for some peoples hips, others and too short for long legged people. You can get baths that have the waste in the middle and are designed for two - so check that out if you want to take your bathing experience further!

Heated towel rail
Heated towel rail to keep your towels dry and warm
There are so many things that you can now have in your bathroom, I have even seen bathrooms with a TV and stereo surround sound.  I could imagine Hugh Heffner may have this special feature, I am guessing that as he walks around all day in his PJ's and Bathrobe that he is a fan of lingering in a bubble bath, relaxing and watching TV!

Simple vanity
Good storage in this vanity

To summarize, bathroom design is not a difficult task. It is critical to think about each element and how it will be used in the clients home, don't be afraid to ask questions about their lifestyle. You are designing for them to use it after all. Have fun and don't forget to try all these fittings and fixtures yourself. You will be guiding them to choosing what works best for them, you need to know their advantages and disadvantages.

I am now off to dream about having a luxurious bubble bath one day soon.....

You can go and learn more about bathrooms at

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Importance of Working to a Budget

The Importance of Working to a Budget

I can't stress this enough. Budget rules! You can have the best ideas in the world but if your client can't afford it then those great ideas will go nowhere.

One of the keys to being a successful interior designer is being able to work to a budget.

Here are some tips to help you with this.

  • Lists - yes a boring list. Get your client to write down everything they want in priority order. This way you can focus on incorporating into the design what is most important and spend the money wisely. They need to be realistic and know that they won't get the entire wish list but will get the most important things.
  • Shop around. Know your products and how much they costs to install. Some items may be cheaper to purchase but cost more to install. So you don't achieve a saving, sometimes it can end up costing you more for a lesser quality finish.
  • Be realistic at the beginning when you set a budget. Don't stretch people too far at the front end as lets face it - any job, be it a new home or a renovation always has additional costs that come up along the way no matter how well you plan. You don't want your clients to feel uncomfortable and worried that they can't pay to get things finished.
  • Leading on from above. When setting a budget always factor in a contingency. Depending on the complexity a 5%, 10% or sometimes a 15% allowance over and above what you believe it will cost. That will be your true budget. 
  • Let your clients know up front if you don't think they can achieve what they want with their budget. They may not thank you for it, but better that than getting half way through a job and then telling them. That is not good for business!

  • Most of all think creatively. Don't always take the easy option. There are more ways than one to achieve a result. You are a designer and you need to think that way - look at what you want to achieve and plan how you can do that, it is sound design practice to price an option three different ways before you build it or purchase it to be able to find out the most cost effective option.  
Best of luck with sticking to your budget.
Another article on budgeting for DIY jobs

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