Category Archives: 5 Elements to a Quality Design Experience

5 Elements to a Quality Design Experience: Details

Part 5

By Marty Morse; CR

A beautiful design is not useful if the client or contractor cannot cannot acquire the proper information in order to build it.  A  quality design requires detailed drawings and specifications in order to facilitate an accurate and timely construction process. A skilled designer can accurately portray the 3-dimensional world in a 2-dimensional form, allowing the production team to accurately develop the final product as expected by the designer and client.YETMAN PIC 3yetman-patio-night-2653

Before you embark on engaging a design professional to map out your new home or custom remodel, it is important to make sure that the designer has the experience and knowledge of  how the project will be constructed. Details of intersecting materials, such as kitchen sinks with solid surface counters, are an important part of the finished project. Designers should have the knowledge to specify the transitions between materials and how they will be finished upon completion of the installation. Accurate drawings and specifications eliminate the last minute field modifications, or costly changes due to unfinished design details.Donald-SINK-926

Clients hire professional designers in order to eliminate the element of the unknown and make sure they are getting exactly what they and the designer want the finished product to look like. This communication is done graphically and with detailed specifications. A quality design will include a detailed description of the products used for the project, such as manufacturer, finish, size, and appropriate options. It is quite common for a detailed design to have several pages of product descriptions, sizes, finishes, colors, and detailed specifications.

Blog Feature Wall - Knutson

Conceptual 3-D image developed during schematic design phase.

Knutson Wall Plan Blog

Preliminary details are developed during construction drawing phase.

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The result of upfront design and details concludes with stunning results and happy customers.

Furthermore, detailed drawings assist the production team during construction. This is especially important when the design is unique; cookie cutter designs can be built from more simplistic drawings, but a design that is unique and custom should have drawings that spell out each detail.  A good designer will typically consult with a trade professional to make sure the design idea can be implemented properly with the production team.

Quality design is a very important part of the home improvement process.  The 5 elements we have discussed in this series are; communication, strategy, creative design development, experience, and details. They are all extremely important and crucial to a a quality design experience. I hope you have enjoyed reading our 5-part series and you have found the information useful when you seek out your next professional designer for your home renovation project. Design, Build, and most importantly, Enjoy!


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5 Elements to a Quality Design Experience

Part 4: Product Knowledge

By Marty Morse; CR

Traditionally, the designer and general contractor were often adversaries. The contractor, untrained in aesthetics, architectural history, or how physical space affects one psychologically, fought to attain the cheapest product or the easiest installation. However, the designer fought for the highest standard of quality, longest-lasting product, or the best aesthetics based upon the style or surrounding environment. This creates an informal relationship as noted in the illustration below.

Traditional Designer-Builder Relationship


The design/build approach alleviates this conflict altogether because the designer and contractor collaborate early on to attain the best quality product and aesthetic decision, within the client’s budget, while avoiding problematic installation issues that might appear with design occurring alone. This collaboration completely erases the otherwise commonplace tug of war between quality and cost. A professional designer working with the input of the installer provides a client with the proper information to make informed decisions.

Morse Remodeling Product Meeting with Client

Design-Build Client Relationship

Design-Build Client Relationship


Well informed designers should understand the life cycle of products and materials, and should be aware of how important this knowledge is to each of their clients. A designer can choose many different products for the client to choose from, and should point out to the client where the product comes from and the degree to which it impacts the environment.

Staying on top of the latest products and their price points is quite difficult, always changing, and is part of the job of a well-informed designer. Understanding product lifespans, durability, sustainability and price points are key components to educating clients about potential products that may be considered for their project. A designer with a vast library of product knowledge is key to a successful design experience for the client and requires designers to obtain continuing education.


Stay tuned for part 5 in our series of “5 Elements to a Quality Design Experience”.

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5 Elements to a Quality Design Experience: Creative Design Development

Part 3: Creative Design Development

We’ve all walked into a home that can’t hide the decade it was built or refurbished in. Because of the fickleness of trends and fashions, kitchens and bathrooms can quickly become like that mullet you may have sported in high school, just a little pricier to update.

Before: Original kitchen layout.

Before: Original kitchen layout.

This is one reason why hiring a creative designer is important during the initial design stage, when the Designer can bring forth unique design solutions, including ideas that are “out of the box”. Your home should be a reflection of your tastes and passions. A good designer will help you choose palettes and materials that not only reflect your own style, but also stand the test of time and have an intrinsic beauty. Using these types of colors and finishes, you can feel confident that if you sell your home in ten, twenty, or thirty years, it will withstand the scrutiny of its future Owners and will be timeless in its aesthetic appeal.

After: Thoughtful and timeless design for the style of home.

After: Thoughtful and timeless design elements fit the interior architectural style of the home.

Creative design development is not linear. It requires research and education of what others have done in the past and the application of additional thought and creative modifications to come up with new and refreshing ideas. There is never one “right” design solution. However, thinking outside the box and analyzing various design options opens the door to unique and creative solutions for an aesthetic and functional home environment. It is also important during the construction stage, when situations arise that were unforeseen during the initial planning stages (as commonly seen in remodeling), and an alternative design solution is required. On many occasions, a really creative designer can turn an unforeseen into a blessing for the project with the final result even better than originally planned.

Stay tuned for part 4 “Product Knowledge” in the 5 Elements to a Quality Design Experience.

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5 Elements to a Quality Design Experience: Strategy


Part 2:  Strategy

During the initial design consultation and subsequent meetings with a client, the designer will elicit many ideas for the remodeling project.  This can be an overwhelming assortment of ideas for the customer to juggle, and without an experienced designer, could create havoc during the design process.  The designer’s professionalism and experience will be essential for combing through all the ideas and determining which will enhance or improve the design for the remodel and also which ideas are consistent with the client’s budget.  Some clients enter the process with very specific materials they would like to use while others may have a strong sense of what they like and don’t like but no specific products or ideas.  As the designer helps the client build a design strategy they will consider the materials, together with the costs associated with the project, prioritizing some while shelving others for later consideration.  In this first stage of planning, as the designer-client team narrow down the materials and design concepts, the client may struggle with letting go of some ideas that just aren’t working. However, as the final concepts start to materialize, a project that balances aesthetics with budget and quality will be worth the efforts.

As a final step in planning the design, the designer and client will determine roles for the research of materials, finishes, fixtures, etc. needed to complete the design.  A designer is a resource, and not all clients choose to use this resource in the same way.  Some clients prefer to do the legwork for these projects all on their own, with modest amounts of time spent reviewing product with the designer.  Others clients prefer to have the designer do all of the research and then present options from which the client will select.  Obviously, the more the clients choose to use the designer, the more costly the design process becomes.  For the budget conscious client, a professional designer will provide them with the right resources and guidance to accomplish the research successfully. This will help avoid frustration, confusion and wasting Valuable time.  As part of the strategizing, the designer and client should review the design tasks and discuss options for task distribution, in order to stay focused on budget and insuring top quality results.

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5 Elements to a Quality Design Experience: Communication

As a design-build firm we have the opportunity to watch the remodeling process from its inception through construction and completion.  Over the years, it has become apparent that a good design and positive experience during the early stages is critical to a quality remodel.  As a team, we recently sat down and discussed what makes a successful design experience.  Over the course of the next several days, we will post the top 5 elements of a quality design process, based on our years of experience and the feedback we have received from customers.  Below is Part1.

Part 1:  Communication

Undoubtedly, the number one factor pivotal to a successful project is communication.  This starts with the very first consultation, when the customer begins sharing their ideas, visions, questions and concerns with the designer.  Many of the elements that lead to a successful design experience originate from this interview process. Several months ago, architect Andrea Montalbano published an article on the Morse blog describing the client interview.  This is a great read for anyone considering a new design project or for those interested in entering the field as a designer.

For the designer, this process begins with active listening during the interview. It is imperative that the designer pay attention to the customer as they share their ideas and issues regarding their current home.  Customers hire a professional designer to help them for a reason. A good designer is a good listener, who will hear the subtleties and then ask follow-up questions to get the full story. While listening to the customer’s ideas, the designer should also be picking up on clues to lifestyle, differing opinions or needs between partners, and other elements the designer must take into consideration that the customer may not have even considered.   Beyond the obvious questions such as color choice, active listening will produce some deeper questions such as how a room is used throughout the year – should it be flexible to make it easily converted for multiple uses?  These questions create an opportunity to help the customer dig deeper and think more in-depth about the design, and highlight when the desires and practical needs of the customer may clash.  Through active listening and good questions, a good designer can create a design that surprises the customer by satisfying needs that only become evident to the customer through the interview process.  The dialogue and communication during the design process should be one of discovery for both the customer and the designer, the end result being a design that exceeds the customer’s original goals.

Check back soon to read the next part in our series:  Strategy.

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