As design consultants, we’re not just picking beautiful colors, we do much more. We manage our projects alongside the project managers. If you’re a homeowner and you want to remodel your kitchen, you may not know where to start or understand the remodeling process. You’d start by calling the number on our website, talk to Gina, and she will schedule someone to come out for an estimate.
We come out, check your kitchen, talk to you, and propose some ideas. A client may want white kitchen cabinets – something simple with an entry-level budget. We may suggest another cabinet or suggest converting their peninsula to an island. We’ll show them where electrical and new outlets need to go. They may want to keep their faucet and fridge, but they may have to replace other items.
After we see their kitchen in person and collect information, we start creating labor and rough material estimates – this way, we know everything that has to be done. That information gets passed to me, to Ivana, or Maria – Arete Renovations three design consultants. Ivana is our lead designer, and she manages more luxurious, high-end, complicated projects. I manage entry-level to medium-sized projects, and Maria manages smaller projects. We sit down and talk about the project, discuss everything that needs to be done, look at photos of the existing condition, and figure out how we can cater to our client’s desires.
From there, the project is mine. I contact the client, usually with an email, and introduce myself as the design consultant. I ask them to send me all their wishes, all their inspirational photos. I usually suggest sending 30-40 inspirational photos. We discuss tiles they may be interested in or backsplash tile. I want to get all the information I can so I can understand the client’s design vision – all with the client’s budget in mind.
Next is to discuss the technical aspects of the remodeling. We schedule a meeting with the client for a free, one-hour design consultation. During this meeting, I talk to the client about their design needs, preferred material, budget, etc. This meeting allows me to educate them about, let’s say, marble vs. quartz countertops, standard kitchen cabinets vs. semi-custom made or fully custom made.
We discuss all the details. It’s more of an educational and introductory process. I also get a feel for all of their design needs and prepare a design package. For a kitchen remodel, I will need eight hours to complete the design. We do the drawings, 2D renderings, and if the client wants – 3D renderings. When the client is ready to jump into the design process – this is where the actual work begins.
I collect all their inspirational photos and create the design within their budget. I’ll also create a mood board. I pick a faucet, cabinetry – everything, and then present it to the client. I will let them know my perspective on their project. Usually, that’s a win-win. About 70- to 80 percent of the time, the client will agree with the style I have chosen. With the other 30 percent, we will work back and forth, adjust the finer details, and have an agreement on how we want the project to look.
When we have all the materials we want to use for the kitchen, we start the kitchen design process and present the design to the client – as well as the material selections. If they agree on that, then I go ahead and create a material estimate, which will include the kitchen cabinetry, countertop – everything that is needed, will be on a single material estimate.
When the client signs off on the material estimate, we start ordering their materials. A lot of materials are on backorder right now due to Covid-19, so we collect lead times so if there is an issue, let’s say we find out their faucet is going to take up to four months to receive, I can call the client with that info and discuss finding something similar or an alternative within the same style. Once materials arrive, we inspect them to be sure they’re in a good condition and the right material arrived. If there is an issue, we immediately take care of it. We contact the client, either return it or replace it and then coordinate delivery to the job site.
When demolition starts, we have a schedule. One week, we will do electrical, the next week we will do tiles, then after that, we will do grout. With the schedule, I know when to send which material to the job site. Unfortunately, if we keep all materials on the job site, sometimes there’s not enough space or things can get damaged, so we send by needs. It’s all about coordinating, designing, and doing a lot of the little things to make sure the project goes smoothly.
Once a week – or even more if needed, we go to the job site and check on our projects. The project coordinator never allows installers to install something that is not on the drawings. If something is not clear, they always confirm everything with me and with the client. We make sure items are installed where it’s supposed to be installed and we make sure the actual materials that we planned for are installed.
That is the process we go through on every project. Of course, there are different projects. Sometimes a project has to start with the design first so I can send the bids to the estimator, so he can create the material estimates. Recently, we had a project that requires a fireplace design and cabinetry around it in the living room. We were not able to make an estimate until I presented the design. In that project, I started the design process first. We selected the materials, did the drawings and 3D renderings, then went back and forth with the clients. I even consulted with the architects we collaborate with. Once we had all the materials for the entire design, I presented it and we were able to create the rough labor estimates.
There are a lot of moving parts. If something must be delivered to the job site, and none of our drivers are available, then we go and deliver ourselves. I have done deliveries to a job site from my car. Sometimes, materials have to be brought immediately to a job site and I’ll go purchase that from our supplier and deliver them to the job site.
We communicate through the entire process. I would say the main contact on a project will usually be the project manager because the project manager is onsite every day during the project, the demolition, installation, etc. I’m usually going back and forth. I’m 50 percent in the showroom, 25 percent on job sites, and 25 percent going around to suppliers researching materials I like or picking up samples.
It’s quite dynamic work, a lot of back and forth, but one of us (designers) and the project manager are the two main contacts for the client. We keep in touch every single day, every week during the whole project, and before and after the project.
I’m working currently on eight projects. Some of them are at the very beginning, some of them have not begun yet, some of them are in the design process, and some of them are in the material ordering process.
One project I have is kitchen, bathroom, and lighting fixtures. In another project, they are keeping the kitchen, but replacing the countertop and replacing all of the hardware for the kitchen. There is another project where I am replacing the whole unit floor, doing new wall paint, new carpet in the bedrooms, new kitchen, and new light fixtures throughout the unit. I have the job with the fireplace I was previously discussing, where we are refinishing the floor, building a completely new fireplace, doing the cabinetry around them, and also new wall paint.
Another project we have is with an astrophysicist who has this great bathroom design. It’s all about the galaxy and precious stones, and it should be a very fun project. The main designer in this project was the client. He had his own vision. I was just translating his vision by searching for tiles and creating the drawing and the layout for the tiles going back and forth. He was the main person in the design process, while I was just helping out. Sometimes people like something and they don’t know how to translate that into a project, so we do help them out.
Some people do want to go fully custom. Usually, they have inspirational photos that convey the look they want. Then we just translate that vision to prints on tiles. We do have to have suppliers who can do custom art on tile.
Another project we have right now is a big master bathroom where the client wanted to remove a giant jacuzzi and convert it to a big walk-in shower. This is very unique. We used special custom-made art tiles with the Chicago flag on them, so it was special.
We have another bathroom that is mid-century modern, which is going to have waterproof vinyl wallpaper with a wall bureau. It will have a custom-made vanity of walnut and is going to be a completely mid-century modern vibe with the tile slab, and hexagon tiles, something very unique that I have not seen. Because it’s custom-made, I designed the vanity. It’ll be another super fun one. The wallpaper also is fully custom-made.
Unique and beautiful design takes time. First comes the design process. Second is drawings and third is materials. I’ll discuss with clients that unique materials may take some time to get. To make sure installation goes as planned, I’ll also be on the job site to make sure materials are installed correctly. With the astrophysicist’s bathroom – it was not a simple pattern. It’s very unique. I had to be on the job site with clients, project managers, and tile installers during this process. We always make sure everything is done exactly the way the client wants it.
For home renovation in Chicago by top-rated home and condo designers call Arete’ Renovators today at 773-610-4551 for a free consultation about your home or condo remodeling project.