Behind The Design Process: Conceptual Design

Do you have a new home or a home renovation on your mind for 2022? If so, this next blog post series will be a great starting point in helping you understand the process of working with a full service interior designer firm, like AMR Design. We will be releasing a new blog post each day this week, walking you through the process that we follow to get our clients to their end goal: a fully functional home that speaks to their style and needs.


Our process is the same for each project and this allows us to provide the same exceptional service to each client who hires our firm. We believe that by creating a tried and true process, our clients will know what to expect throughout their design journey, our firm members effectively work through your project by following a system, and we increase the overall value in our industry.


Last time we discussed the first part of our project process, The Project Initiation Phase, which included the Initial Consultation. Today, we are taking a deep dive into what happens next as we enter into the Research, Design, and Presentation phase. This phase is broken down into two sub categories: Conceptual Design and Detailed Design.


Conceptual Design is exactly as it sounds - we are starting with a concept to ensure we are on the right track and are incorporating all the required information we gathered at the Initial Consultation ). We have broken this phase into two subcategories so that any tweaks needing to be made, happen earlier on, resulting in less time and money spent. This is our “do it once and do it right” attitude when it comes to design projects. It would be a shame (not to mention a waste of your investment) to put in all the time and effort in choosing finishes for a bathroom, for that room to be axed from the scope of work. That is why we always use the Conceptual Design Meeting to fine tune the scope of work before we do a deep dive into the finishes and specific selections for your project.


Have you chosen a contractor?



Choosing a contractor is something that most clients need to do when planning a renovation project. You may be surprised by how early in the process you need to start thinking about building your A-team. The first step of our Conceptual Design is to complete the existing floorplan and then create our proposed layout as in our initial discussion. Once we have completed this conceptual design package, we will review it with your contractor. They can then price on the proposed plans based on the rework of the floorplan, engineering, and their expert evaluation of pricing using previous projects at the same finish level. If you do not have a contractor selected yet, AMR Design is happy to provide a referral to our Preferred Contractors so we can keep the process going. For more information on hiring an AMR Design preferred contractor, see this blog post: https://www.amrdesign.ca/contractor/


While we have our A Team Contractors we love to work with, we do not hire the contractor, but rather work with the contractor you decide to hire directly. AMR Design works for you, the client, not the contractor and we are your advocate throughout the process. We have several reputable contractors that we work with that we can recommend for your project. However, we also love meeting new skilled contractors and adding to our list of contractors we can recommend to our clients.


This is the point where some clients may get confused. You may think “Why am I deciding on a contractor already when I haven’t even seen the design plan?” While we can give a good guess on a budget based on previous projects, the contractor is the best person to provide a renovation budget with accuracy. We work together as a team to provide a realistic estimate for your project. They will be the ones to review our floorplans and overall material selections to determine the general cost of the project. They will also likely take time to meet you and view your home in person.


Once you have had a chance to meet with the contractor and find one you get a good feeling about, we will send all our information to that contractor to provide preliminary pricing. It is important to note that at this point, you do not yet need to be 100% sure that this will be your contractor. Ideally, you do want to move forward with them as they have taken the time to meet you and price your project, but at this preliminary stage, you are not bound to one selection.


That being said, delaying the choice of contractor will also delay your project from starting. We follow a process where we “design to the dream” and you can decide what takes precedence based on the pricing the contractor provides. Without a contractor choice, we cannot provide accurate pricing and therefore, it is much harder (and even impossible in some cases) for clients to make decisions about moving forward without any numbers in place. This is why we suggest choosing a contractor early on in the process.


CONCEPTUAL DESIGN: THE DREAM TAKES SHAPE


Whether or not your project requires construction, we will jump right into the

design work - drafting existing and proposed plans, and creating a preliminary furniture budget as needed. We will also prepare an inspiration overview to present our initial vision to ensure everyone is on the same page. The final step of the conceptual design phase is the Conceptual Design Meeting to confirm design direction and to review the initial estimate for your project to finalize the scope of work.



You can expect to see drawings and a rough budget at this meeting, but please be aware that at this point, we will not have any finishes selected. The purpose of this meeting is to gain a general overview to ensure the budgets and scope of work align with your expectation. We do this in phases so we can ensure we are only moving forward with the detailed design on the project details you are moving forward with now, as finishes regularly get discontinued and replaced. You will always have the overall plan drawings for the next phase if necessary.


At this meeting we discuss any required refinements, which will then launch the next step: Detailed Design.







Can I see a sneak peek of the design before the meeting? I can’t wait!


We sometimes have clients come to us as they await the Conceptual Design Meeting to ask for a “sneak peek” of the design plan. We love that you are so excited about our design but we only present the plan when we are all together so we can talk through our reasoning and we can explain the design plan. We find that if we send our proposed plans without discussing, it leads to a lot of questions and sometimes even confusion whereas when we can meet together and go over it as a group, it is a much more effective use of time. Waiting until the Conceptual Design Meeting also means you will be able to make more informed decisions as you will be able to view the plan along with estimated pricing.


Expert Tips To Get The Most Out of Your Conceptual Design Meeting


BE FREE FROM DISTRACTIONS

One of the easiest ways our clients can prepare for this meeting is to plan to be free of distractions. If possible, turn your phone on silent and give us your full attention.


COME WITH AN OPEN MIND...

There is a reason you enlisted our expert help and we hope that you can attend this meeting with an open mind. We have worked hard to create a conceptual design plan that will work

for you and your family. We have thought about all the elements, not just the aesthetics; functionality is at the top of our priority list when designing any space. If you are able to trust and listen to our vision, we are confident that we will exceed your expectations.


BUT DON'T BE AFRAID TO TELL THE TRUTH

We also want this to be a time when you can be open and honest with us about what does or

doesn't work with our plan. This is the best time to make any of those changes - this is the 1000 mile view and pivoting now to make sure you are getting everything you want is much easier then after the detailed design is completed and long before the demo, ordering, and installation happen. If you feel strongly about something, please speak up!


A LONG RANGE PLAN

We design to the "dream" so you can get the end goal quoted and then decide on how to phase the project based on budgetary numbers, scaling back if required, and allowing you to work towards a long-range plan.


What Happens Next?


After our Conceptual Design Meeting, we will return to work on all of the detailed

elements of the design. The average timing from our Conceptual Design meeting to our Detailed Design meeting is typically about 8 weeks, depending on your project’s scope. This gives us

time to source materials based on our vision, request quotes and samples, and prepare an overall proposal for your viewing.


We keep our clients informed throughout this process so you know what we are doing to move the project forward. If necessary, we may coordinate site visits with trades to acquire more accurate pricing.


NEXT STEP: DETAILED DESIGN


Tomorrow we will share the next step in our process where the vision becomes clear.