Engaging an Interior designer to design your dream home should be an exciting journey and, most importantly, well worth your investment.
But as fun as the process of designing your dream home or renovation can be, it can quickly head south if expectations are not met!
The truth is, there is a lot more than what meets the eye when designing, renovating, and building. And behind all that fun stuff of selecting colours and finishes lies many necessary formalities that will ultimately lead to your project’s success.
Beginning with… your agreement aka contract with your designer!
Regardless of your project size, the Letter of Engagement (LOE), also known as your Design Agreement, Design Proposal or Design Contract is the initial – most crucial document in the relationship. A well-written design agreement should summarise your entire project, outline the services offered, costs and summarise the rules of engagement. From a legal perspective, it will ensure clarity for each party as to what their obligations and rights are.
So whether you are engaging a designer for the first time, or things didn’t go quite so well the first time round, let’s take a dive into the key elements that you need to ensure your agreement covers –
- Design Process outline
- Scope of Works
- Deliverables / Services Offered
- Fee Structure
- Legal Clauses and Conditions
We will often refer to the agreement throughout the process to ensure all phases, requirements, and fees are met throughout the project. The main objectives of an LOE are business transparency and legal integrity to both the business and client.
Let’s break these down…
A well-thought-out design process will become the all-important roadmap to realizing the full vision of your project. Many factors will come into play in the process, including stages of the design, time frames and even level of control and input from both you and the designer. Whether you have engaged a designer previously or not, each of them work differently and will approach the design process differently. As a client, ensuring you understand that process and agree to this before proceeding will result in a smoother design journey!
Scope Of Works
Your scope of works is where the designer details a comprehensive list of items that the design will cover. Each client’s needs are unique, and no two projects are the same, so it’s key that every detail (big or small) is physically documented. Having a clearly defined scope that outlines where the designer is starting and stopping throughout the property is vital. What you may think is a simple discussion of “let’s just close in that window” in reality affects both the interior and exterior of the home and will involve considerations that go beyond just that óne window. Situations like these require a clear scope for the client and designer to refer back to easily.
One of the most exciting parts of a renovation is seeing your new space/ spaces come to life! This will typically come in the form of a concept presentation. There are endless possibilities and creative paths designers can take when it comes to presenting. Understanding what you will be getting from your designer regarding floor plans, elevations, sketches, 3D Renders, physical models, and samples is integral for many reasons. As the client, you may find it difficult to visualise concepts in particular formats. Therefore, understanding your designer’s planned approach to your project will allow you to realise whether the deliverables are sufficient and work for you!
Assumptions just don’t cut it when it comes to the financial side of things with any agreement. If there is one thing that can turn any relationship south, it’s when the details surrounding fees, charges, and remuneration are not clearly defined from the get-go. When it comes to design fees and how designers charge, there is no set method and while some designers charge by the hour, others may charge a fixed fee. Either way, it’s essential to estimate the total costs to know what you are up for – and this is possible if the scope of work is clearly defined!
Legalities & Liabilities
Last but certainly not least, is the often neglected but probably most important – legalities and liabilities component of the agreement / contract.
As designers, we have a duty to deliver a functional home that meets all relevant building codes. But beyond that there is also information that needs to be covered off in regards to the working relationship, including payment terms, reimbursements, copyright and termination (just to name a few).
What initially might seem to be over the top paperwork, will essentially act as your rule of engagement – backing up all those ‘what if’ scenarios! Look at the clauses as a set of conditions between you and the designer, essentially a handbook that both you as the client and the designer can refer to if anything issues may arise during the renovation process.
Lot’s to take in and this is really only the tip of the iceberg, but at the end of the day, nutting all this out from the beginning will make for a better relationship and process with your designer!