Sabrina Alfin Interiors
Luxurious Spaces. Real Living.


Getting It Built: How to Know Which Method to Choose

Design: Sabrina Alfin Interiors & Darcy Tsung Design. Photo: Dean J. Birinyi

Design: Sabrina Alfin Interiors & Darcy Tsung Design. Photo: Dean J. Birinyi

When it comes to remodeling, clients are often surprised by the level of complexity in the design and construction process, both in the design and the execution phases. Design is as much an exercise in personalizing a space as it is in making it usable, functional, and to code. But of course, making that design come to life is where the magic happens.  So it's best to understand your options.  There are essentially two different business models:  (1) Design/Build and (2) Designer + General Contractor.  Here's how they break down:


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In a design/build model, the homeowner is hiring a single entity that has designers on staff who work directly with their own contractors. "One throat to choke", if you will.  Design/build firms can either be an architect-led entity most often used for whole house remodels or new construction, or a general contractor-led entity that has in-house interior designers, usually for  kitchen & bath projects or small additions. 

On the plus side, you're dealing with one set of professionals for one price to get your job designed and built.  On the negative side, it gives a homeowner a lot less flexibility to get multiple bids for construction, and/or to do a project in phases.  Many construction-led design/build firms use the design as a loss leader in order to make money on the construction back end.  It's a sales-incentive model which means you might be pressured into building out a design before you're ready.  Too, the designers are assigned by the firm, not chosen by you.  You may like the firm's overall portfolio, but that doesn't always mean the designer you get is a good fit for you.

Designer + Contractor

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The other way to do your remodeling project is to hire the designer and the contractor separately, that is to say that you're investing upfront in design work and construction documents/plans before you hire a contractor to execute.  This is a great way to go particularly if you want to be able to do the project in chunks.  By having a master plan, you can more easily phase out the project over time, which helps a great deal in managing cash flow to get to the ultimate finished project. Too, it allows a homeowner to select a designer that most appeals to their aesthetic sensibility, as well as to vet contractors using the finished plans for more solid bids.

We here at SAI obviously favor the latter option.  You'll get more personalized service on the design end and more control over the construction.  Yes, it's a bit more work to be the conduit between the designer and the contractor, but we believe a couple of meetings of the full team before, during, and after the project is executed is really helpful in keeping everyone in the loop and working efficiently.

If you're thinking about a remodeling and design project, give us a call.  We can give you referrals to reputable contractors, as well as a list of our client references.