Why Hire a Designer?

In an era of DIY, I am often asked about the purpose of a designer in the building and/or renovation process. This post is dedicated to the who, what, when, where, and why of builders, architects, and, of course, designers.

To lend multiple voices and perspectives to the conversation, I asked some talented local professionals their personal takes on how they work in conjunction with designers and other professionals in the field and how these roles can be beneficial to clients. To draw a parallel, would you consult a physician without a medical license? Similarly, hiring professionals who are familiar with design trends and space planning, and who listen to your needs, will save you money, frustration, and time in the long run.

So, enjoy, and feel free to post questions!


The Architect(s)

Chris Sheppard, AIA

Taylor Kempkes Architects

Chris has ten years of experience in the field and has been with Taylor Kempkes for the past three years. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of Arkansas in 2009. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions:

Jill White (JW): What do you consider your two largest professional accomplishments?

Chris Sheppard (CS): Earning my architectural license at 24 years old and having multiple happy clients. I know the second one is cheesy, but it is true. A happy client can make even the mundane project enjoyable.

JW: What types of projects do you typically pursue?

CS: Commercial buildings of all kinds….and some residential if the client, the builder, or their design style is a good fit.

JW: What are you known for in the industry?

CS: Being pleasant to work with, having a good sense of design, and knowing how to appropriately edit a design when necessary.

JW: In a nutshell, describe what you do.

CS: Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. I try to make that 90 percent of your life enjoyable, functional, and safe.

JW: How does a builder/contractor factor into your work?

CS: One role of an architect is to protect the owner’s interests regarding construction. I appreciate a builder who is transparent—one that works hard to do a good job and believes in collaboration. I will never recommend a builder who thinks they know it all (because I can assure you, they don’t).

JW: How do you work in conjunction with a designer?

CS: I work well with designers….unless they move to the exterior of the building. Just kidding! Most designers have a complimentary skill set to mine, and I value their opinions.

JW: What are the benefits of working with a designer?

CS: I love working with good interior designers. So much of what an architect designs is unseen or [is eventually] covered with drywall. An interior designer gets to focus on the tactile and visual experience of a building, and that is often what owners have the most interest in. Having a professional, whose sole job is that, can be a blessing.

JW: Why should a potential client hire you instead of a draftsman?

CS: Knowledge + Experience. As my father would say, “You don’t even know what you don’t know.” With an architect, you are getting, potentially, decades of knowledge, a minimum five years of formal design education, seven licensure exams that ensure safety, and the experience of hundreds of completed projects. I inherently know what makes good design, and it is my minimum standard level work.

JW: Any information you would like our readers to know?

CS: Hire a professional—and one you enjoy being around. We are here to guide you and make the building process easier. Building can feel like an overwhelming task, but to us, it is a daily routine.


The Architect(s)

Randall Hurban

Hight Jackson Associates

Randall has been in the field for nine years, a little over three of those with Hight Jackson Associates (HJA). He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of Arkansas and works in the commercial space. Here are his responses:

JW: What do you consider your two largest professional accomplishments?

Randall Hurban (RH): Getting licensed and getting construction documents done on a 68,000 square foot school project in three months.

JW: What are you known for in the industry?

RH: HJA is known for getting beautiful projects done on time and under budget and for keeping the client’s needs first and foremost.

JW: Describe what you do in layman’s terms.

RH: I am an architect that delivers my clients their dream project within their budget.

JW: How does a builder/contractor factor into your work?

RH: They are integral in our projects, especially if they can come on board early in the design phases for pricing exercises and allow us to explore various options.

JW: How do you work in conjunction with a designer?

RH: Designers, similar to contractors, allow us to make the correct decisions early on, so we don’t blow the budget but still get the client what they originally dreamed of.

JW: What are the benefits of working with a designer?

RH: Designers stay up-to-date with the latest trends, products, etc. and can help aid in the overall design of a project, really being crucial to the look of a project.

JW: Why should a potential client hire you as opposed to a draftsman?

RH: Draftsmen have their purpose, but if a client is looking for a knowledgeable and well-educated designer with current building practices and code understandings, an architect is the way to go.

JW: Any information you would like our readers to know?

RH: Jill is the best! [Jill Note: I did not pay him to say that!!]


The Builder(s)

Jeremiah Russell, AIA, NCARB

Rogue Architecture

Jeremiah is an architect and a builder, so he offers a multifaceted view on our topic. He has been in the practice for over 14 years and in his current business for over three years. He earned his Masters of Architecture from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2003. Following are his responses:

JW: What do you consider your two main professional accomplishments?

Jeremiah Russell (JR): Getting licensed, and opening my own firm.

JW: What are you known for in the industry?

JR: Clean, modern designs that are space and energy efficient and are affordable to construct.

JW: Briefly describe what you do.

JR: I create custom designed homes that function better and that sell faster and for more money than the average spec or builder grade home.

JW: How does a builder/contractor factor into your work?

JR: As a licensed residential builder, we can provide design/build services for some of our clients. Generally, we work with other licensed contractors and subcontractors. We try to encourage our clients to select a contractor early in the design process to help with budget analysis to make sure that things stay in the range they need to be in and to provide constructibility guidance as well. Construction is a team effort, after all.

JW: How do you work in conjunction with a designer?

JR: Interior designers tend to come into the picture after our design work has been completed. This is not ideal. Similar to selecting a contractor, we would encourage any client thinking about hiring an interior designer for their project to do so early, so the process can be collaborative throughout design.

JW: What are the benefits of working with a designer?

JR: The benefits of working with a designer, for the client, are to have a dedicated and trained professional curating the fixtures and finishes of a design, offering design input to the architect about function and flow, and providing oversight during final installation to make sure the finished product is perfect.

JW: Why should potential client hire you instead of a draftsman?

JR: That’s easy. Professional expertise in design, construction, and building technology. A draftsman will follow instructions to draw what the client instructs. An architect will listen to the needs, wants, and desires of the client and create a full design that is truly unique to that family. An architect-designed home will function better, perform better over time, and appreciate in value faster.

JW: Any information you would like our readers to know?

JR: Design and construction are collaborative processes. They are not exclusive. The architect is not done when the drawings are issued. The entire team – architect, contractor, and designer – need to be involved and working together from the beginning of design through to the completion of construction. This helps ensure the client’s investment is sound, and their project is built according to plan and according to a budget.


The Builder(s)

Ben Booth

Booth Building + Design LLC

Ben has been in the field for 16 years and has been self-employed for the duration. His projects are largely high-end, custom residential. Here are his responses:

JW: What do you consider your two biggest professional accomplishments?

Ben Booth (BB): Being nominated and voted in as a board member, and eventually president, of our local Home Builders Association. Also, building my business to the point (through great clients and projects) where clients seek me out for their homes and all business comes from word-of-mouth.

JW: What are you known for in the industry?

BB: Being friends with my clients after we complete their homes, honesty and integrity, and always being available to my clients even after they’ve moved in.

JW: In a nutshell, describe what you do.

BB: The majority of what I do includes high-end custom homes. So I work with clients from the lot selection process, to the floorplan design, through all of their selections. Then I build their home based on their budget, those selections, and their vision.

JW: When do you like to enter a project? Do you like coming in first (before the architect or designer)? Do you like knowing who the architect is first and having plans brought to you?

BB: My preference is to be the first one involved with the project. My most successful projects, regardless of the designer or architect, have been the ones where I’ve been selected and involved from day one.

JW: How does an architect factor into your work?

BB: My projects are probably 50/50 architect and draftsman as far as the floorplan and who draws them.

JW: In your opinion, when is it okay to not hire an architect? What kind of project can only a builder take care of?

BB: There are several floorplans I’ve built in the past where a draftsman was sufficient. Because many of my clients can’t envision rooms/spacing/perspective until we’ve framed the house, three or four pages of plans are all that is required. The key is having a builder who is knowledgeable, experienced, flexible, and willing to help take responsibility for changes that are required.

JW: How do you work in conjunction with a designer?

BB: Since my wife, Cassie, is an ASID designer, I work in conjunction with a very talented designer on every project! She has certainly been a huge part of my success as a builder.

JW: What are the benefits of working with a designer?

BB: For me, personally, it helps tremendously in the selection process, overall organization of those selections, and catching the vision for the overall design early in the process….all very important to me. Also, selfishly, it makes me look much better as a custom home builder, because my clients’ homes turn out better looking!

JW: Any information you would like our readers to know?

BB: Do not hire a builder who’s been building less than 10 years or who builds “on the side.” I’ve been building since 2000, and I learn things every day I wish I had known earlier in my career. It’s too easy to get a builders license in Arkansas, and [building a home] is the largest personal investment you’ll ever make. Know your builder and his or her background.


The Designer

Jill White (duh)

Jill White Designs

Of course I am answering as the designer! However, I have to agree with Ben’s assessment of Cassie; she is wonderfully talented, as are so many others in Arkansas. We are lucky to have so many amazing designers right here in The Natural State. So, you can see my “About Me” page for background. Without further ado:

JW: What do you consider your two largest professional accomplishments?

JW: Starting my own business. Also, getting to work on The Waters, a boutique hotel, the Holy Grail for most designers, my second year in business.

JW: What types of projects do you typically pursue?

JW: I do it all! Here lately, I find myself really loving family homes.

JW: What are you known for in the industry?

JW: Black, white, and grey?! I hope I am known for my ability to connect with my clients, to really get to know them on a personal level and design spaces they love and enjoy for years to come. The more I know about my clients, and the more they teach me about their lifestyle, the better I can design their space.

JW: In a nutshell, describe what you do.

JW: HUSTLE!!! A typical day (after my precious Stella is off to school) involves correspondence (emails / texts/ calls), client meetings, site visits, lots of computer time, and general craziness!!

I typically meet with a client to discuss the scope of work and their needs. With an existing space, I measure the areas to be renovated and prepare an accurate floorplan, then begin the conceptual phase. Once the concept is approved, a final plan and millwork elevations are prepared for approval. Then the fun starts!

JW: How does a builder/contractor factor into your work?

JW: I love working collaboratively with builders. My favorite, go-to builders are those who bring something to the table. Those with ideas, creativity, problem-solving skills, and respect. Those who understand we are on the same team and are working together to make the best space for the client.

JW: How do you work in conjunction with an architect?

JW: Similarly, an architect is a super important part of the team who ensures the space flows functionally and aesthetically. Designers / architects / builders each bring important, necessary expertise to the table. It is worth your money to invest in a good team who will oversee your project from beginning to end, each working collaboratively alongside each other to execute design intent for the client.

JW: What are the benefits of working with a designer?

JW: We have college degrees. This is our life. What may end up being a stressful, overwhelming process for most is something we are accustomed to dealing with daily. As a designer, I execute your vision and make your space reflective of you and your tastes. Ultimately, building or renovating is a huge decision for most, so doing it right the first time will allow you to enjoy it for years to come and will also help with resale.

JW: When do you like to enter a project?

JW: I am often asked who comes first – the designer, the builder, or the architect. Everybody wants to be first, ha! It depends on what you want to do. Obviously, if you want new furniture or to do a small remodel, call a designer. If you are building from the ground up, you may call an architect. Additionally, it is really up to the client and who they may already have a relationship with. I know we all respond differently, but I think it is most important to have a good team of qualified people with the right credentials.

JW: Any information you would like our readers to know?

JW: HIRE ME. LOL!

 

 

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