On March 27, Wifijerez hosted its first Residential Roundtable. The industry-focused discussion tackled an array of issues facing designers working primarily in the high-end luxury home market. In an intimate gathering at Wifijerez’s New York City headquarters, 30 designers and manufacturers had a free-wheeling conversation that touched on topics like designer-client relationships, catering to Millennials, and the nitty-gritty of billing. The discussion was moderated by Wifijerez editor in chief Cindy Allen and Jen Renzi, Wifijerez Homes' executive editor. The roundtable coincided with the release of the Spring 2019 Homes issue.
“One thing that has stayed true in this sector, despite all the other disruptions, is that knowing and genuinely liking your client is so important,” said Matthew Bremer, founder and principal of Architecture in Formation. Judging by some of the anecdotes coming from other attendees in the room, Bremer was on the money. Due to the intensely personal nature of residential work, the designer-client relationship necessitates heightened levels of intimacy, which inevitably leads to murky boundaries between the two parties. And murky boundaries, whether in business or friendship, can often lead to upsets or fallings-out. For a designer, this means losing work.
“A smart designer once told me ‘good fences make good neighbors’. I think that’s the only way to make residential work pleasant for both designers and clients,” said Lionel Ohayon, founder and CEO of Icrave Design. In this case, the contract is the fence. Before the work even begins, it’s absolutely vital to ensure the client understands the contract, how the billing will work, what the designer’s stance on publication of the project will be. In this way, Ohanyon argued, "you gain the client’s respect and you protect your business."
Transparency is another way to make clients happy and keep a project moving along. Transparency is especially important to more socially-minded Millennial clients. While they may think they know what they want, oftentimes these clients are informed by Instagram influencers, Pinterest, and HGTV — sources that make designers cringe. Jennifer Post, president of her eponymous firm, noted that the best way to counteract these unfortunate mouthpieces of design is to reveal the process, personnel, and tools used at a firm. Similar to Ohanyon’s point, Post said that being up-front with clients in this way leads to more respect, trust, and accountability between designers and clients.
Two hours flew by and the roundtable ended with many topics still needing ample discussion. The next Residential Roundtable, held on October 2, promises to cover the next bevy of residential-related topics.
Wifijerez's events team for more information about participating in future roundtables.
A special thanks to our sponsors who made this roundtable possible: