Can I Start a Home Design or Renovation Project Virtually?

Long before this pandemic shut down cities around the world, home design projects were already happening virtually. So, while a few things have changed since COVID-19, the basics were already in place to allow us to keep designing beautiful homes while keeping our clients and our staff safe and healthy.

When we work with a client who lives in Texas, or Florida, or California who wants to build a new home here in New England, we often meet them virtually (using a video-conference tool like Zoom). We send them sketches and design ideas by email, and touch base by phone. We may only meet in-person once or twice. The final, stunning home that’s custom-fit to their personalities, lifestyle, and the way they’ll use their space is done entirely virtually.

We also work with people who are excited to create the home of their dreams but must manage very busy work or personal schedules. We understand how many commitments our clients have, and how challenging it can be to manage a major home project on top of everything else. To make this undertaking easier, we can hold many of our project meetings virtually. Even for clients who live locally, this can be a meaningful time-saver.

As much as we enjoy the personal relationships that evolve during the process of designing a home for someone, it’s just as important to tailor the way we work to our clients’ needs. Because of this, we’ve been comfortably and efficiently designing new homes, renovations and additions with varying levels of virtual work for many years.

How Does It Work? Our Architectural Process Goes Virtual

When we design projects virtually, it’s pretty similar to our typical architectural process. The differences are that meetings we would normally have in-person either at our offices or at the project site, we instead hold those meetings using video conferencing tools. If you haven’t used tools like Zoom or Google Meet before, we are very happy to walk you through it. They’re surprisingly easy.

Getting to Know You

Our initial meetings at the beginning of a project are a lot of fun, and the same goes when they’re virtual. Much better than a phone call, a video call is great because the client can use the camera on their device to walk us around the house while talking about their goals for the project, what they like and don’t like, and design ideas they may have. We get a very clear understanding of the house or site, without needing to be there in-person.

Watch Us Sketch

We prefer to design initial concepts for your project in front of you, as we talk through ideas, so we can get your feedback and impressions. Principal Mathew Cummings does the initial designs for every project we work on. While this is easiest in-person, it still works well on a video call. He sketches on the call, and you watch as he’s drawing. He’ll talk you through ideas and answer questions. Sometimes these virtual design sessions take a bit more time than they would in-person, but we’ve found that clients are equally happy in both situations.

Good Drawings Tell a Story

As we further develop your project’s design, we create detailed drawings that help you to clearly understand what the finished space will look like, how it will function, and how it will feel. You will be able to visualize it clearly. Putting extra effort into creating high-quality drawings is one way we stand out from other design firms. Our clients understand how their space will look long before construction begins – so we can make sure it fits their ideal vision and needs without needing to make costly changes during construction. (It’s always less expensive – and causes less scheduling issues – to make changes to a drawing, rather than during construction!)

We can send you design drawings by email or Dropbox (an online file storage application), and then will talk through them and answer your questions on a video call.

On-Site Work During COVID19

Right now, this is the part of our project that’s a bit different. Some of our work still needs to happen on-site. For renovation and addition projects, this includes detailed measurements of the existing space that allow us to create accurate existing drawings. These measurements and existing drawings are the critical foundation upon which all of our design work and construction price estimates will be based.

Construction is still happening during COVID19, and we are visiting the sites for our projects to oversee construction and make sure that everything is completed correctly, and on schedule.

 

When we need to be on-site right now, we are taking all precautions necessary to keep our clients, ourselves, our staff, and the builders and their staff safe and healthy. These measures include:

  • Safe distancing of 6 feet or more
  • Wearing masks and gloves
  • Minimizing the number of people on site at one time. For example, we coordinate with the builder for someone from our office to visit the site when no one else is there. Later, we will touch base with the builder by phone to discuss any questions or issues we saw during our site visit.
  • When we need to have an in-person conversation with others on-site, we try to do so outside and standing a distance apart from each other
  • When we take measurements of an existing house, we may coordinate to do this when you aren’t home (or if you’re willing to hang out in the yard while we’re there)

If there are other measures that would help you feel comfortable with on-site work for your project, please just let us know. Your safety and comfort is important to us, and we’re happy to tailor how we work based on your needs. We will continue to follow recommendations from government and health officials as the situation changes.

Working from Home: How Our Team Functions Virtually

Our small team of nine has always had the flexibility to work from home as needed. And now, as much as we miss hanging out together in the office – especially our Friday afternoon happy hours around the office keg! – we’re still plugging along and getting work done from our own individual home work spaces.

How do we stay connected and keep your project moving forward efficiently when we aren’t in the same office together? There’s a few tools that are working great for us:

  1. Zoom. It’s not just for talking with clients. We also use video conferencing to talk to each other every day and share design ideas, talk through challenges that arise, touch base on the status of projects, and just keep communication flowing. We also talk with our builders daily to make sure that projects are on schedule and everything is getting done according to the drawings.
  2. Google chat. Our office email is based on Google, and so we all have Google Chat windows open during the day as well. This is great for asking quick questions and sharing a passing idea or thought.
  3. Weekly All-Office Video Calls. Our whole team hops on a call together at least once a week to talk through all the projects we’re working on. It keeps us all on the same page, and helps keep every project moving forward.

Mostly, our work is happening just like it always has. Except we’re on a video on our laptops. (And we’re wearing more jeans and sweatpants than ever before.)

When is the Right Time to Start Your Home Project?

Designing your dream home takes time. It can take as long (or short) as you’d like it to. But, whether we’re renovating your existing house, creating an addition, or designing an entirely new house, there are decisions to make about what materials you like, paint colors, architectural design options, and finishes like kitchen cabinet knobs and lighting. We’re here to help you make all of those decisions, but they still take time to consider.

So, if you’re wondering if now is a good time to start a home project… it is! This time of year is always busy and exciting as people come out of winter with energy and enthusiasm for creating their new dream home. We’d love to hear about your ideas for your home project.

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