Diane Keaton’s Something’s Gotta Give kitchen, Tom Hanks’s houseboat from You’ve Got Mail. Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s tricked-out family home. The beautiful (yet booby-trapped) Georgian house from Home Alone. The Cullen residence. Southfork Ranch. 123 Sesame Street.
TV and movies are filled with great places to live — so much so that the best of them draw viewers into the settings as much as the storylines.
Chances are, your clients want to feel like their perfect new kitchen, master suite, or whole house came straight off a high-budget production set. But before the client signs on the dotted line and sets up their director’s chair next to yours, you have to win the job. Here are four creative ways to present design ideas, pulled from screens large and small. Stay with us — and don’t touch that dial.
Take 1: The Project Pitch
Got a new idea for a movie? Save it for the studio execs. But if you have a scene-stealing remodeling design, get ready to make your pitch — and be prepared for some competition.
Rather than competing against other remodelers, Minneapolis remodeler Shawn Nelson, president of New Spaces, was inspired by the past HGTV show Designers’ Challenge to pit members of the company’s design staff against one another in friendly competition.
Like the show, one lucky homeowner’s remodeling project is selected from solicited submissions. “The designers determine which project they will do, and they meet with the homeowner to photograph the site and interview the clients about their needs, wants, and wishes, just like the normal design process,” Nelson says.
While “designing women” Jayme Lennon, Kerrilynn Witty, and Amber Newton (pictured right, left to right) spend a few weeks working on their individual plans, the team insists on some coordination so no two plans are too similar, and so all three are within an acceptable budget range. Once they’re finished, it’s time for a live reveal to an invited audience.
“It’s so much fun — these events are great,” Nelson says of the Remodeling Design Challenge event. “The people who attend just have a blast — it’s like live TV!”
With the Challenge client front-and-center, designers present their ideas with floor plans, PowerPoints and 3-D computer renderings to showcase their work. Other potential clients whose projects weren’t selected for the challenge are also invited, and many attend.
“Many of them are seriously considering a project of their own, so they can get a sense of our design process,” Nelson says. Last year, three additional projects came out of the highly educational event.
“Homeowners come to us and want to know how much their kitchen remodel will cost, and when they see three separate ideas presented with a range of budgets, they start to realize that we have to look at different options and see what makes sense for them,” he says. The Design Challenge client also gets an education. “Sometimes you can’t pick just one. You’ll like parts of each design, and we’ll integrate those into the final plan. That’s exactly the point we try to make.”
Take 2: Set Decoration
In the movie It’s Complicated, Steve Martin plays an architect hired to build an addition for Meryl Streep’s home. In true romantic-comedy fashion, Martin takes Streep on a walk-through of the yet-to-be-built addition staked out on the lawn. He opens invisible doors for her, they “sit” at an imaginary dinner table, and climb heavy-duty ladders to check out the new view from where her bedroom will be.
Designer Brandon Smith may not be quite so flirtatious when meeting with his clients, but he still woos their imaginations with plans laid out right on the subfloor.
“I do that on almost every one of my projects, either with chalk or spray paint,” says the principal at d.coop Spatial Design Firm, in San Diego. “We’ll start with a regular space plan, and as soon as demolition is complete, we’ll go in and put the paint down. It lets us show where door openings will be moved to or where walls will be shifted.”
While sketches showcase how the project will look, these real-life “floor plans” let clients move around easily and get a feel for the space.
Smith also uses other hands-on items to help residential and commercial clients visualize the work. “I’ve gotten away from presenting my design ideas on storyboards because they’re too hard to change on-the-fly,” he says. “Instead, what I like to do is bring in samples of different materials and let the clients feel them and play with them. Then, once they have finalized their selections we can put together a presentation board to refer to during the construction phase.”
Take 3: On-Air Production
Big screen or small screen, a lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into creating a quality program. Of course, you might not think so based on shows such as Property Brothers and Divine Design. There, designers create a rendering of what the project will look like, and then — poof! — the finished product is identical to the plan. Ah, the magic of television.
At Borchert Kitchen & Bath, in Washington, Mich., the staff uses a design presentation process that follows a similar storyline but that sets real-world expectations for clients. Borchert designers use popular 3-D software to illustrate exactly what the completed project will look like.
“It’s very difficult for some people to think in a 3-D capacity, and what we offer is a very visual product,” says designer Mary Margaret Vaglica. “That’s why 3-D design programs are so helpful. It’s not just a showroom where you have 4-inch samples of materials. Software has really improved, so you can incorporate realistic products and finishes. You can move the room around, see different angles, and get a feel for how the finishes you’ve chosen will work together.”
Thanks to the visual aid, homeowners are excited to know that what they see is what they’ll get. They are also thankful that president Bob Borchert puts his architecture degree to work before work starts, helping ward off any possible construction hiccups.
“Homeowners are so used to seeing remodeling shows on TV, but they’re not realistic,” Borchert says. On Property Brothers, for instance, delays with bearing walls, relocating HVAC equipment, and other issues seem to crop up unexpectedly. “In real life, when we can tell right off the bat that we’ll have certain types of work to do, and because we know that ahead of time, we can prepare the client and work with the budget as necessary.”
The right planning limits surprises, Borchert says, and lets the team go from sketch to rendering to finished design smoothly.