Rob Morris, president of Morris-Day Design & Build, in McLean, Va., responds to REMODELING’s “5 Questions” about his career and talks about why there may be a lot of homeowners out there regretting scrimping on their home's upgrades.
Remodeling: What has been your biggest challenge over the past year?
Rob Morris: “Penny wise and pound foolish.” Because appreciation within the housing market has slowed, many prospective homeowners are making bad compromises; rationalizing savings in materials, space, and details which, in four to five years, they will either replace or regret. More often than not, when these trade-offs involve the appearance of the renovation, an entire neighborhood suffers.
RM: What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment since entering the remodeling field?
Rob Morris: Over the past 23 years, we have guided the revitalization and character of once ignored older neighborhoods in the Washington area, one house at a time. Our renovations have shown other homeowners that craftsmanship is not a thing of the past — "Homes can be built like they used to be." In turn, and by surprise, we have also set an architectural standard for builders who have since entered these neighborhoods on a speculative basis.
RM: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Rob Morris: “Don't give your services away; never undersell yourself,” and “The client is always right.” By its very nature, design is a highly visual medium. Few homeowners are skilled at reading plans and often make decisions based on incorrect visual assumptions. Most homeowners recognize the mistake once built and either pay to correct it or they live decidedly unhappy with the mistake.
RM: What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
Rob Morris: “The client is always right.” Most architects and designers anticipate a mistake with due chagrin. Most homeowners recognize the mistake, once built, and either pay to correct it or they live decidedly annoyed by it indefinitely. Clearly, no one wins.
RM: If you could change one decision you’ve made during the last 10 years, what would it be?
Rob Morris: During South Florida’s heyday, when appreciation spiked to 33% annually, we opened an office in Fort Lauderdale. We’ve been paying for it ever since.