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How Interior Designers can Build Lasting Relationships with Builders

July 29, 2022

A guest post by Liz Walton

One of the key contributors to the success of any business is relationships. The biggest advantage you have is your trusted network. As interior designers, we must cultivate and nurture relationships with our clients, employees, vendors, and contractors.  As an interior designer and owner of Philadelphia-based Liz Walton Home, I’ve discovered that while most of our clients are referrals, a large portion of our business is a result of our long-standing partnerships with local builders. When an opportunity strikes, customer referrals are a win-win for both our businesses. As a designer and kitchen expert, I’m frequently asked for recommendations of good builders and I’m pleased to make referrals to our trusted builders.

We are fortunate to work with the area’s premier custom home builders to deliver an unparalleled product and service to our clients. We approach every job with humility and an understanding that each of us is bringing a unique skillset to the job. You may have worked with custom home builders during a family room or master bedroom renovation and would love access to their kitchen remodels, but how? Kitchens require next level planning and preparation and your client and builder will look to you as the authority.

Interior design relationship with builders

So, how do you build a strong and enduring relationship with builders and contractors? 

  1. Making Connections
    If you enjoyed working with a builder on a project, follow up and thank them for a positive experience. Let them know you would like to work together again. If you aspire to work with a builder, find a way to get in touch via phone, email or social media. If you are interested in becoming their resident kitchen expert, email a sample set of kitchen plans, elevations, and 3d renderings as an example of your mastery. Research your favorite builders and make a connection. Tip: Be persistent.  If you don’t receive a response right away, don’t give up. When I first started my business, I called the same builder once a week for 3 months and 7 years later we are still working together winningly. 

  2. Emphasize Organization
    Builders appreciate working with designers because we provide direction and plans for a coordinated implementation. This is especially true when working on complicated kitchens. We supply floorplans, elevations, reflected ceiling plans, drawings of molding details, and any needed info to create an efficient process. At Liz Walton Home, we anticipate the needs of the builder and provide center line locations for sinks, appliances, and any new windows or doors in our proposed kitchen design. We also dimension and specify clearances and walking paths between the island and perimeter cabinetry to ensure there is plenty of space for an appliance door swing or passerby. Each job has a binder with the paint schedules, appliance specifications, and selections throughout the house. Our team offers an easy reference guide for contractors and supports them to ensure the job gets done on time per our specifications and to the client’s satisfaction. 

  3. Demonstrate Collaboration
    As the designer, it is imperative to the success of the job that we act as a collaborator, not a dictator. We must walk the delicate line of advocator for our client and problem solver for the builder. Without the builder, our pretty drawings are meaningless so it’s in everyone’s best interest to be a team player and stay focused on completing the project. In kitchens, we must work around outlet locations, unsightly electrical switches, and HVAC ductwork. While those things are not pretty, they serve a purpose and as a designer you need to work with your contractor in order to find the best solutions in concealing those necessary evils.

  4. Be Flexible
    During construction, things don’t always go as planned and Murphy’s Law rears its     ugly head. Maybe a pipe is obstructing your open concept kitchen, or due to the way the floor joists are running you cannot put a chandelier in the exact spot you would like it. Things happen, and you need to problem solve and pivot. Have an educated discussion with the builder regarding the issue and devise a solution that is acceptable to you and your client. Brilliant solutions often result from these thoughtful discussions. Your client will thank you and you will earn the respect of the contractor. 

  5. Trust earned over time
    Building a long standing relationship with a builder doesn’t happen overnight. Trust must be earned and how you act, react, and interact throughout the entirety of a project speaks volumes. To help build trust, do what you say you are going to do, communicate clearly, and above all else be kind and respectful. In the world of kitchen remodeling, preparedness goes a long way in earning the trust and respect of a custom home builder. Exercising your expertise with a clear concept, an expansive knowledge of appliances and materials, and a willingness to learn will help build your reputation as a kitchen expert.

By teaming up with a custom home builder, you can ensure that your vision will be executed with precision and style to ensure a truly unique home for your client.

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Written by Liz Walton

Liz Walton is the founder and proud owner of Liz Walton Home. As a certified kitchen designer, Liz and her team work seamlessly with clients and custom home builders to deliver one-of-a kind kitchens, tailored to suit their needs. Liz’s pragmatic and function based approach paired with humor and humility put clients minds at ease and ensure an exceptional experience.

Liz Walton Headshot

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