"Can I Just Get a Concept"
DIY is getting more and more popular and homeowners are interested in taking on their own design and construction work. I applaud this energy and support you completely in your endeavors! Many times, homeowners have come to me and asked if they could get just a concept. After happily obliging for many, many years for so many clients, I now offer this service with a LOT of caveats. Reason being, a concept design ends up being a frustration for the homeowner, the contractor, and myself, and here is why:
"I expected more"
Designing takes time. Oftentimes, a homeowner that wants just a concept is on a tight budget and is looking for a quick, inexpensive service. A design concept is an idea and not a fully formulated idea. In fact, technically a design concept for interior architectural design is a statement that may be accompanied by abstract diagrams. It most certainly is not what we find when searching Pinterest. Additionally, quick and inexpensive will not get anyone very far.
It is not possible to put dimensions on an idea.
It is not possible to order products based on an idea.
So, what you are paying for with a concept from a designer is a partially formed idea that needs a lot of refinement. Developing that idea means research, interviews, sketching, analysis of the existing space, and a review of the basic design principles and elements. Depending on the complexity of the space, it may mean conceptual details, conceptual plans and more. This type of work takes a significant amount of time, and while we can order a concept online these days for $99, this isn't a quality, holistic concept that has fully considered all the angles.
"I can't build from this"
Next, let's look at the contractor's perspective. A contractor's job is to build something from a set of instructions, a full set of drawings. The first question any contractor should ask when a homeowner contacts them about a project is, "do you have drawings?" or "who is doing the drawings". Many contractors will say that they can draw it up, and for projects less than $10,000 I generally suggest going that route. Most designers are not trained to assemble DIY or salvage-type projects. Keep in mind, however, that there is no training or testing in Washington State to become a contractor. So, if you're hiring someone to do drawings, it is worth it to review their capability to do this.
Okay, back to the concept. The drawings that come out of a "quick and inexpensive" concept are sadly not often enough for an accurate estimate. The contractor has the look, but no instructions to build for quality, for your functional needs, etc. In essence, a photograph from a magazine would be just as good for the contractor.
"I'm sorry, this is just a concept"
This falls back to the "I expected more" category. I love my job because I please people! I am a people pleaser and provide ideas and directions for spaces that clients never dreamed they could have! I can't tell you how many times I've repeated to clients and contractors that the design simply isn't fully developed when questions arise. You see, every time further information is needed, it means more work on my end, which means more time billed on the homeowner's end, and delay for the contractor. So, once a concept has been provided, services are done. Now, if the client is ready to put the project on hold and jump back into the design, we're all for it!
So, can you just have a concept? Yes. Of course, you can. But, our company policy is that any partial project will have a watermark stating that the drawings are: "Concept only, not for construction". These projects are provided as hourly consulting allowing the client to set the budget and stop when they want or need to.. kind of a pay as you go situation.
These projects are hard, if not impossible to evaluate what they will cost in design fees, so instead of telling you what it costs, we ask for your budget and work to keep you informed on how much time we've spent as we go.