Long Distance Design

Here I sit on a plane coming back from an out of state client install.  Those who follow me on Instagram know how frequently I travel for work. I have projects that take me at least once a month to the upper Keys in Florida, plus we have projects on the Cape and Islands, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine. That’s a lot of ground to cover and still keep on top of everything!

How do I manage out of state projects? There are a few key elements that make long distance projects different, and staying ahead of these differences helps to ensure they will run smoothly.

Be prepared

While I always value being creative and organized, for out of state projects we need to be organized first and then creative. Every second of an out of state meeting is precious, and therefore has to be maximized and prepared for in advance.  You can’t run to your materials library to select another fabric sample if something doesn’t hit right.  You can’t say let’s meet again in two days and answer those new questions.  To handle these kinds of surprises, I run the meetings in my head before I leave our office. This allows me to be sure we have all of the products and supplies we will need, and anticipate any questions that may come up.  Then, I pack extra fabric and materials.  We need to make room for the curve balls of new design inspiration, as well as any changes to what the client is looking for during the meeting.

Consider the local conditions

Personally, I love the challenge that comes with working in a new region: a different climate might call for different materials, different light causes colors to read differently, and differences in regional style allows me the opportunity to work in new and exciting ways.  It's all energizing! Taking time to research the unique conditions of a new place is important to ensure a design will be functional as well as beautiful. Additionally, always making sure to see the materials and fabric in the place they will be installed ensures they will read how I want them to.

Timing is crucial

While we have deadlines on every project, it becomes much more pressing to stick to the schedule for my out of state projects as many of them are vacation houses. Missing a deadline can push an install date into the time the client wants to spend in the home, and losing a season means losing a whole year. Additionally, as it requires scheduling travel and valuable time away from the office for me to be on-site, it’s critical that install days and meetings go as planned. If something doesn’t arrive in time for an install, it is very difficult to adjust to accommodate that item.

Know your local vendors

Image Courtesy of Annie Spratt

As designers, we rely on our networks of reliable and talented contractors and subcontractors. These relationships come from years of working closely with the same craftspeople, however when I have a long distance project I don’t always know my vendors well. Additionally, being so far away can make it more difficult to feel in the loop for what’s going on on-site. To overcome these challenges, making sure to have open lines of communication with the local team is key.  Reaching out frequently as questions arise, and responding quickly – and clearly – to all requests for design information helps to ensure everything is on track and there are no surprises. While I can’t always be there, the local vendors are the eyes on the ground.

While traveling can certainly be a more taxing part of my job, I love the opportunity to venture out and try something new. By keeping these factors in mind as I work, I have been able to make my long-distance work successful and rewarding. It may seem like an extra challenge to work with a designer who is not local, but if you have someone in mind that you would like to work with, don’t let your location be a limitation!

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