I’m pondering that sentence. I have the feeling some of you might roll your eyes and say, “You’re such a downer. Design is fun!” It is…and it’s also a lot of work if you want the construction to go smoothly. A conversation with a client this week was an eye-opener.
Holy mantle, Batman! One of the biggest mantles I've ever designed
We’re working together on a few rooms, one of which has a fireplace. This is a repeat client who had worked with us on a substantial portion of the home some 5-6 years ago. He’s back to finish off some other rooms. I’m going to change some of the details and circumstances to protect the innocent; however, the following conversation is real:
I asked him, “So are there any differences that you note now from when we worked together last?”
He frowned and said slowly, “It seems harder than it was the first time.”
That wasn’t what I expected to hear. (Really, none of us wants to hear it’s harder, right? We like to think we’re getting better/faster/able to leap tall buildings.)
I asked cautiously, “Why do you think that is?”
He thought for a moment, then said, “There’s so much more to choose from. It’s overwhelming.”
I said, “For us, the amount of time spent researching and designing has quadrupled.” I pointed to his fireplace. “Once when I used to order a mantle and legs, I knew within a few inches what model I could tweak. 1/2 hour and I was done.
Every single fireplace insert has different requirements. For the one you selected, there are 6 pages of specifications and the mantle height and the depth of the legs has to be designed to meet the specifications of the unit.
Our behind-the-scenes meetings for this one fireplace consists of an hour of drawing of the mantle to be sent to the fabricator to be priced, a meeting to the house with the electrician (inserts require an electrical plug inside the fire box that wood-burning fireplaces don’t need), an in-house meeting with the boss for the work involved, including discussion of the existing gas stub and whether it has a) sufficient pressure and b) it’s in the correct location. We also discussed where the gas key can be located and if it needs to be replaced. That’s why it took me a few days to get back to you.”
The client blinked. “I was getting a bit frustrated at how long it was taking but I had no idea. I Thank you for telling me.”
I don’t know if there’s a moral to that story or not, although I was reminded once again to share more with the client on the process, and thought some of you homeowners out there might find it insightful. With the overwhelming amount of products on the market, the time to make sure they work has increased exponentially.
Remember the mantra: “Not all products work well in every kitchen room. Not all products work well together.” It’s no longer safe to specify a product and figure someone will work out the details during construction, especially for new products. That, and read, read, read the specs before buying.