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The School of Flaunt

Back when "Flying Was Fun" Alexandra Smythe and Cate Clarke were Flight Attendants with a Major International Carrier. Prior to Private Jets coming into vogue, Alexandra and Cate traveled in the First Class World, meeting and greeting the top celebrities, politicians who would become Presidents, nouveau riche, and yes the occasional Headline Grabbing Criminal in Handcuffs!

What the two ladies viewed and experienced became fodder for the School of Flaunt, so much money, such bad taste and oh those terrible manners. Something had to be done! Hence, The School of Flaunt Handbook was born. Read More

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The Value of Great Design by Gerald Forsburg

Category: Guest Writers  |  Permalink

Published: Monday, March 21, 2011

The Value of Great Design & The Art of the Showcase Home

By Gerald Forsburg, President and Principal Designer at Gerald Forsburg Associates

March  2011

Hollywood knows it. Political powerhouses know it. Wealthy Entrepreneurs and Business people at the top of their Game know it. But do you?

Our homes can say as much, if not more, about our values and lifestyles as any other part of the package we present to others. You can dress for success; drive the right kind of car to show off your success, even meet at the right places that say "look at me, I am successful." This is all part of personal branding. But does your home present your Success? Your home can brand you as much as all the other things combined. Fortunately, the era of McMansions is dead. McMansions were the answer to people of new money, or at least those with little taste, to show off their success. McMansions are homes with lots of square footage and even lots of expensive finishes that scream money, but no taste. They lack that certain "je ne sais quoi" that truly tasteful homes exude. Remember Quality trumps Quantity. If you don't think so, just travel through a rural neighborhood in the near future, and look at the Double Wide Estates.

Talented designers and architects are like conductors of orchestras. After studying a piece of music, a talented conductor decides which portions to highlight to their audience, which areas need a certain amount of extra attention to soar and who the best performers to hire will be to present a truly magnificent, and memorable show. Your home is no different: a story told, in bricks and mortar. A talented designer or architect will listen to your story; bring examples of how others have told a similar story; and then present artful ideas to tell your unique story to your friends, family and guests by creating a piece of work that flows both functionally and artfully. Finally the piece is executed with an amount of finesse that will have add to your story and ultimately to your lifestyle.

So, perhaps you have been thinking about your existing home, a new dream home, or an investment property. Contact a residential designer or architect first. Skip the idea of going straight to a builder recommended by all your friends. Builders are wonderful - for BUILDING, not design. There are many ways to find talent - the AIA maintains a list of licensed architects in your area; but there are an equal number of talented residential designers out there. Like any other working relationship, it will take TRUST. You need to meet with potential designers and architects and interview them. Of course, I don't need to tell you this, but many have websites that you can look over to decide whether the fit is good, but at the end of the day, you need to meet with them face to face. However, I caution you to not look just at the pretty pictures on the sites - read about their commitment to the process. You can often stumble upon lots of untapped talent by doing this. We are not all Starchitects - not yet at least. In other words, don't be afraid of young or unfound talent. You may end up with not only a great, fresh home, but having been a patron or matron to an up and coming talented designer.

Working with a professional designer or architect can seem daunting. First and foremost, know that the best have YOUR best interest at heart - they are being hired to protect your investment through quality management, in addition to great design. Know that many have very vibrant personalities. Don't let this deter you either. You are paying for someone to come up with ideas - idea people, as I like to call them, can seem scatterbrained at first. Go with it - at least initially. Just determine your level of comfort, and how to maintain control over the process.

Here are some pointers to do just that:

1. Before your first meeting, have a budget in mind. While it might be prudent to keep the construction budget close to the vest when interviewing contractors, your designer/architect needs to know how much you are willing to spend to get what you want.

2. Be realistic. Labor may be cheaper, but materials (the bricks and mortar) are still on the rise. That's just reality. If you've done your homework in Step 1, then your designer/architect should be able to design to your budget. Also, if you are adamant about a certain design that is may be over your budget, either be willing to compromise the design or the budget.

3. Be flexible. Again, you are hiring talent. If you are presented with a design that you are not comfortable with, tell your designer. If they are unwilling to compromise, find out why. They may have very good reasons why a toilet in the middle of the dining room is not the best idea, despite your creative bent that assures. If you don't agree with the reasons why compromising the design may not be the best idea, you always have the option to fire them - just pay them for work already done!

4. Be realistic. Yes, I am repeating myself. The best projects are those where communication has been maintained throughout the design process, or you are hands off and willing to accept whatever design is presented. Seriously though, realistic means that you cannot have a $10M home for $1M, and it cannot be built in 30 days or less. As with all things, quality takes time. Deadlines are great, so long as quality is not compromised.

5. Don't underestimate the value of Construction Administration. Unless you want to settle for whatever the builder does, contract with your designer or architect to be fully on board throughout the construction process. This can eliminate a great deal of stress in your life. Things invariably come up during construction. Having the designer or architect as the first point of contact when they do, will minimize the headaches you will deal with during the construction of your home. Allow your designer or architect to have a certain amount of decision making responsibility, so long as it does not drastically increase the budget, so that you can ideally go about doing what you do best.

6. Last but not least, know what you like and don't like. Then be sure to communicate that with your designer. While we all love blank checks with no strings attached, those can only be given once a trusted relationship is forged. Your designer needs to get to know you, your preferences, and what it is that you value and will best be part of your personal brand. Make sure whoever you hire is listening. A quality professional will listen first, and then present their ideas, hopefully be taking into account what it is they heard you say. If you feel they miss the mark, tell them. Don't hold back. It is cheaper to change the design on paper than in the field. In short, like all relationships, it is what you make it and no two are alike. Once you have found a designer or architect with whom you feel comfortable, get to know them. You may be surprised at how well you work together, and want to keep them around for other projects. They have certain desires and aspirations as well. Perhaps they have long dreamed of doing an Italian Art Nouveau-styled grand Foyer, but have never suggested it because they heard you say that you have decided on French Renaissance as a design theme. Ask to see what they have in mind, even if it doesn't fit your scheme. Perhaps it is even better than what you were envisioning. Most of all support your hired professional. Tell them that they are doing a good job when they are. I guarantee that they will want to go above and beyond to please you. Their career is on the line, and every great design speaks to their abilities as well as your superb taste! And remember, when you got it, flaunt it - TASTEFULLY.

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