While you’re busy preparing your holiday celebrations, entertaining and travel, it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at your home and plan for the renovation projects that need to be tackled in the new year. We don’t know a better way to cure the “winter doldrums” than to breathe new life into a space that you use every day. Instant quality-of-life improvement! Call us today to discuss your needs. We’ll be happy to create a 2012 plan for your home.
As the busy fall home-renovation season kicks off, Myers Constructs co-owner Diane Menke sits down for a chat about breaking traditional design build paradigms, finding paths for growth in a difficult economy, and the surprising places where her team finds design inspiration.
Q: Tell us about your design to build philosophy.
DM: Generally speaking, design build is a model in which the design and construction phases of a renovation project are done in a streamlined fashion — often by having design and construction professionals team up in order to save time and money. Our approach is a different take on this concept. We do both design and construction in house, using a very tight system of steps we have developed over the years. We call it Design to Build™ because we only design projects to build them. We don’t spend a client’s financial resources on exploration of ideas that won’t be built. Our system uses proprietary designing and budgeting tools to ensure the design and construction phases of a project are developed with efficient precision, as well as with great style.
My business partner, Tamara Myers, and I developed this approach after dozens of frustrated homeowners started calling on us with their architect- and designer-driven designs that they couldn’t afford to buid. We both come from backgrounds in fine arts and crafts. While studying for our respective BFA degrees, we were expected to explore and understand departments outside of our major. This philosophy mirrored Germany’s Bauhaus Movement, in which artists were expected to understand all of the arts — craft media, 3D, 2D, color theory, architecture — because they are so interrelated. In addition, we were taught the history of these various media. That exploration helped explain world history, and how various media and styles of architecture, literature, music or crafts arrived in places around the world. If I had to use one phrase to describe this kind of education, it would be “stay curious.” This is how we approach the many disciplines of home renovation at our company. And it’s this curiosity that made it possible to develop a logical system to address the design and construction needs of the homeowners, but keep control of the budgets for them.
Q: What motivated you to break the traditional design build mold?
DM: We really wanted to form a strong, lasting business to take care of customers and employees really well, long term.
Over the course of many years in business, we’ve had many customers who look for ways to save money on their home-improvement projects. One way they attempt to do this is by purchasing appliances directly from a supplier’s showroom instead of paying a professional to manage these purchases for them. Obviously, contractors mark up appliances over cost to pay for the time it takes to do this task.
Sounds like a reasonable enough idea, at first blush. The problem is that, while appliances look self contained and simple on a showroom floor, in reality, they are not either of these things — and neither is the delivery process. Most people do not know what it is like to self-manage a purchase like this. This is a part-time job during a renovation project, and it takes both time and skill to do well.
Here is what the process is like on the purchasing end:
Shopping for appliances and most other remodeling products is both exciting and daunting. There are a lot of options to choose from, many functions to know about, and ramifications resulting from the wrong choice of size, specifications and/or requirements. It takes years to learn this stuff, and new products come along constantly. While the choices can be overwhelming for average consumers, they are not for reputable contractors, who are always learning about these new products because it is their full-time job and passion.
Price points vary wildly. An inexpensive kitchen appliance kit might cost $5,000 complete. On the high end, we have seen them exceed $40,000. Most salesmen will try to sell you what they can make the easiest commission, rather than what you really want or need. You may be tempted to cut corners and choose, for example, an appliance in a black finish because it’s $100 cheaper than a stainless-steel model. The problem is that it may be a special-order item that takes three to four weeks for delivery. Your kitchen is now going to take almost a month longer to finish. You will be frustrated by this, and the whole project will cost you more now in change orders than you saved on that cheaper product.
It’s very easy to mis-manage an order like this. For example, you probably don’t know what the letters SS, BK or WT mean on a model number. But these codes are second nature to an experienced contractor.
Your appliance salesman may forget who you are and may not return your calls. You will then have to call several times to set up and confirm delivery of your product. In fact, you will have to harp and nag to get what you want. You will also have to be on site to receive and inspect your order. And an incorrect or incomplete delivery can create many weeks of delay. It is common to have to make dozens of calls for items like dishwasher trim kits, missing knobs, damaged goods. Delays cost money because they cause you to reschedule or stop your project to wait for it the error to be corrected.
If space is limited on your project, you will have to arrange multiple deliveries as space is opened up and the product is needed. You will have to check each order as it is delivered to be sure it’s correct.
There is no room for change. If your cabinet layout calls for a three-door fridge 36x70x30, you cannot decide at the last moment to go with another fridge because it will not fit the cabinet space made for it, even if it is on sale.
There is no room for error. A 30-inch range is not always 30 inches. We need the appliance specs during design and installation because sometimes these ranges need more than 30″ to fit into their final location.
The more expensive the appliances, the less detail in the data about it and its installation is provided. This is true without fail. This is why these appliances must be on site during the cabinet-installation phase — and sometimes during roughing in — and checked for size and installation requirements. The gas line or electrical lines have a specific area where they need to be, and the appliance will not fit in its place if these are wrong. This wil l cost even more money because they will then need to be moved.
W hen you hire professionals to handle these tasks, you don’t have to worry about any of these details because they make the entire process seamless for you. And, in the long run, they can save you money on errors and mishaps that would almost certainly happen if you try to “go it alone.”
A female homeowner recently confided in me that she is uncomfortable with allowing male contractors she doesn’t know into her house when she’s home alone or with her young children. “I personally get creeped out by it,” she explained. “Trust is everything, in that respect.”
I don’t think this is an uncommon sentiment because it is one we’ve heard many times before. After all, these contractors interact with homeowners’ families, children, pets, and personal spaces and items during a home-renovation project. People want to know that the companies they hire will treat them and their belongings with respect.
Myers Constructs is in the running for the 2011 Design and Construction Report Best Construction Blog competition. We’d love to have your support — please cast your vote (as many times as you wish) before the March 7, 2011 deadline. Thank you!
Check out Diane Menke, quoted here on on Daily5 Remodel, about her opinions of poorly built homes.
Earth friendly. Eco conscious. Green. What do these terms mean in the context of home improvement? The short answer is being kind to your surroundings — although the meanings can differ slightly depending on where you live.
Plumb Level Square is a touch stone phrase carpenters and other craftsmen use to be sure their work is tidy. But it doesn’t always apply. Here is the proof. Enjoy the show!
These photos were taken at The Wooden Boat Show hosted by The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton NY. Its a fine museum with many open water slips and covered galleries where they show off amazing wooden craft of the Finger Lakes Region in NY.
Anyone who appreciates wooden construction methods will be blown away by the craftsmanship and engineering of these craft. It’s no easy task to make wood take these shapes!
Most people don’t know that their houses smell new and much nicer after they renovate. It’s kind of like “new house smell” gets sprayed on their home.
The first week or two of construction is dusty and may not smell very good. In fact, it can uncover many BAD smells, like mildew, rot or sewer gases. It’s icky. No two ways about it.
But after that phase, NEW STUFF is installed. So you smell all the new pine lumber, plywood, drywall, primer and paint, adhesives and polishes. The new cabinets often still smell of varnish or paint. Floors can smell terrible during the varnishing process, but after that they smell fantastic. In fact, two of my favorite scents include new cement and fresh wax — a fine old-time finish.
The experience of finally being able to see, touch — and smell! — so many thousands of dollars of shiny, new, wonderful stuff you ordered 6 weeks or more beforehand can be a little overwhelming. Customers can’t keep from touching and playing with things. They “oooooh” and “aaaaah,” even though they selected the goodies themselves. But the excitement can also cause them to do naughty little things, like put their fingers into wet paint or step on wet tile floors. I myself have been guilty of doing both. It’s like sticking your finger in a birthday cake to taste it. You just can’t help yourself.
Check out this cool, new trailer about our team at Myers Constructs, Inc.
This is just another example of our efforts to market our business without polluting the earth in the process. We’ve found that we don’t have to rely so much on the postal service to deliver printed marketing materials when we get great results from the organic sharing of our messages. So, please share this clip with your circle of contacts … and stay tuned for more fun media soon!