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Jkath Design Build + Reinvent / Bathroom Renovation  / How to Set Boundaries, as a Designer

How to Set Boundaries, as a Designer

This may be the most challenging topic around our headquarters, but something we strive to get better at, with a common goal of a project landing a finish line, on time. Our top goals are to advocate for our clients, pursue a unique design, quality craftsmanship, and beautiful interiors. The course of the project will change, timelines will push, inventory can become an issue, damaged goods can arrive, and the most common situation – clients change their mind. Each one of these scenarios presents an opportunity for problem solving, with setting boundaries on client expectations.

Bathroom vanity with brass wall sconces, tall vanity mirrors, polished gold brass plumbing fixtures, quartz countertops and tall backsplash, walnut reeded vanity, walnut reeded shelves in well designed accessory niche

Why It Is Important to Set a Boundary

First, you may be asking why it’s important to set boundaries. Setting and communicating boundaries is the first step, but enforcing these boundaries is where the work comes in. A few reasons why this may be important might be to preserve an existing or new relationship. Setting boundaries is simply about communicating the terms of an agreement for clear interaction to someone else. It isn’t always easy. Keep in mind, this sets the tone of your working relationship. If you don’t set those boundaries, you certainly can’t expect them to be followed.

How to Set Boundaries, as a Designer

Setting Workplace Boundaries

Easily overlooked, setting professional boundaries sets the tone for how you will conduct yourself professionally, and expect others to treat you. A quote from the legendary Brene Brown, “Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser hellbent on being easy, fun, and flexible.” “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

Setting boundaries is a first step, and likely waiting for someone to overstep becomes an opportunity to enforce those boundaries. These professional boundaries can impact your own personal workflow, and deadlines. Consider these boundaries to share with your co-workers and leadership team, and to extend to clients, subcontractors and showroom representatives within the interior design trade.

How to Set Boundaries, as a Designer
White shiplap paneled bathroom, brass fixture, cool stone herringbone tiles and freestanding bathtub

How to Remain True to Client Deliverables and Deadlines

The million dollar question. A steady workflow process is a must, it’s the only way our team remains connected, in communication, and on schedule to meet the demands of the construction crews in the field. We have adapted Monday.com for all internal communication. Additionally, we use an online drive to store all documents transparent to the entire team for each project, and a client facing cloud based software, called Buildertrend for external communication with our subcontractors and homeowners.

A clearly defined contract with specific deliverables would be the second most important piece.

When it comes to revisions, it typically depends on the specific terms outlined in the contract. Usually, a certain number of revisions are included within the scope of the project. However, for more detailed information regarding the number of revisions you would have, this should be mentioned in writing if tailored to the project.

Regarding selections like window choices, it’s common for these decisions to be made during the design phase. However, it may vary depending on the project and the approach of the design or contractor you’re working with. Offer guidance on the most appropriate time for window selections and ensure it aligns with the overall timelines of the project.

When it comes to attending showrooms and managing drive time for unexpected long meetings, you can provide recommendations based on your preferences and project requirements. You might suggest scheduling showroom visits during specific phases of the project, or provide options for virtual showrooms to save time and streamline the process. Work with your client to manage time efficiently and ensure that any unexpected long meetings are handled smoothly.

Remember, communication is key! Make sure to discuss these specific concerns with your clients or contractor so they can address them in a way that best suits your needs and preferences.

The third, and just as important item to consider, is time blocking. This not only leans into a healthy boundary of dedicated client work, but it also puts the team you’re working alongside into steady expectations. Fire drills become a thing of the past if there is uninterrupted time spent on each project. It cannot be the responsibility of homeowners to manage your organizational skills, therefore prepping for a flood of ideas, changes in the field, redlines to plans, change in materials, that ‘what if we did this’ emails are critical to time blocking. Letting your clients know you’ve received their email and you have set aside Friday from 8am – 11am to work solely on their project, while asking for any additional revisions/edits before then will help streamline. This also sets an expectation on when your clients will hear back from you. But as we say here at Jkath, never leave a client hanging on a Friday. An update on when you will get back to them is always a good practice before the weekend.

How to Set Boundaries, as a Designer

How Do Scope Changes Impact a Budget

Aside from setting boundaries, managing scope creep and the budget are a hot topic we juggle behind the scenes. “If you don’t set a boundary, you set a precedence.” In other words, let your clients know early how their requests will impact the project. If you don’t set expectations of timing and budget, they can expect their decisions/changes won’t impact the overall project. This can lead to ongoing requests for edits and added scope of work that can get out of hand and risk an impact to scheduling as well.

Freestanding bathtub, custom shiplap paneled walls, limestone tiled floors with a mix of Earthy tones.

Three Easy Steps to Getting Started with Setting Boundaries

Establish your boundaries, consider professional boundaries, client boundaries on how they can reach you, or timelines that need to be respected and honored. Consider blocking out time on your calendar for meetings, letting clients know you handle in person or zoom meetings on Wednesday and Thursdays, giving them plenty of time to arrange their calendar with work/life to meet with you. In our opinion a 3pm Friday afternoon meeting is not productive, for anyone, so wouldn’t even be on the table for consideration.

How will you share your boundaries? A kick off email with the best way to reach you, the days of the week you plan to time block on their project, the number of edits or hours if this is applicable should be shared as well as all milestone deadlines. Both parties need to honor these deadline.

Enforcing boundaries. Quite simply the reason we don’t set boundaries is the reality of how uncomfortable it can be to enforce a boundary. Start with small, attainable boundaries, and further redevelop these as you get more comfortable. If a client texts you after hours, don’t respond and revisit the following day in an email with a simple reminder this is how you prefer to work with them. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a game-changer.

Last, consider revising your current boundaries, are you enforcing these? If you haven’t started with this work, write down. series of ways you could work smarter and create an initial list of boundaries, practice setting these, and work toward a more permanent list that become your day to day norm.

Sharing a few recent St. Paul, Minnesota projects we think you might like:

Riverwood Place, Fairmount Avenue, Princeton Avenue

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