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Tell Them What You Want: How to Communicate With Your Home Design Team

Great kitchen and bath remodeling results are all about communication. And you don't need a design degree to express yourself. Here's how to talk things over.


How do you tell your designer what you want?

This can be a trickier question than one might think. It’s hard enough to talk about design when you don’t have a design background. After all, the home remodeling landscape is peppered with unfamiliar words: Tone, contrast, soffit. It’s even harder if you’re not sure what you want, and even harder than that if you and a housemate disagree. Homes are personal. Things can get intense.

Aaron Popowsky isn’t a therapist. But he is an experienced kitchen and bath designer and contractor, and in his years as CEO of Gallery Kitchen & Bath, he’s learned a few things about communication. Are you a hands-on kind of client? Or do you prefer to let the experts do their thing? Do you have a Pinterest vision board crowded with unique, specific pics from bathroom showrooms? Or are you a home chef feeling adrift in a sea of potential kitchen inspiration?

No matter your journey, good communication is important. So we asked Aaron for his remodeling-talk tips.

Can I be honest?

Yup. ”Honesty is the best policy,” says Aaron. So if you’ve always had your heart set on a quaint country kitchen, don’t hem and haw yourself into a slick set of modern flat panel kitchen cabinets. “Being upfront with what you are looking for will help your contractor know what you truly want with your project,” he says. “We spend a lot of time focusing on learning what our clients’ objectives are. Honesty is important on both sides.”

And if you peek at the 3D rendering, and you’re just not feeling what you see, speak up. “If a customer is not happy with an idea, then we encourage them to be upfront. Ultimately, this is their home that they will be living in, and they need to be fully comfortable and happy with the product. I cannot stress how much open communication and honesty is paramount to our success and the happiness of a customer.”

What if I don’t know the right terms for stuff?

If you didn’t go design school, don’t sweat it, says Aaron. “We try to lay things out in a simple way without using complicated industry jargon. While knowing that our clients are intelligent and can figure most of it out, we look at it as if this is the customer’s first time.” It helps that Gallery Kitchen & Bath uses high-tech tools. “Visualization through the use of 3d renderings also goes a long way.”

I’m kind of hands-on. Is that annoying?

Nope. Aaron draws an important distinction, however: “Hands-on customers and micromanagers are two different things. Hands-on customers who have a specific vision, and want to be an integral part of the design and build process can be a joy to work with. We’ve had customers who missed their callings as interior designers.

“Micromanagers, however, are a different story.” Aaron defines these as folks who shadow the contractors and tense up with every move. “Unfortunately, we’ve had customers that have literally stood over our employees’ backs at every step of the way. This was challenging.”

So what does he do when this happens? “In these types of instances,” he says, “we try to communicate that they trusted us enough to hire us, and in continuing with the project, they need to be just as trusting, unless we have given them a reason not to. This does not happen very often, but when it does, most people tend to understand.”

And as tricky as those moments can be, Aaron empathizes. “We’ve found that the micromanager customer is usually one who has been burned by a negative experience in the past. So it’s important for us to first understand why the customer is doing what they are doing before we address it.” He adds: “Communication is key.”

My spouse and I disagree. Help us out?

“Funny enough,” says Aaron, “we’ve had to play the mediator/communicator role a few times, but not in the way you would first think. There are instances where there are two or more individuals involved in the decision-making process. Usually a couple. When the individuals are on the same page for the most part, then it is a rather seamless experience.”

Then he gets to the juicy stuff. “We’ve had our share of instances where couples have been on two completely different pages, and where we get caught in the middle and have to play mediator and communicator between the two.”

Aaron leaves us with a diplomatic take on the issue: “You get to see and witness a lot when you are part of someone’s life for weeks or months at a time.”

No matter the project--a new set of kitchen cabinets, some fresh bathroom tiles, an all-new designer kitchen and bath--Aaron and his team put communication at its center. Communication is what makes each project successful, and he considers it a hallmark of how Gallery Kitchen & Bath works. To start your own conversations, schedule a consultation on the homepage.