5 Most Asked Questions When Considering A Design-Build Firm In NYC

Get answers to our most frequently asked questions to set expectations for working with a full-service design-build firm for your NYC renovation.

February 28, 2024


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5 Most Asked Questions When Considering A Design-Build Firm In NYC

Interested in a design-build firm for your NYC renovation? Get answers to our most frequently asked questions from potential clients.


A renovation in NYC is a journey of transformation, where idealistic visions of your home finally become reality. At the outset of this process lies a critical choice - selecting the right firm to guide the design and construction process. In New York City's bustling real estate landscape, where every inch of space means more, this decision is vital to ensuring you make the most of your highly-anticipated renovation.

Enter the design-build approach – a holistic solution that seamlessly integrates interior design, architecture services and construction under one roof. This unified process streamlines communication, fosters collaboration, and ensures a cohesive vision from conception to completion. Yet, with innovation comes inquiry, and individuals often find themselves faced with a variety of questions and concerns when considering a design-build firm for their NYC renovation. Let's delve into our five most commonly-asked questions, unraveling any mysteries around our design-build process, as we navigate the possibilities this full-scale approach can bring to your New York City renovation. 

[#What]"What's The Difference Between an Architect And A Design-Build Firm?"[#What]

When embarking on a construction or remodeling project, one of the first decisions individuals often grapple with is whether to hire an architect or engage a design-build firm. While both offer expertise in design, there are fundamental differences between the two approaches that can significantly impact the outcome of your project.


Architects are trained professionals who specialize in the art and science of designing buildings and structures. They possess a deep understanding of architectural principles, building codes, and design aesthetics. When you hire an architect, you're enlisting their expertise to conceptualize and create a foundational vision for your project. Architects typically work independently or as part of an architecture firm, focusing primarily on the design phase of the project.

An example of a NYC renovation best suited for an architect would be an extensive renovation requiring extreme structural rearrangement, such as the combination of two three-story townhomes with added expansion on the back. 

Design-Build Firms

Design-build firms, on the other hand, offer a comprehensive solution that encompasses both design and construction services under one roof. In addition to architectural expertise, the design-build approach includes in-house construction teams, project managers, and subcontractors, allowing for a seamless integration of design and construction. This integrated approach streamlines communication, fosters collaboration, and ensures continuity throughout the project lifecycle.

An example of a NYC renovation best suited for a design-build firm would be a comprehensive gut renovation of a pre-war apartment, requiring full design overall and various structural adjustments. 

Key Differences

  • Scope of Services: Architects primarily focus on the design aspect of the project, creating drawings, plans, and specifications that guide the construction process. Design-build firms, on the other hand, offer a full range of services, including design, construction, project management, and coordination of subcontractors.
  • Single Point of Accountability: When you hire an architect, you'll likely need to separately hire a contractor to execute the design. This can lead to potential conflicts and delays if communication breaks down between the two parties. In contrast, design-build firms provide a single point of accountability, with the design and construction teams working collaboratively towards a shared vision.
  • Efficiency and Collaboration: Design-build firms prioritize efficiency and collaboration, with the design and construction teams working closely together from the outset of the project. This integrated approach minimizes delays, reduces change orders, and ensures that the project stays on schedule and within budget.

For a more detailed breakdown of the two approaches, please read our blog The Pros And Cons Of Design-Build Vs. Architectural Firms

Upstairs hallway from gut renovation of a Brooklyn brownstone in Carroll Gardens. View the full renovation before and after.

[#Designer]"What If I Don't Love My Designer?"[#Designer]

One of the most common concerns individuals have when considering a design-build firm is the possibility of not aligning with the designer's vision. It's natural to want your home or project to reflect your personal style and preferences, and feeling disconnected from the design process can be disheartening. However, there are steps you can take to address this issue and ensure satisfaction with the final result.

Communicate Your Concerns

Open and honest communication is key to resolving any issues you may have with the assigned designer within your design-build renovation. If anything is awry during the relationship, schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns and provide specific feedback on aspects of the design that are not aligning with your vision. A reputable design-build firm will be receptive to your feedback and willing to make adjustments to ensure your satisfaction.

Explore Alternatives

If you're consistently on the wrong page with your designer, don't hesitate to explore alternatives. Many design-build firms have multiple designers on staff, each with their own unique style and approach. If various attempts to work with your initial designer don’t pan out, consider requesting to work with a different designer who may better understand your vision and preferences. 

Stay Involved in the Design Process

The main tip to guarantee you and your designer stay aligned would be to remain actively involved in the design process. This attentiveness ensures preferences and priorities are being taken into account. Attend design meetings, provide feedback on design concepts and materials, and ask questions about any aspects of the design that you're unsure about. Your input is invaluable in shaping the final outcome of the project. At Gallery, our designers provide routine weekly updates along with various pre-scheduled checkpoint meetings throughout the renovation process. 

[#Interview]"Can I Interview The Designer?"[#Interview]

Absolutely! Interviewing the designer is a crucial step in the process of selecting a design-build firm for your project. It provides an opportunity to gauge their experience, style, and communication skills, ensuring that they are the right fit for your vision and preferences. Numerous credible sources emphasize the importance of this step in the selection process, including industry experts and reputable design publications.

Why Interviewing the Designer Matters

Interviewing the designer allows you to gain insight into their background, expertise, and approach to design. It's an opportunity to discuss your project goals and expectations, as well as to assess how well you communicate and collaborate with the designer. By asking the right questions and listening to their responses, you can make an informed decision about whether they are the right fit for your project.

Key Questions to Ask

  • “Can you tell me about your experience and background in design?”: This question allows you to understand the designer's qualifications and expertise. Inquire about their education, professional experience, and any relevant certifications or awards they may have received.
  • “Can you provide examples of past projects similar to mine?”: Reviewing past projects gives you a sense of the designer's style and capabilities. Ask to see a portfolio of projects that are similar in scope, size, or design aesthetic to yours. 
  • “What is your design philosophy or approach?”: Understanding the designer's design philosophy can help you assess whether their aesthetic sensibilities align with yours. Inquire about their approach to design, their inspirations, and their process for creating a cohesive vision for each project.
  • “How do you handle feedback and revisions during the design process?”: Communication is key in any design project. Ask the designer how they handle feedback and revisions, and how they ensure that the design meets your expectations. A designer who is receptive to feedback and proactive in addressing concerns is essential for a successful collaboration.

At Gallery, we pride ourselves on having a team of designers who are not only experts in delivering design solutions to NYC residences of all shapes and sizes, but thoughtful in their approach to understanding our clients’ renovation objectives and design aspirations. For an example of our personal touch to NYC renovations, read this client review from our Testimonials page highlighting our designer Kate: 

“Then I met Kate. The super hero behind the project. She managed everything. She helped me with colors and faucets and cabinets and all the tiny decisions that come with designing new things. She also worked with the construction crews and plumbers and electricians. She scheduled everything, chased them if they didn't show up on time, gave them very clear instructions to make sure everything was completed to perfection. She hustled and worked extremely hard. Every email was responded to timely and very thoroughly. I met a lot of the people during this process and every single person I encountered at Gallery was kind, respectful, ready to help with anything. I absolutely made the right decision in hiring GKBNY.” 

Kitchen from our Manhattan apartment renovation at 91 Central Park West. View the full renovation before and after.

[#Process]"What Does The Design-Build Process Look Like?"[#Process]

The design-build process is a comprehensive approach to construction and renovation projects that integrates design and construction services under one roof. This streamlined approach offers numerous benefits, including enhanced communication, greater efficiency, and improved project outcomes. Understanding the stages of the design-build process is essential for clients considering this approach for their project.

Initial Consultation and Conceptualization

At Gallery, our design-build process begins with an initial consultation between the client and our team. During this phase, the client discusses their project goals, budget, and timeline, while the design-build team gathers information about the site and project requirements. Shortly thereafter, a walk-through and further collaboration occurs between our team and the client, verifying the feasibility of the project. If everyone is on the same page, partnership begins. 

Design Development

Once the initial consultation is complete, the design-build team begins the design development phase. This involves translating the client's vision and requirements into detailed design plans and specifications. The client is actively involved in this stage, providing feedback and input to refine the design until it meets their expectations. During this time, the client’s project liaison is beginning to pull all appropriate permits and address any needed approvals. 

Pre-Construction Planning

With the design finalized, the focus shifts to pre-construction planning. This phase involves obtaining necessary permits, conducting site surveys, and preparing the construction schedule and budget. The client remains involved in decision-making throughout this stage, ensuring that their priorities are reflected in the project plan.


Once all preparations are complete, construction begins according to the agreed-upon schedule. The design-build team’s project manager manages all aspects of the construction process, from site preparation to finishing touches. Regular communication between the client and the project manager ensures any issues or changes are addressed promptly, minimizing delays and disruptions.

Project Completion and Handover

As construction nears completion, the design-build team conducts a walkthrough with the client to ensure all aspects of the project meet their expectations. Any remaining tasks or touch-ups are completed during a final punch list phase, and the project is formally handed over to the client. Post-construction support may be provided to address any questions or concerns that arise after occupancy.

Client Involvement and Contribution

Client involvement is integral to the success of the design-build process at every stage. From providing input during the design development phase to making decisions about materials and finishes during construction, the client's input helps shape the final outcome of the project. Clear communication, open dialogue, and active participation from the client foster a collaborative environment and ensure that the project aligns with their vision and objectives.

Open floor-plan kitchen from our Manhattan loft renovation at 419 West 55th. View the full renovation before and after.

[#Specialists]"What Specialists Are Available In A Design-Build Firm?"[#Specialists]

Design-build firms offer a comprehensive approach to construction and renovation projects by integrating various specialists under one roof. As discussed, this collaborative model allows for seamless communication, efficient project management, and streamlined execution from design to construction. Architects conceptualize layouts and aesthetics, while interior designers focus on functional interiors. Structural engineers ensure building safety, project liaisons coordinate renovation logistics like permits and procurement, while project managers oversee the construction process. 

Collaborative Nature of Design-Build Firms

In a design-build firm, these specialists work collaboratively throughout the project lifecycle. From initial concept development to final construction, they communicate closely, share expertise, and coordinate efforts to achieve a cohesive and successful outcome. This integrated approach minimizes conflicts, reduces delays, and ensures that the client's vision is realized efficiently and effectively.


As you contemplate the exciting prospect of renovating your home in New York City, the decision to engage a design-build firm makes more sense the further you understand the various benefits. For anyone who wants creative input on their renovation without all the logistical burden, the choice is obvious. 

Considering an apartment renovation in New York City and leaning towards a full-service design-build approach? View our portfolio of NYC apartment renovation before and afters, learn more about Gallery, or contact us today.

We are an award-winning design-build firm in New York City with a full-service approach to renovations in Manhattan and Brooklyn that includes everything from interior design and architecture services to filing permits and construction management. We’re experts in pre-war apartment renovations, apartment combinations, room creations, full gut renovations and all that falls in between. Let us bring your dream home to life.

Chief Revenue Officer

Alex Ushyarovhttps://www.gallerykbny.com/authors/alex-u

Alex Ushyarov is the Chief Revenue Officer of Gallery KBNY, a full service design-build firm specializing in the design and interior renovation of apartments, townhomes, and lofts in NYC. Recognizing the importance of differentiation in a competitive industry, Alex has developed a clear and compelling brand identity for the company. Through meticulous market analysis and a deep understanding of customer needs, he has honed the firm's unique value proposition, highlighting its ability to deliver innovative, sustainable, and high-quality design-build solutions.




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