How To Distinguish True Design-Build Expertise For NYC Apartment Renovations

With so many pretenders claiming 'design-build,' the key to hiring a truly full-service design-build firm is knowing what to look for in a renovation partner.

June 19, 2024


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How To Distinguish True Design-Build Expertise For NYC Apartment Renovations

Not all design-build firms are alike. What separates the truly all-inclusive firms from the imposters? Let's examine their charactertistics.


In the ever-changing world of NYC architecture and construction, the term "design-build firm" has become ubiquitous. From glossy websites to snappy marketing slogans, everyone seems to be jumping on the design-build bandwagon. For instance, you may see certain singular-focused contractors showcasing showroom displays to firms hastily adding "design/build" to their titles. 

The truth is, not all design-build firms are created equal and not all “design-build firms” are design-build firms. While some embody the essence of true innovation and collaboration, others fall short of delivering on their promises. So, what sets apart the truly all-inclusive design-build firms from the pretenders? Let's examine the characteristics of a bona fide design-build firm and how sophisticated interior designers play a pivotal role in this equation.

[#What]What Makes A Design-Build Firm In NYC Unique?[#What] 

First and foremost, a genuine design-build firm operates on the principle of integration. This means that architects, interior designers, and builders work hand in hand throughout every stage of the project. Collaboration isn't just a buzzword—it's the cornerstone of the design-build approach. By removing silos and fostering open communication between each expert, these forward-thinking firms ensure every aspect of the interior design is seamlessly aligned with the construction process.

Kitchen from our Upper East Side co-op renovation at 55 East End Ave. View full renovation before and after.

[#When]When Is A Design-Build Firm Not A Design-Build Firm?[#When]

But here's where things get tricky: many so-called design-build firms are nothing more than glorified middlemen. They subcontract the design and construction work to separate entities, effectively diluting the essence of true integration. Instead of a cohesive team working towards a shared vision, clients are left self-managing unaligned contractors and designers with competing agendas.

[#NYC]Characteristics Of A Design-Build Firm In NYC[#NYC]

So, what does a design-build firm look like? The following characteristics are what those looking to renovate should identify in their potential design-build partner, before signing any contract. 

Comprehensive In-House Expertise 

For starters, the true power of design-build comes from the collective depth of expertise. True design-build firms boast a diverse team of professionals, including architects, interior designers, construction managers, and contractors, all working collaboratively under one roof. This integration facilitates seamless communication, efficient decision-making, and cohesive project execution. Sophisticated interior designers play a pivotal role in elevating the aesthetic appeal and functionality of a space. They possess a keen understanding of color theory, spatial dynamics, and ergonomic principles, ensuring that every design decision serves a purpose beyond mere aesthetics. When partnered with construction managers, who guide and safeguard the design process to ensure successful implementation, the final renovation equation comes together as planned. 

Client-Centric Approach 

Moreover, genuine design-build firms prioritize a client-first approach above all else. They recognize every project is unique, with its own set of challenges and opportunities. By listening intently to their clients' needs and aspirations, these firms tailor their approach to deliver bespoke solutions that exceed expectations.

Transparency and Accountability

Look for transparency in pricing, timelines, and project management processes. A reputable design-build firm will provide detailed cost estimates, realistic timelines, and clear communication channels to keep clients informed every step of the way. Additionally, they should be accountable for delivering on their promises, addressing any issues promptly and professionally. From the initial consultation to the final walkthrough, clients are kept informed every step of the way. There are no hidden fees or surprise expenses—just honest, upfront communication that instills trust and confidence.

Portfolio and Track Record

Take a close look at the firm's portfolio and track record. Genuine design-build firms will have a robust portfolio showcasing a range of projects, from concept to completion, demonstrating their ability to deliver exceptional results across various styles and scopes. For various examples of our work and expertise, view our full portfolio of renovations in NYC

Care & Consistency

Last but not least, a real good design-build firm is driven by a relentless pursuit of excellence. They don't just settle for mediocrity—they strive for perfection in every detail, no matter how small. If client satisfaction is the end goal, client satisfaction must be met with open arms and a willingness to always get the job done right. Whether it's selecting the perfect shade of paint or meticulously crafting custom furniture pieces, nothing is left to chance.

Sunken kitchen extension from our brownstone gut renovation in Carroll Gardens. View full renovation before and after.

[#Questions]Questions To Ask to Distinguish True Design-Build Expertise In NYC[#Questions]

During the interview process, consider asking the following technical questions to gauge the firm's knowledge and expertise:

  • “Can you walk me through your approach to structural considerations in renovation projects, particularly in older NYC buildings?” 
  • “How do you ensure compliance with local building codes and regulations, including those specific to historical or landmarked properties?”
  • “What measures do you take to address potential issues such as plumbing or electrical challenges that may arise during the renovation process?”
“Can you provide examples of how do you plan to avoid surprises and unexpected change orders and/or time overruns”

  • “How do you integrate sustainable design principles into your projects, and can you provide examples of sustainable features you've incorporated in past renovations?”
  • “Can you discuss your experience with specialized materials or finishes commonly used in NYC renovations, such as soundproofing solutions or custom millwork?”

By asking these technical questions, you can gain deeper insight into the firm's expertise and capabilities, helping you make an informed decision when choosing a design-build partner for your NYC renovation.


While the design-build landscape may be crowded with options, clients can spot a true partner in renovations by seeking out firms that embody comprehensive in-house expertise, a robust portfolio and track record, a client-centric approach, and transparency and accountability. At our firm, we are committed to serving as trusted partners to our clients, leveraging our expertise to bring their vision to life with precision and care. When embarking on your next renovation journey, choose a design-build firm that not only promises excellence but also delivers it consistently, ensuring a truly transformative experience from start to finish.

Considering an apartment renovation in New York City? 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 Ushyarov

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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