How to Know What You Really Want from Your Remodel: Introducing the Full-Spectrum Client Intake

“You can’t get what you want, ’till you know what you want.” -Joe Jackson

One of the biggest challenges for you as a home or business owner who is wanting to remodel is figuring out what you actually want.

Most clients I meet are clear that they either want to or need to do something, but they are usually less sure what that something is.

Or they may have a basic in program in mind, they may have an intuitive sense that they want to remodel their kitchen, create more storage, or bring more natural light into their workspace, but they have trouble articulating why.

Getting a sense of what you want and why you want at a project’s outset, however, is essential in ultimately getting an end result that works for you.

This doesn’t mean that you have the have the whole project figured at the very start. Not it all.  A clear sense of what you want and why you want it, however, allows your project to develop a “true north”, which creates a sense of clarity and confidence, while still allowing the project to evolve and refine itself over time.

Based on our observations of working with residential and commercial design clients for well over a decade and a half, what follows are some of the common challenges to knowing what you want and why you want it, as well as a introduction to The Full-Spectrum Client Intake, 3 Lights Design’s signature process to help our clients gain clarity and move ahead with confidence.

Why Home and Business Owners Struggle at a Remodel’s Outset

Be it a remodel, renovation, or new construction, most people struggle with organizing their thoughts at a project’s outset. Here are some reasons why:

First off, since the vast majority of you do not work in architecture, design, or the building trades, most of you enter into a project with a unique combination of 1) inspiration and genuine commitment to improve your own life and the lives of others around you in a tangible way mixed with 2) very little knowledge about where to even begin.

Furthermore, the sobering understanding that even small remodels will involve significant time, disruptions to normal life, and substantial financial investments can create anxiety, and, when coupled with dramatic, word-of-mouth stories regarding the arrogant architects that refused to listen, the maverick contractor who quickly demolished the kitchen then failed to show up for weeks, the interior designer who overwhelmed your friend’s bedroom with an arsenal of expensive but useless pillows, and budgets spiraling out of control, the whole idea of even considering moving forward can produce outright fear.

Out of this potent mix of inspiration and commitment on the one hand and lack of information, horror stories, and the anxiety they cause on the other, can make it extremely challenging for you to have a clear sense of what you want, let alone try to convey your wants in a clear and succinct way to your chosen building professionals.

You Are Not Alone: Remodels Can Seem Challenging

So the aha! moment that initiates your project is often followed by the very real challenge of trying to figure out what you actually want to do. Here some of the obstacles and challenges our clients have expressed to us over the years.

Some clients succumb to overwhelm.  They pour over magazines. They plunge into the internet.  And while they see all sorts of eye-catching images, they have difficulty clearly articulating why the images are appealing to them, and, in the end, often feel more overwhelmed than when they started:

“I feel like I see so many different things that I like, and spend a lot of time on Pinterest pinning things. It kind of just goes all over the place.”

Others are victims of fear. They worry they will make bad decisions, invest a lot of time and money, then end up unhappy with the end result.

“…maybe we put a lot of effort into this and it just doesn’t turn out okay. There is just so many unknowns. I think we have been really fearful of that.”

The overwhelm and fear can be further exacerbated when there are two or more people involved, each with their own vague idea of what they think they want, who then, with no clear method to know what they want as individuals, then try to figure it out together, which often lead to amplified confusion.

“…we spent a lot of time talking about things on our own, trying to figure out what we wanted to do, trying to figure out if there was a good solution we could think of. That was probably the biggest thing, initially, was just trying to come up with ideas of what we wanted to do…”

Then there’s the possibility of outright conflict. Especially for couples, without a clear method of outlining their individual wants and needs before they engage one another, such conversations can sometimes bring out the worst in people, turning some into brutes, others throwing up their arms and forfeiting, ultimately bringing a cloud of tension over the project that can be difficult to dispel.  As one of our clients put it:

“…we could not see eye to eye in the beginning. We fought a lot. We knew we needed to do something but we’re worried that our marriage wouldn’t survive the remodel.”

Adding to the confusion, there’s a whole new generation of design and remodeling shows that create false expectation by transforming spaces with seemingly lightning speed.

Not only that, pile on all the conscious and subconscious opinions about what you think you want in a remodel based on your experiences of the previous homes and work places you’ve occupied. The experience of living in a run-down hovel with dear and mutually supportive friends, for example, will have left a very different psychological imprint on you than has living in well-to-do mansion occupied by spiteful family members that were constantly warring with one another.

The Full-Spectrum Client Intake: A Proven Method for Knowing What You Want

Our homes and our work environments form the primary stages upon which our lives unfold. And because they are such a big part of our lives, it is often difficult to gain perspective on what it is that you actually want.

Not only that, just considering all the countless types of experiences we have in those places–physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual; cooking, eating, sleeping, celebrating; mourning, healing, creating–just to name a few, it is often difficult to have a clear sense of what to remodel and why.

That’s why we developed The Full-Spectrum Client Intake.

The Full-Spectrum Client Intake combines a series of six, carefully crafted question that allow our clients to cut through the noise and get to the heart of a project, including:

  • The unique opportunities and challenges of the project’s location
  • The various activities that take place in that home or business, both in the present and the near and distant future
  • The joys and challenges of using the current space, which reveals what’s most important to preserve and what most in need of change
  • The beliefs and values of the family or organization that are driving the daily activities
  • A clear sense of benefits the design changes will have on the occupants within
  • The impact the buildings transformation will have on the greater community, including the surrounding neighborhood, the region as a whole, and the natural world.

In other words, the Full-Spectrum Client Intakes allow us as designer to 1) experience our clients’ homes and businesses through their eyes and 2) co-create a simple and powerful narrative describing what the project’s truly about.

Per this second point, we as humans have a remarkable capacity for juggling lots of pieces of information.  But it’s not where we truly shine. We are far more adept, and are much more engaged, when we have a narrative we can follow.

The Full-Spectrum Client Intake at its core, is a way of creating a coherent, easy-to-follow narrative, that not only allows our clients to see the project more clearly but also to:

  1. Transforms overwhelm into inspiration by helping our clients to establish the overarching “why” behind their project.
  2. Transforms fear into confidence by helping them experience the way they use their home or business now so they can make a set of clear objectives for improving their space in the for both the near and distant future, which allows them to confidently convey their objectives to the design and building professionals.
  3. Transforms confusion into clarity by allowing each person involved to share their honest and unedited experience of how the current space does or does not work for them, then share their clear ideas in a co-creative, non-threatening way with their family members or coworkers.
  4. Transforms conflict into collaboration (even healing) allowing each person to express exactly what they want in a logical framework, without them having compromising their answers during the process, groups of people, couple’s especially, get deep insights into the shared values underlying seemingly different surface preferences.

Ultimately, the Full-Spectrum Client Intakes enables you to develop deep confidence right from the start by both organizing your project into clear, executable parts and understanding your project on much deeper level.

Not only that, the Full-Spectrum Client Intake saves time and money by allowing us as the designers to truly become advocates for you and your objectives.  We don’t have to guess what you want, right from the start, by taking the time to get to know you, we experience the project through your eyes.

And by experiencing your wants and needs, beliefs and values from the inside out right from the start, and by enrolling you as our teammates in the process, we no longer have to fumble about going through round after round of costly design iterations. We learn what’s important to you right from the start.

If you are inspired to begin a design or building project but are having challenges establishing your project’s “true north” or agreeing with the others involved, please reach out to us and let’s see what we can do to help.

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