10 Interior Designer-Approved Airbnbs in The Hamptons

Call it an occupational hazard, but interior designers don’t just demand excellent taste in their work lives, they have a high standard for style when they’re off-duty too. So rent one of these designer-approved rentals when you’re in the Hamptons for top-notch architecture, dazzling views, fantastic amenities, and tasteful, inspiring interiors.

Photography courtesy of Airbnb

1. Classic Shingle Style in Southampton

This artful 5,000 square-footer in posh Southampton is impressive enough based on looks alone. The tasteful interiors ooze good style, from the high-end kitchen to the seven brick hearth fireplaces, many open and airy common rooms, generously sized bedrooms, and outdoor entertaining spaces. (There’s also a charming pool house with a full kitchen, bath, laundry and living room.) But the home also comes with an interesting history: the Art Village cluster of properties was originally a school headed up by the famous American painter William Merritt Chase. 

2. High-End Party House in East Hampton

What’s black and white, and chic all over? This grownup party house for 10 in East Hampton Village Fringe. It’s new construction with modern interiors: 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, and a sleek kitchen, expansive living room, and gorgeous pool perfect for entertaining a crowd. Another selling point: the sleek bathrooms with dreamy bathtubs and views.

3. Big Sky Barn in Water Mill

This restored eighteenth century barn in the picturesque hamlet of Water Mill sits amid wildflowers meadows and an agricultural reserve, giving it a “big sky” feel. The interiors are open, airy and relaxed, with a vaulted, wood-beam ceiling, huge fireplace, and large farm-style dining table. All five bedrooms are cozy and sweet, with simple, rustic furnishings and crisp white bed linens. Outside, there’s a secluded saline pool and two large patios with white twinkle lights and a fire pit.

4. Contemporary Wooded Retreat in Sag Harbor

Light pours through the vast windows and skylights of this tranquil, contemporary retreat surrounded by nature in Sag Harbor. It’s just 10 minutes away from the beach and vineyards, but the property boasts so many amenities, you may be tempted to stay at home. There’s a gorgeous pool and alfresco dining area complete with an outdoor fireplace and Viking grill, plus lush landscaping throughout the extensive grounds, a koi pond, bocce and tennis courts, outdoor shower, and indoor game room with a billiards table.

5. Bridgehampton Grand Dame

If you’re shopping for more of an estate than a mere house, this 6-bedroom, 6200-square foot mansion may be just the thing. Sink deep into the sumptuous, design-driven interiors, sleep well in high-end bedding, stroll the carefully manicured grounds, and soak in the heated saltwater pool. The ocean is less than a mile away through a quiet cul de sac.

6. Haute Hexagon House in Hampton Bays

On the outside, this funky brown domed house is a lesson in geometry. But inside…it’s a revelation. Everything is white and bright, and sunshine streams in from countless skylights positioned all over the angled roof. Check out the four unique, high style bedrooms, then take the spiral staircase downstairs to a cavernous all-white kitchen tricked out with an ivory piano. Step outside to the deck, kidney-shaped pool, and ebony pool house, all upholstered in chic black-and-white stripes.

7. Modern Shingle Style in Montauk

Clean lines, crisp interiors, and ocean and pond views from every room. What’s not to love about this modern take on the classic Shingle Style Hamptons home? If you need more convincing, at this brand-new 5-bedroom stunner, just take a look at the idyllic porch with stylish swing, contemporary pool, and to-die-for kitchen and bathroom.

8. Chic Wellness Retreat in East Hampton

Open, airy, and filled with light, this chic and contemporary beach retreat promotes wellness and relaxation. It’s in the Northwest Woods area of East Hampton abutting a tranquil nature preserve, and is outfitted with organic and natural latex mattresses with organic sheets, heated saltwater pool and hot tub, infrared sauna, and a gym area with elliptical machine. Designers will especially appreciate that the space was designed and decorated with the help of a feng shui consultant for optimal serenity and energy flow.

9. Updated A-Frame in East Hampton

Mid-century vibes are all around this bright-white, cheerful, and affordable A-frame in Historic East Hampton Springs. The house is 10 minutes from ocean beaches in East Hampton Villages and Amagansett. It’s also kitted out with beach chairs and umbrellas, beach cruisers, kayaks, and SUPs, so it’s perfect for summer fun. But this wooded retreat is cozy year-round, complete with a retro woodburning fireplace suspended from the ceiling and an extensive game library for rainy days.

10. Historic Bauhaus in Bridgehampton
To stay in a house with a pedigree, rent this magnificent Bauhaus waterfront cottage just steps from the ocean. It was designed by the late architect, writer, and Editor in Chief of Architectural Forum, Peter Blake. The peaceful, private house is on stilts, giving it extraordinary views of Sam’s Creek and Mecox Bay. Take in the stunning natural beauty inside from the floor-to-ceiling windows, or from the beautiful deck, dock, or expansive lawn.

Tips for General Contractors: How to Ensure Projects Don’t Tank Due to Minor Miscommunications

Communication is key to the success of any construction project. Even minor miscommunications between general contractors and their clients can lead to major headaches, delays, added costs, and bad feelings that can make a good working relationship quickly go south. Follow these tips for clear and easy communication so misunderstandings don’t derail your next construction job.

Create a Crystal-Clear Contract

You already know that a GC’s best tool for keeping everyone on the same page throughout a project is a solid contract. In addition to all the basics that you want to include like the timeline and payment schedule, spend the extra time to really drill down on the details in the scope of work as well. Keeping allowances to a minimum will also help keep the project and budget in check from the start.

Agree on a Method of Communication

Before you kick off construction, make sure to establish with your client how you’ll communicate throughout the project. You don’t want to end up leaving a voicemail about an urgent issue when it turns out they never check for messages, or constantly be sending emails when it turns out they only respond to texts.

Designate Primary Contacts

No contractor wants to play referee to quarreling spouses who can’t agree, or pick whose decision to run with when each half of a couple gives them conflicting information. Avoid being put in an awkward position by asking couples from the get-go who your primary contact will be for the duration of the project.

Likewise, be sure to tell your clients if they should reach out to you directly with questions and to get progress updates, or if there’s a site supervisor or project manager they should check in with instead.

Schedule Regular Check-Ins

Carve out time for regular status updates with your clients. Whether you prefer quick daily check-ins or longer weekly meetings, consistent communication will keep the project humming along no matter what the size. And bonus: scheduling regular meetings means greater efficiency since you’ll spend less time answering one-off questions from homeowners. 

Avoid Contractor Speak

Keep in mind that your client may not be up on construction lingo. So while you know what an egress is and what CAD stands for, talk on the homeowner’s level whenever possible, or take a minute to explain the terminology so it’s easier to talk shop with them down the line.

Put Changes in Writing

In a dream world, every new home build or remodel would stay true to its original plans. But we all know how often changes occur during the course of a project, oftentimes creating construction delays, scope creeps, and budget overruns. When these project pivots happen, make sure to put the revised plans in writing with an official change order. Make sure too that the homeowner understands how the new plan with affect their timeline and budget.

Manage Expectations

Ever get the feeling that a client with a modest budget for remodeling their ranch house is expecting it to be transformed into the Taj Mahal when the project’s complete?  Help manage their expectations by letting them know the limitations of their budget. And let them know if you see particular aspects of the project where the client’s plan to skimp on materials is likely to lead to their dissatisfaction.

Be a Proactive Troubleshooter

No GC wants to make the call telling a homeowner there’s a problem that’s going to push back the timeline and inflate the budget, but we all know how often these hiccups happen. Don’t delay the inevitable: as soon as you’ve got a grasp on the problem, get in touch with your client to fill them in on the issue, let them know their options, and make a game plan. Your prompt and proactive communication will show the client that you can manage the problem and keep their project on track.

10 Things a Homeowner Wants to Know Before Hiring a General Contractor

Homeowners usually talk to a few different general contractors before they choose the person who will lead their new home build or renovation project. And these are the 10 most common things potential clients want to know before they decide who to hire for the job. Be prepared with this information in order to win the new business time after time.

1. How Long You’ve Been in Business

First things first: before homeowners will ask you specifics about a building project, they’ll want to know that you’re coming from a place of experience. If you’ve been a GC for decades, the number of years you’ve been in business will speak for itself. If you’re newer to the building industry, reassure potential clients about your capabilities by telling them how many projects similar to (or more complex than) their own you’ve completed recently to the homeowner’s satisfaction. 

2. Other Homeowners Will Vouch for Your Work

Many clients will find you based on the recommendation of a friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member. But they’ll also want a few additional referrals who will speak to your proven track record of success. Keep an updated list of satisfied homeowners handy so you’re always ready to give potential new clients the names of people you’ve worked with in the past — ideally those whose projects have been similar to their own.

3. You Are Licensed, Bonded, and Insured

Homeowners will want to ensure that you’re licensed to work in their area, and that they won’t be held financially liable if a member of your crew is injured on the job. So have copies of your license, certificate of insurance, and bonds at the ready so your new clients know that you’re covered for all contingencies.

4. Your Bid is the Best

Most likely, the homeowner will have shopped around and gotten bids from a few different general contractors. So be prepared for them to ask questions about how your bid compares to others. If your bid isn’t the lowest, you may have to explain that the lowest bid is not always the best. Reassure them that you priced your bid fairly with the lowest cost to them, without cutting any corners or skimping on materials.

5. What They Can Expect Day-to-Day

Give potential clients an overview of what the work site will look like on a daily basis. That includes what hours work will be going on, whether or not construction will continue on weekends, if the crew will need access to areas other than the designated workspace (including bathrooms and break areas), and if they should expect to be without water or power over the course of the project.

8. Who Will be at the Site and How They’ll be Supervised

Likewise, homeowners want to know who other than you will be in their home. Tell them what subcontractors and crew will be there during the project, and how often you’ll be on-site to supervise. 

6. Timeline for Completion

A realistic timeline is one of the most important aspects of a project, especially for homeowners who are living in the space during renovations. Give the homeowner the rundown on both how soon you’d be able to start the job, as well as a detailed timeline for the project from kickoff to final inspection.

7. Payment Schedule

As you no doubt know firsthand, when and how much GCs get paid can vary widely. So let the homeowner know upfront what they should plan for in terms of payment arrangements. Tell them what percentage of the project costs will be due as a down payment before work kicks off, how much will be due while construction is underway, and finally what the remainder is that will be due when work is complete. 

9. How You’ll Give Status Reports

Establish with the client the best way for the two of you to communicate (be it text, email, or phone), and if you’ll check in with them with quick daily status updates or longer weekly face-to-face meetings.

10. That You Communicate Well

Finally, one of the most important things a homeowner wants to know before choosing their contractor is that they’ll be able to communicate with the person easily throughout the sometimes-stressful building or remodeling process. First-time homeowners or nervous remodelers may have a lot of questions for you from the get-go. But keep in mind that your clear, confident and helpful answers will assure them from the start that you’re the right person for the job. 

10 Types of Projects When a Homeowner Needs to Hire a General Contractor

Fixer-uppers. Storm damage. DIY disasters. One of the most valuable lessons a homeowner can learn is when it’s time to hire a professional like you. Here are the 10 types of construction projects for which they’ll need the oversight and industry know-how of a general contractor to turn their home design dreams into realities.

1. Anytime Multiple Pros Are Needed

Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, cabinetmakers, flooring pros, appliance installers…for kitchens, bathrooms, or any other remodeling projects that require more than one specialty contractor, hiring a general contractor is essential for homeowners. 

No matter how big or small the project, when multiple specialty contractors are needed, coordinating the logistics and timeline of multiple subcontractors makes everything more complicated. A GC is needed to manage the day-to-day work, troubleshoot, maintain the site, and keep the client informed — all while keeping the overall vision for the project in check.

2. If They’re Tackling a Fixer-Upper

Even when clients seek out a fixer-upper, they might be surprised at how quickly their list of repairs and redesigns can get out of control (or by how sloppy their own attempts at retiling the bathroom can look).  Hiring a GC is not only the fastest way to achieve their dream home, but is also the best way to preserve their sanity during the extensive remodeling process.

3. Whenever Permits Are Required

As a contractor, you know all too well that to add a wall, turn a garage into a living room, or install a new fireplace, city and county building permits are required before work can begin. But your average homeowner wouldn’t know where to begin securing this paperwork. That’s why they need a well-versed professional like you to navigate the world of local ordinances and building regulations to make sure their project is above board and up to code.

4. For Simple Structural Changes

Homeowners might assume that they have to hire an architect and GC when making structural changes like removing a wall in order to open up a room. Let them know that you can handle smaller projects on your own, from getting a structural engineer in to assess the space and scope of the project, to overseeing construction and electrical work and obtaining the proper permits.

5. To Bring an Architect’s Plans to Life

Those working with an architect to build a custom home will need to find a GC to help translate their plans from abstract floor plans to brick-and-mortar homes. And oftentimes, architects will recommend a contractor who they know and have worked well with before — someone they can depend on to manage the work, communicate with them when issues arise, and work well with on a personal level.

Relationships between architects and contractors can be tricky since both come to a project with different perspectives. But you need each other, and how seamlessly you work together can make or break a project. So seek out architects you work well with and maintain those relationships so you’ll be their go-to contractor for new jobs that come their way, and also so you have a list of preferred architects to suggest when a client asks you for recommendations.

6. When the Homeowner is the Designer

Some design-savvy homeowners may want to tackle small projects themselves, without the help of an interior designer. For those jobs, your industry knowledge as a builder will be invaluable, especially when questions about scheduling, permits, and other aspects of the job the homeowner hasn’t thought of come up.  

But trust your gut: if you get the feeling a potential new client who’s looking to be their own designer is in over their head, give it some serious consideration before taking them and their personal project on.

7. For a Straightforward Addition

While architects are needed for involved projects, contractors can often manage small or simple additions on their own. Additions to ranch houses may be especially feasible for GCs to tackle without an architect’s input because of their single-floor designs and more straightforward construction issues.

8. In Case of Flood, Fire, or Storm Damage

When unfortunate events like natural disasters hit homes, top-to-bottom repairs are often required. Contractors are needed to take on extensive to-do lists for projects like ripping out water-damaged carpets and flooring, installing new drywall, repairing electrical damage, repainting walls, and restoring exteriors damaged by wind, rain, fire, or fallen trees. 

9. To Resolve Safety Issues

Whenever the safety of a homeowner and their family is at risk, tell them to resist the urge to hire a handyman or attempt the work themselves. As a building professional, your informed oversight on every aspect of the project will ensure the issue is resolved with no mishaps or additional safety issues.

10. To Fix DIYs Gone Wrong

We’ve all heard the horror stories about homeowners who’ve bitten off more than they can chew on supposedly easy home projects, leading to tragicomic results. When DIYs turn into disasters, homeowners need a pro like you to come to their rescue. 

It can be tricky to assess a project in various states of failure and deal with a stressed-out homeowner to boot. But your client will be grateful when you’re able to step in and set their world straight again.

Tips for General Contractors: 10 Things You Need Your Client to Tell You Before You Start a Project

As any general contractor knows, each new home build and remodeling job comes with its own set of challenges. From general troubleshooting to dealing with difficult clients, bad weather to material delays, every project comes with unique demands. After all, they’re one of the main reasons why your role as a GC is so essential to a project’s success.

So talk through these 10 issues with your client before you kick off construction.  With a little proactive problem solving, you’ll be rewarded with less wasted time and resources and fewer miscommunications and client questions, leading to a more seamless process for you, your crew, and the homeowner.  

1. The Contract

First things first: before you and the homeowner sign on the dotted line, double-check that your contract includes a detailed and comprehensive description of the scope of work, expected duration, any exclusions, information about your licenses and insurance, and a set payment schedule. A clear and thorough contract is the best way to protect yourself and avoid confusion with your client.

2. Communication Preferences

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of your communication with a homeowner: easy communication keeps a project humming along smoothly, while miscommunications and missed messages can wreak havoc, inflate timelines and costs, and create frustration and headaches for everyone involved. 

So before you even start a project, ask your client how they prefer to communicate. Many clients today will tell you to text them, especially for time-sensitive issues. But there are still many people who prefer to be contacted by email or want to hear your voice on the other end of the phone. And you may have a client who wants to be contacted by phone…but never bothers to check their voicemail.

Establishing the best way to get in touch from the start is the best way to prevent missed connections throughout the process.

3. Designated Point Person

No one wants to get in a sticky situation where one half of a couple tells you one thing while the other half says another, leaving you trying to navigate some tricky personal politics. Be sure to ask your clients ahead of time for one specific point person. 

Likewise, let them know if they can go to you with all questions, or if they should check in with individual subcontractors for status reports.

4. Availability

If you’re going to be on vacation, out of town, or off the grid during the course of the project, be sure to let the homeowner know beforehand so they don’t feel caught off guard when the time arises. And let them know in advance whom they should contact in your place. 

When you return, reaching out to the client to make sure everything went smoothly in your absence will go a long way. 

5. Regular Check-Ins

Avoid a constant flurry of one-off questions by scheduling a specific day and time for a general check-in with the client.

6. Site Prep

Before the first swing of a hammer, make a plan to prep the space and surrounding areas where materials and equipment will be coming in and out. Figure out what needs to be relocated inside and outside of the house to avoid damage, and how interiors are going to be protected from dust and debris. 

7. Day-to-Day Schedule

Your contract will spell out the estimated date of completion for the project. But you also want to talk to the homeowner about when time construction will begin and end each day, whether or not there will be any work happening on weekends and holidays, and who they can expect to see working on site each day.

8. Rules On-Site

Ensure smooth relations between the homeowner and work crews by establishing in advance how you and subcontractors may use the space. Minor details may be a major deal to the client. Talk through a plan for where the crew will park, whether or not they’re able to use a bathroom inside the home, where they can have lunch, take breaks, and throw away trash, and who is responsible for cleaning and locking up at the end of the day. 

If the client is living in the home during renovations, ask them if there are any issues with children or pets the crew needs to be aware of. No one wants to be responsible for the family’s cat escaping because someone accidentally left the wrong door open. 

9. Changes

Make sure your client understands that any amendments to the original project plan will require a change order. Don’t be tempted to skip the paperwork and rely on a verbal agreement: change orders are key for keeping everyone on the same page and for documenting adjustments to the original contract.  

10. Contingency Plans

If there are potential problems you see before construction kicks off, or aspects of the projects that concern you, manage the homeowner’s expectations by being upfront about them and discussing a worst-case scenario.

While it may seem counterintuitive to bring up a problem that doesn’t yet exist, in the long run, your client will be more prepared if the issue does arise. It will also give them peace of mind to know that you’ve thought through every step of the project, and that you have a solid plan in place when and if construction hiccups do happen.

10 Things Homeowners Expect from Their General Contractor

Want a blueprint for success with your next client? From your initial meeting to ticking off the last item on your checklist and every stage in between here are the 10 most important things homeowners look for from their general contractor. Deliver on them, and you’ll have successful partnerships and projects every time.



1. Solid References

Before you can get to work, you’ve got to win the business. So you always want to have a list of previous clients who can speak to your track record for completing projects on time, on budget, and to their satisfaction.


2. Reassurance

This may be the first time your client has ever remodeled their home or worked with a General Contractor. They may have questions or expectations they don’t even know how to ask you about. Or, they could feel intimidated because they don’t know the lingo.


Reassure them by sharing your experience and qualifications, including how long you’ve been in business, what licenses and insurance you hold, and how many projects similar to their own you’ve completed recently.


Let them know in advance what permits you will need to obtain, and fill them in on any inspections that will be required so they will feel assured that you’ve got every aspect of the project covered.


3. Good Communication

Like in any relationship, communication between you and the homeowner is key. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time together during the course of the remodel, and it’s personal spending so much time in someone’s home.


Before you start a job, ask your client what the best way to get in touch with them is. If they only respond to text or hardly ever check their email, it’s helpful to know from the start.


Miscommunications not only affect your relationship with a homeowner, but they can be costly too. Avoid them with clear, honest, and timely communication. It will help build the homeowner’s trust and confidence in your work, and will be a helpful foundation should issues arise.


4. Reliability

Clients want to know that you can be counted on, and that you’re going to show up when you say you will – it’s as simple as that. So if your plans change and you can’t be on-site when expected, you’re going on vacation, or if you have a family emergency that calls you away unexpectedly, update the homeowner as soon as possible and let them know when you’ll be able to reschedule.


5. An Accurate Budget

No matter the size of the project, all homeowners want the job to be completed within their budget. Make sure that your project estimate includes a comprehensive and detailed accounting for the cost of all required materials, permits and work by subcontractors so the total price tag doesn’t balloon beyond the initial figure. And if changes come up, be clear about how much the work will tack on to the total bill.


6. A Realistic Timeline

Likewise, avoid problems down the line by creating a feasible timeline that takes into account potential delays like bad weather, delivery snafus, and any holidays when work will be put on pause.


7. Troubleshooting Skills

Problem solving is one of the most valuable tools you have in your GC toolbox. And as a seasoned professional, you probably have a good idea which aspects of a project have the biggest potential to go wrong. So avoid headaches and protect the best interests of your clients by putting contingency plans in place before common issues arise.


Homeowners have to understand that things may go wrong – that’s one of the main reasons your role as a GC is so essential. The most important thing is for your client to know that you have a plan of action when problems come up. Promptly address the issue, offer solutions, and get the fix in place so you can all move forward.


8. A Good Network of Subcontractors

Every electrician, plumber, flooring installer, and other subcontractor you hire for a project is a reflection of you. Have a solid Rolodex of talented and trustworthy subcontractors who will complete their work well and on time, and be respectful when they’re on-site, and you’ll always look good.


9. Quality Control

Be thorough in your examination of your individual subcontractors’ work as it kicks off, progresses, and is nearing completion. The devil is in the details, and you know the homeowner will be checking every square inch with eagle eyes. Get ahead of any complaints by inspecting the work in their home as if it were your own.


10. A Final Checklist

When work has wrapped, take some time and care to go through your checklist. Make sure that subcontractors haven’t left dust and debris, materials, or tools behind, and double-check that all paperwork is in order.


Closing the loop with final details will ensure a happy homeowner, prompt payment, and referrals for more work.

Why Your Clients Hire You to Renovate Their Homes and What They Really Care About

Most people look at their home and dream of making improvements. But the catalyst for actually beginning a renovation project varies. The 2019 Houzz & Home report sheds light on some of the key reasons homeowners finally make the leap from dreaming to taking action.

Written by Erin Carlyle

Photo by Jess Blackwell Photography

The national study, fielded between Feb. 13 and April 16, 2019, collected responses from more than 142,000 registered U.S. Houzz users, including about 67,000 who renovated their primary homes in 2018.

Here are some of the main reasons homeowners renovated, along with some of their top priorities.

By Erin Carlyle 

Finally Having the Time or the Means Drove Most 2018 Remodeling Projects

The top trigger for home renovations in 2018 was “wanting to do it all along” and finally having either the time or the financial means (or both). The second-most-popular reason homeowners cited for renovating was wanting to customize a recently purchased home.

Damage to homes also led to renovation activity last year, with natural disasters driving 6 percent of renovation activity in 2018. In fact, one in eight renovating homeowners reported that his or his home had been damaged by a natural disaster in the previous five years. Water damage from a plumbing or other malfunction was another common source of damage to homes, affecting 15 percent of renovating homeowners over the previous five years.

Photo by Ramos Design Build Corporation
By Erin Carlyle

Wanting to Stay Put Motivated Many 2018 RenovationsThe No. 1 reason homeowners on Houzz chose to renovate in 2018 rather than buy a more suitable home was wanting to stay in their current home or on their current property (48 percent). A close second was wanting to personalize the home or its features (46 percent). One-third said they wanted to stay in their neighborhood.

Photo by Allison Merritt Design, LLC

Design and Function Were Top Priorities

Once homeowners made the decision to renovate, their top priorities for the outcome of the renovation were clear. Improving design (88 percent) and functionality (81 percent) drove most of the process. Other priorities were financial considerations, such as increasing resale value (67 percent), minimizing costs (63 percent) and improving energy efficiency (62 percent).

Health, eco-friendly and smart-tech considerations appeal to a subset of renovating homeowners. Thirty-five percent mentioned addressing health concerns as a high priority, 30 percent said integrating green materials was important and 27 percent said integrating smart technology mattered.

Similar-size groups cited these same factors as low priorities. Thirty-five percent said addressing health concerns was a low priority, 27 percent said integrating green materials was, and 33 percent said integrating smart technology was.

Photo by ED Enterprises, Inc.

Staying on Budget Was a Top Challenge

Renovating homeowners said their top challenges were finding the right service providers and staying on budget (32 percent for each), as well as finding the right products (31 percent).

To a lesser degree, renovating homeowners cited dealing with the unexpected and staying on schedule (22 percent for each) as additional renovation challenges, as well as funding the project, educating themselves and defining their style (17 percent for each).

Read more results from the study

Body Language for Interior Designers: How Nonverbal Communication Affects Your Success

As an interior designer, you’ve undoubtedly devoted ample time and attention to your brand image, from your logo to your digital presence to what outfit you wear to an initial consultation. However, you may not have given much thought to your nonverbal brand—the signals you send via your body language, tone of voice, gestures and even the type of eye contact you make. Take a moment to think about it: Are you even fully aware of what you tend to do with your hands or your vocal cadence during important presentations or introductions?

These are hardly trivial details—in fact, nonverbal communication makes up the majority of our communication, explains business coach Nancy Ganzekaufer, a certified body-language trainer who works with many interior designers. How you say things is just as important as what you say, if not more so—especially for interior designers aiming to close a sale. In her Ivy webinar, Body Language 101: How Your Nonverbal Brand Can Affect Your Sales Success, Ganzekaufer details several important ways interior designers can use body language and other nonverbal methods of communication to improve their bottom line. Here’s a cheat sheet to some of her best advice; for even more, watch the full webinar as soon as you have the chance.

When you think about body language, keep these four “Cs” in mind:

1. Communication: We tend to focus on the actual words we’re going to say, but you access a whole other level of sales potential when you harness the power of nonverbal cues.

2. Context: The “right” way to use  body language will always depend on the specifics of the situation you’re in.

3. Cross-Cultural: While most nonverbal communication is universal, some is unique to different cultures and countries—something worth keeping in mind as you conduct business.  

4. Consistency: Make sure your body language always stays congruent with what you’re saying, to get your point across more effectively.

It all starts with your hands: “Your hands are key to getting someone to trust you,” Ganzekaufer says, noting that we have a dedicated area of our brain that responds to the hands. Ways to take advantage of this:

Make your hands visible—Don’t put them in your pockets or lap, or clutch your phone during a first impression. When possible, let your hands be visible in professional photos of you, too.

Use gestures—Ganzekaufer notes that the most-viewed Ted Talk speakers use an average of 465 hand gestures during each speech, while the least-viewed use an average of 272. Gestures help make speech smoother and more natural while simultaneously encouraging people to relax and listen to you. They also convey expertise—you know your topic well enough to mirror what you’re saying with gestures. A few ways to use gestures like a pro:

  • Make numbers with your fingers as you list things clearly. Example: When it comes to furniture, does your client prefer good (1), better (2) or best (3) quality, and here are price ranges that go along with each level. Mirroring a list with gestures makes you seem authoritative and trustworthy.
  • When you’re saying something heartfelt, put your hand on your heart to emphasize this. Example: “If this was my house, this is what I would do.”
  • To avoid looking like you’re doing an interpretive dance, picture keeping gestures within a “box” near your body—keep your elbows at your sides and gesture from there.
  • Don’t go overboard incorporating gestures; this can make your speech feel chaotic or overly scripted.

Nail the all-important handshake: Humans are wired to connect touch with trust, since skin-to-skin contact prompts our bodies to produce the hormone oxytocin, which makes us feel connected. That’s one reason a good handshake is so important, especially during first impressions. “I’ve often seen designers walk into a home and not offer a handshake,” Ganzekaufer says. “You should always begin an interaction with a shake, though that might evolve into a hug if you become friendly as you work together.”

A few factors that make for the most trust-inducing handshake—

Keep your hands dry. If you tend to get sweaty palms, keep a handkerchief in your bag so you can quickly wipe them when needed.

Angle your hand for a natural grasp. Keep your thumb toward the sky, your pinky toward the floor.

Match the other person’s firmness.  Show a client you’re meeting them where they’re at by matching their level of firmness, although in general, a firm handshake is best, as it indicates confidence.

Things to know about eye contact (and “power gazing”). “Most people know eye contact is important, but they don’t know how to do it in the most powerful way possible,” Ganzekaufer says. “All eye contact is not created equal.”  There are three main forms of eye contact, each of which covers a different zone of the face:

1. Social gazing: When your eyes shift between the other person’s eyes, nose and mouth.

2. Intimate gazing: Eye contact that drops down to the neckline.

3. Power gazing: When you look only at the eyes and forehead, never dropping below eye level.

Women often default to social gazing, even in professional settings. “That’s because they are taught appeasement in body language from a very young age,” Ganzekaufer says. “They’re told to get along with everyone, to be well-liked, so they begin using a gaze to signal warmth all the time—but this can undermine their power and authority in negotiations and interviews.” Men, on the other hand, often default to power gazing because they’ve been taught from a young age to succeed, to get ahead, to win. This can undermine their ability to connect or collaborate.

When it comes to business, shift to power gazing. When you’re in a professional interaction and want to be perceived as confident, smart, and a leader, you always want to power gaze. “Once you get friendlier with a client and are in their home, social gazing is fine,” Ganzekaufer says. “Just be aware of the difference and be purposeful with your gaze.”

Harness your vocal power: bNonverbal communication also includes the way your voice comes across: its tone, pace and cadence. A confident voice is an essential part of a professional presentation, so here are four steps for leveraging the benefits of effective vocal power:

Speak using your lowest natural tone. Everyone has a different vocal range, or tone you’re comfortable speaking in, but confident people tend to use the lowest end of their natural range. “The reason has to do with the space in their body—the way they stand up tall and breathe,” Ganzekaufer notes. When you’re nervous, you may notice that you don’t breathe and your tone gets higher-pitched, as tension and nerves make your vocal chords and jaw tense. Not only can a higher-pitched voice make you seem nervous, it can make you seem younger (in a not-beneficial way). It pays to practice getting to the lowest point of your range. And when you hear yourself go a bit higher in range during a presentation, take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, then speak as you breathe out.

Avoid the question inflection. Say, don’t ask. The question inflection is one of the biggest killers of vocal power. Its sound implies that you’re unsure of what you’re saying. “One big mistake interior designers make is that they ask their price—’So my initial consult fee is $350?’” Ganzekaufer says. “Don’t ask, just state: My fee is $350.”

Practice vocal variance. The most effective speakers use varied pace, cadence and tempo to keep listeners engaged. They might slow down sometimes, speed up sometimes, stop to show emphasis.

Let your personality come through. Whenever possible, don’t memorize what you’re going to say; try to speak off the top of your head so you sound more authentic. When possible, harness the power of emotion by telling a story.

Use these vocal tips during business phone calls: Even when you’re on the phone, it’s not just about what you say—cues in your tone can affect the direction of the conversation. A handful of key tips for phone success:

  • Say hello as you’re breathing out.
  • When you’re caught in a bad moment, do not answer the phone. Collect yourself and call back.
  • Practice delivering bad news with a low tone, avoiding using the question inflection.
  • Pull up someone’s picture when you’re on the phone with them. “That tends to make me slow down, look in their eyes and have the cadence and tone I want,” Ganzekaufer says.

Watch the full webinar for more body language tips for interior designers that’ll help you come across as confident, knowledgeable and experienced—and ultimately close more sales.

More pro tips from the Ivy Magazine archives:

6 Digital Marketing Tips Every Interior Designer Should Read

8 Pro Tips for Organizing Your Interior Design Studio—and Your Precious Time

How to Attract Clients With a Better Website

Behind the Build: Thomas Young of Thomas Building Group

Behind the Build: Thomas Young of Thomas Building Group, San Francisco, California

How long have you been working as a general contractor, and what drew you to the field?

Thomas Young: I started my business about five years ago. Before that, I had been doing graphics and design work but got tired of the office-job thing. So I took all the design knowledge I’d picked up behind the computer and started to incorporate that into hands-on work through building. People I worked with along the way had been encouraging me to do this and saying how good I would be at it.

Have you always been handy?

TY: Yes, always. Right out of high school I thought I was going to be a mechanic. I’ve always loved taking stuff apart, fixing things and rebuilding things. Then my attention shifted from cars to computers, which I found fascinating, especially once I figured out ways to play with colors and graphics and drawing. I always had a good eye for design and color but wasn’t that great at hand drawing, and the computer made that part possible for me.

Behind the Build: Thomas Building Group

Build by Thomas Building Group, Photo by Lauren Pressey Photography, Design by Rebecca Foster Design

So being a builder draws upon both your visual and mechanical strengths.

TY: Yes. I find I work really well with designers because I do share that eye for design as well as a natural sense for proportions. Sometimes, once I’m working in a space, I realize that what was put on paper isn’t necessarily the best solution. I often end up saying, “What if we move this over six inches, or move this valve or niche in the bathroom?” Those what-ifs are part of why I always end up with great results. I was just working with a designer on a bathroom where the large medicine-cabinet door swung out into the room. It was fine that way, but I thought, as a guy, often you want to shave in the shower but there’s no mirror in there–what if we install the cabinet door so it swings the other way, so you can have this mirror right in front of you in the shower? She thought it was a great idea, so I took the door apart and re-hinged it and made it more practical. Those are the kind of little things I’m always thinking about when I’m on a site.

What type of construction do you specialize in?

TY: I specialize in kitchen and bathroom remodels and in maintaining the feel of San Francisco’s old homes while modernizing them. My eye doesn’t gravitate toward old-school, heavy-heavy trim and intricate molding details. I like nice crisp, clean lines and things that are centered and balanced. So for me, it’s usually about keeping just enough of the original look to maintain its character while making the space feel more modern.

Behind the Build: Thomas Building Group

Build by Thomas Building Group, Photo by Lauren Pressey Photography, Design by Rebecca Foster Design

What are your personal favorite types of projects to work on?

TY: I love to cook, so kitchen remodels are always fun for me. I really understand how things need to flow in the space. You know, like why don’t we make that backsplash a little higher, or raise the range hood so it doesn’t hit you in the forehead when you lean over the stove? As I build different kitchens, when there’s something that works really well or doesn’t, I take note of that and often bring it into a future project or share it with the next designer I work with.

Any favorite building trends at the moment—or least-favorite?

TY: There’s one really trendy thing that’s both love and hate: patterned concrete tiles. They’re everywhere and they’re beautiful but they have their downsides. They’re not nearly as hard or durable as porcelain, and they’re thicker with edges that are a little more ragged, so they require more prep work. They’re also more porous, meaning they stain more easily and require more maintenance than standard floor tiles, which designers and homeowners don’t all understand yet because they’re a newer material. So we tell them, “You know, this particular tile is going to require you to seal and clean the floor at least twice a year now if you really want to keep this nice look,” some of them are disappointed, like “Oh, I thought concrete tile was carefree.”

Behind the Build: Thomas Young of Thomas Building Group

Build by Thomas Building Group, Design by Studio 12 Architecture

What kinds of marketing have helped you grow your business?

TY: I am the worst at marketing, honestly, but I stay busy through word-of-mouth and referrals, and over the past few years, I’ve actually gotten a lot of work through designers who use Ivy who are looking for someone in the San Francisco area. Having a professional website really helps. I used to build websites for a living, so I have a good eye for that, but honestly for a while I didn’t even have a website for my business, and I didn’t do social media. I had someone helping me with that for a while, but even now I’m not on top of it as I’d like to be. I do believe having an online presence helps. It gives clients more confidence that you are established and professional. But honestly, and it took me a long time to accept this: I’m just more of a people person. All that stuff is really helpful when you want to get a foot in the door, but I’m best at making connections in person—I meet with someone, I get a good feeling from them, they get a good feeling from me. I’m definitely a people person and that’s how my name gets out there.

Do you have any tips for designers on how to improve their working relationship with builders? And vice versa?

TY: It’s OK for designers to lean on us and ask questions if they don’t have a lot of experience in a certain area, as opposed to just thinking something can be done a certain way. Just ask, “Would this be possible? And would this be possible within our budget?” If you don’t have a ton of experience, work with your contractor before you pitch too much to the homeowner to make sure it’s a feasible concept or idea. For contractors, sometimes we have a lot of ego and can be impatient and think things should be done a certain way, but it’s important to stay open to new ideas. Sometimes there’s another way of doing things. Spend a few minutes thinking about it before you assume your way is the only way.

Behind the Build Thomas Young of Thomas Building Group

Build by Thomas Building Group, Design by Studio 12 Architecture

Can you share any other secrets to your success?

TY: A big part of it is just that I’m known for being very friendly, patient and easy to get along with. I’m also very hands-on. On all my projects, no matter how big they are, I still put on my tool belt and work, and I make sure anyone working for me knows how I want things done and let them know the standards that they have to meet to continue working with me. There are times I’ve been in a client’s house at two or three in the morning down on my hands and knees cleaning every last little smidge off the floor so I know when they walk in the next morning they will get that “Wow, this is amazing!” look on their face. I’m very, very, very client oriented. I like to leave a project knowing that it couldn’t have done any better. That’s always my goal.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

TY: Right now in San Francisco it’s the logistics—the limited parking and the high costs of doing business. It’s a challenge keeping pricing down and managing the logistics of getting materials in and out of sites. We have a project now where they want to put a new back sliding door in, but because the houses are so close together, you literally have to hire a crane to get that door into the back of the house, which costs way more than the slider itself. Those are the kinds of logistics we are constantly juggling.

Behind the Build Thomas Young of Thomas Building Group

Build by Thomas Building Group, Design by Studio 12 Architecture

What’s the best part of your job?

TY: I enjoy working with designers, and I enjoy making things happen and solving problems. It’s all part of the fun. If every single kitchen remodel was the same, I think I’d get bored and not want to do this anymore. Working out different ideas and figuring out the challenges along the way is what I excel in and enjoy. The most rewarding part of my job is putting the finishing touches on and standing back looking at it and thinking “Oh wow, this is beautiful and it’s going to last a long time.” I can drive by places with my kids and they’ll say “Wow Dad, you built that house.” That is so rewarding—to be able to take pride in my work and to know that it’s done right and it’s going to be there for a long time.

Lead Image: Build by Thomas Building Group, Photo by Lauren Pressey Photography, Design by Rebecca Foster Design

The Key to Client Communication: 7 Tips for General Contractors, Home Builders, and Remodelers

Being a general contractor involves managing countless moving parts—both literally and figuratively. You’re the hub connecting everything and everyone involved in making a project successful. That’s why effective communication strategies are so crucial to your success. Even the most straightforward renovation involves a steady stream of details that need to be detailed, reviewed and rehashed, approved and sometimes re-approved. When communication flow is poor, this can lead to delays, costly mistakes and an unhappy client who won’t recommend or re-hire you in the future.

To pave the way for smooth and direct communication, start with a contract that clearly details designs, specifications, estimates, materials and schedules. And don’t just have your client sign it; walk through it together and take the time to ask whether there are any questions or concerns. This ensures that everyone’s on the same page before the project begins. Here are some ways to keep the communication process clear and efficient from that point forward.

Agree on a schedule for project updates.

In your contract, include a schedule for when you’ll give your client project updates. For a homeowner’s  first-time renovation, they might want you to touch base daily, while a seasoned real-estate investor many only want a biweekly report. Agreeing upon these expectations upfront will ensure that your client never feels left in the dark.

Establish a point person.

Walking onto the job site, your client could encounter anyone from the plumber to the framer to a supplier and decide to raise important questions or requests. That’s why it’s important to establish a point person—whether that’s yourself or someone else at your company—that all of these communications should go through. Not only does this help ensure that things are addressed in a timely and appropriate fashion, it keeps the communication process (and in turn the overall project) from feeling chaotic for everyone involved, including your subs. There should also be an internal chain of command that those working for you can use in order to redirect client concerns or ensure that their own questions or suggestions are heard and addressed.

Let people know how and when to reach you.

Choose a single contact method as your preferred one for clients to use, be that leaving a message with at the office, calling or texting your cell, or sending an email. Let them know during what hours you are reachable for urgent issues, and how long you generally take to respond to less-urgent questions. This way, they won’t expect that you’ll be accessible 24/7 but can feel confident that they’ll always receive a timely response.

Use technology to your advantage.

Cloud-based project management software is a game-changer when it comes to streamlining the communications process, whether you want to coordinate messages among numerous parties (your client, the architect, subcontractors, employees at your firm) or just between you and your clients. Each party can access the software via an app on a computer, tablet or smartphone to view the most updated versions of floorplans, spec sheets and selection schedules, or to send messages (the resulting conversation log can be helpful to reference if you run into misunderstandings down the line). Another way technology can improve communication: 3D and interactive models are an excellent way to ensure everyone has the same vision for a project.

Keep conversations clear and concise.

Whether you’re having a conversation in person or exchanging texts or emails, keep project-related discussions as clear, direct and specific as possible. Avoid over-explaining things or using technical terms that your clients may not be familiar with. You want them to fully understand what you’re trying to convey, not glaze over details only to call them into question on install day.

Always be upfront.

When unexpected costs or delays happen, it’s best to make your client aware so they aren’t blindsided by any surprises later on. It’s also best to communicate such developments in person, not via email. Doing this demonstrates your transparency and willingness to be upfront, plus eliminates any risk of an important update being overlooked. If possible, present some potential solutions or alternatives that could be explored, framing the conversation around these to help clients come away feeling confident that you’re working hard to meet expectations despite an unforeseen challenge.

Keep track of what’s being said.

Whether it’s in an app on your phone or in a notebook, jot down some quick notes after each in-person conversation you have with your client about a project, including key topics, the date and the time. This can prove invaluable should you later need to untangle any confusion or disputes about when and how decisions were made. After important conversations, you can also send a summary to all the parties after the fact, as a way to recap as well as create a more formal record of what was discussed. Include these emails in a file for the current project, along with any other emails between you and your client.