When a Fairfield couple was referred to Maven Interior Design + Build, they had more questions than answers regarding the possibilities in their 1911 character home. Though thoroughly invested in the livability of their neighbourhood, the couple was entering a new chapter in life and the layout of their home no longer supported their lifestyle. They were curious about the potential of their current space. Would the cost of renovating be in line with the home’s current market value? Or would moving be the best option? Interior designers, Nicala Hicks and Danielle Keogan founded Maven Interior Design + Build to bridge the broadening industry gap between planning, project management, design, and build.
“Clients usually know what they want when they come to us but they are often unsure how to get there,” says Keogan, who adds that clients looking to do a reno often arrive with an “it’s broken and we don’t know how to fix it” scenario. Maven Interior Design + Build thoroughly explore a home’s potential and help clients to envision all the possibilities. Their mission is to streamline the design and build process through their progressive approach that prioritizes collaborative and rigorous planning, thoughtful design, and clear communication. Their first order of business is exploring your home’s possibilities.
“After you live in a house for many years, all you can see are the roadblocks in the layout and not the potential,” says Hicks, who adds that these particular Fairfield clients couldn’t see what the way forward could be. At this stage, the designers begin a data collection process to provide clarity and eliminate as many unknowns for the client as possible. Feasibility studies foster peace of mind before clients commit to the scope of a project.
Asking relevant questions and active listening are core principles of their approach at Maven Interior Design + Build. “It’s here that we find the real gold,” says Keogan, whose in-depth values assessment enables them to identify their clients’ key values and individual needs that will create a space unique to them. The goal for this Fairfield home was to create a seamless flow between rooms in order for the owners to entertain with ease. Our primary question became, “how can we get more space for entertaining?”
Exploring the Possibilities
“Space planning allows us to really get creative with how our clients can use their home to its fullest potential. We use 3D software that allows homeowners to virtually live in their space and ensure it is the perfect fit for them before moving forward.
Bringing in the Experts
Hicks and Keogan bring in their team of structural engineers, architects, and hazmat remediation as needed to ensure all potential problems are explored and considered in the budget. “We like to get in front of the surprises and remove the anxiety that comes with unknowns,” says Keogan. Arming yourself with this data before you start is invaluable and impacts all of your decisions along the way.
Analyzing Costs and Setting a Budget
Establishing a budget should be a straightforward process, but it is often mired with confusion for homeowners, leaving them frustrated if they can’t foresee the unexpected surprises that could arise. The designers note that when clients come to them with a particular element or feature they love, they are realistic about the cost and equip them with options, without quelling their excitement.
“When designing for a renovation, our task is to eliminate some of the visual chaos that can come with incorporating new features into an existing space,” says Keogan. In the Fairfield residence, the designers created bump-outs that solved the square footage issue, removed a wall to create an improved flow, reconfigured the kitchen and bath, and added skylights to steal more natural light. Hicks adds that they bring curated material sample boards to their clients and will even join them on shopping trips during this phase. From there, they create a detailed design using 3D software that allows them to digitally communicate exactly what to expect.
The designers refer to themselves as trusted advisors to their clients as they navigate the intense decision-making process among a myriad of options. On the client’s behalf, they liaise with architects, engineers, builders, tradespeople, and material vendors in an efficient way that would otherwise be a full-time job for a homeowner. Direct access to resources like manufacturers and reliable contacts in the industry is an added advantage that can save clients time and money.
Interior Designer as Mediator
“When two people are sharing a home, they don’t always agree on the same wishlist so we have to know how to feather in both sets of needs without compromising,” says Keogan, who adds that in this reno, the husband wanted a purpose-built bar for entertaining but she wasn’t keen on it becoming a permanent focal point of the living room. In response, the designers created a bump-out on the exterior wall to create room and with white-on-white Shaker barn doors, in the same profile as the kitchen cabinets, they created a visually inconspicuous bar that can be concealed or revealed as needed.
Design and Build
“In our experience, when the design and build are connected, the overall vision is clearer and there are fewer bumps in the process,” say the designers who state that, “having us on board through the entire process of a reno is really the best way to stay true to the homeowners’ values.” There are countless micro-decisions in a design/build process that can easily get lost in translation if the entire team isn’t working closely together. “We help develop the vision and oversee the project management for the entire build. Essentially, we are artists that love data and spreadsheets. We can visualize the end results and work backward systematically toward the end goal.”
Partnership with Homeowners
Hicks and Keogan conclude that through this process, they develop a unique relationship with their clients and invariably become friends in some way. An inevitable outcome when they build trust, operate with transparency and assist people through a potentially stressful time. “We push the envelope on our client’s behalf to get them wow-factor results while staying focused on adding value to their investment for years to come. In the end, we give our clients a home that is an extension of them. There is often an emotional response to their new space that was never there before. It’s just a matter of really listening to people.”