The design seminar "East Coast/West Coast Design—Is it Apples & Oranges?" at the Decoration and Design Building in New York covered everything from design aesthetic to personal relationships with clients.
Christopher Grubb of Arch-Interiors Design Group, and Darren Henault shared their experiences in designing in New York and Los Angeles, and the differences in each coast’s design considerations from materials and finishes to budgets.
"There's certainly a difference between budgets and willingness to spend when you look at each coast," said Henault. "In New York City, people won't rip out an original room of a luxury home. It's too costly, but more importantly, it's too genuine and integral to the house's history to even consider."
Grubb added, "And in California, a client will have a $250,000 bathroom completely ripped out because they just don't like it. It's not that budget isn't as important in California. It's just typically less expensive to renovate and there's less of a historical presence that people feel they need and want to preserve in their architecture."
Both said they have felt the enormous weight of the economy on both coasts and that staying within budget is absolutely imperative. "People who used to not care about the cost of anything you were doing now need to know where every single penny is going," said Grubb.
"We and our firms are now working twice as hard for twice as long with less than half the budgets that we had 10 years ago," said Henault.
Henault explained that New Yorkers are generally nesters whereas his clients in Los Angeles are more interested in the expansiveness of their space. Both designers agreed that regardless of where their client is and what their values are, they are all environmentally focused.
A question from the audience asked the designers for details about how to create and maintain relationships with clients.
Henault suggested diversifying your client base as you would a financial portfolio—and don't have clients in one industry. "Spreading yourself all over the industries is the best way to avoid devastation when a market crisis hits because certain areas aren't hit as significantly as others. If you're only in the hospitality industry and they've had an enormous hit to their business, you become the last need on their list."
"Personal relationships with clients come in all shapes and sizes. We're incredibly friendly and close with some, and with others it's purely professional and cordial," said Henault. "My best advice is to not only befriend the wives, but meet the husbands! The women make the decisions, but generally, the husbands are paying. If you talk business, markets and numbers with the husbands so they understand that you've got absolutely everything in your business strategy under control and working smoothly, chances are you'll win them over as well. Chances are they'll trust your work and stop caring what you do with his wife or how long the project takes!"
VP Marketing of Cohen Design Centers Bobby Contini learned a lot from the event. "Watching two seasoned professionals share their perspective on the similarities and differences of East coast to West coast Design was very insightful. I really loved how extensive their talk was and how many different points they touched upon,” he said.
Henault and Grubb will hold this seminar once again at the Pacific Design Center on May 19.