trade tales | Jul 5, 2024 |
What are your non-negotiables when working with a contractor?

Last week, we asked designers what qualities they look for when hiring team members; this week we asked five industry experts—Oshir Asaban, Matthew Boland, Lorna Gross, Christine Markatos Lowe and Candice Quinn—what traits they view as strengths and weaknesses when assessing contractors.

What are your non-negotiables when working with a contractor?
Candice QuinnCourtesy of Candice Quinn

Team Spirit
“I look for a contractor who not only possesses creativity and innovation but also enjoys collaborating with an interior designer. The ability to foster a team dynamic is critical to a successful project—and there are a few red flags that I pay attention to. If a contractor demonstrates any reluctance in working with a designer, it raises concerns about their ability to work in a collaborative environment. Another red flag for me is a contractor who believes their approach is the only possible way to achieve an outcome versus exploring different ideas and working as a team. If they dismiss my ideas outright or lack the willingness to think outside of the box, it suggests that they may be limited in their problem-solving capabilities.” —Candice Quinn, London Pierce Design, Scottsdale, Arizona

What are your non-negotiables when working with a contractor?
Christine Markatos LoweChristin Rose

Clear as Glass
“When [seeking] a new contractor, we always start with a recommendation from other colleagues. From there, we can see if the contractor has the qualities we are looking for by asking a few key questions. We are looking for someone who is organized, with project management systems in place. We love a can-do attitude and a team player that is working to support the design team’s goals. A detailed, broken-out bid exhibits an understanding of the scope of work before any work has begun. Lastly, a clean job site reflects respect for the property and clients. Unfortunately, red flags typically don’t happen until you are deep into a job, but the worst is a lack of billing transparency, where a contractor doesn’t notify the client of the cost of change orders until after the work is completed.” —Christine Markatos Lowe, Christine Markatos Design, Santa Monica

What are your non-negotiables when working with a contractor?
Lorna GrossCourtesy of Lorna Gross

In the Loop
“The qualities we look for in a contractor are responsiveness [starting with] the first point of communication, and providing and producing their own schedules. This is an immense help to us, as there are always so many moving parts. We also look for a true partnership, where designers are embraced as valued additions to the process, and someone who is enthusiastic about design in their own right. Things like cleaning up after their work and being detail-oriented and meticulous are critical for us when working with high-profile, exacting clientele. Our red flags are if a contractor doesn’t have a project manager or doesn’t return phone calls—either promptly or at all!” —Lorna Gross, Lorna Gross Interior Design, North Bethesda, Maryland

What are your non-negotiables when working with a contractor?
Matthew BolandCourtesy of Matthew Boland

Get the Whole Picture
“Just like any other professional service provider, you are as good as your recent jobs. A contractor could have an amazing track record and then lose some of their key trades and their quality or output changes. I like to speak with the subs under the contractor. They can often give you the current pulse and can also advise on the quality of their experiences with the contractor, which is often helpful for me to form my own opinion and better relay the pros and cons to my client. Most important is transparency. I like to see transparency in billing, transparency with issues or speed bumps that we may face, and transparency in the size and qualifications of the contractor’s current office and site team—because ultimately we are all part of that team.” Matthew Boland, MMB Studio, Scottsdale, Arizona

What are your non-negotiables when working with a contractor?
Oshir AsabanSivan Askayo

Background Check
“When I’m looking for a contractor, I first check that we speak the same language when talking about details. It is important for me to understand that all the details of the joints, the connections between the different materials and the finishing details will be carried out at the highest level. If [the contractor] completes me in what I want to say, I understand that I am in a safe place. Defining work time, managing schedules, and [getting] recommendations from other architects and clients who have worked with the same contractor are a must—especially when it’s a new professional we don’t know. Many times we get a very good first impression, [but] things change during the work. When I know that architects I appreciate have worked with the professional and are satisfied with the level of finishes, I can rest easy.” —Oshir Asaban, Oshir Asaban Architects, Tel Aviv, Israel

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.