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Thank you for visiting my blog. I am a designer providing design, presentation, and documentation services in Southern California. My background is in interior design, and my work is mostly done utilizing CAD and modeling programs. Most of my clients are interior designers and architects. This blog is where I share my personal experience and opinions on work-related topics. This blog covers architecture, interior design, and some landscape design. I also draw inspiration from my life here in Southern California, my trips to Taiwan visiting my family, and Taiwanese and Japanese TV programs I watch. Please make yourself comfortable. Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message. Thank you!

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[Ask Michelle] I can’t Afford a Designer!

Designers are expensive. My project is small and I am planning to do part of work myself. My contractor said he had done many similar projects and would help me with selecting products materials.
The truth is you can’t afford not having a designer. Designers are more than having fancy styles and good taste and know how to shop. In order to be professional designers, one has invested years of hard work to gain knowledge, skills, and experience. A good designer guides you through options, organizes the information, and prevents mistakes. Without a designer, you are risking spending more money and time and settling for a less-satisfactory result. You should figure 10% – 15% of your budget for design. You don’t always need a full-service package. Even small projects can use design input. If you can’t afford hiring a designer, you can’t afford the project.
Contractors are not designers. They may be design enthusiasts like yourself, but there is a reason they didn’t choose to work as designers. (Some firms do offer design and build services. In such case, you should check their qualifications for designing and building.) On the other hand, ask questions if a designers offers to act as a general contractor.

[Survey] Help Designers Improve

I often wonder, as a designer, if I am offering what people want/need. I am certain there are many things I can improve or change but people are not telling me. I can easily find reasons why people should hire designers. But I can’t find why people prefer not to work with designers.

What if residential designers can learn what homeowners, industry partners and contractors want? Sure this won’t bring world peace. But it will minimize unnecessary frustrations of all parties involved in a design project. We will make the profession better. Please help and fill out the survey to share your opinions. You have the option to be anonymous. After I have collected enough responses and organized them, I will share the results in a blog article. Please share this SURVEY with those who may be interested in contributing.

Thank you in advance for helping out!

CAD Myths Clarified

Being a formally educated designer and having been providing architectural/construction drafting services to design professionals for over a decade, I find most people, even professionals in the industry, are not clear about CAD (Computer Aided Drafting).
CAD is the way to design.
CAD is a production and communication tool, not a design tool.
CAD is faster.
CAD does produce clean and accurate documents and can be efficient in revisions. But the quality depends on the person using the program.
Manual Drafting and Sketching are outdated.
Manual drafting and sketching are activities directly connected to our brains. Studies show students taking notes by hand in class generally do better compared to students taking notes with their laptops.
In general, people don’t respect the profession of CAD drafting. Even drafters don’t have pride in this line of work. Good CAD drafters are not just computer program operators. They are an essential part of every successful projects. A drafter, CAD or manual, must understand design and construction and how things ae made.
After getting my B.A. in Art with emphasis in interior design and a few year of work experience, I spent 2 semesters (30 hours per week for 40 weeks) to complete the CAD certification program. With the skilled I learned, I was able to work with architects and designers on high-end projects and gain experience. I have invested a lot of time and effort. I get asked often, but I really don’t know how to learn CAD in a short time.
CAD programs does offer many advantages. BIM (Building Information Modeling) and other 3D programs enable us to study the design closely and communicate effectively with the entire team. But what we have neglected is continue to strengthen our fundamental skills such as simply using pencil and paper.

[Project] Joy of Being Grandparents

After the arrival of their first grandchild and another one on the way, the clients felt it was time to renovate their home built in the 1950’s to become a gathering place for the growing family.  The goal was to enlarge the dining room and open up the kitchen.
After surveying the property and studied the clients’ desires, I suggested reducing the size of the intended addition for better use of interior and exterior space and flow of the roof line. The open kitchen would have a eating bar and flow with the enlarged dining room. With the new sliding doors in the dining room, and the enlarged window in the living room, the outdoor area would be connected with the indoors.

Preliminary Design Sketches

Upon finalizing the design, I proceeded to creating the documents both for obtaining the building permit and interior details. Once the plans were approved by the city, and we discussed my recommendations and resources for products and materials, I was off the project. With provided guidelines, the clients were happy to do their own shopping and purchasing. The general contractor is a family friend. Nothing for me to worry.

Interior Drawings

For City Approval

I was invited back when the project was finished. I was not surprised with the outcome because it followed my design. The joy on my clients’ faces were priceless. They enjoyed every part of transforming their home. They had a large crowd of over 20 people for the holidays, and it did not feel cramped. The clients are looking forward to spending time with the grandchildren in the ‘new home’.

Social Media can be Fun

A few years back, part of my deal was helping designers with social media. I started experiencing all different platforms. Social Media had changed a lot. Many designers are frustrated as it takes time and doesn’t bring any business. The thing is, most of the marketing specialists are not interior designers. Social Media is a great way to reach to many people with very little cost. But interior designers just need a handful of great projects (and a dozen of OK ones) each year. Many of us is are one-person studios and struggle to find time for social media.
Social Media is a branding tool for us creative minds. I use social media to present myself in a certain way hoping to attract people who share the same values and interests. It’s hard to showcase on my business website that besides being a professional designer with the required qualification, I am also a classical musician, a bookworm (still challenged with English), a tea seller, an artist, a home cook, and a makeup addict. All the non-design related qualities set me apart from other designers. My suggestion is don’t worry about what others say you should or shouldn’t do. Have fun with social media! It’s fine to do things different. One of my clients found me on Houzz because I posted plans while no other local professionals did. Think about who we like to follow on social media. We follow people/businesses that enjoy what they do, offer good information, and match our values.