LiveWork Studios Design Philosophy:
LiveWork Studios LLC is a full service design/build firm. We design our products and environments to be built for you - by us. As such, we generally do not bill exclusively for our design services. We view the design and construction of our work as a continuous, evolutionary process. By addressing problems and exploring multiple options as part of a rigorous design program, we are able to significantly reduce our build times and to refine our designs for maximum efficiency of material, economy of line, grace, and durability. All of these things cost money, but it is our belief that a close communication between designer and builder ultimately provides the most economical, efficient, and beautiful option for everyone involved.
We don’t design things that we wouldn’t want to build, and we don’t build things from other people’s plans. There are plenty of shops around that do both of these things (some of them are really good at what they do) and we’d be happy to give you a recommendation if needed. At LiveWork, we view the design process as an opportunity to explore designs and methods that are of interest to us. We don’t typically design custom pieces for a one-time use. To this end, if we have an existing design that fits your needs we will present it to you and perhaps save you the time and expense of paying us to design something new. Likewise, the designs that we produce for your job may find their way into our future jobs. If you are looking for a true one-of-a-kind piece, just let us know, we may be able to provide you with a strictly custom piece, but be aware that the design fees will be substantially higher for pieces which cannot be duplicated later. Working in this way allows us to freely explore the ideas and approaches that we are most excited about (and best at) without having to charge you for all of our (often lengthy) design process. By using your job as an occasion to further our own research and development, we can usually present you with a set of preliminary sketches and/or renderings without even having to charge you an up-front design fee.
All of this is meant simply to say that plans/renderings/design proposals presented by LiveWork Studios LLC exist in a potentially very fragile space. Why, then, would we put ourselves and our business into this precarious position? Because we believe that true creativity flourishes best in this atmosphere. When we are designing something new, interesting, and innovative we don’t want to feel like we are working. Or, as someone a bit more eloquent put it, because “nobody wants to dance when there’s cops in the club”. This honest and somewhat vulnerable way of doing business places no small degree of responsibility on you as the client. You could, undoubtedly, shop these plans around and find someone to build them for less than the prices listed in our proposal. Please keep in mind, though, that there is an enormous (some would say ridiculous) amount of time spent in the design process, much of which we only get compensated for when we get to build things for you. There are not very many companies that work in this fashion, so when you’re looking at the overall cost of a job, please consider what it would cost you to hire an interior designer or architect to design your space and/or furnishings, and then pass those designs on to a builder who must interpret them, make them buildable, source and use materials that they may or may not be familiar with, build your pieces, and either bill you directly with a profit margin for themselves, or pass them through the designer who will add their own markup to the job. None of this is meant to denigrate the services of interior designers/architects, or custom fabrication facilities - they all serve important roles and they deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. That’s just not what we do.
How It Works:
When you approach us about a job (from a single piece of furniture to an entire environment) we will set a time to meet and discuss the details and scope of the job (we call this the “first meeting”). Important considerations and topics of discussion at the first meeting may include: your budget, your style/tastes, the desired functions of the piece or environment, the ‘concept’, ‘identity’, or ‘feel’ that you are trying to convey, as well as our own identity as designer/builders, and whether or not we feel that we are the right company for you.
In order for the design process to proceed smoothly, there are several items we will need you to provide at our first meeting. These items include (but are not limited to): reference photos of other designs that you like, any photos or drawings (especially floor plans, site plans, elevations in digital form) that you have pertaining to the job, measurements of the space, any special requirements (electrical, plumbing, coordination with other subcontractors, etc.). Please bring all relevant materials to this initial meeting. Although we may choose to meet at your home or place of business for our initial meeting, we do not generally make site visits for the purpose of measurements, etc. until a Preliminary Design Agreement has been signed and a deposit received.
At the end of the first meeting, we should have a good understanding of the scope and requirements of the job, as well as a general sense of what it is that we think you’re looking for stylistically. At this point we will usually set up a Dropbox folder for your job, and our designers will begin posting reference photos to this folder in order to establish a ‘look book’ for your job. You are encouraged to post photos to this folder as well. This sort of visual back-and-forth is the most direct way for us to get a true sense of what you are looking for in a design.
Once we feel that we have a good sense of what you want, we will prepare one or two preliminary sketches, renderings, and/or digital 3d models to illustrate our basic design concept(s). These designs may be drawn entirely from our existing stable of past designs, or they may be entirely new. Generally, though, we will use a combination of tried-and-true design and construction methods with specific modifications to fit the needs of your particular job. These preliminary sketches often give us enough information about materials and processes that they may be used to provide ball park estimates for budgetary purposes, but these numbers are always to be considered rough estimates. Even small changes to a design can sometimes have large budgetary implications (both negative and positive).
At this point we will schedule a second meeting to go over the preliminary sketches. We will present sketches, renderings, and/or 3d models and discuss possible changes, additions, or omissions to the overall plan as well as attempting to give you a rough estimate of the costs and timeline involved for production of your job. This is the point where you will need to decide whether or not you want to continue to pursue this relationship of ours. If you decide that you are not interested in using our designs, we will take them with us and (hopefully) sell them to someone else. We promise not to be mad at you. However, if you do decide to use our services, we will smile really big and push a contract across the table at you. The Preliminary Design Agreement details the rest of the design process as we proceed towards actually (finally!) building you a finished piece.
The Preliminary Design Agreement:
The Preliminary Design Agreement details the next steps in the process of developing a complete design scheme for your job. Items covered in this agreement include: the number of unique elements/assemblies to be designed for your job, the desired changes to be made to our preliminary sketches, the fee required for design work to commence, as well which items LiveWork Studios guarantees to provide at the end of this process (generally a set of renderings and dimensioned shop drawings), and when.
There is a minimum $300 non-refundable design fee for each unique element or assembly agreed upon in the Preliminary Design Agreement (this is a minimum only and applies only to the smallest of design jobs – the fee could be significantly higher based on the complexity of the design and the number of anticipated changes to our preliminary sketches). The total amount of the design fee will be spelled out in the Preliminary Design Agreement. This fee covers the time needed to refine our preliminary sketches into buildable designs, as well as making any changes suggested at our second meeting. No further work will be performed on your job until the Preliminary Design Agreement is signed and the required design fee is paid in full. We will perform one round of changes without additional charge based on the results of our second meeting. Further changes or additions will incur an additional design fee to be discussed at the time of the client’s request.
From Design to Build:
Upon execution of the Preliminary Design Agreement and receipt of the preliminary design fee, LiveWork will prepare a set of finished drawings for your job. We will make the necessary changes discussed in our second meeting as well as finalizing all dimensions, materials, and construction methods. The design fee paid upon execution of the Preliminary Design Agreement shall be considered full payment for the design phase of your job. Upon completion, LiveWork will present you with a set of renderings, dimensioned shop drawings, a detailed cost estimate for production of your job, and a timetable to produce the work as designed. If you agree to this estimate and choose to have us build your job, we will smile really big again and push another contract across the table at you. Our Build Contract contains the standard legalese about scope of work, materials, finishes, pricing, payment terms, and production schedules. Should you choose to enter in to this agreement with us we will sign the contract, accept your initial deposit for production (usually 50% of the total estimate), and place your job in the schedule of jobs to be built.
Should you chose not to use us to build your job, we will provide you with one hard-copy set of drawings as well as the digital files associated with your job. We will still shake your hand and smile at you. LiveWork functions on an ‘open source’ model, which means that all of our completed designs are available to anyone who wants to produce them for non-commercial purposes (as long as they give us a little credit and don’t claim the design as their own.) As a client, you are free to have these designs produced by someone else (or build them yourself) for your own personal use, although LiveWork Studios will retain the right to use said designs at any future time for any purpose deemed fit.
Is That All?
As you can see, making stuff from scratch can be a long process with the potential for quite a few surprises along the way. As experienced travelers in this territory, we’re pretty good at anticipating the issues before they arise, but it always helps to have a guidebook, and that’s what spawned this lengthy diatribe. It is important to us that our clients understand where we are coming from, so we’ve tried to explain ourselves as best we can. For this approach to work, however, we must still conduct ourselves with honesty and integrity. That goes for you too. So, if you have questions, just ask somebody about us. Talk to our past customers, our neighbors, our moms. We encourage it. We’ll give you their numbers! As for us, we’ll just have to take you at face value, but that’s okay. You still wanted to talk to us after reading this. That says a lot.