How long in the industry?
24 years, started in 1997. Brian has been with Artisan Custom Closets for 12 years. He followed Lisa Carlquist (owner of Artisan) from their previous employer. He says that she was the best designer and he wanted to continue their working relationship.
Brian gets in the shop between 6-6:20am to load up his van. He double/triple checks to make sure all of his materials are loaded and good to go. He’s usually scheduled to be at the customer’s home between 8-9am. He doesn’t like to be late. He may do one or two jobs per day, for example a larger size install and maybe a service call, or two smaller installs. His day ends around 4-5pm, but he always makes sure his customer is totally satisfied before he leaves the job site. He demonstrates how the system works, the benefits (adjustability) and answers any questions that arise.
Why become a registered installer?
Brian was motivated by the designers he works with and by other industries such as HVAC. He’s always wanted to become registered and when the ACSP began to offer the test this year, he took it the first day! There were more construction questions than he expected, but overall a good mix of both construction and installation. He says someone not in the industry definitely wouldn’t be able to pass. The bottom line for him was that it makes his company look good and reassures the customers that he’s a professional.
What makes a good installer?
#1 in Brian’s opinion is being a good problem solver and thinking on your feet. Being detail oriented is also very important! He doesn’t want to tell Lisa he’s got to go back to a job because he forgot something. He says a good installer has to think on the fly and be good at customer service too. Before he walks into a customer’s home, he’s got a plan in mind of how the install’s going to go. This comes with experience, it’s not about speed, it’s about quality and service. His mantra: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
What does your closet at home look like?
Pretty well organized, but he’s an organized person in general. He’s got basic systems installed in all of his closets and even turned one into a pantry.
What’s been a difficult install?
A memorable experience was one of his first installs back in ’98. The female client was in tears, devastated by all the holes in her system (32mm). He got her calmed down eventually, but now he has the knowledge to tell her this is for the adjustability of her system and that they can order plugs to cover the holes.
Best install experience?
Two Thanksgiving’s ago, he went on an extremely large job over 120k. Multiple large rooms, including craft, laundry and closets. They finished on time and the superintendent called Lisa about how professional he and his team were. To this day, they’ve had no go-backs and on a job of this size, that’s a real accomplishment.
Advice to a new installer?
Talk to the other installers at your company, just because one person trains you to do it one way doesn’t mean there aren’t different ways of doing something. Always be learning. Be proud of what you do, work like you were working in your own home (clean & neat) and do your best!
No matter the size of the job, $1,000 or $100,000, treat everyone the same, their project pays your bills. Every job has your company’s name on it and needs to be done right.
Congratulations Brian, keep up the great work!
Typically, every designer has blundered hard at least once or twice in their career. Once you’re over the initial shock and embarrassment, opening up and talking about mistakes in order to learn from them helps elevate your design abilities. Never make the same mistake twice.
After reaching out to multiple designers, here is a list of common mistakes and what they learned from them. All designers requested anonymity!
Because clearances are the big daddy of issues, the 1st error to avoid is a no-brainer:
1. Missing obstacles such as vents, electrical panels/outlets and steamer units (if the homeowner has a steam shower).
Lesson learned: Note obstacles at the beginning of the design process, even if your client says: “don’t worry about it, we’re not going to the ceiling”. Designs change! Be thorough and note every detail no matter how insignificant. Measure twice, cut once. It’s critical to take your time when measuring and double check your measurements, as it’s very easy to transpose numbers. Taking reference photos of obstacles and the room prevents “second guessing” or remembering wrong. Having those photos for a reference view is a good practice so you can "see" the space.
If you’re measuring a new construction space, go back to the space at least 7 days prior to your installation date for a final measure. Something may have been added that you didn’t note in your drawings.
In the early days of closet design, there were not as many offerings (3 colors, 3 types of handles, drawer slides, etc). As the home storage industry has matured, more offerings have created more room for errors. Don’t fall victim to an error that could easily have been remedied by more attention to detail!
2. Door swings and clear floor space, particularly around islands and peninsulas.
Lesson learned: Don’t just plan for walk space around these pieces, plan for the usability of the space. When opening drawers, can you stand in front of them, or do you have to stand to the side?
Your client requested a 3-way mirror cabinet, did you leave enough room so they can see themselves in it? 12” of clearance in front of a mirror is not enough.
3. Overdesigning – 10lbs in a 5lb bag – a list of client must-have options that might fit into the space, but look so cluttered the overall organizational effect is ruined.
Lesson learned: Don’t be a client pushover! You’re the expert, and they’re paying for your valuable advice. Take time to step back from the design process to review design details, maybe even having a trusted designer friend lend a second set of eyes if possible. Guiding clients in prioritizing their wish list from day one is essential.
4. Hardware – underutilizing the different options provided by the numerous hardware vendors to create a fully realized design. The opposite of mistake # 3, in this case “under-design”.
Lesson learned: Trying to keep it simple for the customer by just offering a few choices, (or the client could take longer to choose) deprives the aesthetics of your design. Visually, it makes a difference when using proper sizes. Having a closet with all 6" handles is ok, but tall doors that call for 10" handles and 6" handles on the short doors and drawers makes a closet more custom and less cookie cutter.
5. Crown molding not matching existing
Lesson learned: Pay close attention to existing molding in the room. The client loves the design but wants to take it up to the ceiling. Their ceiling already has crown molding. How is what you are designing going to mesh into the existing crown with a different profile and not look out of place? The same applies for base molding.
While this is not a complete list, it’s a solid collection of missteps that have been relayed to me with much hesitation as the pain of the error has faded over time. I’m sure there are some that are too awful to bring up but, an error made is also a lesson learned and not easily forgotten. Onward and upward!
by Denise Butchko
There are only three people in the world that have achieved master level certification in closet design.
Why is that a big deal? Why should you want to join this elite group?
Well, I asked Eric Marshall with Kitchens and Closets by DEA and Lisa Carlquist with Artisan Custom Closets exactly those questions. I'll also give you my take...
In case you haven't pieced this together, the three people with Master Designer Level Certifications are those two and myself, Denise Butchko.
By Denise Butchko
The ACSP is always excited to have designers taking on the challenge of becoming professionally certified. It's important to the credibility of our industry and the individual that's representing our industry on each and every sales call.
We want EVERYONE to be successful!
Taking tests and submitting design challenges can be time consuming and nerve-wracking. Here are some valuable insights into what the committee is looking for when assessing submissions:
1. Present the drawings and the descriptions as if you were talking to your customer. We need to know your thought process and why you designed a space the way you did. There's always more than one right answer. We need you to walk us through your approach and the why behind it. We can then more accurately assess the function and aesthetic of your design.
2. Take the time to be clear and accurate in your labeling of accessories, counter-top heights and overhangs. Toe-kick heights, drawer heights, and placement of hooks and accessories make a big difference in evaluating the score as well.
3. Consider reviewing industry standards. Then, if you decide to design a space that doesn't coincide with those, tell us why. There's ingenuity AND there's bad design. You won't get any points for bad design. What's bad design? It's a space that won't function well once the items are in place (real life). We see sections of hanging that don't allow enough height for the garments, drawer sections and islands that are both too tall and too short and no counter-top overhang on islands.
4. Pay attention to the parameters of each design challenge and make sure your space planning accommodates those. We really DO "do" the math!
Part of working in the closet industry involves going into people's homes and often into their closets, alone. That can put anyone in a very vulnerable position.
Incoming ACSP President, Wendy Scott shares the following:
"Several years ago I read an article in NJ Realtor Magazine about Beverly Carter. She was a woman who was kidnapped from a real estate showing and later murdered (do yourself a favor and look up the foundation and story). This being said, it hit home about how closely my job *and many other) paralleled hers. As Closet Designers, we brand and self-promote ourselves, we stop at new construction sites, we measure vacant, under construction homes, we schedule our own appointments with strangers, and the list goes on".
Lisa Carlquist of Artisan Closets knows too much about this subject as well. One of her designers has been trapped in a closet by a client.
How many of these incidents go unreported or un-shared? Always let someone know where you are, be aware of your surroundings, keep you phone on you...simple tips that can make a difference. After being convicted of her murder, they interviewed the man as to why...his answer: "because she was a woman who worked alone".
Click here for Beverly's story
Installers and shop crews are the general focus when it comes to safety management in our industry. All companies should have a safety policy for their designers too. If your company already has a plan in place, consider a gentle reminder and policy review. Although no issues are known to have been reported in our industry, why wait for a tragedy to be your wake-up call?
There are personal security devices available - check Amazon.com. The ACSP gave some away at Closet Con in the ACSP swag bag (another reason to attend next time in Charlotte and get yourself some good swag)...