How to Hire an Interior Designer for Your Retail Space

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

While it might seem like an added expense, making an investment in an interior designer can pay off big time for your retail space. The right design can boosts sales by increasing your amount of overall traffic. Further, a professional will know the best ways to maximize your space along with your budget. Here are some tips on how to find and hire the best interior designer for your retail space:

  1. Ask around: Nobody knows better than your fellow retail store owners who to hire and who to avoid! Go for a walk to the stores nearest to you to inquire. Pay attention to which local stores catch your eye and which ones turn you away. Be sure to ask for references from the places that make you want to shop. It can also be useful to find out who designed store spaces that you don’t like to narrow down your choices. If you are taking over an old retail space, you’ll want to find someone who is experienced working with older buildings. Also, if you’re converting another commercial space such as a restaurant or warehouse to a retail space, you will need someone with experience with conversion.
  2. Know your vision: Have a solid idea of what you want out of your design before you begin interviewing designers. Start with the basics: Are you going for a vintage look or something more modern? Do you want bright colors or a darker look? In addition, you will need to consider how people are going to shop at your store. A clothing store will need fitting rooms while a beauty boutique will need makeup counters and chairs/stools. Any retail space will need enough walkways for people to comfortably fit down the aisles, so you will need to consider how you are going to display your products. Knowing the specific style you want will not only help you narrow down the designers you interview, it will also be useful to determine which designer is most capable of helping you achieve your vision.
  3. Set a realistic budget: You want all the bells and whistles, sure, but  you probably can’t afford them just yet. Make a realistic budget along with a list of things you absolutely need. For instance, a clothing store will absolutely need good quality shelves, racks, and fitting rooms along with other essentials such as good lighting and attractive (and safe, lead-free) paint. You can create a separate list of things you want but will be ok with not having right away such as accent lamps, fancy overhead light fixtures, and an upgraded sound system. You can always add in design elements later as your store gets going and just get the essentials at this stage.
  4. Get specific during the interview: After each candidate leaves the interview, you should have a clear idea of what your retail space will look like, how much it will cost, and how long it will take. Ask specific questions regarding budget and timeline during the interview, and don’t be afraid to turn someone away who can’t meet your needs.
  5. Get references: Each candidate should be able to provide you with three references that you can contact to find out about their work style. Be sure to follow up with references, even for candidates who seem like a dream to work with. This is your money and your store after all. You want to make sure the designer you pick is going to follow through.

Hiring a designer for your retail space will save you headaches and money in the long run. Use these tips to find the best designer in your area for your store. For more information on how to find the perfect designer for your store, contact us today!

Your Home’s Renovation Fee: How do you figure it out?

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

Your home is your biggest investment, and naturally, if you want it to maintain its value, you’re going to have to renovate it periodically.

So, you meet with an interior designer — or a construction company — and they give you a quote for their services. There’s just one problem: you don’t know if the quote is too high, not high enough, or just right. So, how do you determine the right renovation fee for your home? Here’s our list of things to keep in mind before determining if you’ve been quoted a fair price:

  1. Make a list of all of the materials you need. For example, if you’re renovating your kitchen, list the amount of tile you’ll need, any appliances, the amount of drywall, etc. Be sure to take accurate measurements of the room (or of the entire home, if you’re doing a complete home remodel).
  2. After you get a complete list of the materials, get a few price quotes — don’t just settle for the first quote that was given to you. You may even want to get some of the prices yourself — many “big box” home improvement stores periodically have clearance sales that can save you hundreds of dollars!
  3. Next, calculate the amount of labor hours that will be needed to renovate the room in question. Again, be realistic, and be aware that when drywall is removed, especially in high-moisture places like kitchens and bathrooms, other problems with plumbing, mold, and faulty wiring may be uncovered, which will cause an increase in labor and materials costs.
  4. When factoring in the cost of materials, be sure to bear in mind that materials will vary in price, as well, and this variance is dependent on the quality of the materials procured. While a typical porcelain or ceramic tile in a “big box” store can be relatively inexpensive (sometimes as low at 99 cents per square foot!), a tile made from travertine or imported Italian marble can be significantly more expensive. Travertine tiles start at approximately $10 per square foot; Italian marble tiles start at double that price!
  5. When getting a quote from a contractor or designer, be sure to ask about the quality and type of materials they’ll be providing for their price as well.
  6. Once you get all the costs of the renovation together (materials and labor) that you then compare it to the price that a designer, or contractor, gives you. Again — don’t go with the first price that’s given to you. Compare a few quotes, and go with the one that provides the most reasonable price for the proper amount of work.
  7. In comparing prices, be careful of the designer or contractor giving you the lowest prices. Sometimes the cheapest is not always the best, as their experience, quality, and speed of construction may be lacking, which can cost more in the long run.
  8. To that end, too, you’ll need to set aside a contingency budget (better known as an “emergency funds” reserve) that’s equal to about 15% of your total renovation budget to account for problems that may be uncovered during the renovation process.

Contact us today to discuss your home’s renovation project.

Preparing for Your First Interior Design Meeting: 3 Tips to Make the Most of Your Time

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

You are beginning to worry that staring at those drab beige walls in your office day after day might actually be sucking the life right out of you. How can you be expected to be inventive and clever when your “creative space” looks about as exciting as the inside of an elevator? You’ve seen pages upon pages of awesome office designs in magazines, and you think, wow-now that is a space that could really get the creative juices flowing… You know what you like, but you’re not quite sure how to make it happen-so you decide to bring in the big guns. You’ve hired an interior designer to help you achieve the master work place you’ve been dreaming of. You look forward to your first meeting with anticipation, but you really need to get your ducks in a row to ensure that your designer truly understands your vision.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for that first meeting:

1. Create a profile. Your interior designer will need to understand how you use your space in order to create the most functional design possible. Create a profile of your office space – what tasks are performed on a daily basis, do you see clients in your office, is your business style formal or informal, etc.

2. Outline the scope of your project. Once your designer understands how the space is used, they will need to understand what you want to have done. Clearly outline exactly what you expect from the design changes-are you looking to create space, liven up the place, or completely change the entire layout? If you have a vague idea of what you want, but are unsure of the details, explain which details you need help nailing down. Maybe you know you’d like to bring some color and life into your office, but don’t know what colors best suit your business. Make a list of these specific questions in your outline and be sure to present them to your designer.

Your outline is also the place to include your expectations as far as time and cost are concerned-have a budget in mind and let your designer know how much time you are willing to invest in the project. The more information you have ready for your designer, the quicker they can get to work.

3. Create an inspiration portfolio. Since you made up your mind to redesign your office, you’ve probably been noticing potential design elements everywhere-carpet swatches at the home improvement store, a unique armchair and vintage desk in the antique store window, that really awesome eye-popping new paint color at your favorite coffee shop. These little bits of inspiration are important parts of your vision, and keeping track of these can be of enormous help to your designer. Snap a picture on your phone if you are out and see something inspiring, grab paint samples, and clip some magazine images to create your own portfolio. Having a visual reference, such as a pinterest board, will make it much simpler to explain your desired outcome.

For example, here is openUU’s Cafe Design board for some inspiration.

Follow openUU ltd.’s board Cafe Design on Pinterest.

Redesigning your office seems like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. Creating an inviting new space that fosters creativity is an exciting event. Remember to prepare a list of any questions you might have for your interior designer before your meeting, and organize your information to ensure that you are both on the same page. Please feel free to contact us for more information about interior design.

How to Estimate Office Renovation Costs

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

One of the largest mistake building owners make is underestimating the renovation costs for their home, office, restaurant, or store. This can lead to very sticky situations, as once you’ve started a renovation project it’s difficult to stop, and it can be even more problematic to have decided to buy a house because you underestimated the renovation costs, only to get an accurate estimate and realize you’re in the hole for thousands of dollars.

If you’re planning on making renovations (or buying a building with the intention of renovating), make sure you can accurately estimate how much those renovations will cost. This includes both materials and labor, as well as intangibles such as not being able to use the room you’re renovating. If you’re doing renovations yourself, labor doesn’t cost you financially, but it still has the opportunity cost of taking up your time and energy. Additionally, doing renovations is a very physical process, and doing it yourself will make you fatigued and sore. Always have a 10-15% contingency to cover extra materials or additional variation work during the construction.

When estimating the cost of materials, make sure to account for things like missed items and breakage. And don’t just use the least expensive products in your calculations; figure out which materials you will actually use and price accordingly.

When estimating the cost of labor, get multiple quotes and check up on the contractors’ reputations. Some contractors will charge less but have a history of lower quality work, or billing for addition variation changes to cover the initial low cost. Hiring skilled, experienced contractors is essential to the success of your renovations. It is worth investing a little bit of extra money on reputable and experienced contractor teams, so you don’t need to stress out over the other items.

For example, an office renovation in Hong Kong can cost HK$510 per square feet and up. A 2,000 square feet space can range from HK$1,020,000 (at $510/sqft) to HK$1.92M (at $960/sqft).

Office Renovation Budget*

Economy

(in HK$)

Mid-Range

(in HK$)

Upscale

(in HK$)

General Construction
carpets, floor finishes, wall finishes, ceiling finishes, partitions, window blinds
180 240 300
System Furniture
desks, chairs, filing cabinets, conference tables
160 250 400
M&E Services
electrical, a/v equipment, fire protection, a/c, plumbing
140 170 210
MISC
management fees, security deposits
30 40 50
 Total cost per square foot 510 700 960+

This article is meant to provide a guide to what to watch out for if you are considering renovations. If you keep this advice in mind, you’re much less likely to run into unexpected costs and much more likely for your renovations to be successful.

Contact us for more information about renovation costs.

*The total budget may vary depending on requirements, such as the number of employees, conference rooms, manager rooms, etc.

5 Things to Consider When Starting Your Own Restaurant

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

Starting a restaurant is a wonderful endeavor! It’s challenging and exciting, but you need to make sure you do not get too caught up in that excitement that you forget some really important factors. Maybe you’ve thought it over and know exactly how you want everything, but in case you’ve forgotten something, here are five key elements to consider.

Brand Direction

Before you make any major decisions, you should decide on a brand direction, and maybe hire a brand consultant if you feel it’s necessary. This person will do research about your prospective patrons and help you brand your business accordingly. They will guide you in the right direction to reach the people you want at your restaurant. Many following decisions will be based on the brand you and your consultant choose for you.

Food Options

Who is your target audience? Should you have a large menu to please everyone’s taste buds, or do you want something simpler to please your guests with an easier decision-making process? In making these decisions, you’ll have to determine a food budget. You should also decide what you’ll be “known” for. Will you be known for your succulent seafood or your warm, creamy soups?

Menu Design

What about menu aesthetics? Are you wanting something up-scale or maybe something a little more retro? See, there are lots of ideas to consider here! Here are some design ideas:

This menu is brightly colored and enthralling. It's very visually stimulating, perfect for lunch or dinner.

This menu is brightly colored and enthralling. It’s very visually stimulating, perfect for lunch or dinner.

This menu is easy to navigate. The pictures pull the customers' eyes to page, allowing them to make an easier decision. You could picture your signature meals at the tops of the pages.

This menu is easy to navigate. The pictures pull the customers’ eyes to page, allowing them to make an easier decision. You could picture your signature meals at the tops of the pages.

This menu has a modern, up-scale feel about it.

This menu has a modern, up-scale feel about it.

Interior Design

Unless you have a knack for design, you may want to consult an interior designer. Even if you know what you want your restaurant to look like, a professional will be able to help you execute your plans more efficiently. An interior designer will also be able to tell you what will look best to your customers. Here are some design ideas:

A simple design, like this one by Minas Kosmidis, with white wooden floors and a homey feel.

A simple design, like this one by Minas Kosmidis, with white wooden floors and a homey feel.

Golucci International Design

A cozy, inviting design, like this one by Golucci International Design, with a modern splash.

DesignLSM

A corporate design, like this one by DesignLSM. This is a place you would take someone you’re trying to impress!

Employees

While you may not be that far into the game yet, it’s never too early to begin prospecting. In order for a restaurant launch to be a success, you need a strong staff. Think about what who you want representing your restaurant. Do you want a younger, more fun staff, or do you want employees who are a little more refined? Also, think about appearance. What uniform will best correlate with your restaurant brand?

For help launching your new restaurant, contact us! We are here to serve you, so you can serve us!

Making Restaurant Branding Work for You

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

When you decide to open a restaurant, one of the first things you need to consider is how you want to brand your restaurant.  What is it about your restaurant that sets you apart from every other restaurant in your area? Restaurant branding doesn’t just make you sit down and decide what’s special about your business.  It also tells potential customers who you are.

Your logo is the first interaction your customers have with your restaurant.  It should give them an idea of what to expect.  What kind of “feel” should they expect from your restaurant?  Is it a family restaurant?  A bar and grill?  Should customers be dressed up or dressed down?  Your logo should give your customers the answer to those questions at a glance.

Tie your interior design to your logo.  When customers step through your door, they should have the feeling that they already know what to expect from your restaurant.  They’ve seen the logo; carrying it inside makes them feel comfortable and at home.  Use the same colors in your restaurant that you do in your logo or bring elements of it inside to tie your interior design together.

Determine what you want your customers to say about you.  What is it that you want to set your restaurant apart?  When customers leave your restaurant, what do you want them talking about?  Design your restaurant in such a way that your customers leave with that concept uppermost in their minds.  Do you have a focus on customer service that can’t be beat?  A family-friendly atmosphere that will have a couple on date night eager to come back with the kids?  A particular dish that can’t be beat by any of your competitors?  By focusing on this element, you’ll help your customers recognize it, too.

If you’re looking to build your restaurant’s brand from the ground up and not sure where to start, contact us!  We’re ready to help with every step of the process.

Transforming a Warehouse Into a Retail Space With Clever Design

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

Transforming warehouses into homes has long been a trendy choice in urban markets like New York and Chicago. But cutting edge interior designers with an eye for architecture have recently been developing these warehouses into exciting and edgy retail spaces.

In a competitive market, industrial redevelopment turns abandoned eyesores into useful properties. Warehouses are often attractive to retailers with their “proximity to major transportation hubs and thoroughfares, high parking ratios, architectural interest, potential for open-plan layouts, and high ceilings. Industrial sites also usually are near water lines, sewage systems, roads, and utility lines.” Upgrading these spaces with clever design that utilizes the unique lines of the space provides a quality, low rent solution for growing businesses.

The creative possibilities of abandoned warehouses are infinite. Furniture retailer Hunt & Gather moved their showroom/gallery into a renovated warehouse to meet the needs of a younger, creative customer base. With the new open floor plan, Hunt & Gather can highlight the unique design of their wide variety of pieces. Taking warehouse design in a completely different direction, urban farmers are using industrial properties to provide green solutions to city spaces. Creative thinking allowed farmers to redesign warehouse spaces to grow plants indoors and control environmental factors like pesticides and climate change.

While an innovative solution, transforming warehouse spaces requires a professional team. Hiring an interior designer with experience in industrial design allows you to transform the unique features of the space from exposed pipes to vintage furniture to create the perfect look for your retail space while remaining safe and following established building codes. Contact openUU to brainstorm ideas for help designing the perfect industrial space for your company’s needs.

4 Ways Office Design Can Increase Productivity

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

Whether you’re starting from scratch or refurbishing your current office, creating a professional, functional and comfortable space will project the right image to your clients and increase overall productivity.

Studies show that comfort and productivity are interrelated, and most experts agree that almost every office can benefit from a few changes in layout and organization. Consider some of the following ways you can improve the comfort level of your office to increase the productivity of the staff.

Create a comfortable environment

Strive to make your office a healthy and comfortable workplace. Use ergonomic furniture and accessories, proper lighting, and a functional design to minimize discomfort and distraction and help you and your employees work more productively.

Encourage employees to customize their workstations with accessories that help them work comfortably – keyboard trays, anti-glare screens, task lighting and footrests – and to adjust their chairs to the proper height and angle. You can even hire an ergonomic expert to consult with each worker individually. A quick evaluation will determine what each employee needs to do to avoid repetitive-stress injuries.

Improve your layout

Take a look at where employees sit and the location of the office equipment. Consider ways to improve the overall flow of your office. Put printers, fax machines and other shared equipment in areas that are easy to access, and seat work teams or departments together in shared areas or cubicles. Try to open spaces and align desks, so it’s easy to move around the office.

Use mobile furniture

Adjustable and mobile furniture is a good option for growing businesses with limited space; you can easily reconfigure cubicles and workstations and rearrange your office to accommodate growth, partition departments, or separate equipment areas and other noisy parts of the office.

Control noise levels

Consider using panel systems, carpeting, and ceiling tiles to absorb sound and provide privacy. To reduce auditory distractions, put fax machines, copiers and other noisy office equipment in a separate area surrounded by cubicle walls or partition walls. Try to keep nosier employees, such as customer service representatives or salespeople, who spend a lot of time on the phone, away from those who require quiet work spaces.

If you need help with any aspect of office design or layout, consult a professional. They can help you select furniture and assist you with space planning, lighting, interior construction, fire and building codes, and other office design issues.

Reasons to Hire an Interior Designer to Help Design Your Restaurant

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

As a budding young chef you have worked hard to make it to the top. As you go to open your new restaurant you have carefully considered each item on your menu to make sure it is crafted to your exacting standards of quality and taste. But have you spent the same amount of time considering the design of your new restaurant?

Why Design Matters

The famous Ohio State University study confirmed restaurateurs worst fears when it reported that 60% of restaurants fail within the first year and a dramatic 80% fail within five. While naturally it is important to produce food of the highest caliber, it is equally important to provide a setting that encourages people to stay, socialize, and eat in your one of a kind space. A recent study published by the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management on why restaurant fail lists decor as a key reason many new businesses fold. The study concluded that design failures directly contributed to a competitive and economic loss. Many restaurateurs are not equipped to design for a specific space and “architectural limitations were found to be one of the major factors in restaurant failures especially in urban settings, and some of the architectural limitations in restaurants have even resulted in the greater failure of the business.”

How Hiring a Designer Can Help Your Restaurant Stay Competitive

As the study shows, restaurateurs need to be aware of the specific benefits and limitations of the space they have acquired for their new restaurant. By hiring an interior designerwith the ability to utilize the architectural elements of your space, you can maximize your competitive edge with a restaurant that combines excellent food with a dynamic design. Architectural Digests agrees that a beautiful design can sell a restaurant in their article on the 10 Most Beautifully Designed New Restaurants. Entrepreneur Magazine also offers some Low-Cost Ideas for restauranteurs looking to plan a design on a budget.

If you are looking for an innovative designer to help make your one of a kind restaurant a success, contact openUU.

Top Renovation Tips For Your Commercial Space

By | Blog, Renovation Resources

blog-tips-for-your-commercial-spaceWhether you just want to freshen up your office space or you’re going for an all-over renovation, there’s no getting around the messy and time-consuming nature of an office renovation. Here are our top renovation tips to help make this as short and easy a process as possible so you can get back to work… in style:

Think long term

How you need to use your office space now might change in a year or two if you’re planning on expanding your business. Before you start renovating, make sure you know what your five-year plan is for the business so you can make renovations accordingly. You don’t want to go through this process more often than you need to so work with your designer to develop a renovation plan that will allow your business to grow. Introducing smart storage solutions is one way to make sure your business doesn’t outgrow your space or your renovation.

Think about your employees

You might be making the final decisions about paint and carpeting, but consider how you want your employees to work when you start your renovation project. Adding in ergonomic and/or standing work stations in offices can help your employees by reducing the strain on their bodies that can come from desk work. As the research keeps rolling in on the negative aspects of a sedentary work style, more and more employees are searching for ways to work while walking or standing. Be proactive now in order to keep top talent working for you and boost their productivity.

Go light

In general, light colors are more conducive for work spaces, but don’t go too crazy with the coloring. Neutral colors along with windows that let in natural light give offices an inviting feeling in contrast to dark colors that tend to bring down productivity.

Natural lighting

Along with keeping your paint and furniture light, make sure to incorporate natural light in your office. It’s no secret that people generally don’t appreciate the look of fluorescent lights, but research has concluded that natural light really does help people work better. A study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign concluded that employees who were exposed to natural light in offices overall had a better quality of life than those who were not. These improvements include “longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life compared to office workers with less light exposure in the workplace.” Incorporate windows and/or skylights into your design to help your employees and to make your commercial space a brighter and healthier place.

Think about the benefits

Adding up the cost of money and time for the renovation might have you start second-guessing the project, but remember that there are a lot of benefits to renovating your office space. Customers and clients will appreciate your updated look, especially if your current space is sporting old trends. In addition, updating your windows, lighting, even your faucets can save your company a lot of energy usage, which translates to a significant amount of money saved over the long haul. In addition, your employees will be happier and more productive in an updated, contemporary space, which will translate to a boost in business.

Working with a designer is the best way to make sure your office renovation will serve your business now and in the future. For more ideas on how to renovate your commercial space, contact us today.