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Moving Through the Design Process Together

With many design decisions to make, you may be wondering – where do you start? How does it all come together? Designer Jean Johnson walks us through the Mountainwood Homes design process – why it works, how we get through it, and how to get the home of your dreams.

Jean Johnson, Designer at Mountainwood Homes, has helped thousands of clients get through the design phase throughout her career.


1. Every client’s needs are different. How do you create a budget to reflect the client’s priorities for their space?

With our Design Agreement Process, our designers have already had multiple meetings with homeowners and have come to learn both why they are remodeling along with their vision for the remodel. Our responsibility is to land on and design a floorplan and scope of work that helps their dream become a reality. During this initial process, we take note of specific fixtures we need to replace, any damaged or distressed areas that are being replaced or repaired, types and quality levels as well as the color range of products that will be updated.

We circle back on the ‘why’ throughout the Design Agreement process. If you have a large family, and you want to cook, or your in-laws have moved back in the house, so you need to expand for a lifestyle change, or you want a spa retreat with a new master bath, we keep coming back to the ‘why.’ There is more upfront work with how we do things. Once a client signs a contract, they know the details and what they’re going to get, so then we can say, “Ok, let’s make decisions!” Our process is different than some designers who may take a long time to go to a contract to get a price.

2. Why are allowances important?

We constantly learn from our experience with certain materials such as carpet, hardwood, LVT, or tile. We visit these showrooms several times a week, so we know the inventory and pricing. When we look at our client’s homes, we listen to what they have in mind. Perhaps they’ve researched and done their homework. Maybe they’ve found a specific product they want to use. Sometimes we say, “Let’s price it in with that, but if we go to the surface showroom and we see something you like better and can give you affordability, then we’ll revisit it.” For a kitchen remodel, we provide an allowance for appliances. In the beginning, we listen a lot and ask them, “Are you looking for particular brand names and features?” Then, we put together the best package possible as a starting place or placeholder. We have a good track record. We hit about 80-95% there. We’re doing our job if we’ve read the client well.

3. Are there specific things that the client comes to the table having decided already?

In most cases, no. I think our clients come to us because they need direction. They have their skill set in other areas; this is unknown. Not everyone thinks through this, or they have not had the chance. So, it’s brand-new territory. Some clients are not confident in their design taste. Then, some have fallen in love with an inspiration photo which is great since we can use that photo to help accomplish their vision.

4. What is the quickest decision for clients? What’s the hardest decision to make?

This part never ceases to amaze me. A lot of decisions come quickly. But in some cases, there is that one thing – the light fixture or faucet – that is a stickler. We put together a couple of options and give time to mull them over. You can’t keep going back to stores, or you’ll go nuts and overthink it.

My job is to have patience, help and encourage the homeowner, and congratulate them when they make quick decisions.  Then one decision follows the next. Some clients move quickly throughout the process. Once they get used to the rhythm of our process, they know us, and we gain their trust. Then they look to us for clear, honest, and genuine direction. Sometimes he likes one thing, and she likes the other. So, I try to approach it humorously and help them through it. Both opinions are important. Sometimes, they say, “You pick; I trust what you do.” The homeowner’s relationship and dynamic play into it.

5. At what step do you think the client receives the most value from our Design Team?

I think the surface selection appointment. We’ve already selected countertops (slabs or quartz), met with our cabinet maker, and picked out plumbing, lighting, and appliances. We have made many fixture decisions, and now we’re getting into the color, laying out the portfolios – here’s what you picked, here are your appliances, and we’re starting to tell the story. Lay everything out with the floor plan. We walk through the impact areas, restating why they’re doing the remodel. We have predesigned several scenarios to put in front of them based on what we know about them and their selections in other areas, such as the style of plumbing or lighting. We build this picture of this new space, and sometimes it’s exactly what they envision.

If we’ve done our job, we hit it when we pull together 3-4 scenarios, and they say, “I love that.” We say, “We have our preference. Let us know what you are drawn to.” There’s a story and reasoning behind it and a lot of thought that goes into it. When they get through the surface selection appointment, they often say, “Wow!” We are constantly building to the next step. We want to get it going and into construction so the homeowner can enjoy their home.

6. What’s your favorite client appointment throughout the Design Process?

I’d say the surface appointment. It’s colorful, tactile, and visual. The countertops take into consideration all the other decisions up to this point. Paint does that too. Those are probably the most noticeable – brand new flooring, carpet, paint, countertops, or tile showers. These are more colorful surfaces, and they’re the most fun.

7. What makes the Design Process go well?

Trust, timeliness, and preparedness. We do a lot of behind-the-scenes work to prepare for these appointments. At the lighting appointment, we have the floorplan, a list, and an allowance. When we schedule appointments with the showroom specialist, they have the same information. We give the showroom rep the information ahead of time to make the most efficient use of everyone’s time – especially the client’s time. Then, we talk to them about what we are doing here today. We say, “Ok, we’re going to go through each item on the list for a new kitchen, and our rep will recap this, send photos and links to the specs, so you have a few days to analyze this. There is pricing to consider if the client goes over or under their allowance. We want your approval to go to the next step. It’s important, appreciated, and crucial.

Work with Us

At Mountainwood Homes, we are fortunate to have both a proven design process and an order sequence of making these selections since one decision affects another. Whether you’re looking to remodel your kitchen, bathroom, or the whole house, or build a custom home, there are many decisions to make. Collaborate with our talented team to discover what’s possible with your home, figure out the details, and watch it come together from concept to completion. Contact us to discuss your project so you love where you live.



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