A Day in the Life of a Designer at MAC Renovations
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a designer or project manager for one of Victoria’s leading renovation teams? We’ve connected with a few of the professionals at MAC Renovations to find out what a typical day is like for them – it’s a tad more complex than what you see in the one-episode renovations on HGTV.
We are a full-service remodelling team, serving Greater Victoria and Southern Vancouver Island since 1980, and in that time we’ve continued to grow by bringing in talented professionals, including carpenters, designers, and project managers, to help us through every phase of the design-build process. We recently met with a few of the professionals on the MAC Renovations design team to tell us more about what they do for our homeowners throughout Greater Victoria.
A typical, un-typical day
“For me, there’s no such thing as a typical day,” explained Alexis Solomon, Interior Design Professional at MAC Renovations. “Every day is different as we’re working on multiple projects for several people with different deadlines in various phases, all happening at the same time. I might spend a day at my desk, working on drawings, drafting, or spec documents while answering emails and calls, and the next day I might be on the road, doing site visits, meeting with clients, and picking up samples.”
For Azucena Saavedra, Interior Designer/Project Manager at MAC Renovations, her day is generally action-packed. “I’ll usually start with a tea, then dive into emails, make calls to the trades or clients, meet with suppliers or tradespeople to go over a project, or I might just start drafting. I try to plan my week around the availability of our clients, depending on where we are in the process.”
Srdjo Djurkovic, Project Manager at MAC Renovations, explains that home renovation isn’t quite what you see on a renovation show, “Renovations are pretty variable; they can be smooth sailing and they can be …dynamic. I joke that 80% of my day is scheduled tasks, 20% is firefighting, and 20% is family. You have to be able to switch gears quickly and prioritize effectively to keep things on track for the team and the customer, gauging each scenario to react accordingly, because the issue that screams the loudest isn’t necessarily the most important.”
Attention to detail, organization, and communication are necessary proficiencies for designers and projects managers completing a home renovation in Victoria. “I have a project checklist filled with things I’m waiting to hear back on and to-dos that need to be completed,” explained Alexis. “Documentation is critical, so I work on the project scope statement to outline every last detail – what needs to be done to execute the project to the level we’re looking for – and then I share it with the project manager. I review the quotes we get back from our vendors with a fine-toothed comb to ensure we catch any errors that would impact the project. I caught one yesterday where the supplier had quoted the wrong code, which would have been the wrong colour. It was off by one letter, but this would have set the project back weeks while we waited for the correct unit to arrive.”
“Drafting is a big part of what we do,” said Azu. “Some designers might do a quick floor plan by hand, then give that to the cabinetry folks to complete the design, but I prefer to do that myself. I use different programs – Vectorworks in school, and Chief Architect here at MAC, so I can switch between the two as needed. I do a lot of 3-D design to give people a great idea of what their design will look like, and Chief Architect is great for that.”
“Continuous learning is important,” said Srdjo. “For me, the best way to learn is to do – getting more experience through different jobs and working with different personality types. We people-manage as much as manage projects, so it’s important to be a good communicator and have the ability to learn as you go. Learning from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them is how we grow and get better.”
Designer vs. decorator
“Sometimes people get mixed up about what an interior designer does differently from an interior decorator,” said Alexis. “There’s crossover between the two functions, but the main difference is education – as a designer, we go to school to learn how to understand building codes, how to communicate proficiently with the trades, and the principals of design and how they relate to human spaces and ergonomics. Much of what we do has a technical foundation: the documentation, the drawings, and the drafting.”
The design world is constantly evolving, with new looks, new materials, and new building practices introduced frequently. “I’m always sticking my nose into other people’s Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards, seeing what’s being done and where the trends are heading,” shared Alexis. “I read designer blogs, magazines, and industry literature to stay informed, and I talk to other designers to find out what products they’re using and which supplier to use for different applications. There’s a sense of community emerging from the design community, with more willingness to share and educate each other.”
Tradeshows are a great way to quickly see what the future looks like for design practices and inspiration. “Alexis and I recently went to KBIS in Vegas to learn about kitchen and bath trends,” said Azu. “They had over 600 of the best kitchen and bath manufacturers and suppliers in the world, sharing their innovative ideas for us to design into our upcoming projects. We also go to the Interior Design Show in Vancouver and DesignEx, here in Victoria.”
Working as a team
“Designers work directly with the construction crews, discussing what we want the project to look like with the carpenters so they can make it happen,” said Azu. “We sometimes have crazy ideas, but working together can make it happen. Our goal isn’t to make something ‘pretty’ – we want something that looks and works great, so we have to figure out how to make that happen, and who is going to do it.”
“There are lots of moving parts involved with a renovation,” said Srdjo. “Renovations are exciting, but they can be disruptive – especially if you’re living through the process – so we work to keep it as efficient as possible. We set a schedule at the start of a project, but there are factors that we can’t consider until we get into the renovation, and these can impact the project’s scope – for budget or time.”
“One of the best parts about being a designer is I get to see all of the hard work come to fruition,” said Alexis. “The construction and finishing crews usually only get to see the parts they’re working on, but I actually get to see everything, through all of the stages. Each project is my baby, and I have my finger on everything. The control freak in me loves that, but it’s also a great learning experience. I get to walk through with the homeowner to review the final project, seeing what went well and taking away learnings to design into future projects.”
Our focus at MAC Renovations is on continuous improvement, oiling the machine to be as efficient and effective as possible for homeowners in Greater Victoria and Southern Vancouver Island. If you’d like to learn more about working with a professional team for your next home renovation, whether it’s updating a powder room or adding a new story to your home, we have the team, time, and experience you need to get the look you want.