Ask Vicente: Setting the Budget

Name: Kathy
City: Cameron Park
State: CA
Country: USA


Just started following your blog. I am curious to know how many collaborative hours it takes to pull a project together for presentation. Therefore, how do you get a deposit or retainer from your client up front before knowing the total cost of said project?

Vicente Responds:

Kathy, You don’t ascertain the budget, the client tells you the budget. You don’t design the project until you have the contract, which stipulates the budget. In this office, it can take off and on from two weeks to a month and a half, depending on the scale and how many items need to be estimated. I try to do each segment of the process in concentrated time, whether it’s to do construction, then furniture, then fabrics – with each of them, I sit and work on it, pull back, take some time to work on something else and then I go back to the next one. I do one segment at a time, take a couple of days, then I go back to do furniture design, take time, then I do fabrics and colors. Each time I go back I revisit and look at what i’ve done up to that point with fresh eyes. It’s like cooking – you cook, then you taste, you add a little more, cook some more, taste a little more, etc. The estimating – getting all the prices together – is something that needs a good amount of time as estimate sheets need to be written out and come back from suppliers. None of this happens until we have a signed contract and retainer and we’ve gone through a questionnaire with the client to find out likes and dislikes so I know what my perimeters are.

Ask Vicente: Slipcovers

From: Katherine Fortier Interiors
City: Boston, MA

Dear Vicente,

I have just finished the renovation of my parents’ beach house in Maine–my first major project to be completed since going out on my own after leaving the high-end residential design firm where I began my career four years ago–and now I’m tying up the second phase of this project: the interior decoration.  (I gave my presentation on Sunday, and we’re hoping to have an order placed by the end of the month.)

For the upholstery, I selected light-colored linen and cotton fabrics from Rogers & Goffigon in the hues of the landscape–watery blues, seagrass greens, and sandy taupes and creams.

My client/parents were thrilled with the design, but are concerned that the light-colored fabrics will be quickly ruined by wet, sandy dogs and people who flop down on the furniture right after a romp on the beach. I will have the upholstery stain-treated by a company who will come to remove any pesky stains whenever necessary and without an additional charge, but my clientparents envision their having to make weekly housecalls, which they consider a hassle and, thus, not a solution in and of itself.  I’ve been experimenting with using indoor/outdoor fabrics from Janus et Cie in place of the lightest-colored Rogers & Goffigon linens and cottons, but I feel like I’m sacrificing the nuances of color and texture . . .

So we’re thinking that slipcovering the all the upholstered furniture in a white fabric could be the ideal solution.  I actually have no experience slipcovering furniture, but I noticed that you slipcovered all the upholstered pieces in your Montauk house.  Would you mind telling me what fabric you used?  Do you wash your slipcovers at home, or do they require special laundering?  I have excellent workrooms that I use for custom upholstered pieces, drapery treatments and pillows, from whom I presume I could order the slipcovers–if not directly from O. Henry House, where I’ll be getting most of the upholstered pieces–so finding a trusted and experienced fabricator isn’t an issue . . . Do you recommend using a separate workroom for slipcovers or ordering them from the furniture company?  Are there any additional tips/instructions that I should know about when writing out the specifications for the slipcover order?

(Other upholstered pieces with rattan or woven wicker frames–like the WS-10 Umbria Lounge Chair and the A-56 Toscana Lounge Chair from McGuire–will require a different solution–any further advice on those?)

I really appreciate your taking the time out of your very-full schedule to read my email, and hopefully select it as one that you’ll answer on your blog–which, by the way, is such an inspiration.  I think I speak for all your loyal followers and fans when I thank you for your generosity of time, expertise, and spirit.


PS: I’ve attached a photo of the house:  taken from the kitchen, looking out onto the dining room, living room and screen porch.  (All the existing furniture will be replaced.)

Vicente Responds:

I upholstered all the furniture in my Montauk house in a dark taupe color about eighteen years ago and then had slipcovers made for pretty much all the sofas and chairs. The thinking was that the dark taupe would be great for winters and the white ones for summer. After all that planning, I’ve never taken the covers off to expose the darker look. The white covers look great in winter and summer time. I also had stretch covers made for metal chairs – which you could consider for the wicker. (Or why not paint the wicker frames white?) Here’s a tip: make sure all the fabric is pre-shrunk before you have them sewn. We wash all the covers about twice a summer at home in the washing machine and then just put them back on when they’re almost dry.

Ask Vicente: Finding a Daybed

Name: Paige Koch
City: San Francisco
State: CA
Country: USA


Dear Vincente,

In “simplicity” there is incredible sophistication and ease. Your photography and interiors are this. I have immense respect for your work and your artistry because it is so hard to capture these qualities! My design business is in both San Francisco and in Paris. In DEEP search of a Louis XV style cane daybed, would you be kind enough to share with me something about the one shown in “Style and Substance, The Best of ELLE DECOR”? This room is an oasis of calm.

With Kind Regards,
Paige Koch

Vicente Responds:
Paige, that room is one of my favorite spaces amongst all the rooms I’ve ever done. It was inspired by surrealist styles. Unfortunately the bed belonged to the client. It was reproduction which I had painted white and set in the canopy. So I really can’t help, but I suggest you try 1stdibs. They always have things there that fit that kind of feel. Good luck – let me know what you find.

Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.Vicente Wolf Associates, Inc.