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"A Typical Day" by Daniel Ian Smith

This entry has been written by our lead interior designer and Village West Design principal Daniel Ian Smith.

People often ask me what a typical workday is, and the answer is that there is no “typical” day—something I love about my job. Here is a snapshot of one workday in late June:

  • First morning activity is communication. Must get ready for site visit, so deal only with urgent emails, forward a few to my assistant for follow-up, and leave the rest for this afternoon.

  • Finish revising drawings for “Cobalt Project” which is kitchen/bath remodel currently in construction uptown. Redesign and redline cabinetry elevations, demo notes, and finish schedule for our draftsperson. Door schedule incomplete but must reassess in the field.

  • Print full drawing set for contractor to keep on site and print a couple additional sheets to redmark with revisions during meeting with contractor and based on findings at site.

Above: excerpt from construction documents for Village West Design’s “Cobalt project”.

  • Bring tape measure, architect’s scale, list of products that should have been delivered to site, project notes, red pen….head uptown with intern to arrive on time. Oh, we also bring a large canvas bag (I usually try to grab our logo-branded one!) with all of this project's kitchen cabinetry pulls that were stored in Village West Design office. We often have items delivered directly to us so that we can inspect them and ensure all is correct. Other times––and certainly for all orders of larger furniture, plumbing fixtures, etc.––we entrust this to our receiver to help us coordinate.

  • Spend nearly two hours (recorded in my timesheet phone app as "1.8 hours") at job site: meet separately with contractor, carpenter, plumber. Take progress photos, confirm dimensions for interior design furnishings (to follow completion of architectural work), compare product specs with what’s on site (a ton of boxes) and note outstanding deliveries—and wrong thermostatic control for shower. Ask intern who has accompanied me to make a note to email vendor later; she takes more progress photos to upload later. We clean filters on client’s a/c so motor doesn’t get overworked with all dust/debris in the air. (Must go next door to use sink to wash up because water shut down on site for his morning’s plumbing work; thankfully this client owns back-to-back units; this also speeds up our construction schedule.) Take more photos to share with client.

“Cobalt project” site photo showing copper branch plumbing and PermaBase cement board in Master Bath.

  • Check in with super to make sure work crew is respecting building rules and being considerate of neighbors. Extremely nice super, which is always great.

  • Thank doorman for patience during construction (this building does not have separate service entrance), and ensure he is happy. (Every project benefits from happy building staff!)

  • Head back to Village West Design office on subway to avoid traffic, but stop in to pick up forms at another co-op management office en route.

  • Respond to emails, voicemail messages over lunch; check in with assistant re: anything that I missed while on site. Intern leaves for her class, but first I ask her some questions about what she's learned from the site visit. I tell her she's doing a good job (she is!). One day she'll be doing the site reporting herself; they grow up so fast....

  • Schedule breakfast meeting with one of our ongoing clients for later this week

  • Follow up on several items from this morning’s “Cobalt Project” site meeting via email and phone—including plumbing vendor re: wrong valve; confirm no charge to homeowner. Then, quick email to reassure client that we are on schedule––and on budget––and that I'll email more by EOD.

  • Synchronize glass mosaic and porcelain tile deliveries to job site, since pattern incorporates both materials, and crew laying tile must have both together to implement custom floor pattern. (Yes, there is cobalt blue glass—from recycled vodka bottles!)

  • Assistant and I select grout color for bathroom floor; email specs to GC.

  • Confirm NYC Bldg Code stipulation for component of electrical work and ensure electrician is following through.

  • Leave message for wood floor refinisher re: additional work for him on another project. Bookkeeper will collect deposit from client and make arrangements to pay vendor to lock in date; assistant will coordinate schedule with vendor and client later this week. I love that she (my assistant) has access to the whole calendar app; why did I not arrange this years ago???

  • A third ongoing client calls from local showroom to ask about materials for their upcoming renovation later this summer. Make recommendations about tile size and proportions. Make note of email from same client requesting specs for lavatory. Must follow up on this tomorrow.

  • Speak to photographer about scheduling photo shoot next month. Need to document living room reupholstery project from earlier this year—all the furniture came out beautifully (the antique sofa dates from the 1830s!) Another calendar task I can delegate (yay!).

  • Briefly touch base with another past client and note that the garden space we assessed and made recommendations for is growing in/maturing nicely. I kind of wish I were outside gardening right now, but this is an atypically long day. Eat a Clif Bar instead.

  • Prepare for afternoon consultation. Review my phone notes and meeting location. Leave office.

  • Conduct in-home consultation for couple considering installation of washer/dryer, as well as increasing kitchen storage, swapping plumbing fixtures and possibly enlarging bathroom. Outline design options, opportunities for improvement/organization and explain co-op rules and construction practices. Make notes for follow-up report, including brief cost estimate. I couldn't take our intern, so I recorded the whole session on my phone and will hand over for transcription (so thankful I don't have to do this; will definitely convey appreciation for whomever I task with this).

  • Back to office and return to “Cobalt Project”: redesign entry and email list of updates to assistant doing our 3D modeling in-house, and she turns the work around immediately and emails back a clear, perfectly revised mock-up.

  • Before leaving desk (it’s now late and I’m fading fast), I forward updated 3D image to client along with detailed explanation of next steps, financial status report, and site report from earlier today as promised. I know this client well enough to know they'll be thrilled with the extra storage capacity in our proposed design.

  • Productive day, but time to stop. I’ll pick up where I left off in the morning, because it's only Wednesday (so it's a good thing I like my job!).

Still image from rendered 3D model of “Cobalt project”.


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