Hiring a designer in the Bay Area in the middle of the pandemic

Not possible.

Noor Ali-Hasan
Apr 27 · 3 min read
Photo by Balázs Kétyi on Unsplash

One thing I’ve learned in the midst of trying to renovate a house in the middle of the pandemic in the Bay Area — all service providers in the construction/home renovation space are very very busy. With so many people spending more time at home, a lot of people are taking advantage of the time to renovate their homes.

While I have a vision for what I want in my house, I don’t know enough to execute that vision. Shortly after my offer was accepted, I attempted to hire a designer to help me with designing the renovations. Here’s how that went:

  • Designer 1: I had learned of a designer who’s kind of Instagram-famous a few months back. I liked her aesthetic and reached out to check her availability. At the time (back in February), she was very responsive and very nice. She worked with various budgets, different types of homes, and had availability. After my offer was accepted, I reached out again with more details. Again, she was very prompt and enthusiastic about my project. We decided we’d meet for an initial consultation after closing so I suggested a few dates and awaited her reply. A week went by — radio silence! That seemed a bit unusual given how responsive she had been up to that point. But I figured with the pandemic, everyone’s life is extra hectic so perhaps something came up. I followed up again to set up the meeting. This time her response was curt — she no longer had bandwidth to take on my project. I found this whole exchange pretty frustrating. She could have saved me a week of waiting and let me know right away when she couldn’t take on the project so I could reach out to other designers. Instead she just left me hanging.
  • Designer 2: After designer 1’s rejection, I reached out to another designer whose work I had followed on Instagram. She too had a similar mid-century aesthetic, though it was a bit more dramatic/serious/formal. I completed the online form on her website, which promised a response within 48 hours. It’s been about a month and I’ve yet to get a response back.
  • Designer 3: I then reached out to Pam at Urbanism Designs. I’m calling Pam out because she was prompt, nice, and professional! Pam responded right away. She thanked me for my interest and for liking her work, congratulated me on my new home, and apologized because she was fully committed. Thank you Pam!

I recognize that everyone in this industry in the Bay Area (and across the country) is very busy right now. But there’s a way to handle these requests when you’re overbooked that doesn’t burn bridges. There will be a time when people start traveling again, spending less time at home, and likely spending less on home renovations. I personally have visions of expanding the house in a few years. And when that time comes, I already know which designers I won’t be contacting and which one I will! It seems shortsighted to ignore or be disrespectful to clients with smaller budgets just because business is booming right now.

I did a bit more searching online but didn’t really see anyone who’s work I liked enough to reach out. And while disappointing, I’m glad things didn’t work out with designer 1 and designer 2. Any professional who’s that unresponsive and disrespectful while trying to get my business is unlikely to be responsive or professional once I’m a client.

I’m now doing the design work myself. While it is fun and something I enjoy, there are certainly times when I wish I had a designer’s expertise. But I’m figuring it out and hoping I don’t mess up too much along the way!

Noor Ali-Hasan

Written by

I’m a UX research lead at Google, where I help teams design and build desirable and easy to use products. Outside of work, I love art, Peloton, and Lego.

Little Pink Taqueria

Renovating a 1949 bungalow in the Palm Haven neighborhood of San Jose, CA.

Noor Ali-Hasan

Written by

I’m a UX research lead at Google, where I help teams design and build desirable and easy to use products. Outside of work, I love art, Peloton, and Lego.

Little Pink Taqueria

Renovating a 1949 bungalow in the Palm Haven neighborhood of San Jose, CA.

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