Big Design Projects Coming? Start Planning Now

Beautiful fireplace room in classic style

While visions of sugar plums may be dancing through your head this time of year, if you’re sitting on the board of your condominium or co-op it may be time to think about projects a bit further down the road; specifically, projects that are better done while the AC is running.

Thinking Ahead

Like clothing retailers putting winter clothing out on the floor the day after Labor Day, co-op and condo boards and managers have to think a season or two in advance. In the case of design projects, there are two major reasons for this: seasonal fluctuations in building occupancy, and weather.

Marilyn Sygrove is principal of Sygrove Associates Design Group, an interior design firm located in Manhattan that works with client communities in both New York and New Jersey. According to her, “The scope of work for any public space is best done when there are fewer people around. That’s why the warmer months, especially the heart of summer in July and August, are the best time for extensive projects. For instance, consider a lobby floor replacement. There’s much less foot traffic in summer, when many are away at second homes, vacation, and summer camp. Replacing entry and vestibule doors is also best done in warmer weather so as not to tax the heating system and the door staff’s comfort. As to strict concerns around weather, certain types of work, like façade replacement, must be done when temperatures are above freezing, and it’s also preferable to have fewer people around.”


The first step in developing your plan for design projects is to vet and hire a design team. For the kind of warm-weather projects mentioned above, this process should start now. 

Where to begin? According to Sygrove, “Ask your property management company for recommendations. They will know who has performed without incident. No management company wants interior design headaches. Also, ask for referrals from people in other buildings that have gone through the process. Would they recommend their designer, or run from them? 

“Next,” Sygrove continues, “check out websites - they are a great source for determining if a designer under consideration is talented and capable of doing the project. Is their aesthetic in line with the building?”

Whether you’re considering a slate of potential pros referred by your managing agent, or you’re self-managed and doing it on your own, “I would suggest looking at five or six potential design experts,” says Sygrove. “Then narrow it down to the top two. If you’re on track and neither works out, you still have time to look at the third or fourth or even fifth pick

“Next,” suggests Sygrove, “conduct personal interviews. This IS a beauty contest, all things being equal. Who does the board feel they have the most confidence in and who will they enjoy working with?”

Once you’ve got a team in place, it’s time to really get the ball rolling. The design team will submit proposals for the project in question, and the board will choose one - possibly with input from residents. Once the proposal is finalized and accepted, it’s time to go to bid. If you’ve got your ducks in a row, by this point in the timeline, it’s likely February or March. Sygrove notes that procurement for a summer project should begin no later than early April, adding that while she hasn’t seen many delays due to current supply chain issues per se, it's always good to leave adequate time for contractors to order and receive the parts and materials needed to get the job done properly and on time.   

Board Supervision

Should a board be super-involved with the project past this point? “No!” Sygrove says emphatically, adding that the board should have confidence in the team they hire. Larger, more complex projects may need a larger team of professionals, including an interior designer, lighting designer, code consultant, engineer, or architect who can file the project. But once you’ve settled on a team, she advises letting the team do their job while management oversees it. 

So while you’re sipping on that eggnog, give a thought to what needs to be done when the frost is off the windows.

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