Tim Dumatrait was raised on design. “My father is a carpenter and a furniture maker, so I grew up making things,” he says.
That passion for good design pushed him to train as an architect, and after working on residential and commercial projects, he moved into consultancy, using his experience and affinity for design technology to advise on building projects and renovations. He’s now head of construction technology at WeWork, where his primary goal is to help the company’s architects, interior designers, and construction managers use technology as they build, renovate, and redesign WeWork spaces around the world.
As WeWork expands into new markets (and multiplies within existing ones), part of Dumatrait’s job is understanding how one project might differ from the next. “Consider, for instance, the Japanese culture around building and craft,” he says, as opposed to markets like California, where the focus is on “enthusiasm about technology and using software and tools for delivery.”
Dumatrait—who’s adept at keeping stakeholders invested in and excited about building and renovation projects—frames design as “a creative act that is best collaborative.” That means coming to the table ready and willing to be a good client often results in the best work. Dumatrait offers pointers on how you can be ready for your next project, big or small.
Know your style. “Put together Pinterest boards of just designs you love, and don’t limit it to just picking examples of architecture or interiors,” Dumatrait says, noting that even pinning fabric or pieces of furniture that speak to you can give your designer a sense of your overall aesthetic.
Play with design technology. More than ever, Dumatrait says, furniture retailers are encouraging consumers to use tools that architects and interior designers have been working with for years. Take advantage of websites and in-store tech that allow you to see how a sofa might look in your own living room, or how paint colors might appear on your walls. Learning to speak the language of design can be helpful. “When you’re dealing with a design professional that is a very experienced spatial thinker,” says Dumatrait, using the kinds of tools they use “brings you five steps in their direction.”
Plan, plan, and plan some more: “In a perfect world,” Dumatrait says, “you’re actually spending more time doing the planning than you are actually doing the construction.” Waiting to confirm final prices of labor and materials until after construction has begun is a common mistake—one Dumatrait calls “a recipe for surprises—unhappy ones.” These things are rarely if ever less expensive than you imagined.
Be open to new ideas. That’s what you’re paying for, after all. Dumatrait uses the New York real estate market as an example. “Maybe you’ve made up your mind that because you want your living room and your bedroom to be separate, your ideal configuration is a one-bedroom apartment,” he says. But a good designer can come up with solutions that might surprise—and delight. Suddenly “a studio, through carefully thought-out furniture configuration, actually becomes a more attractive option. And that comes from engaging with a designer and being open-minded.”
New ideas are the key to business growth. The mindset and strategies to generate them can be learned.