May 30, 2011

The Sweeten: The Perfect Source for Hiring a Contractor, Architect or Decorator

Jean Lauer of The Sweeten
There's no denying the stress that comes with the hunt for a contractor, interior decorator or achitect. The Sweeten aims to make the search easier by giving people the chance to post photos showcasing the work of those they have hired for their own home projects. I had the chance to catch up with Jean Lauer, an architect and CEO and founder of The Sweeten, for some quick tips on hiring the perfect professional for your home project.

Decor Musings: How did you come to launch The Sweeten?
Jean Lauer: I was an architect, working in the high-end residential area for a number of years. I worked on interiors in Manhattan and the Hamptons, and also did some retail architecture. When I started working at Coach, I lucked into a whole new career developing websites to help manage construction in all of their 1,800 stores around the world. Management really liked my work and I was good at it.

At the same time, I was renovating my house in Brooklyn and having all this trouble. I was trying to figure out why there weren't any Web tools to help me facilitate the construction process. I finally took the learning from my four years of handling Web development at Coach and applied that thinking to start The Sweeten. I've personally used The Sweeten to hire a number of contractors to finish renovating my house.

DM: Where does the name The Sweeten come from?
JL: It's a take on the "home sweet home" saying. The idea is that if your home isn’t sweet enough, the website can help you sweeten it.

DM: What's one factor people should consider when looking to hire a contractor, interior designer or architect?
JL: A lot of times, people let price dictate their decision-making too heavily. They choose an architect, interior designer or contractor who might be cheap, but ultimately pay the price in the end for all the delays and other conflicts. Price is key, but it's also important to find someone who is similar to the way you work. You should have checked this person's references and professional licenses to make sure he or she meets all the criteria for your job from a technical standpoint, but it also needs to be a person you feel comfortable working with.

Before and after shots of Jean's Brooklyn apartment.

DM: What's the best way to explain the job at hand to the person you've hired?
JL: A picture is worth a thousand words. If you have a few tearsheets or pulled a few images from the Internet that you love and clearly articulate what you love about those spaces, that will really help. Explain why you love the archways, the cabinetry. Be really specific about the things you like in the photos.

DM: How can people ensure the project is completed to their satisfaction?
JL: Communication is key. Make sure to establish the modes and frequency of communication with whomever you hire before the project starts. Decide if you would like to get status reports weekly or daily, and determine anything else you require personally to make you feel at ease throughout the process.