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Supply Chain Shortages Force Local Design Pros to Get Creative

From shipping delays and port congestion to low staffing and high demand—supply chain shortages have placed more than a little stress on the design industry. We asked local experts to share their challenges, solutions and prognoses for the future.

Julia Buckingham

Founder and principal, Julia Buckingham Interiors
“Interestingly, foam shortages created a serious lag in our custom furniture from multiple American manufacturers. We were quoted at five months, and eight months later, we are still waiting. There were communication challenges with several of our favorite vendors, which was disappointing because our primary responsibility is to keep our clients abreast of these delays. I have found recently that if we commit to a piece, we do so with a timeline and order the longest-lead-time pieces first. Another great option has been (and always will be for me) the use of vintage and antique pieces that are available upon purchase. Stay focused on the endgame and, if you can, start the process with a painting, wallcovering or a piece of the design puzzle to keep spirits high and colorful during the waiting process.”

Scott Burdick

Interior designer and managing partner, Wiseman & Gale Interiors
“We’ve all had to adjust to the longer lead times for some types of product—particularly custom upholstery. In ‘normal’ times, we installed our projects all at once, with a big unveiling of a beautiful, newly completed home or room at the end. That’s hard to do right now because so much product is delayed. Instead, we are forced to install in pieces. It requires a lot more work, and the impact isn’t as exciting. To manage the logistics, we have been communicating much more frequently with our many suppliers. They have been amazing, and I’m confident they are doing everything they can to get back to a normal workflow. And, most importantly—we are so grateful our clients have been extremely patient and understanding.”

Jessica Hutchinson-Rough, AIA, LEED AP

Owner and principal architect, Urban Design Associates Ltd.
“On the architectural side, our clients are eager to build dream homes, but lot availability is slim and construction costs have huge variables. We have employed a network of insider real estate agents to find pocket listings for our quick-moving clients, which has been essential to getting projects off the ground. Because of serious labor crunches in the Valley, we have hired out-of-state designers and drafters, provided extensive training, and offered work-from-home options along with our generous benefit packages to attract and retain key personnel. We also have a skilled pool of general contractors that has been able to soften the blow of cost instability with intensive planning, preordering materials and creative job-site staging, which have kept projects moving as the market fluctuates. Our clients have felt the supply chain and labor pinches, but the key to our success is flexibility, loyalty and a bit of creativity on all fronts of the project. If permits are delayed, we go for intermediate approvals. If materials are back- ordered, we reselect. When things get critical, we pull together as a team and create solutions. It’s been a fantastic ride.”

Rich Brock

Owner and President, Bedbrock Developers
“The most prominent delay has been appliances that are essential for our clients to move in. One example is an oven ordered in April of this year, which has a delivery estimate of April 2022. To cope, we are submitting orders months earlier than what has been necessary previously. As for personnel shortages, we are hopeful that people will return to work and manage to stay healthy while we battle this pandemic. The dependence on one manufacturer’s parts to complete another manufacturer’s products is a chain that has been disrupted, and we are prepared for the time it will take to rebuild that. Patience and acceptance are what will provide the greatest peace of mind at this point.”

Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery

Landscape designer and founder of Boxhill Modern Outdoor Furniture
“A lot of what we are seeing is with tile and pavers—particularly handmade tile. We have pivoted by making substitutions or pushing back pieces of the project until we have the material to install. We don’t believe in hiding the truth from our customers. Honesty is always the best policy because some of these lead times are moving targets and will change again and again. My advice is to breathe and understand that it is not life or death—it’s just a landscape. Focus on what you can make happen, and be thankful for the abundance and ability to remodel.”

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