You’d think Scott Rajavuori would be tired of renovations by now. After all, construction has been part of his life since birth. His dad was involved in all parts of the construction process, so perhaps it’s in his blood.
Rajavuori studied construction management in college and worked behind the scenes for years. Now, as design manager for Titus Contracting, he works directly with clients. For him, the bond he builds with his clients is what makes his job so special. He feels most fulfilled when a client is showing off his work.
We recently got the chance to chat with Rajavuori about all things design. Here’s what you need to know.
How has design changed over time?
It was pretty much cookie-cutter work in the late ’80s and early ’90s when I got involved in design. People were doing simple trim and wood. Cabinets were very simple; countertops were mainly laminate (Corian was a big upgrade). The products were not available then that are available today, partly because of the internet.
People have definitely gotten more creative over the years. There are bigger trims, tropical woods being used, and more door styles than what you used to see in the 1900s. Cabinet hardware has improved and so has countertops—the options seem endless sometimes. It’s really evolved from what I first saw.
What details can make a kitchen stand out?
Details within the range hood can really become a focal point of the kitchen. We’re working on a copper hood now. Using a furniture-like piece or something unique with how the metal is used. Tile design under the hood really makes the area pop—it’s always the piece people talk about when it’s finished.
More and more we are doing cabinets that don’t just look like cabinets—they look like furniture. They have turned legs, furniture trim, corbels, things that are built into the cabinets.
Ways to add value:
Kitchens add the most value. When the market hit its bad period around 2008-2010, we were remodeling bathrooms and kitchens just so people could sell their houses.
Good lighting is important, so the space doesn’t feel dark. Being able to control lights is important too. Under-cabinet lighting, a light inside glass-front cabinets, and other feature lighting makes a big impact.
What design features are you seeing for the future?
I think the open feel has gone past just the open floor plan. It’s to the point where it’s open cabinets, open shelving, and floating shelves. It can’t be very cluttered. It’s simpler with cleaner lines. Colors are becoming brighter. I often wonder if the bright colors are going to work and am always surprised at the end when they do. Even appliances are changing and adding colors and options.
There are also more lights that are unique and specific to the design style. Lighting has become such an important component of the overall project, including how that light works and how it makes you feel.
How does residential differ from commercial design?
Residential is a much more emotional design. There’s a lot more feeling. People’s dreams, these things they’ve been thinking about for a long time, are involved. They want to get as much into it as possible.
Usually in commercial design, it’s about looks and efficiency. It’s about designing a space that’ll keep your team members on staff and make them feel good about their job. It’s about working within a budget. It’s business. Commercial work is a lot simpler because it’s a transaction, whereas residential is about a relationship. There’s a relationship in both, but commercial is a business relationship.
Is there anything else readers should know?
When I talk to clients, I turn away work at times because I want to feel like I’m the right fit for the clients. When I talk to new clients, part of it is about price, part of it’s about quality, and part of it is about background. But past that, it’s really about who you are comfortable with. This person is going to be in your home for about two months. You don’t want to get involved with someone based on price or because they have this great name. Let your gut guide you.
I tell clients, “If you don’t feel like I’m the right guy for you, it doesn’t matter if the price or design is right. If you’re not comfortable, find someone you are comfortable with.”
The experience should be fun. There’s going to be stress and problems, but it’s how you handle the problems.