When you lived alone, designing your space was easy. You went to the paint store, selected your favorite colors, came home and did the deed. But then you got married, and decorating got a little trickier. Every design decision had to get approved by another person—and sometimes opinions differed. Then perhaps you had children who sometimes acted like a mini-design committee unto themselves, and decided that pink and purple should be the colors of the playroom instead of your dreamy grey. This is where the real drama started, and unless you had great communication and a few rules, nothing would get done and no one would be happy with the final product.
The same thing happens—though on a larger scale—within a co-op or a condo community. When the boiler in a building needs to be replaced, it’s a fairly straightforward operation. Ditto a façade repair project or a plumbing issue. There’s a cut-and-dry problem, and the solution is usually just as clear. There aren’t any aesthetic decisions to be made, and it’s the manager and the building engineer/superintendent, and maybe a contractor, calling the shots.
But when design and decorating decisions are being made in a co-op or condo building by a committee of people—each with different tastes and preferences, and widely varying levels of design expertise—it's a very different matter. Feelings come up (and get hurt), personal aesthetics get challenged, and tension can run high. Still, there are ways that the process of designing by committee can work—and ways that boards, managers and the design committee members can improve the quality of their interactions and help the whole process go more smoothly.
The Same...But Different
Ann Marie Del Monico, an interior designer and the owner of AM Interiors, and vice president of the board of her building in the Streeterville neighborhood in Chicago, was selected as one of two people to serve on the design committee when her condo building was planning on doing a massive hallway renovation project.
A design committee is similar to other committees within a co-op or a condo board in that it’s a small sub-group formed to tackle a specific project. The committee could be as small as two people or it could be larger if more people want to join—it really depends on the building (of course, if a building is truly tiny, with just four or five units, it wouldn’t make sense to have everyone serve on the design committee—or else there would be no point in creating the committee in the first place).