Recent Stories

June 5, 2017

3 keys to successful luxury estate projects

Sebastian team members have been on a speaking tour recently, presenting our 40 Misconceptions in the Planning of High End Residences to audiences of architects, designers and subconsultants.

The presentation breaks down 40 of the most common misconceptions in the luxury residential building industry. Sebastian’s been in the business of building luxury homes for nearly 70 years. During that time, John Sebastian and his team of professionals have honed the process of building premier estates. Along the way, they’ve noticed some assumptions and common practices that slow projects and negatively impact the results.

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the misconceptions, how it impacts the construction process and what to do instead.

Client/Owner Relations


“You just can’t manage the client. They are simply going to do what they are going to do.”

Our 70 years experience begs to differ. Clients actually want and need firm direction from their architect. The best architects are not just design geniuses, they also know how to develop trust with the client.

In 2015, the Royal Institute of British Architects published a report, “Client and Architect, developing the essential relationship.” Based on the findings of a two-year analysis of the relationship between clients and their architects, the report contains insights gleaned from interviews with 500 clients.

A couple of the key findings:

“Good communication skills breed trust, reduce perceived risk and boost repeat business.”

“Good communication involves keeping the client ahead of the game.”

We definitely agree. From our decades of experience, here are three practices that make projects successful:

1. Keep the client focused on what is critical, not what is fun.

Gazing at renderings and discussing innovative design touches feeds your creative drive and excites the client, but certain decisions are critical path items.

No decision, no progress.

A client wants and needs firm direction from their architect.  They expect the architect to “keep the wheels on the track”.

2.  Tell the truth and bring up issues, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Be honest in setting expectations, saying “no” when necessary and pushing for decisions. While it may feel awkward at first, the client will appreciate directness and straight talk.

3. Practice good meetings and project management with the client, too. 

A  clear agenda with high priority/scheduling-sensitive items should guide every meeting, whether it’s with contractors, subs or the client. While it can be tempting to spend client meetings brainstorming fun design details, it’s important to review the decisions made, and determine action items and responsible persons.

At Sebastian, we use a very structured meeting agenda and process, called Level 10 meetings. The meeting process is part of a larger management system we use called Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

Using the structured process keeps the meetings short and productive and the project running smoothly. Project team members spend most of their time discussing potential issues and resolving them.