Total Living Concepts: Comprehensive Simcoe County design and renovation service builds reputation for excellence

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Glen Prairie’s Total Living Concepts (TLC) encompasses a comprehensive perspective. He has built a thriving renovation business in the Barrie/Simcoe County area by combining design, planning and thoughtful follow-through service.

He started his business 25 years ago as a modest home-based operation; determining that clients value a carefully planned approach to renovation projects, considering the entire picture from initial concept to final furnishing and landscaping details. Accordingly, his business employs a certified kitchen designer as well as interior designers who take the time to really understand clients’ perspectives, recommending projects that both meet their budgets and lifestyles.

“We rely heavily on space planning and good design practices, and I’m a firm believer that our business needs people with these skills to be able to help you to plan your living space,” he said. “We try to do everything to make sure that all of our clients are getting full attention – helping out by picking colours and details, so that it all goes together.” he says.

In other words, clients aren’t left alone in showrooms to pick their finishes and furnishings – TLC staff will suggest choices to respect their needs and values. This personalized service combines with systematized management resources to ensure effective scheduling and budgeting. Projects are managed with online tools. Employees, subcontractors and clients can view important details through their own portal access.

In addition to staff designers, TLC employs six carpenters and other specialists, who minimize the renovation process discomfort and inconvenience; they respect they are working in clients’ homes and make sure work areas are secured, tidied and maintained each day to reduce stress. As well, Prairie says his subtrades have a long history with the
company; they know it is vital to respect that families live in the homes where they are working.

The result: Clients return for more once their initial project has been completed, and refer friends and family. And these follow-through projects are in sync – the combination of online records and the fact that TLC’s employees stay with the company and clients means that the follow-up projects will match the original intent.

Prairie says in addition to the sizeable number of repeat clients, about 60 per cent of TLC’s business arises from referrals and third-party endorsements. There are clients the company
served in 2002, “whose needs are changing” and return for more work a generation later, he says.

He expects the business will continue to grow as the economy shifts. With higher land costs, more clients are electing to stay at home and improve/ upgrade rather than move. There’s also an increasing market for older people wishing to stay in place with universal access improvements.

Underlying everything of course is TLC’s quality commitment. Prairie has seen his share of horror stories where he investigated and remedied sloppy and even dangerous projects from other, unqualified contractors.

TLC belongs to the RenoMark program, which establishes some key standards – and then adds value with experienced staff and complete beginning-to-end service. “You can either pay very dearly for the different services, taking different people from all over, or work with us in developing your ideas and transforming things. Because of our qualifications, it is much less expensive than sourcing different people around. We try to bring it all in one house.”

Prairie says his biggest challenge these days in finding qualified tradespeople and designers. “We’re spending money to train our new people properly,” he said. “This goes from working the tools to customer relations and customer service.” He says he works closely with Georgian College and has discovered many of his most talented employees there. Employees are encouraged to achieve professional certifications including National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) designations.

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