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Advice for HomeownersArt and Beauty

Do you Keep the White Elephant? Yay or Nay

By 03/10/2012January 28th, 201715 Comments

Sometimes when a client takes me to an undecorated room to get my advice they will say “Everyone comments on this dated lamp, art, vase, chair [insert dated piece here] so I want to keep it and/or build the whole room around it.”


But I have been doing this for so long I have learned a few things. Like ‘Don’t let your old furniture hold you hostage‘, ‘Danger: The first 24 hours after you take possession‘, and ‘Kiss your Old Furniture Buh Bye’.

Jonathan Adler

So I have a theory, and I could be totally wrong but I thought I’d throw it out there to see what you think. And here it is: Maybe everyone comments on that lonely piece sitting there in the corner because it’s the prettiest/nicest/funkiest most colourful thing in the room. But maybe it’s bad too. Just sayin’.

Hope you are having a lovely weekend! xo Maria

Related posts:

Ugly Costs the Same as Pretty

Why you can’t afford NOT to Hire a Colour Expert

The Three Most important Words in a Consultation

Need help with your colours, download my eBook, It’s All in the Undertones.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

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  • I think we all have one of THOSE pieces. But I like your theory that it may be the funkiest/prettiest piece in the room. Or it’s just that it sticks out for all the wrong reasons.

  • Cindi says:

    I think when someone says, Oh, wow, look at that –it does not necessarily mean that’s a positive comment. They know you must like it because it’s in your room and they’re stunned and have to blurt out something because you’re looking at them nodding and smiling, awaiting that compliment. Honesty is not always the best policy. 🙂

  • christine says:

    I have sometimes asked the client if they are up to date on their fire insurance? 🙂 Just kidding.But sometimes I want to.

  • I think you’re right, Maria. How do you tell your client this without offending them? Or do you say anything?

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    I think the KEY comment here is that the object is already delegated to the “undecorated” room.
    They pretty much made up their minds by that decision.I’m In the process of thinning out our possessions……
    So, this post gave me food for thought! thanks, Maria

  • Donna Frasca says:

    Since the elephant symbolizes good luck in many cultures, I’d keep it!

  • Bluezette says:

    I would ask the client, “What is it that you like about that piece?” Hopefully, the client will either confess that they don’t really like it, but feel the need to keep it for some reason, or they really do like it and their response will help you find a way to work it into the final design.

  • Jill Baum says:

    What do you do if the white elephant is your husband!?

  • Lisa says:

    I found this post to be a bit of a let down. You’re really not giving a strong point of view, just relinking older posts recommending throwing things out.
    Really? Throw it out because you – the designer – don’t like it? When a client shows me something that they love, or feel is unique, or has a dated piece with sentimental value, I make it work. And it’s often that thing that gives me a jumping off point to find out more about their personality and background that’s going to lead me to design a better space for them.
    A talented designer should be able to successfully integrate a piece a client wants to keep whether it’s “on trend” or not. And if the undertone doesn’t exactly match the rest of the room, who cares? An element of quirkiness gives life to a room.

    • Because a lot of my work is redesign/restyling, I have to work with a lot of things I don’t like as a designer. But the best part is, those ‘things’ are what educates me most to the real person I’m working with. If I notice a lot of things that are very dated,unusual, etc., I’ll start by asking the client “Let’s make three lists. Things that must stay for whatever reason, things that can easily be discarded, and things we might be able to work with if we alter them somehow (eg. an old dresser can be painted, a lamp gets an updated shade, etc.)
      When one is working on realllllllly small budgets, the creativity really comes into play 🙂

      The best part for me is I’ve gotten to know my client very well. And that trust factor often helps them realize too that maybe it is time to rethink that ‘white elephant’ in the room 🙂 Sometimes “it” stays, sometimes it goes. It’s a fun process 😉

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Lisa,
    The operative word in this post was maybe. Sometimes my advice applies to a space and sometimes it doesn’t.
    Thanks for your comment.

  • Meger Anski says:

    As always a good post:
    You always make us think,
    You always make us see anew.

    Thank you!!

  • Sybil says:

    lol…you keep it because (if) YOU like it! Whether others do or not (or why they are commenting) is irrelevant in my opinion. “I want to keep it and/or build the whole room around it” …help me make it work.


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