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There’s a moment where maybe you realize you’ve gone too far. You’ve made some purchases already or a design decision about a finish, and you realize that you’re maybe in over your head. You’ve chosen a few things that you like, but now you’re not sure how to pull it altogether. Or maybe you’re stuck on the next decision that needs to be made? 

 It’s time to finally hire that designer you worried would be too expensive. Is it too late? What if you don’t like what they tell you? 

I have written so many posts, here and here on the money saving aspects of hiring a designer, the one I realized still needs to be written is this one.

Maria Killam & Lucy

Sometimes, I have arrived at a clients house and it’s too late. Because they tried to do it all on their own, and have simply gone too far and now they’ve called in help to fix it.

Here are a few examples where you might NOT be overly thrilled with the consultation.

  1. Something about your house bothers you. It might be that the undertones of the existing finishes (that you have just installed or inherited) are wrong or the paint colour is simply wrong and sometimes need only a slight adjustment to get it right. (But it’s not enough to thrill you—until you paint the room–even though it’s the right thing to do).
  2. You have bought new furniture or installed fixed finishes (tile/granite) and now you know something is wrong and/or it’s just not looking like you think it should but you can’t figure out exactly what the problem is. Because it will now cost money to fix, you might not be happy when you hear this advice.I had one client who hired me to choose a new colour for her kitchen and after we went through all the other possibilities we determined that the one she already had was the best one based on how it flowed from her great room.At that point she confessed that she had chosen her granite without all her other finishes because it had to be substituted at the last minute. She was not thrilled but at least I saved her the angst of testing out a million other colours only to find that there was nothing better.
  3. You have dated furniture and have recently purchased and added new furniture and now the combination doesn’t look right and you are worried that you’ve wasted your money. Or that you are throwing good money after bad trying to work with furniture you already don’t like. A client of mine today said “if you make one small mistake in the beginning it can get really big because now you are building something around it”.
  4. You have bought all new furniture and the room still doesn’t feel quite right.
  5. You are doing a renovation and you hire me to validate the choices you have made to make sure you are not making a mistake.It’s like calling a lawyer because you have a problem. You might not like their advice but you know it needs to be done.

Ugly costs the same as pretty

I’m all about people being happy at the end of my consultations but experience has shown me that it’s not always possible. Because if you have already spent money you don’t have going in the wrong direction. And let’s face it, no one wants to waste money even if they have it.

In the summer I arrived at a consultation to choose a white for kitchen cabinets. At the same time I was there to discuss the backsplash and countertops. My client had a huge river rock fireplace in the middle of the house. The hearth was in the living room, the other side was where the dining room was and then the kitchen (like a U shape).

The kitchen island was probably 8 ft away from the fireplace and the stone was orange (well butterscotch tones, below) and gray blues.

She showed me the two granite samples, one was black and white and the other was in warmer tones that related much better to the fireplace. I immediately chose the one with the warmer/butterscotch tones in it and she said:

“Oh. You know when I got home I saw right away that this one was right. But I wanted black and white. Then, when my friend came over she said, “Wow that one is perfect.” But we just kept talking about how much we loved the black and white sample.”

So then I asked if they would be changing the bossy fireplace anytime soon and she said, “We have a long list of changes we need to make. By the time we ever get to the fireplace, this new kitchen would be dated.”

In this case because the kitchen was open to the living room and dining room, it’s pretty hard to ignore the fireplace. You could certainly chose to do so if you really wanted the newest and most trendy kitchen. However the look I’m always trying to avoid is ‘New Kitchen—old Fireplace’ or ‘New tile—old countertop’ or ‘New ottoman–old sofa’. . . and we could go on.

Mixing yesterday with today is tricky if you don’t pay attention to the details or get the right advice.

What’s the bottom line? My client was NOT happy when I left her house that day. Because she understood that if she chose the black and white granite she wanted, it would immediately kill the flow in her house. It’s pretty hard to ignore a focal point as large as a fireplace in the middle of the house.

And just so you know, it kills me when it goes this way. I really want my clients to ALWAYS be happy. My passion is to help you create a space that fills you with happiness when you walk in the door, but that’s the same reason I won’t lead you astray with your choices, even if you’re in love with it.

But I can also help you make a plan that leads you to the end GOAL you desire. So PLEASE call me (or a designer you trust) BEFORE you start making major purchases in your house.

Trust me, you will save money and as a client just said to me last week, “Ugly costs the same as pretty.” Clients that call me BEFORE they make major decisions are so HAPPY that they did!

Okay, so here’s how to know if you should still schedule a consultation or hire me to help you via eDesign:

  1. Sometimes the right colour can go a long way towards fixing something. It might just be that your furniture is muted (dirty) and your wall colour is clean and a simple paint colour is all you need. Or a stronger colour to work with undertones that are clashing (say, in a bathroom) might be all that is necessary.
  2. If you still need more furniture or more design updates and you don’t want to make any more mistakes.
  3. Sometimes knowing what is wrong can still make you feel better (if not HAPPY) because then you can choose to ignore something you can’t do anything about.
  4. You still need a plan.

When you have a plan, everything you do will move you closer to your goal, even if you don’t do it all at once. This stops you from making make false starts and wasted purchases. Money saved!

Renovations and decorating your home are challenging enough without the knowledge and CONFIDENCE that you have made the right choices on everything BEFORE it’s about to be installed in your house! And you can’t turn back.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, check out my eDesign services.

Related posts:

The Perils of Decorating with (too much) Black

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

A ‘Somethings Gotta Give’ Kitchen Cabinet Dilemma
How to Choose Colour around a Stone Fireplace

New to this Blog? Click here  |  Become a True Colour Expert

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  • Erika at BluLabel Bungalow says:

    This is post speaks volumes! I think it's VERY important for the client to have a plan (#4) and stick to it. If they somehow later forget (the plan) they will be back in the same position again later.

  • Karen Davis says:

    So true! Thanks for saying it..

  • Amy @MaisonDecor says:

    Ok, thanks for saying this Maria! all designers have had this experience when a client has her wants that don't link up with creating the best of what she has. We, as designers, are paid for our opinions, not to hold hands, at least the good ones are! So bravo for staying true to design and suffering through best friend's opinons part…(no BFs should be allowed at consults)and delivering the news. This is someone who will never be satisfied anyway.

  • Vicki says:

    I love the way how you "tell it like it is" because it's the truth. Your posts validate many things I've learned the hard way. Thanks for always sharing.

  • Frances says:

    Your post struck a chord
    being someone who has inherited a flooring fixture that is too expensive to replace but is so outdated and so not her colours it is hard to move on.
    do you invest in surrounding your self with colours your not fond of to get a pleasant look and hope that you will grow to like it.
    I'm still searching for options that I can live with but muddy yellow orange is not a colour you see often.

  • Karena says:

    Maria, so thoughtful and SO true!!You always hit it right on!

    I have a Luxurious French Giveaway on my site!!

    Art by Karena

  • pve design says:

    I learned that;
    1. "NO" job is too small
    2. Sugar was made for icing
    3. The best laid plans need alternate routes.

  • Karisha Solomon says:

    I love your honesty. It is so refreshing and educational.
    Karisha Solomon

  • Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    What a great post, Maria! I could nod my head along with it because I know that I have had clients call me for a consult and they really just want their own choices validated. Or they want me to be the tie breaker between the husband choosing one thing and the wife another {and really, sometimes, neither works!}. I have to say though that I do have those clients that listen to what I say and "see" what I'm telling them.

  • dovecote Decor says:

    You are preaching to the choir.

  • Anonymous says:

    I so understand what you mean by all of this. Me and the husband just did a complete renovation of our kitchen. Don't get me wrong I like our kitchen but there are some things that I wish I had paid the little extra money for. I wanted the built in huge beautiful hoods you see in the pretty pictures but my husband said that was too costly and put up a black hood instead. We PAID for that black hood and I don't like it one bit. The cabinets are white and it just doesn't look good at all. My counter tops are blackish granite. Now I feel like I need to wait 10 years to get my money out of that stupid hood to get what I really wanted in the beginning. Wish I had a designer that would have made it look right and not wasted that money. Though I do love the rest of the kitchen…


  • marty (A Stroll Thru Life) says:

    Such a great post. Decorating is so hard and usually so expensive if you are starting from scratch, that it really does pay to get help. I am with you and the same pinkish undertones to my beight carpet. Not my choice and when brand new in a new house, I have to live with them. Just as long as I don't use red, it seems to work. Thanks for the great post. Hugs, Marty

  • Design Elements says:

    great posts! It's speaks volumes! Lovely greetings

  • Kim@Chattafabulous says:

    Such a great post! You have this uncanny gift for defining a situation accurately and providing the most sensible solutions. Such clarity of thought – thanks from someone who gets a little muddled!

  • Marcus Design says:

    This is such an important post and so full of useful info! I love how you explain things Maria, I'll have to bookmark this one!

  • LaJuana says:

    I think it's a great statement but I'd go one further and say that Ugly cost more than Pretty because when one makes an effort and ends up with Ugly, if one has half a clue, one keeps trying. On the other hand, if one gets Pretty with the first effort, all of those wasted efforts …and expenses…are eliminated.

  • Donna says:

    Maria, this is such GOOD advice! I read this whole post when you wrote it but with family here didn't have time to respond.

    I'm so glad you did the consultation for me, but I think I would have been very unhappy if I had had a lot of pre-conceived ideas of exactly how I wanted it all to be or was very attached to certain elements. By being open minded, it gave us more freedom to make the 'right' choices.

    We can't rennovate everything we want to do yet, but at least we have a plan. Tim says we will be buying a new couch this January. I'm so glad we did our consultation this summer so I could have a good plan of where to go. For us a couch is a huge purchase, and I'd hate to get it wrong! I didn't want to start buying flooring and couches to update one room, only to have it clash with all the rest. With your flow of colors already set, we know we can head in the right direction and slowly but surely we will get the house re-done. Ugly mistakes are something we can't afford.

    Thanks again for your excellent consultation! I'd recommend you to anyone.

    Donna @ Comin' Home

  • Sally@DivineDistractions says:

    Indeed! As one who has studied the law of attraction for the last several years, I know we have to accept that we draw these people into our lives…the good, the bad and the ugly…to teach us lessons we need to learn. I've learned so much about myself from my clients! I think they groupings that you put them in are dead on, and the challenge to me, is to remember that I AM the designer and in almost every case, I know more than the client. It's my job to be brave, tell the truth and lead the experience. Sometimes I forget that. Thanks for the reminder. Thoughtful post!

  • Maria, I know it’s been awhile since you posted this, but I just saw it today and it perfectly fits what I’m going through with a client right now. He had already chosen and painted the main neutral color, doesn’t like it, but won’t replace it because of the cost. I’m doing the best I can with accent colors against that main neutral. Anyway, now I understand the difference between the vibe I get from clients when they hire me at the beginning vs. hiring me after they’ve made mistakes that I can’t fix without making them spend a ton! THANKS for articulating this so well!

  • Betty says:

    This post spoke directly to ME! I am going to hire you for a phone consultation, but I don’t know where to start. We had a recent renovation and I love the major choices we made (Thank God!). I love our granite, wood floors, off white kitchen cabinets, bath tiles and countertops – the BIG expenses! I love our wall color (Alpaca by BM), but am not sure the sofa and loveseat (pale beige?) clash. I want curtains to match the wall color, but not if the wall color is wrong. OH DEAR! And I also want your opinion on furniture placement and new pieces not yet chosen, backsplash that won’t clash with the granite, and general decorating ideas. Should I set up a 1 hour consultation and then later another 1 hour (later) to plan all of this? This would just be for the living room (entry room), dining room, den and kitchen – so all will flow. These rooms all open up to each other. Later I’d like your opinion on the 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. I feel it would be overwhelming to do all of this “1st phase” in one phone consultation. What do you think? I really trust you. XOXOXO

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