Is hiring a designer a luxury or necessity? When my installer handed me his invoice of $210.00 for an installation that lasted approximately 1 1/2 hours, I got to thinking; why is it that a home-owner seems to have no real issues with paying for labour? The painter, plumber, electrician, tile layer, carpenter, and so on.
But hiring the DESIGNER or COLOUR CONSULTANT–even if it’s just for a 2 hour consultation–to pull it all together, to make it all beautiful and fabulous, seems to fall into the category of LUXURY?
I have watched many a box of finishes for an entire brand new house; tile, granite, wood flooring, and fabrics, schlepped into a Benjamin Moore paint store in the hopes of getting ‘a free colour consultation’. For an entire house. COLOUR. Which will occupy the largest amount of square footage in your house. COLOUR. Which creates a feeling and is VERY upsetting when it is wrong. COLOUR.
Which will most assuredly change from the lighting in the paint store (where the colours then get selected) to the lighting in your house, once your finishes are installed.
The reason I hire an accountant to do my taxes is so that he/she will SAVE me money! Whatever I pay him/her doesn’t matter in the end because I’m saving that money, many times over by having a professional prepare my taxes!
I have a friend in West Vancouver who wanted to hire a local, high-end, interior designer when they started their kitchen renovation. She loved the contemporary style of kitchen this designer was known for and it was exactly what she wanted. When the husband heard how much this designer charged for the first consultation, he said NO WAY. They ended up going through THREE designers before they got the kitchen they wanted. And do you know how much this renovation ended up costing them? I can’t tell you it upset me so much, but I’ll tell you this—A lot more than they would have if they hired the designer they originally wanted in the first place.
A few years ago, Robert Allen had an event featuring their designer fabrics for spring. Their guest speaker asked “Who here charges less than $100 per hour?”. To the few who raised their hand, she said “Shame on you, do you think you have less responsibility than a plumber?”. This statement, by the way, confirms the first point I made earlier.
I once walked into a house that had freshly installed laminate flooring throughout. However, the big mistake the homeowner had made was they had picked a different colour of laminate for each bedroom. They obviously thought they had to define each room in some way like you might do with a colour. What they did not know was that the days of defining spaces with flooring are gone.
Today we are installing hardwood flooring in powder rooms as well as kitchens. Oh, and one more thing; this flooring had been installed to ‘flip’ the house as it was for sale; however, what they did actually devalued the house to a potential buyer.
So here’s what I’m trying to say: When we are learning something new or making decisions in an area that we are not an expert, we usually make it harder than it has to be. I notice this with my students.
The answer is totally obvious and even very EASY. But we think to ourselves [It can’t be that easy, it has to be harder than that, so we keep looking and that’s when things usually go wrong]. When the designer shows up with 1 – 3 choices, we make it look easy. But what you don’t know is that we have already waded through hundreds, sometimes thousands of possibilities to come up with the palette that is going to work for YOU, for the style of YOUR home, the lifestyle of YOUR family.
The professional (in any field) and in this case an experienced designer makes everything look easy. I was standing in front of an exterior with a client who was asking about accenting this area and that on the front of the house. However, my suggestions for colour were based on the STYLE of the home, including the existing, fixed elements of the house, which dictated using more of the body colour and less of the ACCENT colours the client was talking about. At one point he looked at me and I KNEW he was thinking “But I could have done that myself?”.
The reason why he could not; however, was that he could not explain to anyone why his choices were the right ones.
You have a bunch of ideas, after all, you are the one that has been staring at your house for years! Fundamentally though, you want to know IF your ideas are right and if they are not, you want to know WHY! It’s a great marriage saver because the designer gives you objective opinions based on what’s current, the products that are available, how to mix your new renovations/colours with the old, and so on. Left to their own devices, most couples make decisions based mostly on their likes and dislikes without taking into consideration what works for the space or why.
It’s the same when it’s time to specify colours for my clients. When I first started specifying colour, I thought it was my JOB to pick a new colour for every room. Now I don’t pick a new colour unless there’s a really good reason to do so. Otherwise the house becomes a kaleidoscope of colours without any real flow.
If the home-owner makes ONE bad purchase decision – that would have already paid for the designer. And if you are on a budget, you have no budget to waste on mistakes!!
When is hiring a designer a luxury or necessity? Well, if you hire one to custom design every piece of your house down to the tassel on your $1,200 toss cushions, then yes, that’s when a designer becomes a luxury.
Jeffrey Bilhuber’s new book “Defining Luxury” says it best:
“Decorators can guide clients and their families to an elevated standard of living. At it’s best, the process is similar to discovering a brilliant museum, one you had never entered before or even knew existed. Once you pass through it’s doors, your world is forever changed. You may never revisit your old world again. If you do, you’ll never see it quite the same way.”
Happiness is hiring the designer you already know can give you the high end kitchen you want, because you’ve seen their work and you love it.
Happiness can be restored where there is disagreement very quickly, by hiring a designer for—at the very minimum—a CONSULTATION before you make the mistakes you can’t afford to make anyways. That is an absolute NECESSITY!
Need help choosing the right neutral or colour? My How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s all in the Undertones ebook takes the hundreds of choices down to 9 neutral undertones along with list of all my other go-to best grays, broken down into 3 undertones, green, blue and purple. The beige undertones of pink, yellow, green, gold, orange and taupe along with the best greens and blues.
My bonus book of colours is worth the price of the ebook alone but you will also get my system of understanding undertones so you can stop making mistakes when sourcing tile, carpet, countertops, etc.
Need help choosing the right white? My White is Complicated: A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White eBook will help you get your whites right for your cabinets, trim, ceilings, and walls. This eBook also includes my Bonus book of Whites which will take the guesswork out of your decisions.
You’ll need them both if you have an entire house of whites and neutrals/colours to choose, get them here.
We would love to help you choose colours, select the right combination of hard finishes or create a plan to pull your room together. You can find our fabulous email consultation packages here.
If you would like help creating a beautiful and classic exterior, we have exterior consultation packages available here.
The only way to choose the right colour every time is to combine my system of understanding undertones with the most indispensable colour tool available. You can purchase your own set of my curated large colour board collections here.
If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.
The 3 Most Important Words in a Colour Consultation
The Difference Between an Experienced Colourist and a Novice
Have you made these Decorating Mistakes?
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