via House Beautiful (love the perfect boxwood and painted brick)
When you’re a new designer, it’s hard to have the answer for every single question.
You simply have not seen or experienced every problem yet and EVERY house is different.
As a brand new decorator, schlepping my large paint samples from house to house doing colour consultations for Benjamin Moore, my clients asked me ALL KINDS of questions about renovating and decorating that I had no idea how to answer.
Luckily, they had hired me to choose paint colours for their house, so if I didn’t have the answer, my clients were not fussed.
source (love this kitchen with no uppers, and the art that relates to the countertops)
But as I gained experience, I had more answers. Thousands of consultations later, and 8 years of writing a design and colour blog makes my list of answers to questions I receive much longer than it was 20 years ago.
Let’s be clear, I don’t move walls, nor can I re-design your kitchen footprint, but I do have the answer if you have a question about whether shutters on your house are a good idea or not. Which staircase is right (Hint, don’t put a modern staircase in your house if you have a traditional kitchen). Or whether you should add french doors. The style of your island? Which tile will be classic and timeless? the list goes on and on.
There are ONLY SO MANY architectural styles and over time, I’ve seen the same mistakes over and over and over again.
source (lovely entry tile and staircase)
Your eye gets trained, so that when you walk into a house, you can instantly see what’s wrong, what sticks out like a sore thumb, and of course, bad tile that someone else chose, that the new homeowner most often wants to replace ASAP.
In the meantime, when you’re a new decorator or interior designer and a client sends you an inspiration picture of something they like that won’t work at all in their house. . . what do you do?
If all your instincts are screaming NO, NO NO, but you don’t know what a BETTER SUGGESTION is. You suddenly become a victim of your clients design ideas.
When a client makes a suggestion or shows me a photo, that is just WRONG, I’ll often find the RIGHT and CORRECT inspiration photo within 30 seconds (usually on Pinterest), and say instead “This doesn’t work because your house is not–fill in the blank here–here’s what you should do instead.”
How do they reply 99% of the time?
I see that.
If you give your client exactly what they think would work, they will begin to worry that you don’t KNOW what the right answer is.
They don’t KNOW how to pull it all together, that’s why they hired you.
source (love the asymmetrical sheers)
So if you don’t instantly know (that takes years of experience), instead of pretending to have the answer, or worse, trying to fit their bad idea into your design plan, ask a mentor or post a photo on the interior design Facebook page that you belong to. . . just like my True Colour Expert private Facebook page. As soon as you’ve completed one of my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops, you’ll be eligible to join this page.
So then, instead of posting your problem on an interior design site, with the photo and the caption “This is what my client wants, how do I make this work?” Where everyone chimes in and says things like”Poor, poor, baby”, try this, try that, I had the same problem and I did this?” “I know, find something removable”. While these are all lovely and encouraging suggestions. . .WAH?! NO THAT IS NOT THE WAY TO HANDLE THIS PROBLEM.
This is what you’ll post instead:
“Hi everyone, this is what my client says he/she wants, and I’m pretty sure it’s wrong, what do I suggest INSTEAD?”
This is a much more powerful and proactive question, this is how you’ll learn.
And in the meantime, if you are standing in your clients house, and you know it doesn’t feel right, but they are looking at you expectantly for the answer, you say “I don’t think this is right for your house, but I will find the answer and get back to you”.
I was talking to my interior designer friend Jan Romanuk (who designed my kitchen layout) the other day and she said “I’ve been doing this 40 years and I still sometimes don’t have the answer”. That’s when she’ll say “Hmmm. . . I don’t know. But give me a day and I’ll get back to you.”
Way better than pretending you know what you’re doing. Your client will appreciate that you obviously care about getting their house exactly RIGHT.
End of rant.
Don’t BE A VICTIM.
Be a STUDENT.
And with experience, you’ll have even more answers and be able to charge EVEN MORE MONEY to dispense your advice and who knows, with the world of on-line marketing, what else you’ll create?
Because you’ll be a Force of Personality.
PS. If you find yourself in this post, don’t be cranky. First we have all been here, and as long as we don’t design the same house over and over, it still happens. So use it as a learning opportunity. I love you. That’s why I’m writing this post.
Who can relate? Raise your hand along with me!