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Have you ever wondered:

OK, so I’ve narrowed my focus to this one particular element of my room. I am just stuck and need to know which is the right _____________.

That’s it.

Hmmm, but Maria doesn’t offer an eDesign package for this one detail. Darn… it’s just a teeny-tiny decision. Right? 


Here’s why you shouldn’t cherry-pick design advice…

Did you know one of the best ways to shop at IKEA is to cherry-pick their best stuff?

There are lots of obvious items that could potentially make your house scream, “I got this all at IKEA”.

But, if you have the eye to spot a well-designed bargain – and better yet – you know how to hack one of their dressers or wardrobes to make it look like a million bucks —then you have just got yourself a beautiful deal.

My Dear Irene

Access to my advice, and design advice in general, doesn’t work like that.

I learned this by trial and error, but you don’t have to.

In order to try to help everyone with everything in an accessible way (like Ikea), I used to offer single element and modular build-your-own-package for eDesign consultations.

Clients could get advice on just one finish… for cheap.

Wanna know the truth?

It didn’t work.

Here’s why: If you aren’t savvy about what it will really take to pull your room together, you won’t know if the one element you are purchasing help for, will create happiness.

And you don’t know what you don’t know, right?

So a dirt cheap consultation doesn’t purchase enough time to help you the way I really want to. The kind of help that will actually make you happy with your space or home.

Much like an IKEA bargain can fall short on good design (if you don’t have the right hack).

The Learning Curve You Can Learn From

Last year during the new build and renovation planning season (i.e. what’s happening now) we had all kinds of add-ons that we were experimenting with.

You could buy a “Hard Finish” eDesign package and then add-on Paint Colours, Cabinet Colours, etc…

Clients ended up creating these hard-to-navigate Frankenstein add-on packages that were confusing (for everyone).

And in the end, after we received all the photos and the questionnaire, we had to ask our client to purchase yet another add-on because the selections they purchased were NOT going to work without another piece of advice (i.e. for the countertop). Because they DID need help with the countertop, or none of it would work. Or, sometimes, we’d end up “throwing in” VALUABLE bonus advice (lets just call them hacks), to produce the finished package and make our client happy.

Most often, they really did need the Create a Classic Kitchen  or the Create a Classic Bathroom package. They were just hopeful they could get the advice they needed for less. I completely sympathize with people who are on a strict budget, I do. But, with all the VERY costly mistakes that happen with renovations, sometimes you have to ask yourself how much it is costing you to not hire someone like me? 

Here’s the thing… we concluded that the ONLY way we could guarantee our client’s satisfaction was to ONLY offer the more comprehensive packages so we could give them all the advice they need to get it right the first time.

Choosing One Piece at at time is just NOT how Design Works

The late Johnny Cash had a song called “One Piece At A Time.” The song was about someone working at a Cadillac manufacturing plant. They couldn’t afford a Cadillac, so instead they took pieces from Cadillacs through the years until they could piece one together. 

The chorus went something like this:

Well, it’s a ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’54, ’55, ’56
’57, ’58’ 59′ automobile
It’s a ’60, ’61, ’62, ’63, ’64, ’65, ’66, ’67
’68, ’69, ’70 automobile

Your project doesn’t need to be hacked together like this. 🙂 

Look, I’m not accusing everyone of simply trying to get my advice for cheap… I write free content/advice (just like this) weekly on the blog.  The heart of the issue is deeper than that.

It’s this making-selections-in-isolation approach to DIY renovation projects that is the single biggest cause of all the disappointing, less than pretty rooms in homes worldwide.

Go back and read that sentence again.

Most people choose finishes and soft furnishings for their home on a need-to-have basis.

Kind of like when you move into a new house and decide you need a new sofa. 

If you hired a designer, she/he/they would create a plan for the entire room, with all the fabrics and colours chosen in advance. Along with the sofa, two chairs, pillows, end tables, area rug, and lamps, BEFORE you buy a single item.

On your own, you’d just go couch shopping and after it’s sitting in your living room, you decide that the area rug you thought would work, well it makes your brand new sofa look bad. So now, guess what? Time for a new rug, too. A purchase that perhaps was not in the budget, but now it’s an emergency because the carpet makes your new sofa look old, or dirty, or worse, it just doesn’t match at all.

This is exactly what I’m talking about but in the world of hard finishes.

So even if the floor, or backsplash, or carpet is the ONLY thing you are going to install this month, it’s never a good idea to make that one selection out of context of a comprehensive design plan, even though this is how every non-designer approaches it. It rarely turns out well and that’s why I am here to help.

Design is a wholistic process. Ergo, complete packages that offer thorough plans are what create happiness.

A new countertop chosen out of context creates an entirely new problem that I will save you from, but ONLY if you buy the correct package.

See what I’m saying? 

Nothing in this kitchen via Emily Henderson was chosen outside of a complete design plan

Why Cherry-Picking My Advice Doesn’t Work

This is why cherry-picking my advice in order to get a “cheaper package” doesn’t work. It’s a false value.

Because when you have questions about one item, you might not realize that every new selection pulls all the other elements of the room into question.

I have never, NOT ONCE, received the ideal situation from a client who “just needed my help choosing a floor” for example, and NOTHING ELSE. I still have to consider, and often tweak, all the other choices they’ve already made – there isn’t a shortcut for this. Well, there is but it isn’t pretty. 

New eDesign Process

This year we have streamlined the entire process to make it easier for everyone. We’ve streamlined the offerings to larger packages only. Mostly because when our clients buy the package that they really need, instead of trying to cobble together something cheaper and more piecemeal, they are simply much happier in the end! Who doesn’t want to be happy with their home? Simply put, our packages are designed to include all the advice you need to make your room beautiful. 

And I’m all about happiness.

I’m writing this post in hopes that it will answer some of the frequently asked questions we receive on the daily, looking for advice on help with isolated design selections.

This inquiry perfectly recaps what I just explained:

“Your articles regarding wood floors have been very helpful. As you probably know there are so many options like pre-finished or unfinished engineered, laminate or vinyl, narrow or wide plank variations of hardwood.  With help from your articles, I’ve been able to narrow my decision down to a natural light, white oak or maple, but I really need help deciding on plank sizes and other details and options?”  

So here’s the thing, NO ONE replaces flooring in their entire house WITHOUT renovating the kitchen. Therefore, if you have questions about your flooring, you’ll need help with your kitchen as well. If this is you, you’ll want to buy the kitchen package because it includes help with your flooring. 

If you need help with your flooring, you’ll need my Create a Classic Kitchen eDesign package.

Home Bunch

Or the, “But I’ve already chosen everything but this ONE item” inquiry:

“I’m looking for someone to provide advice on exterior cladding for a major cottage renovation + 2 storey addition.  I don’t see this particular service offered on your website, so I wanted to find out if this is something you offer.

We have already chosen the new doors, windows and metal roof, and are hoping to get advice about exterior cladding materials + colour that will look great but also stand up to our Eastern winters.”

To get this advice, you’ll need my Essential Exterior Palette eDesign package.

Even better, let me confirm or tweak your selections for roofing, windows and doors to make sure they are also going to be perfect with the All Inclusive Exterior Colour package and save yourself a bundle of money and/or regret.

Southern Living

The “I just need you to validate my choices” inquiry:

“I am building a new home and have a very clear vision of the look I want but know enough to know that I can’t duplicate what I’m seeing on Pinterest. My current home is a super close approximation to what I’m looking for, but I just need someone to help tweak what I’ve not hit the mark on this time. I’ve got curated vision boards and of course my own home for inspiration, and feel I’d be a very easy client to work with.”

I get some version of this inquiry all the time. Regardless of how much homework you have done in advance, I will still have to consider and advise you on every element. In fact, if you’ve made a bunch of selections that you love, that won’t necessarily work well together, it takes me longer to parse through them and help you make it work.

To get this advice, you’ll need my New Build eDesign package.

Farmer’s Daughter

How to Get the Colour Advice you Need

Bottom line, the best way to ensure you are getting the advice you need to create a beautiful space that makes you HAPPY is to select one of my complete eDesign packages.

I realize you have a burning question about one particular detail that is bothering you, or you are simply stuck trying to select between a few options for one element. However, you truly need to trust me and know that I can’t make a recommendation without ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. It’s the foundation and integrity of my eDesign colour consultation services.

And, it’s likely the reason my services are so popular.

And chances are, the reason you are having trouble with that “one” element, is that there is some existing conflict that needs to be resolved in your finishes and colours. Or other changes that need to be made to move your room forward.

Asking me about the floor you have your eye on or the backsplash you are considering, or which colour you should paint your island simply can’t be answered as an isolated design decision. Every decision is a colour decision. And EVERY DECISION influences the next.

Could I guess at a paint colour for your kitchen island? Maybe. But then it might turn out that you have stained wood cabinets and then the entire room looks disconnected with the newly painted island – when I should have recommended that you paint all the cabinets. Or you haven’t decorated yet, so the right colour has no direction yet. That single colour recommendation doesn’t equal happy.

I truly love helping you!

Believe me when I tell you I am MOST passionate about sharing advice to help empower designers and homeowners LIKE YOU make smarter decisions about colour and design. That’s why I share gobs of free advice here on my blog and in my Instagram Stories and TikTok videos.

But if you want to pick my brain and get the benefit of my expertise personalized for your home and your situation, you’ll need to purchase one of my eDesign packages.

When you become an eDesign client, it’s not just about the process of accessing my advice on this or that random piece of your puzzle, it’s the completely considered combination you’ll receive that includes everything I personalize for YOUR specific situation. Plus you’ll get the design tips and tricks, and advice on what to buy and what not to buy, most importantly, I’ll explain WHY I’ve chosen these colours for you.

The complete package.

When it comes to expensive decisions – like which flooring or countertop to choose – it will cost you a lot more if you get it wrong. And if you are not taking the whole room into consideration, there is a HIGH chance you will. 

Even if you’ve already made some decisions (like for your new build), this is where I can take one look at all the choices you’ve made and immediately tell you which one is wrong, WHY it’s wrong and what the RIGHT one is. That’s worth thousands of dollars and you can’t cherry-pick that advice. THIS is the only way I can create happiness JUST FOR YOU.

If you can’t tell, Im all about helping you create happiness in your home, and I can only make that happen by helping with the whole picture, not just one part.

Related posts:

More Time Does Not Always Equal More Magical Colour Advice

Danger: Free Advice Will Sabotage Your Expensive Renovation

Danger: Your Designer Has Left the Building 

Are you Waiting for Your Paint Colour To Propose?

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  • Hello from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Will your e-design Get Me Started option be available again?

  • PursuitofPerfect says:

    Thank you for bringing me some clarity! I totally get and support your point about clients needing to subscribe to a whole package and that this isn’t about trying to upsell your service. You are beyond generous with your knowledge in your blogs.

    We recently relocated to a much larger and older house where so much needs to be done. Of course I’ve been racking my brain about what to do first. Your comment that no one redoes the floor throughout the house without redoing the kitchen makes so much sense. Thanks. Not sure when all this will happen but at least I get it now. What First? is not the question!

  • Kim says:

    It makes perfect sense. Silly question – we did replace our floors in our townhome without renovating our kitchen because the floors had damage, but we didn’t have the money to do the kitchen five years ago. Is there no hope for changing our kitchen without re-doing our floors? Thank you for your blog!

    • Depends on if you’re keeping the same footprint and if you have enough extra flooring materials. That’s why the kitchen I mentioned below became a downstairs flooring redo along w the kitchen and powder room in addition to the guest bathroom upstairs and the puppy peeing on the carpet led to the upstairs flooring being replaced in what will now be her forever home.

      • Kim says:

        Yes, we’re planning to keep the same footprint to avoid spending too much on something we’ll probably be selling within the next few years. 🙂 The cabinets are solid oak, but they need painting and the counters – standard 2006 formica. I really want quartz or another hard surface that resists stains and requires little upkeep.

    • Maria Killam says:

      No this post is general advice that fits for a lot of people. Obviously if you replaced your floors already and they work for your new kitchen then you can work around them! Maria

      • Kim says:

        I’ll make them work. LOL! We had LVP glue-down flooring installed, so there’s no going back right now. Haha!

  • I concur. I had a pic and text from the tile guy about the edge detail for a shower in that house w the 20’ kitchen I mentioned in my last comment. Yeah it looked nice but didn’t take into account that the shower trim was chrome and the door would have chrome because the double vanity we were trying to tie in with has CHROME.

    I spent over $1000 with you on all my rooms in my house, and while I didn’t use your advice except for my guest bedroom, it was worth every penny. Normally, I would have asked my sister and mom for their opinions, but mom was taking care of my sister with her rare neurological disease which affects 2% of people and there’s no cure.

    So the complete consult helped me think through the decorating. Even with the large paint samples, I hated the main house interior color in the loft even though it was perfect everywhere else because of how it looked with my neighbors house so I repainted it before it went to the rest of the house. But I love my decisions, and the guy who saw it and referred me to that 20’ kitchen said “Wow, if anyone needs their kitchen redone, they need to hire YOU.” And this is from a retired movie industry guy who has built 2 of his own homes.

  • Lisa W. says:

    EXCELLENT explanation, Maria! As a graphic designer (who’s interested in interior design) I love solving challenges for clients. Sometimes what a client has determined they need is just not going to produce the outcome they’re desiring. I can provide what someone specifically asks, but if you’re hiring me, why not take advantage of the wisdom I’ve earned working in my field to build you a more effective plan? A holistic solution will always achieve better outcomes, save money and delight clients—working to correctly place one magical piece of a puzzle is just not a sure thing.

    • Sonja says:

      As a graphic designer, don’t you love it when people choose a completely custom sized invitation without considering available envelope sizes and then freak out when they find out how expensive custom envelopes are? I’m a long term employee of paper supplier and have seen so much of that through the years. Experience can save money in the end in many industries.

  • Char says:

    Excellent advice Maria! I see those questions often on many designer blogs. For most of us our homes are our biggest investment so it makes sense to spend a little to get the best comprehensive decorating advice possible. Having to look at a ‘mistake’ purchase every day is way more upsetting.

  • Bonnie Roetscher says:

    Your comments are so accurate about “the whole package”. Sadly, most people believe their own personal taste will give them positive results (mostly not) without realizing that your expertise in guiding them towards a realistic, harmonious, tasteful and timeless interior that reflects the owners of the home is worth every penny.

  • Susan Medlin says:

    I’ve always told my clients, “I can keep you from making expensive mistakes!” Selling them on the wisdom of developing a design plan before moving forward is half the battle!

  • Kim Wheeler says:

    Is there any way to provide some example of what the end product: comprehensive PDF package looks like? Also, when investing in the New Build service, I feel like follow up questions on the design choices should be included and not have to pay additional for. Not talking excessive – but follow up or two if needed. Choices for exterior are made before a build starts and it’s highly likely in a new build that an element or material could change by the time it gets to that point. Anyway – these are things holding me up. 🙂 It’s very hard to pay up front and feel reassured about an online service without speaking live about my specific situation/concerns. Before investing, I’d like a chance to talk thru exactly what my needs/concerns are – live. I’d love for a phone consult before buying – even if you have to charge for it.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Kim,
      One of my team members will be happy to talk to you, please email [email protected] to request a call. Each package includes one follow up email and it is well priced for this reason.

      If you did have to make an alteration or substitution last minute that changed your entire colour scheme, the follow up advice to make that change would definitely not be included because the entire scheme would need to be re-evaluated once again.

      And, if you feel that a lot of back and forth would be required to get your questions answered, you might prefer to work with a local designer. Here’s a post that answers the question about back and forth:

      Hope that helps, Maria

  • Sandy says:

    Love your post with the exception of that bobbin dresser, which (to me) just screams “Dust me! —!” Maybe it’s just that a condo in the city equals country gravel road when it comes to cleaning, but the first thing I see now in any interior design is how much maintenance is required. And, I appreciate that Maria mentions it from time to time (example: dark hardwood flooring).
    — Sandy, now marked for life

  • Alexandra van Geel says:

    I get it but also point out that you are excluding people like me who would otherwise be a customer. In my case, it is not about trying to get a better deal on cost (or at least that is only one small piece). Rather, it’s about your product probably giving me something that I wouldn’t be useful to me. Hear me out: I *do not want* to change many other elements in the room. The flooring in the kitchen is bamboo and extends into adjacent rooms, so there’s no way I’m going to change that or rip out all the flooring in all the rooms to achieve flow. I like our natural cherry cabinets and last year spent a lot of personal time refinishing them, so I really don’t want to be told to paint them. I have very low ceilings where anything but can lights would be a serious impediment; anyway, I think they do the job. What I *do* want is a better countertop and backsplash. I do not want a design package that is going to tell me to change my cabinet finish, flooring, lighting– which I have no short or long-term intent to do. I think a designer should meet a customer where they are, and listen to their needs. Don’t let your vision of perfect be the enemy of good.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Alexandra, I understand your point of view. And the reason I stopped offering the hard finish alone is BECAUSE the majority of our clients did need more, so now because we only offer the bigger packages, we can service them better. Not everyone is going to be my customer and I’m okay with that. We all have to operate our business in a way that leaves our clients the happiest and I have found this works the best for my business model.
      Thanks for your comment, I’m sure others have the same question,

    • Penny says:

      Like any business, Designers need to determine what their business model is. Maria’s is to provide a cohesive plan that brings a room/house together in the best way possible. All Designers would have different business models which guide the types of projects they accept.

  • Robin says:

    Is it a long wait for packages to become available?

  • Marjorie says:

    There is a picture with different design elements and colors, in it is a very unique and wonderful cabinet pull? Do you know where that’s from?

  • Cindi says:

    I totally appreciate where you’re coming from, especially because you are in high demand and probably have to limit your clients in some way and that’s the way you choose to limit them.
    However to me, if I really wanted a “whole house” design, there’s just not enough back and forth with your e-design packages to accomplish that. Maybe that’s just me because I’m not a big fan of any specific style and can never point to an inspiration photo and say “I love and want something like that.” My style is more eclectic and modern, and not like much of what you show in your blogs.
    But I still appreciate your skill and learn things from your blog. For example I went way past what you call classic in my hard finishes, but it’s still much simpler than I would have chosen had I not been reading the blog for so long (and taken several of your courses). Your exterior course really helped me choose colors and materials for my new build (especially steering me away from stone, and choosing the right roof shingle that didn’t have a pattern), but I did hire a different color consultant to do various color renderings and give me color suggestions which I tested in various combinations on the house and we went back and forth several times as I did testing. It was significantly less than your complete exterior package and gave me just what I needed.
    And sometimes you really do just need one little thing done. Like when you helped me choose an interior white for my rental property that I was selling, where truly the only thing I wanted to do was paint. The color was perfect and pulled together the existing stone fireplace, woodwork and tile, which was kind of a miracle since none of them went well together.

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