May 25, 2011
Phoebe's Answer: GREAT question - thank you. At the end of the day, every decorator or designer wants a successful and fulfilling result just as much, or perhaps more, than the clients. Great projects are the result of a collaboration where there is open communication and mutual trust and respect, much like a marriage. Here are some guidelines every client should know in order for all parties to be happy and satisfied:
Choose wisely. When choosing a designer, make sure you do your due diligence and check them out. Carefully study their portfolio, speak to past clients if necessary, and make sure you are comfortable with all fees and pricing structures. But most of all, make sure that they understand you - who you are, what you want, and what your desires and needs are. Be sure that the body of work they show you excites you and feels like something you would want to live with. Good designers never have projects that all look the same, but they will all have a certain sensibility. You need to define that and make sure you have compatible taste.
Be clear and reasonable about your budget. If you have a certain amount that you do not want to exceed, express that number in the very beginning. A good designer can tell you if that number is reasonable or not. Sometimes clients have unrealistic expectations. Furnishing a house with a designer is not inexpensive, but at the same time, you should have a clear grasp of what it will most likely cost to achieve the look and feel you want.
Communicate all desires and wishes as clearly as possible. Do your homework. Sit on upholstery. Carefully study colors and fabrics. Give the designers as many visual clues as possible from magazines, web sites, blogs, etc. There is a wealth of information available, so try to narrow the focus for the designer as soon as possible.
Be involved. Listen. Pay attention. But do not micromanage. Creative people need breathing room. Clients who call and question and are accusatory squelch the creativity they are paying for.
Be patient. Allow a reasonable amount of flexibility for a project to be finished. Do not plan a party or try to force completion of a project. This is almost always disastrous. Delays happen - they are often unavoidable - so try to be flexible and understanding. Plan your party after you move in. This will give you extra time to tweak everything and make it perfect.
Show a united front in front of the designer. Work out your differences as a couple before your meetings or after. The designer is usually a good objective party to use as a guideline for melding the decision-making process, but fights are uncomfortable for all involved parties.
Make sure you have a thorough understanding of what is being ordered and being delivered. You will ultimately live there and the designer will leave. If you really think you will not like something, stick to your guns and ask for an alternate suggestion. This is something that definitely requires balance and tact, but the main thing is to be clear about what will be the end result.
During installation, it is a stressful and busy process. It is better to go off and enjoy your day, and come home to a completely finished house. This will ensure you experience the "wow" factor. There will undoubtedly be snags along the way, but if you trust your designer, trust that she/he will make everything right . Don't get worried if things don't look like they are coming together during the process - the finished product is the only thing you need to worry about, and any good designer will resolve any issues that crop up.
Pay your bills in a timely manner. It is unrealistic to expect that furniture should be delivered without payment. Clothes, cars, groceries, everything requires payment before receipt. Decorating is no different. It does require a leap of faith to pay in advance, but it is standard procedure for all good designers. Any furniture store requires payment in advance of delivery, and usually in advance of ordering.
Decorating is a service business. Clients need to realize that those who have the heart to serve others are a sensitive lot. If you are unhappy about something, try to cool off a little before calling the office and ripping into someone over the phone. Always keep your temper in check. Nothing is ever gained from losing your cool.
Having said all of this, I would like to add that I am very lucky to have had the clients that I have worked for over the years. I appreciate all the friendships that have formed. I would do practically anything for my clients, we work very hard to earn their trust and respect. I am thankful and grateful every day to be in a profession that I love and never seem to tire of. Perhaps these guidelines will help you with your own decorating journey. Good luck!