Interior designer vs. Mind reader

I am owner/partner in a reasonably-successful interior design practice. I love what I do – MOST days. Some days, though, I feel like chucking it all in and going to get a “good factory job with benefits.” Not even kidding here…

I think a lot of my frustration comes from client expectations of what interior designers can do. I must, perhaps with a bit of smug arrogance, confess that talented designers can do ALMOST anything. But, we need our clients to partner with us – we are on YOUR side. We are on the same team. We share  a common goal – to create a pleasing, beautiful and functional interior that fulfills your every desire. That said, we will never reach that goal if you do not tell us everything. And by everything, I mean everything. We are not psychics.

The Mind Reader“I sense that you want wall to wall carpeting, and a baby grand piano and a steam shower. And you don’t like waterbeds, or yellow – am I correct?”

Many times, the design process is delayed by our clients’ inability or unwillingness to share clear desires and specific information. So what – you have 147 Precious Moment figurines – it is not my job to judge. You want a “special drawer” to store your vintage Swatch Watch collection? No problem. You have a firm dollar figure ( BUDGET)? Well, what the heck IS it?

The Great Karnak“I’m thinking of a number between $100 and $100,000 dollars – is THAT what you want to spend for your new powder room?”

Listen, I totally get it. Everyone – myself included – wants the MOST for the very LEAST. That’s just smart. But let me ask you this: Would you go to a doctor, tell him you had a broken bone and then ask him to fix it WITHOUT telling him which one it is? Of course not! Yet when clients withhold budget guidelines from interior designers, we are forced to “shoot in the dark.” We must have some idea of the dollars you “hope” or “can only” spend. If you have done your homework – interviewed us, vetted us personally and our work professionally – and if we as designers have done our job – talked through your project to get a thorough understanding of your goals, shown examples of past work and/or provided references –  then you must trust us and commit to achieve the best possible results. That means sharing.

I am a good guy. You know it. Dozens of past clients have confirmed it. My public record and portfolio support your decision – I am the one. So why in the name of Heaven would you be reticent to share your budget amount?

ouija board“Tell me, mystic Ouija Board, will they spend $125 a yard on fabric? Can they imagine a wallpaper sold by the linear yard? Is $1800 too much for a pair of lamps for the master bedroom – they said spare no expense…”

Working with an interior designer is a very personal and (it should be a) very rewarding experience. Help us help YOU achieve your dream room, house, boat, plane – whatever.  Let us know your hopes and dreams for your space – and the money you have to spend. We will do our very best to get you as much of that dream as your budget allows.

But be realistic in your expectations. I am reminded of a story that helps illustrate this point…

Years ago, I met my very first professional party planner/event “specialist.” Her name was Barbra (like Streisand – no extra “A”), she dressed like Maude and had a very solemn and stern face. She was coordinating a very large fundraising event for a charity I was involved with at the time and, the evening of the event, I stood in awe of the staff, food, decorations – all if it. I was compelled to compliment her on her skills. Then I meekly asked if she had ever fielded a request she could not fulfill.

Without even a hint of a smile, she turned to me and said very slowly and matter-of-factly,

“Tim, darling – if you want belly dancers juggling fire while straddling elephants, I can make that a reality for you. It will cost you, but I can make it happen. You just need the budget, and I need to know it.”

Same with interior designers. We can make dreams reality but not without knowing up front how big we can dream… Let’s dream together.

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