When someone hires an interior designer they are usually after one thing – to have a space that looks good and functions properly for the user. This is what as designers we always look to achieve for our clients. Our number one goal is to make you happy. To really achieve this in the best manner possible we have to create a completely open relationship with our clients. This does not mean we have to know every aspect of our clients’ lives but it does mean that we need to have honest answers to our questions. And I am not saying that our clients blatantly lie to us it is more a fib of omission. Or in some cases the perfect intention to do certain things but then they just never seem to actually happen. As an interior designer my job is never to judge how clean your home is, how you parent your children or how you train your animals. My job is to find out how you actually live and then create a workable space around that lifestyle. So what am I talking about when I say the fibs that we hear? Here are a few that seem like little things but they are really huge when it comes to how we design a space.
The first one is “Our pets never get on the furniture”. So I know that this is the intention of many animal lovers and it is a great thought. The reality is that most of our clients are not home 24/7 so you don’t 100% know if your loving pets are on your sofa or beds when your not home. Or if your child lets the pets cuddle with them while watching the TV and you’re making dinner or working in the office. Not saying your child doesn’t listen to you or follow your instructions just that sometimes what seems like a really small thing can have big effects. So as designer if we know that your pets are part of the family and have just as much right to the furniture as you do then we can properly plan for that fact. We can select fabrics and leathers that are cleanable, come off to go into a washing machine and are made durable to withstand regular cleaning and wear. Every fabric has to be wear tested for usage. If you tell us that a dog never gets on a chair and it’s ok to have it made in a silk fabric we are going to listen to you since it is your home not ours. But if we know that your dog loves that chair we would never even show you a silk fabric that has no place on a chair that a dog is going to call home.
The second little omission that we as designers hear is “No one eats in that room on the furniture”. This can be a great policy for your home. It can in fact be true. However, if it is a policy but doesn’t actually happen all the time we need to know that. If you like to have a get together for the football game and there is going to be food being eaten all over the furniture every weekend during football season then just tell us so we can select the right fabrics and furnishings for your use. If you need a cocktail table to serve food on then we need to know that so we don’t give you a grouping of small ottomans. We want you to be comfortable in your home, not feel like you are walking on eggshells. It is perfectly ok to eat in your family room, just let us know so we use the right fabrics and options for the room and your lifestyle.
Another great one is “We don’t wear shoes in the house”. Ok great, does that mean you make your family and friends also remove their shoes? If so then great we can give you white carpet wall to wall. Or we can give you a softer wood floor that won’t mark from high heals. Or we can look at cork floors. Sounds great right? You always wanted that look of cork floors. But guess what those stylish cork floors don’t work for every homeowner and should not go into every house. So before you end up with a floor that is going to be damaged very quickly make sure you completely explain your habits.
How about fluffing pillows? Have you ever told the person you’re working with of course we have no problem fluffing pillows? And then guess what you really can’t be bothered to fluff your pillows. This doesn’t make you a bad person it just means that we as your interior designer need to know you’re not going to fluff those pillows and cushions. We need to know this so we don’t have your sofas made with down. Down has to be fluffed, no matter if we do a spring down cushion or comfort down. It is going to crush and it will have to be fluffed. This does not mean that the cushion is defective it is how it is designed. It is designed for a super soft sink into sit, but that also means it has to be fluffed back into place after you have been using it.
Have you ever looked at your room an said I need color? So you tell you designer that you really want to incorporate color into your room. But guess what you really don’t like color. You like a neutral earth tone look. You’re not lying when you say you want color, but the reality is that you are never going to be happy with color being added to the look. As a designer, there are times when I can read through those lines, but most of the time I’m going to listen to my client and give them what they are requesting. Would you like to add color but not sure it works for you, then let your designer know how you are feeling. It will allow us to determine if we add very small amounts of color into a room, stay with a neutral look, or go for it and give you that punch of color. If we can’t have that open dialog we can’t do our jobs completely.
Another area that comes up regularly when discussing how the home functions is window treatments. There are two different kinds of window treatments, those that are for looks and those that are for function. If you tell your designer that you never use them then great we are going to automatically go straight to treatments that are solely for looks. If you tell us we just need to take down the glare, then great we go to a light filtering treatment but again stay more to a treatment that is about looking great and not about blocking out everything. And since privacy is not expressed as an issue this would not be the first objective to solve. If you say I want it pitch black in the room, fantastic you need a functioning blackout treatment. These can look great too but the number one thing as a designer that we will focus on is how it functions. If you’re not sure you know what you need when it comes to window treatments, be specific of how you use the space. Let us know if you want to watch TV in the dark. Let us know if you want to see out of the room all the time. Let us know if you want to be able to do both.
So although I know that our clients never mean to not tell us everything, it happens. And sometimes it happens simply because you didn’t think it would effect the function of the design. But at the end of the day your designer is going to do everything they can to incorporate all your needs into your design. Sometimes not every need can be addressed but if we don’t know it is a need we can’t even attempt to address the issue properly. So before you go sit in that silk chair with a wet bathing suit, or walk across cork floors with spike heals, or sit in a down sofa you’re allergic to, help us to keep those things from happening. Every client is different and has different priorities and needs, make sure you let us know those priorities and needs before we start designing your space so they can be our priorities and needs for that project.