client communication tips

Timeless Interior Decorating Advice

Timeless Interior Decorating Advice

Interior design clients who wind up dissatisfied with the changes they ask you to make for them tend to have certain things in common: poor decision making, too much focus on the details, beauty over functionality – or functionality over beauty – just to name a few. Since the client rarely accepts blame for their dissatisfaction, it’s important for every designer to keep these common problems and timeless interior decorating advice in mind when bidding on a job.

While different clients will have different needs, and some will prove more challenging than others, there are a variety of design and decorating challenges that present themselves on a regular basis. The sharp designer is aware of these and has answers to the most common of them.

5 Typical Interior Design Challenges

  • Big Picture Focus – Keeping your client focused on Big Picture, whole-home solutions, rather than details like this or that rug in that or this space, will help them understand and appreciate the vision for their project that you share with them. Maintaining balance within a particular space is important for long-term comfort, while “making a statement” can detract from that balanced look and feel. When your client seems to become lost in the minutiae, ask them to step back and keep the larger vision in mind.
  • Style Choices – In real estate, the most important characteristic is “location, location, location.” For an interior designer, it’s “style, style, style”. Determining the character of a space, along with a style that will either enhance or diminish it based on the client’s wishes, will enable you to proceed with confidence and conviction that you’re providing what the client needs. Their lack of confidence will lead your client to make timid choices, so reinforce their style choices and move boldly forward.
  • Artwork Must be Loved – Never let your clients choose a piece of art simply because it fills some empty wall space or because the main colors match their furniture. Art should be uplifting, provoke thought, take the viewer to new places or create a reason to pause and enjoy. Art is personal, so help your clients find pieces that reflect their passions, spirit or outlook on life.
  • Paint and Wallcoverings Require Patience – Often, the process of choosing paint and wallcoverings requires more time than the application of either. Here, patience truly is a virtue, for the client and the designer. Since colors and textures can vary greatly when moving from store to home, the best choice is to perform in-home testing whenever possible. Ideally, your clients will be living with these choices for a very long time so, it makes sense to be patient with them when they make these choices.
  • Balancing Price and Value – While high-end furniture may enhance the look and feel of a space, it is not always the best value for your client. Sure, “something cheap is eventually expensive” but, every client must work within a budget, which means that you must do likewise. The smart designer leads her client to make choices that offer the most “bang for the buck”; choices that enhance the vison and style you agreed to achieve when you began.

Are there other common design problems that, based on your experience, you would add to this list of timeless interior decorating advice?

Looking for more new design trends, tips, and ideas? Get in touch with TD Fall today.

Interior Design for Disaster Clients

Interior Design for Disaster ClientsAre you a couples’ therapist, counselor, or coach? No, you’re an interior designer who is just trying to help them create a beautiful, livable space. If you’ve worked with many couples, you know that a consultation with the pair of them often feels like a therapy session, with you being the psychologist. Here’s a little help when you have to perform interior design for disaster clients, as we call them.

When Wants Exceed Budget

“We want the best, but our budget is low.”

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Champagne taste on a beer budget.” While there is nothing wrong with wanting the best, two of the most common issues with couples is that they often have a different understanding of what the best is, as well as how much they can afford to spend.

The Solution:

Playing the referee in such a situation can be tough so, the first thing to do is guide them gently toward a list of priorities they can agree on. Next, stick to those priorities as tenaciously as possible, in your interest as well as theirs. Then, set aside a part of the budget for some extra expenses. If you do get trapped into a fight when your clients argue over whether they should go for a more expensive version of the couch or not, don’t forget to remind them about their initial priorities and, remember your set-aside in the budget which you can offer to use to cover this upgrade.

A wise piece of advice here is not to take anybody’s side, but help your customers find the balance with a minimum of your time taken.

Accommodating Conflicting Tastes

“I want the same style everywhere.”

Men and women often have different aesthetic tastes. Women lean more toward decorative solutions, while men tend to be more minimalist. When these style visons clash in the same home, the designer’s life becomes difficult, at best.

The Solution:

This type of couple not only makes your job harder, but it also creates tension between your clients, which can lead to more conflict and increased determination to “have it their way.” If you come up with the controversial requirements, try taking the least controversial parts of both of them and organizing them into an accommodating design.

If you can’t find a compromise solution, try to give each member a certain area of control: let one define the color scheme and the other go for furniture selection. You can even go so far as to award each of them a section of the house; a “his space” and “her space.” Remember, talking about their aims and priorities in design will always help to guide you – and them.

Limiting Change Requests

“We’ve decided to go a different direction.”

It’s often difficult for a homeowner to visualize the changes they ask you to make for them. Seeing the reality can lead to them changing their minds. Plus, if they have differences, and those differences are discussed outside your presence, you’re going to get plenty of change requests.

The Solution:

Again, setting priorities before you begin work will help you here. Also, before you start the project, agree on the number of amendment sessions to be included within the scope of your changes (this is a good practice for any client). This agreement will at least protect you financially. Another good practice is to discuss reasons for any change requests that are introduced.

Explain to your clients that this way it will be easier for any participant of the process to share the same vision. By reminding them of the thought process upon which the previous solution was accepted, you will be able to protect those parts of the design that you find most important, as well as to call upon logic instead of emotion.

Clients Who Don’t Communicate

“He (or she) wouldn’t understand so don’t tell him (or her) we talked about this, OK?”

One of the more dangerous (to you) places to be caught is between clients who don’t communicate with each other. If one of them is not ready for an open discussion of the choices being made, they will try to approach you separately as a way to “get their way.” The interior designer who accepts this role does so at their peril.

The Solution:

The best thing you can do here is to make the specs and goals of the project as transparent as possible. Using professional design software to track changes and progress helps you easily collect product information from any webpage into professional specification list with simple clicks.

Working with couples can be challenging in the extreme, requiring you to employ your skills as a communicator and amateur therapist. If you set priorities for them at the beginning, stay on top of every aspect of the project, and keep the lines of communication open, you are far more likely to smooth the path and meet the challenges of interior design for disaster clients.

Looking for more new design trends, tips, and ideas? Get in touch with TD Fall today.

When to Ignore Feedback

We all have egos. We all enjoy praise and resist, even resent disapproval. None of us are perfect and, when you deal with clients in a creative field like interior design, criticism will be an unavoidable part of your life. After all, we’re not dealing with a black and white world of simple metrics and schedules; but a space where personal tastes, style, and aesthetics predominate.Such a world is rife with feedback, both positive and negative. Understanding the nature and value of each, to you and your clients, will go a long way toward helping you provide better services to your clients, while not feeling abused by their criticism.Sticks and StonesFirst, an ego bruise has never killed anyone. Mistakes happen and, if you make one, the best thing you can do is take responsibility for it, learn from it, and move on. Unwarranted criticism is similar – consider the source and, if you do not respect the person’s opinion, it has no value. Again, move on.When criticism may be warranted but is vague or off-point, it’s easy to get frustrated. Often when hearing something like that, you’ll know intuitively that the critique is valid, but you also realize you don’t have enough information to correct it.When this happens, it’s up to you to get what you need so, ask follow-up questions to get to the root of the problem. The person offering the criticism will appreciate that you're trying to understand their needs more fully and, ultimately, you will benefit from a better understanding of where you may have fallen short or underdelivered.Ignore Dubious Sources of CriticismWhen you take professional feedback personally, you do yourself a disservice. You also negate the input of the person offering advice – advice that may be helpful.Of course, the source of the feedback matters. Past clients, professional associates, even friends and family may have valid judgments to offer that will help you in your professional life. Take what they have to say to heart and make the changes needed to improve your service, relationships, and your business.For your peace of mind, you must learn to ignore negative criticism that is unwarranted, or that comes from a source with the goal of causing you pain. Yes, there are people out there who only want to belittle others but, again, if you do not respect their opinion, you should be able to ignore them with ease.One more thought: Do not accept praise from such a source either. Believe me, if their negative critique of you has no value, neither does their positive opinion. Eventually, they will show their true colors again and, if you believe they may have changed, they will only hurt you when they revert to their negativity.Looking for more new design trends, tips, and ideas? Get in touch with TD Fall today.