Interior Design Projects and Murphy’s Law

Interior design is an intensely people-dependent practice. I’m a designer so I design. But I design with things and processes that other people do or make – furniture has to be built, paint applied, wallpaper hung, walls moved, windows changed, draperies made and installed, etc.   There are endless opportunities along every project path where things could potentially go horribly wrong. (Knock On Wood, Ptu-Ptu, throw the salt over your left shoulder.)

Here’s just a handful of Murphy’s Law occurrences from my own practice that have occurred anywhere from the present to the last 36 months.

  • The 70 lb. bolt of customer-selected gray velvet fabric that shipped to the upholstery manufacturer arrives at the manufacturer in the form of an empty package. The bolt itself evidently “Fell Off the Truck.”
  • The client’s custom dining room rug was received by our Philadelphia receiver on time.  2 weeks before delivery to the client’s home, we’re told the rug “seems to have disappeared.”
  • The upholstery team arrives at my client’s home to remove her parents’ sofa and chairs for reupholstering. As the client nervously watches her things carried out, one fella, walking backward, loses his footing on her front path and drops a chair corner.
  • The landmark, 60-year old, family run kids’ furniture store that has been a respected go–to resource “forever” plays 5 months of cat and mouse with a pregnant client’s baby nursery furniture – not answering our pleading emails or even picking up their phone as we work tirelessly to get all delivered. When they do speak to us, they lie.

dropping boxes

I could go on.

SO you fix things. You say things like “I expect a new rug sent out and received by the 15th of this month” or “WTF? Get another bolt of fabric out to that workroom, fedexed please.”  You think things like, “Really? You had to lose your balance on MY client’s front walk? You couldn’t trip getting out of your car at home tonight?” Or you say to your team, “OK we’re going to lose this client; she is holding us responsible for this cockamamie retailer. We will hound that store, at any cost to our company, like a dog until all is delivered. Let’s get it delivered, make this nursery gorgeous and move on knowing the client will never hire us again and be throwing darts at my picture in perpetuity.”

How’d it end? The fabric and rug were replaced and the clients never knew of the problem. As for the tripping upholsterer (hey…he’s an upholsterer, not a moving man), we apologized profusely for the accident and assured that the workroom would check for and repair any damage – project end result was beautiful. And on #4 – the nursery looked meringue-puff GOR-geous once done, but the client was lost to us forever, as I predicted. She held me responsible for recommending the store that had never in 18 years given me a sign of trouble. It never occurred to me that their business had slid into the toilet (we conjectured they were using one customer’s $ to purchase another customer’s order, perhaps due to having lost their line of credit).

As a designer, there’s only so much you can control. Only so much you can know about the behind the scenes of another business or tradesperson. You lose sleep, you continue to try to outrun the problems before they happen, correct them when they do and every now and again, you take a punch to the jaw, see stars and plot your retirement. Then a lovely client and project comes a long and you think…oh, ok.

Have you had a Murphy’s Law occurrence on your design project? Share your pain with us…misery loves company(!).