Powerful Design Results Require Two Powerful Ingredients

What’s the secret to what laypeople call “Great Design” and what I call “significant” design? What’s the secret to achieving “Gee, I wish I lived in her house” interiors? What’s the holy grail to Meaningfully Beautiful Interiors?  This is the interior that when you visit it – even if it is not done to your “style,” you somehow still feel compelled to walk into and stay for a good long while.  Have you been in those sorts of spaces? I have. I create them.

Design by Interiors by Donna Hoffman/David Van Scott Photography

That is to say, I create these spaces most of the time. When I’m allowed to.

So what’s the Einstein-ian equation that insures powerful design results? Lean in a little closer and I’ll tell you: 

Client Trust + Intuitive and Trained Design Skill = 
The Design Alchemy of Excellence

I just finished writing a note to a marvelous client asking permission to photograph their very stunning home. As I thanked them for showing up in the design process with their “creativity, honesty, faith and trust,” it struck me in that moment that these are the powerful qualities that exist in all of my client relationships where we achieve truly great – truly memorable – truly “I could live here forever” beauty in their home. When the qualities for which I thanked my client are present, I am enabled as a designer to do my job. I’m allowed to guide the process. I’m allowed to shepherd a project toward this finish line that I see in my head. And I can clearly see it all in my head because I am what I am.When clients and designers come together in partnership bringing their best to the table – greatness follows.

But when clients come to me with a half-hearted commitment, I know we will never hit “glorious.” These can be the Do-It-Yourselfers who want only to dip a toe in water with me, but never fully get in. The process is filled with fits and starts in which I come in intermittently to work on a project. I’m invited to come back to their home to see the three fine Persian rugs they picked out that are the wrong size, the wrong hue and sit in an unhappy clash together.

When I’m asked “where I would look for a sofa or a such-and-such” to add to the clashing rugs, I smell trouble. I have two choices when I’m invited back in to “help with something” and see problems in color, style, proportion etc. I can say nothing and try to Band-aid a bad choice wound. Or, I can speak up, call foul ball and try to correct it. Neither course is pleasant and either way I come out looking like a pain in the paint-can. These “I don’t really trust you” client interiors – high budget or low – are the interiors that I know will limp-along and achieve something between not-so-hot to “lukewarm” results. BTW: On the true-story three rugs incident above, those rugs totaled about $30K, so I felt fiscally compelled to speak up on the problem. When I respectfully did so to these fine people, “he” seemed not too happy with me for disagreeing, though “she” wanted the input. Limp. Sputter. Splat.

Great design – truly beautiful design – comes by way of a rich dance between client and designer. Trust. Enjoyment. Creativity. Faith. Honesty. Care and Respect. Sensitivity and Intuition on the part of the designer. When these ephemeral and excellent qualities exist on “both sides of the aisle” in design, get ready for magic making. Client Trust combined with Intuitive and Trained Design Skill. This is the stuff great home design is made of.