When Interior Designers And Clients Break Up

interiordesignIn an ideal world, there would be world peace, sunny skies on every wedding day and chocolate would be a nutrient rich calorically empty super food.   AND, every designer-client relationship would be utopian. AH! I’m dreamin’ big here people!

And now back to reality.

Sometimes, the wrong client hires the wrong designer. Sometimes the designer is the nutcase. Sometimes the client is the nutcase. And sometimes – it’s just a bad fit.

We get a lot of calls when clients have a “miss” with their designer. The first thing we always try to do is drill down to see where things jumped the rails and if possible, offer council to salvage the relationship and get the project back on track.

I’ve interviewed designers and clients across the nation and into Canada on this very topic as well as witnessed things in my own design practice.   Although I could fill a chapter in a book with the reasons why client/designer relationships succeed or fail – for this blog post, here’s a short litmus test to help you figure out what went wrong, who went wrong and how to fix it – aka…who is the nut – you or them.

Challenge: The job took forever and the designer was never available.

Answer:   The designer is the problem. Be wise the next time you hire to inquire about a designer’s processes, systems, communication and project flow. You want someone who is accountable and heavy on the process side. Please note: furniture takes 3 months to deliver in the custom world and CLIENTS affect project timelines. You’re responsible for making swift decisions, and promptly answering emails or signing proposals. You affect timelines too.

Challenge: Every designer we hire is a problem.

Answer: You’re the nut. Sorry. Everybody is allowed one bad lack-of-“good-fit” hire. But if you’re cycling through 2, 3 or more designers, cookie, I’m here to tell you, you’re the problem. Any wise designer will avoid you during the interview phase. You should avoid hiring a designer.

Challenge: The designer was expensive!

Answer: Hmmm.   Either they’re the problem or you are. Hiring a designer is a luxury and comes at a premium cost.   Design and its myriad details take much longer than non-designers anticipate. Fine or custom furnishings cost far more than any consumer expects. However, if the designer didn’t adequately manage your budget expectations at the upstart – or you didn’t clearly share yours during the interview phase the failure may rest with either of you.

Challenge: The designer didn’t get my vision.

Answer: You’re both the possible nut here. Either you didn’t communicate clearly what you were looking for and basically wanted a telepathic designer, or you hired poorly by hiring someone who makes a living doing only their own signature look – and not the look you’re after. OR the designer is the nut because she never drilled down with you before you hired her about the look you’re after, if they could deliver your vision, and whether it was aligned with your budget.

I could go on, but these are the biggies and they almost always boil down to these problems:

  • The designer doesn’t have strong, clear processes
  • The client dropped the ball by not communicating or responding reasonably promptly on communications and sign-offs
  • The client hired a “my way” designer rather than a collaborative designer (a designer who does a signature look vs. creating your look
  • The designer doesn’t know how to control a budget
  • The client doesn’t have a realistic budget

You hire a designer. You’re super excited. Then things don’t go as you hoped. Chin up. Constructive dialogue BEFORE things jump the tracks is your best and most powerful tool.

And… remember…there’s always chocolate… it could help both of you!