Saturday, February 26, 2011

Value Lessons in Interior Design

Lots of people are quite capable of making a room ‘pretty’.  (You can substitute the words:  handsome, attractive, pleasing, etc.)  Adding value might be a totally different story.  In fact, ‘value’ can have a lot of different interpretations. Value is not always something you can put your finger on.  It certainly can mean the quality of the product is there, but to me, this story goes much deeper.

I was reminded of this, while speaking to a client this morning.  We don’t have anything currently in the works, I was just catching up with her and to see what has been happening in her life.  (It means a lot to be able to continue the relationships, over the years.)  We also spoke a little about my projects and she remembered reading, on my Facebook page, about a recent disappointment I had experienced with a potential client cancelling a meeting. 

(Just in case you didn’t know, the mock-playing of the violin symbolizes when it was used to accompany certain silent films in order to emphasize melodrama. It’s usually tied to the tune, “Hearts and Flowers”, by Tobiani, and the tune is often hummed while miming.  I could almost hear it in the background while writing this post.) 

I usually don’t try to fixate on such things but I think I was perplexed as to the sudden change of heart.  I did know the couple initially planned to hold meetings with local designers and expected to do it without being assessed a fee.  I spend a bit of time, on the front end, preparing for working meetings and have developed a system to make the best use of time. I had pre-confirmed the initial visit services I could provide, including a visit with a reputable builder/contractor.  The potential clients were looking to make some structural changes and we needed to know if some of the items they were proposing would be feasible, as well as code compliant.  The only way to know was to visit the site.

All was agreed upon, weeks in advance . . .including a small fee to cover the trip and the value of my advice and experience.  The appointment was twice-confirmed with great enthusiasm.  They came into town and then, two days before our meeting, I was emailed to say the appointment was to be cancelled.  A decision had been made without any further discussion – or meeting. 

My reaction?  A bit disappointed that my time and experience was not perceived to be of value, as well as that of the contractor and his project manager, who had been added to assist with the visit. 

  Download Cat And Dog

My conclusion?  Every dog, cat – and designer - has his or her day. Things have a way of working out for the best.

Meanwhile, I’ll get back to the conversation with my client.  She reminded me of the value I do bring to each design meeting and person’s home.  She’s the ultimate cheerleader and you always walk away feeling as if you’ve won the “Person of The Year” award, when she really is the one who should receive it. 

My client shared with me she remembered how I educated her about upholstery fabrics and that thickness was not always the best indicator of durability.  I explained to her about the Wyzenbeek testing process and the more double-rubs a fabric passes, the more strength it exhibits against abrasion and wear.  A fabric, passing 30,000 double rubs, for example, is considered to be heavy duty and can still be a fine weave.  We made sure to examine each option for her furniture.

Why was this so important?  She has one of these fellows in her life . . .

. . . Almost 160 pounds of furry, black, drooling Newfoundland love.  He’s part of her family and resides both indoors and out.

While all of this might seem to be a no-brainer, with her having such a large dog, fast forward to a couple of years later and now her daughter’s cats are "co-existing” with the Newfie.  (Tolerating might be a better term.)  If you’re not a cat aficionado, I’ll just say they love to rub up against all corners, with both body and paw pads.  It’s their way of saying, “this is mine and you can’t have it”.  Now just imagine two cats trying to let the dog know who’s boss.  That’s a lot of rubbing!  My client said I must have had some ESP when it came to the “double rub” test.  (Insert:  smile.)

Can I just tell you how awesome it made me feel to know, over two years after she purchased her upholstery from me, she still feels she received something “extra” in exchange for her investment?  She can enjoy her interiors without concern they’re off limits to the regular family members, as well as the fur family members.  She feels that she has a sanctuary, called “home”.  She also felt someone missed out on a great experience in receiving my assistance.  (Insert:  humble thanks.)

Beauty only touches the surface . . .

. . . . value goes much deeper. 

To my client . . . Thank you for recognizing the value of my services and time.  For those who might consider asking for my help, I appreciate the opportunity to share this story with you.  And . . . Thank you for your time.

All my best ~ Wanda


Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

I had a somewhat similar experience recently, Wanda. I did have that first meeting and a return visit with a plan and budget in hand. When I left I was going to tweak the idea board with a couple of additions. The next day I got an email saying he no longer required my services. {I did get paid up to that point}. Even though I felt he was the type of person that might do this on his own, I still get disheartened at such an abrupt email. Meanwhile, I move on and work with my current client and respond to those that have contacted me. You're right ~ value is perceived differently by different people.

Wanda S. Horton - Interior Designer said...

Thank you, Kathy. I hope you're doing well! You know, I'm not a newcomer to the industry, so I know we don't always get the project. My post is probably as much about respect as it is value. Interior Design is as a profession which, for some, may be perceived as a bargain commodity. If you have time, read Preston Bailey's blog. Even though he speaks of the event planning industry, there is a lot of cross-over and there are great lessons for interior designers about not diluting our process in order to meet a price point. I only know how to do things the right way.

You're right about giving our time and attention to our current clients. They know our work ethic and make the process delightful!

Thank! - Wanda