Monday, January 7, 2013

The Good, The Bad and Choosing The Right Partner for the Dance of Interior Design

You never know what you might find when you clean out files, bookshelves, and bins that have been tucked away from sight in an interior designer’s office!  Yes, another week of office, business reorganization, and deep thoughts. I promise to post more “pretty pics” in the coming weeks!

Meanwhile, I’m glad I uncovered this treasure:


You see, near my beginning stages of venturing out-on-a-limb to establish my own interior design business, I made the rather smart move of attending a seminar, presented by Mary V. Knackstedt


Mary is an admired designer, author, and expert presenter in the interior design world.  Not only is she a smart lady, I think she emits great elegance and style. While I was completing my interior design degree, I imagined many of my interiors’ predecessors with the neat chignon and tailored suits.  (A little like Grace Kelly, don’t you think?)

Grace Kelly 2

Times sure have changed . . . but, then, maybe not so much . . .

Mary shared some pretty spot-on observations in the book, above.  It was published in 1993, a few years before the 24-7, non-stop worldwide web activity.  People actually had to speak, one-on-one, to get to make a connection!  Social media was word-of-mouth, not a click away.

Social Media

Interior designers, while expected to design, are also charged with staying on top of the latest venues of communication.  Twitter/texting, Facebook/texting, LinkedIn/texting, direct messages, pop-up chats, texting, texting, texting . . . (BTW, in case you missed it, texting and all of the above, are my least favorite ways to communicate about projects.  Not a great documentation trail and also not free-of-fees.)  This is all includes being a business manager, project manager, specifier and resources manager, marketing whiz, vendor and services liaison and therapist.  I don’t just do pretty colors and pattern mixes.  :)

So how have some things remained unchanged?  I urge you to read on, whether you’re an interior designer or if you’re thinking of hiring one.  (Actually, I do hope this provides great food for thought if you’re seriously considering bringing an interior designer on board for a true project.)

Grace Kelly Dancing

(There is a little “dance” we do to get to know one another – clients and designers.  We want to be certain we’re in sync as partners before heading off to the ball, together.)

Flipping through Mary’s book reminded me of some important “steps” in connecting with the right clients.  Remember, this is from a book, published 20 years ago and today we’re still having the same conversations! 

Here are some of Mary’s timeless points:

The Good Client -

Good Clients


A big “what she said” on item number 1 – both pages. As fabulous as any interior designer may be, soothsayers and mediums we are not. Contrary to popular belief, we’re not all divas who will want to take over your project without any partnership or client involvement. (Involvement being different from micromanaging.)

Okay, we may want you to invest in that divine chandelier because it’s perfect for your entry, but we still want you to confirm that it will be something you’ll love for years to come. When clients go MIA on decisions and communication, the project just never feels 100%. It leaves way too many questions about commitment and can erode the trust factor, in a big way.  (Remember back to that dreamy date when he said, “I had a great time so I’ll be sure to call you.” and you just knew it wasn’t going to happen but you still thought of a million wistful/hopeful reasons he should because it just seemed to be the best fit?)  Honesty still rules.

The Bad Client -

Bad Clients

I don’t know any interior designer who would argue with number 5, on either page. You see, not only are we in the business of creating, we are a business and not a bargain bazaar. It’s a bit off-putting when other professional folks try to negotiate our services to the lowest of levels. Sure, we all love a deal but that’s not the same thing as receiving a great value. Tell us up-front what you really want and we’ll see what we can do to accommodate your needs, within your financial parameters and within our realm of possibilities. Dangling a faux carrot isn’t so appealing.

Let me say, I’ve been very blessed to have or have had some of the best clients!  Have there been some not-so-great experiences along the way?  I wouldn’t be totally honest if I said, “never”.  I’ll bet there’s not an interior designer who hasn’t felt he or she could “fix” things through the process of creating a better living space for someone. 

There is no “one-size-fits-all” in this world.  Everyone has a different way of communicating.  I’ve learned many important lessons and I hope they’ll hold me in good stead, as I enter my sixteenth year of business and my twenty-plus years of being involved in the field of interiors. 

Betty White

(Even straight jackets come in different sizes!  Did I mention having a sense of humor is key to any interior process?  Designers can be funny and elegant!)

I’ve jokingly said that my goal is to be the “Betty White” of interior design . . . The dear Lord willing and planning on the best clients to still come my way!

All My Best

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