We've worked with three designers, Wanda, Susan, and Gordon over the last 30 years. All three were great experiences. I think we saved money because they prevented mistakes. We've made some big decorating mistakes and lived with them for a long time. Better to get it right when you buy it.
I want to think I've learned something about design and decorating in the process. I've learned four things for sure:
- Everything I thought about decorating was wrong.
- Everything I thought was wrong about decorating was actually right.
- I am not a designer / decorator nor will I ever be.
- I like living with professional results.
So the salesmanship thing is big. Early on in the process when I heard "paint the ceiling blue," I snickered to myself. I had to be sold. When I heard "this would be perfect for ...," I had to be sold. Because we'd worked with Gordon, the sales cycle was shorter this time. Later in the process, when Gordon suggested a jungle rug for the office, I became giddy with the idea. I couldn't wait to see it in the room.
Gordon is still selling us on putting a fountain in the entrance hall. I'm completely sold on the idea but we haven't been able to choose a specific one. This could go on for months.
As things come together, we're seeing results, good results. We're pushovers now.
On opinionated designers. I think design / decoration takes a certain kind of personality. Aesthetics is number one. The desire to create beauty for clients is paramount. Dealing with less skilled and equally opinionated clients and their budgets requires extraordinary people skills as well. The conflict between aesthetics and practicality is always there. There aren't any blank checks.
An opinionated aesthetic isn't going to abandon his opinions when he's not designing. He wants to see beauty in everything, everywhere, and is upset by the ugly. Tact is everything for a long lived designer, but be prepared.
You sense that the designer is meddling in your personal life. He is. Designers affect they way you live. "The couch has always been there," is one of my mottos. So when I'm told to move the couch "over there" my lifestyle is under attack. Experienced designers must deal with how folks live in spaces. Customers can be as resistant to design changes as they are to pink barstools.
Designers have many big chores.
- Make your space easier to live with.
- Make your space beautiful.
- Make your space easy to keep beautiful.
- Do it on a budget.
- Sell professional judgment and educate the client.
- Bite his tongue to keep peace and family harmony.
The client must make compromises but the designer must too. If the client falls asleep on the couch every night while watching TV, the designer has to know about it. It's personal. It seems like meddling. The designer seems like a busybody.
Getting into a fight in front of the designer. It's bound to happen. Rummaging around your house, tracking clutter and wasted space is personal. Sure a doctor's exam is personal. But the doctor doesn't come to your house and go through your junky stuff. So when the wife says, "you told me you threw that stuff out three years ago." tensions rise.
Taste is always an issue. The mere mention of "purple" can trigger fists and tears.
Then there is the budget fight. More spending is always better, and always worse.
The end of every shopping day is like Christmas morning. You shop and shop. You've got bags of stuff in the trunk. You don't have clue why you bought what you bought. Ah, but when you get home, you get to open your presents immediately. A professional picked them out specifically for your home. That's about as good as it gets.
Shopping gives new meaning to infinity. Our visits to "Antiques and Interiors of Sandy Springs" left me hyperventilating. It seemed like fun, but I'm not sure I enjoyed it until we got back to the car. I realize that my untrained eye can only "see" about 5% of the merchandise. I'm not experienced or focused enough to identify anything specific for our home. If Gordon has said, "Terry, find all the green vases you can," I'd have mission. None the less I would have missed 95% of the green vases. There are too many vases, too many shapes, too many "greens." Shopping for a rug in a store that has thousands isn't much better. Looking for fabrics turns me into a drooling wreck.
I'm starting to get a bead on how Gordon manages it.
Today we looked for curtain panels for the jungle office. I'm not very excited about it, I just planned to check prices. Gordon's plan was to find some to take home on approval. We headed for Linens and Things. Gordon looked at every single fabric panel and sheet in the whole store. With a swatch of the jungle rug in hand we checked every single one that was in the ball park. We found three and took them home. Gordon stayed on focus long after I was ready to leave.
But something else was happening. Gordon wasn't just shopping for us. He was shopping for all his customers, for himself, and for beauty itself. We found beautiful curtains that didn't suit us but we admired them just the same.
Our trip to Bombay Trading Company presented another shopping method: Browse cool stores that carry some merchandise in our style. Maybe that's the most fun. There is no pressure to buy anything specific. We're just looking for beautiful things as if we're going to a museum.
We saw a nice sconce with a big candle. Gordon imagined a place for it and we browsed on. At the back of the store we saw an incredible mirror. I thought, "what an incredible mirror."
Gordon's thoughts had a bit more depth:
- It's more incredible that Terry could possibly imagine.
- It's a bargain and it's marked down 25% below that.
- It carries both the colors (gold and black) and design of the red rug.
- It was big enough to be important.
- It would be a great replacement for the abstract lighthouse picture in the entrance.
- It would allow us to glance in the mirror before we left the house.
- The placement (where the lighthouse is) wouldn't force anyone to see themselves in the mirror (which makes folks uncomfortable.
- We'd have to take down the mirror over "the thing" and replace it with something else.
- I must convince Terry to get it, even if we have to return it.
Obviously I ordered the mirror. We had no plan to get a mirror.
Then we stumbled onto the red lamps. They are stunning! I thought, "what a cool looking lamp."
- It's beautiful, cheap, and on sale.
- It's perfect for another customer.
- They are stunning enough to anchor a whole room.
- These would be a knockout in our bedroom.
We didn't buy them but they were a tough act to follow. We didn't feel like shopping anymore after seeing them. I thought about them all the way home. JoAnn and I looked at the on the Internet. We may do it.
More later ...