23 Mar Inside Design – Information sharing
Renovating and redesigning can be stressful, which is one reason why it can be so good to use a designer. To make a project work well, information sharing between the designer and the client is critical. But what information is of most importance? What does the designer need to know? And what details about the design process does the client need to know? I thought I would share my advice on this as it can help transform a project from merely successful to spectacular.
The more information the better
I can’t overestimate how helpful it is for me, the designer, to receive information from my clients, with regard to the brief. The more there is, and the more detailed it is, the better I can interpret the brief, and that means an easier project, and a better end result – one that will meet (or exceed) the client’s expectations. I have learnt over time what questions to ask in order to facilitate the process.
Before and After – This gorgeous living room perfectly showcases stunning Sydney harbour
Know what you like
It is really helpful when the client does some research to understand their likes and dislikes, to narrow down their style. Personally, I particularly want to understand their tastes, for example, is it stone floors they are wanting or wide timber flooring, what colours they like or dislike, what patterns, etc. I love it when clients make Pinterest boards to demonstrate the designs and finishes they like, and the soft furnishings they are drawn to (for this, Pinterest has modernised the practice of cutting out pictures from magazines).
Luckily, I am quite intuitive (most of the time) and from early on in the decision process, I can determine if the client has a strong aesthetic. I can also tell how strong their confidence is when it comes to design and decoration. I also take a lot of cues from the client’s current home and how they live – are they collectors, for example. Then, how much do they want to change from their current home and life? Do they want to create a ‘new’ home, with nothing from their ‘old’ home coming along (the best jobs!)? This tells me a lot.
Before and After – Simplicity and style for a modern bathroom redesign
I take clients on a shopping day where we wander through stores I have chosen, based on what I think will resonate with them. We select pieces they like – sometimes we buy, but often we just look. If a client gives me their honest impressions and opinions, I can get a great appreciation of their style and tastes – even if they don’t have that understanding themselves.
Who else lives there?
My preference is to work with both partners in a home – I encourage it from the start and will arrange meetings that suit everyone’s schedules. For a family home, while parents will lead a project, we have to factor in the needs (and tastes) of everyone who lives in the home. I love to speak to everyone if I can; I interview the children and get a brief from them for their bedrooms and playroom, if there is one. There are times when I do have to be very diplomatic – and sometimes even be a therapist.
Just chatting to them can be the best way to understand the client and other family members – to understand the family dynamics, to understand who makes the financial decisions, and who has the stronger voice, and then to hear everyone, and try to balance it all.
Before and After – Spare bedrooms should be just as welcoming – and gorgeous – as a master bedroom
It is quite common for some clients to not really know what to expect from their project in the beginning – and that’s okay. Projects, pretty much, always evolve – sometimes minimally, sometimes dramatically. It is a big part of the designer’s job to guide and bring some clarity to what is the ideal outcome – because we often know exactly what that is!
Before and After – Understanding the client’s tastes is key to giving them a room they adore
You don’t have to make every decision
Some clients find making decisions a nightmare (especially as there can be so many) and they are often happy to leave some of those decisions to me. Other clients – especially repeat clients – trust me to make most of the decisions on their behalf once we have settled on the direction of the project.
When clients struggle to make a decision, or when they find themselves asking five different friends for advice, it is generally best to leave it to the designer. Changing your mind becomes very expensive in a big project, and disrupts the flow of the design– so it is best to rely on an expert.
Before and After – Bedrooms are a haven, so getting them right is essential
It’s a two way street
My process is this: I take lots of notes at the first meeting, then, around two weeks later, I return with a mood board showing my interpretation of the brief, with images of furniture, lighting, joinery, textures, and so on – everything I think is necessary for the client to see at the first stage. This is the time for the client to be very open and honest with me. If we get this foundation right, things usually go smoothly thereafter. I welcome clients who want to invest in their project and be involved, thereby creating a team effort, and I am always happy to listen to their needs and work with them. I do find – because I make a point of listening very carefully and delivering to the brief – that clients trust that I know what is needed to make a job fabulous.
Ultimately, a successful project comes down to three things: honesty, trust and integrity – the three most important things in any relationship if it is to be sustained over a long period of time.
Image credit: Maree Homer Photography (http://www.mareehomer.com/)