Can of Worms!! :)

I'm not usually big on writing on controversial posts, but an a post I did earlier today did spur on some thoughts... This morning I did a post on a client of mine who had a very different design aesthetic from my own. (I since removed the post so it isn't as personal, but I can email it to anyone who is interested.) To quickly sum up the "missing post," when I first took the job, the client told me she loved my work, and told me what she wanted and I went ahead & created a design plan from her. When it wasn't to her liking, she then gave me photos of more rooms she liked and they were very very at odds with my design beliefs. At this point, I was really into the job, really liked her, and I did feel that I owed it to her to make the room something she would love, even if I didn't. So that's what I tried to do. She saw the entire design plan before it went into action & approved each and every purchase, but now that it's completeed, she wants "more"- more tassles, more ruffles, etc. We can very easily add some more pillows & accessories to the room & she will be thrilled with the ends results (She has already told me she really likes the room, I just know she doesn't love it the way I want her to.) but this post did bring around another really interesting issue in the comments from an Anon.

Anyway, I got some really great comments- some thought it was very wrong of me to continue on with the client, others thought that as a designer it's your job to take into account your client's tastes & styles & to create a well-done room for them based upon knowing what is good design & trying to make it work with their vision. I've decided that if this becomes apparent in a future project I will bring it to the client's attention and either let us come to an understanding or help him/ her find someone else.

But this comment in particular brought me into another line of thought:

From Anon: "I am not a designer, but I agree with Anon 9:23. When I look at designers I admire and who have traction over time, they take their ego out of the picture and make the client the star. I am concerned about designers who only have a set design, a go to personal aesthetic without ever wanting to design for the client's wishes, wants, and the particular issues the client's home creates. In the end, this kind of one-note design mandated by the designer never grows, never changes and becomes a time capsule. "

I have to disagree with Anon. (above) I think he/ she might be mixing up aesthetic with design style. (I'm not talking different styles such as "shabby chic" or "art deco" or "rustic" but design aesthetics.) They are two very different things & I think it's important to distinguish between the two.

According to wikipedia ,"Aesthetics is commonly known as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste.[1] More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as "critical reflection on art, culture and nature."[2][3] Aesthetics is a subdiscipline of axiology, a branch of philosophy, and is closely associated with the philosophy of art.[4] Aesthetics studies new ways of seeing and of perceiving the world

I believe what makes each designer unique & different is his or her aesthetic. It's WHY people hire a particular designer in the first place... Because they appreciate the designer's aesthetic. Designers who develop signature looks can and DO do a wide range of design styles - contemporary, traditional, transitional, etc- but their aesthetics are apparent in each room they do.

I do not think it's an ego thing at all... I think it's being good at what you do. I believe it's a designer's job to make each design deeply personal for a client but to also make it work & make it a good design & to do your job as a designer. When I think of some of the "greats" and of some of my favorite interior designers: Darryl Carter(image below), Bunny Williams, Brooke Gianetti, Steven Gambrel(image above), Nate Berkus, Albert Hadley ... they have very strong design aesthetics that can be seen in each & every space they do but no one would say they only did one style of design. They design beautiful spaces that thrill their clients & withstand the test of time, not "time capsules" as Anon says designers who impart their own personal aesthetics create.

I also don't think there really should be a "star" in design either... the design should be all about the client & very personal, but I also think the designer owes it to the client to put his/ her best design forward, to make sure the design is well-done & of a certain caliber... the caliber for which the designer was hired for in the first place. I really think of it as a collaboration...

So, what are your thoughts? (I told you this was a can of worms!! :) Do you think a designer should not let his/her personal aesthetic come into the picture when designing for a client? Or should he/ she create a personal design for a client guided by his/her own design aesthetic? Do you think designers with "signature looks" are egotistical? Are they creating rooms that won't stand the test of time?

ps- Also thought this Albert Hadley article was really interesting:



*** UPDATE-- so my computer's being weird & won't let me leave a comment so I cut & pasted it. This would be comment #20: (sorry I'm so long-winded!!!)

hahaha oh my gosh I just wrote the longest comment back and it erased!!!!
I don't know if I can do it again!! (but of course I'm going to try!! :)
mave,First, thanks for putting your name because I think a lot of people who disagree with posts, don't, so I appreciate that.

Anyway, I don't think it's splitting hairs because I do think there's a big difference in an aesthetic vs. a style. I think you & I will just have to agree to disagree on our definition because I'm the exact opposite: I believe that design styles are derived from aesthetics, not the other way around.

This really is getting into philosophy (but that's exactly what aesthetic is- "Aesthetics is the study of beauty and taste... The word derives from the Greek aisthetikos, meaning "of sense perception." Aesthetics has traditionally been part of philosophical pursuits like epistemology or ethics)

But, Someone with a strong particular aesthetic can do a variety of design styles and their aesthetic comes accross in all of them. This is why we love some designer's work and dislike others... I agree with you that if we don't like a person's aesthetic, it's unlikely that we'll like most of their work, no matter what "design style" they're doing. I can see two "traditional" rooms, for example, and love one and hate the other because of how it was done by the designer... because of their aesthetic and how they approached the design style... Anyway, hope that makes sense but I'm feeling lazy the second time around! :) people define their aesthetic & hone it but can use it to produce any style they want.

I'm not sure if you read the originial post or not, but I did say that there was no budget for new furniture, and the only purchases we were allowed were: bedding, lamps, mirrors and window treatment. I also never said that she was unhappy with the design, only that she wanted "more." We're spoken since the post and she wants me to purchase some pillows and accessories & artwork, which previously was not part of the budget/ plan & is very excited about it. The modern lamps in the room were chosen by her from a selection of lamps and she wanted the room to have a modern vibe, not "old world." Modern but oppulent & gaudy... I actually myself love what I think you're calling "old world" and have done it several times to clients' satisfaction.
The things my client are naturally drawn to, are not in good taste (according to me, because taste is relative) but it's also my job as a designer to steer a client towards what I think of as items in good taste that are within the same style. Hence, the super-satiny bedspread of higher quality than the ones in the inspiration rooms. A blend of shiny & matte throught the room vs. all shiny which is what she originally wanted and would have created a bad design, in my opinion.

There are things we learn as designers and it is our job to create designs based upon our knowledge/ experience. I wouldn't be doing my job if I told a client- "yes, everything you want is perfect for this room," because that's not giving them your expertise or creativity, which is what they're paying you for. Most clients who hire you "tell" you what they like and then it is up to you to create that space for them based upon a lot of questioning, digging, sample-showing, etc. They don't want you to do what they could do themselves.

It's not an ego thing or a matter of pushing yourself on them, but it's where you're coming from. And again, it boils down to, if your design aesthetics are at odds very deep down from the beginning, then I don't think it's a good client-designer match. (Which is really what I've learned through the first post & everyone's comments.)

Also, to the original Anon who I quoted in the above post. I hope you're not upset that I quoted you but I wanted to use your comment to start a new thread/ conversation all-together becasue you did bring up another issue, which I thoguht would spur some great debates.

(I have to admit that on a personal level, I was shocked/ a little hurt by the comment implying that I would put my own ego above the client's or that I only had 1 type of design up my sleeve, but you're entitled to your opinion, just as I am mine.) But I don't take it personally and realize that this is a place to give your opinion & do appreciate your giving yours, which is why I continued the conversation.

Hope you'll be back & thanks so all who joined in!! (And of course keep talking!! :)

ps- there'a probably a word limit on comments and i SO went over it!!! eeeeeek hahaha


Jill Swank said...

Amen to you girl! Sometimes you have to just stand up for how you see things. We are all individuals, we do things in our own way. If I were to hire a would be one who has already designed in a way that I find best fits my personality. To hire a designer that doesn't usually design the way you see in your taking your own risk. You are always taking the chance of not getting 100% of the look you want...but that's why there are choices for designers. I thought it was very brave and honest of you to post about the client. You could have chose not to, but you tried to let others know that designing is hard. It is a job, sometimes at a job you have to do things you don't like to do. You tried! That is something to be so proud of also. You tried to please the client to the best of your ability and $$ constraints. I say props to you girl...and forget anyone who tries to bring you down!

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you've said. There is a difference between aesthetic and style. I'm sure you'll hear a lot of different opinions on this one, but I'm with you.

Tammy@InStitches said...

I think a designer's job is to pull together an interior that the client will love. I also think that the client should hire a designer that has similar aesthetics.

Jennifer said...

fun topic! there is a lot I could ramble on about, but at the end of the day, your work is still that -- YOUR WORK. yes, it's someone's home as well, but it should still be something that you would 100% endorse and that you feel totally, completely proud of. if you feel that something is wrong (even if we're just talking decor and it's a tassle!), you shouldn't be pressured to do it. this applies to all other jobs, so why not interior design?

Tracy Watier said...

There you are! I was commenting on the "missing post" when it disappeared!
I completely agree with your response to Anon. Many designers who become very well-known—let's use Michael Smith and Charlotte Moss as examples—do indeed have a specific aesthestic. Both of these designers work with traditional style elements but in their own individual way. You wouldn't go to Moss to get a Smith-looking room or vice-versa. It's what they each do best and most often that has created their "look" and causes clients to call on one or the other in particular in the first place.
Personally, I think the relationship between designer and client is a bit like dating. They may have asked you out, but you're under no obligation to see them again if you think you're not a good match or if you sense something may be "off" about their expectations. It is not the designer's job to twist herself into something she's not in order to fulfill the client's wishes. I think the work you do for a client should feel natural and familiar. In the article you linked us to, Mr Hadley says that, as a designer, you should "bring to the project the best of what you know". A smart client will hire you to do exactly that. The trick is to bring YOUR aesthetic, even your style, to the job but leave it looking like THEIR home.
All that being said, you did a terrific job for a client who maybe should have thought twice about hiring you. She said she loved your work but it turned out that your "look" is not what she really wanted in her home. Good for you for giving it your best!

Beth Dunn said...

LOL why be anon that is just silly. You are doing your best! xoxo

LindsB said...

I totally agree with you and I'm sorry someone is giving you a hard time- dont let the negative anon comments bother you, this is your blog and you can blog about what you want to :) xoxo

Anonymous said...

Hi Lauren,

I am one of the anons who felt you had to give the client what they are paying you for- fulfillment of a decor they personally feel they cannot achieve. I think it is important to stress that this discussion was invited by you- for anyone out there who thinks any comments are negative just because they are different from theirs. You wanted feedback- and I believe you knew in your heart the customer would not be happy with the end results- hence your lingering doubts. I think it is a real eye opening experience for you to learn that personally you are not comfortable stepping outside of your design aesthetic. Be true to yourself and the heck with what anyone else thinks.

Chloe said...

Hi Lauren,
I am new to your blog! Intriguing and very much a slippery slope of a topic. I am a landscape designer... I have on many occasions bucked a client on their wishes. However, its very easy when my reasons are light exposure, native plant choices and overall giving them something that will endure when I walk away. I don't envy your predicament. I do think you have a responsiblity to finish a job and give a client what they want. I hope they are paying extra for both your time and the elements that were not originally included in the initial proposal. At the end of the day... we all learn from issues that we had not anticipated from day one. Walk away and know that you gave it your all and you will have one more notch in your design belt that will help with the years of experience and expertise your future clients are paying for.

Hope to hear how this pans out. Good luck... love your blog and will be back!

Erin said...

lets see here...Im miss practical as you might know and I tend to look at things from a finicial aspect as well. In this situation if I needed the business I would design her room as she would like. Of course I would give her my input, but if she insist on a certain design/personal aesthetic then I think you need to give her that. She is paying you for a job. (she is better off in my opinion taking your advice b/c your pure style is much more appealing then "gaudy." - but thats another issue for another time) tehe. In the end - do the job the best you can to make your customer happy - take the money and run - and dont put the pics in your portfolio :) haha.

on the other hand, if you dont need her business you help her find a different designer.

-from miss practical.

Jenn said...

Great, interesting topic. Your design aesthetic becomes your design *signature*. You shouldn't compromise that for a client who doesn't share your aesthetic. I agree that if that happends in the future you should recommend the client trying a new designer.

Simply Dandy said...

This is a very interesting subject. I did read the post when it was up and tried to leave a comment but couldn't. I am not a professional designer but love to putz around with my own house. I have also helped other people with theirs. It's funny because they will tell you what they like, you show them things, you buy things, they approve it and then when you pull it all together, they don't like it. I am not sure anyone can please those kind of people. There are two kinds of clients, the ones who love and appreciate everything and the ones that no matter who the designer is or what the design is they will never be happy. Just my two cents worth.


EAC said...

Of course your design aesthetic should influence the end product. If the client is that confident in his or her own aesthetic, why hire a designer? Yes, designers are valued not only for their aesthetics but also for the ability to source items, to find competent tradespeople, as well as manage the project, but still, a contractor could manage and source, the client is also paying for your professional opinion. Regarding your original problem- should you take the client- I don't know. But to expect a designer to provide sourcing and project management skills without a personal stamp is silly. I would not ask a painter specializing in abstact art to paint me a landscape on commission.

Lauren said...

Hi Anon 6:04,

Please don't feel bad. I was happy to get the comments (as I said in the beginning of this post that I got some great comments steering me towards not taking on a client like this in the future & did appreciate & agree with this advice... I think you were one of them) but I simply wrote this next post in response to what I feel is a completely separate issue all-together brought up by a different Anon... that of a designer's aesthetic coming into play when designing a space for a client.

I appreciate your honesty & hope you see that the reason I started a new post was because I believed this as a separate issue & was not in response to your comment.

Also, I took off the previous post because I didn't want to scare any potential clients away!! :)

Thanks again for the input & hope you'll be back!!!

Julianna Farmer said...

Aw man! You need to head over to Cote de Texas. She has an interesting college anecdote that falls in line with all of this. It's her current posting.
I'm with you. A designer's aesthetic is part of why clients hire the designer while the design itself still stands the test of time and maintains the personality of the client.

Brooke @ Blueprint Bliss said...

Wow. Can of worms for sure! They are easy to open on a blog, aren't they? Ppl get fired up and love to give their opinions. But often the negative comments are left by someone without their name. I just don't get that. They should tell who they are. Anywho. I really like Tammy's comment above. It is exactly what I had going through my mind! xx- Brooke

Eileen said...

It's black and white to me. Of course a designer is hired because his/her work is liked (more likely LOVED!).
I happen to really appreciate the shabby chic style of decorating, and the Queen of Shabby Chic, Rachel Ashwell, designs with that theme, but I've seen her do a more contemporary room in that theme, and I've seen her do an Asian-inspired room in the shabby chic theme. The colors were very different from the pastel palette that is shabby chic, but the staples of shabby chic were all still there. The rooms were definitely Rachel's Shabby Chic style rooms with her clients tastes and desires in mind. The rooms of course were a reflection of her.
Why would anyone bother to hire a designer if they wanted the room designed to their own specifications only? If I were a designer, I not only would find that mind-boggling, I'd find it annoying!
Could you imagine anyone hiring Rachel Ashwell and then asking her please not to have any elements of shabby chic in her design? In my opinion that's laughable.

Romana said...

Very interesting conversation - I am reminded of something I think Anna Spiro (of Absolutely Beautiful Things blog) said in a conversation with the girls from The Skirted Round Table (on their blog webcast). In her interview, Anna was asked if she designs rooms outside of her natural aesthetic (sorry spelling, lol). She said that intially as a new designer she had to - it was all about the client's requests and style. Now as a more established interior designer, she is approached because of her style and the client wanting that sort of aesthetic. Very intersting interview and worth a listen.

Fashion Maven said...

Oftentimes, I think designers believe they have an "aesthetic" when in reality, they simply favor certain design styles. Those design styles all have common "attributes" that attract designers to them. Those attributes may combine to form a design "aesthetic", but that means that an aesthetic is still derived from certain design "styles".

It's like statistics. Someone might say that they are a statistician and they don't like calculus, but statistics is actually derived from calculus. They're entertwined.

After reading the other post, I think you disagreed with her design "style" and her design "aesthetic". So I think you're splitting hairs. Ruffles, opulence, etc.. are attritubes of some particular design styles - but not the ONLY ones. From the previous post, it's clear that she wanted an "old-world" style and you basically don't like old world and did everything you could in the design to fight against that particular style. Is "old-world" an aesthetic or a design style? I think it's a style.

I think maybe you were working to transition her desire for an "old world" style but you just didn't achieve it. But is that her fault or yours? Is that a lack of creativity on your part or a lack of budget on hers? Maybe a little of both?

I think the problem for me is that I believe a design aesthetic is derived from various design styles - not the other way around. Which means that if you disagree with someone's design aesthetic, you disagree with the general set of styles that formed that person's design aesthetic.

But that doesn't mean that you couldn't have met the client's needs. I think you pushed your own aesthetic so hard that you missed an opportunity to really evolve your design approach and your sense of creativity.

I think this is what Anon may have meant. "Time capsule" imo, was the wrong term. The correct way to look at it is that you missed an opportunity for design growth. The pieces you used just didn't fit in at all with her inspiration photos and I've seen pieces that actually do fit your design style/aesthetic/whatever that you could have used, but for whatever reason, chose not to.

I don't really see any new design styles emerging. I just see new approaches to those same old design styles... that's how the design aesthetic comes into play.

I'm a usability analyst, partly because it bridges the gap for me between technology/research and design. But I always have to design according to usability principles AND I have to make sure I meet client needs. Sometimes they appear to conflict, but I often learn a lot when there appears to be conflict because I'm able to grow as a researcher and designer and bridge the gap.

I just think that you could have stuck to your design aesthetic and still made the client happy. You just needed better transitional pieces. Maybe there wasn't a budget for that or you didn't get creative enough.

So, I disagree about your "design style" and "design aesthetic" distinction.

Lauren said...

i put my comment at the end of the post- hahaha i think it was too long!!! uh-oh!! :)

Passementerie said...

I think that when you go (or send your daughter) to the Chanel atelier for a custom gown for Le Bal Crillon des Debutantes (as you no doubt do!), you go to the Chanel atelier, and not Dior, Lanvin or Roberto Cavalli because you want the Chanel look. You don't then proceed to direct Mr Lagerfeld to dress you in leopard print with a plunging neckline. If that's what you want, you don't go to Chanel.

I think that you are quite right to stick to a trademark look that you are personally invested in - it is the thing that sets you apart from other designers - if a client wants something that conflicts with the style at which you excel, you should delicately head them off to another designer, I think... a difficult situation to be in though when the client has specifically sought you out!

Kelly B said...

I agree with you. While I do believe you should make the room a reflection of the client, she chose you for your aesthetic. ANyone who hires Candice Olson knows what they are going to get. If you want a Vern Yip design, you hire him. She ok'd the design and then changed her mind. If she likes the base of the room, she can add more tassels and fluff. You did what she asked. There is nothing that says you have to waste crazy amounts of time working with someone who changes her mind after saying she likes it. High maintenance clients are a pain and not worth it. You can't please them and they will complain no matter what. Some people just like to be disagreeable. I am not a designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know people. There are a lot out there that make sure that even if they get what they want, they complain. Kinda like the person that wins a million dollars and then complains it is wrinkled I wouldn't worry about it. I am sure you did a great job. Some jobs just don't make it into your portfolio. Not because of the job... because of the client. ;0)

Maria Killam said...

Hi Lauren,
OMG I missed this very interesting conversation. I think a designer can and should have an aesthetic that people are buying. And bottom line, from a financial point of view it also makes sense. If you have to re-create the wheel every time you work with a new client you won't make any money as a designer.

If you stick to your own aesthetic you hone it even more over time and it becomes more beautiful.

As for your client, I don't have a judgement about that at all, it happens to the best of us!!

email me the post, I want to see the original one!
Are you really only 26? You sound so much older and so experienced for your age (I hope it's okay I'm saying this), you are one of my favourite people!!

bluehydrangea said...

I've been thinking about this one and just had to give my two cents. anyone who reads your blog knows your fabulous style. Isn't that why you hire a decorator? I would hire you to decorate my house in a skinny minute because I love what you do. If I want a Santa Fe look (god forbid) I wold hire someone else. And you know what? some people are never happy with their homes.

Fashion Maven said...

I'm sorry for being wordy and for being the voice of disagreement, but...

I still think you guys are talking about a design style and not an aesthetic. A good design aesthetic would not have prevented the designer from doing the room in a good way. The finished room demonstrated a clear design style clash - and I don't think it's because of her "aesthetic".

The finished room pics don't really reflect the inspiration pics at all. I think the client trusted her to use her design aesthetic to make the things she showed her "work" (as that is the designer's job), but to still stick to the client's design style, which this designer did not do. And it wasn't because she didn't like the client's "aesthetic" - she didn't like the client's STYLE. Period.

And Candace Olsen has done homes in a variety of styles - I've even seen her do a more "old world" style in the past vs. more modern styles now and you can still see her design aesthetic. I've even seen her do french country and her design aesthetic is STILL there! So that's a copout.

I think that when a designer's aesthetic gets in the way - that's a problem. It means the designer did not stretch enough creatively to do the job.

Another problem that I have encountered even in usability and software design is when a designer has "disdain" for a client's wants - or even when the designer assumes the client wants "tassles" and "fringe" (the assumption rising from the designer's disdain for what the designer assumes is the client's taste). The "feeling" of that over-the-top-ness could have been achieved without tassles or fringe. Clean-lined bed linens could have been used, with a folded damask comforter at the foot of the bed. Gold-tone lamps could have been used, with interesting lampshades and sculptural bases that looked very clean and modern.

I'm just saying it could have been done had this designer stretched a bit more and if she hadn't been so put off by her assumptions of the client's "style".

Now, you can choose to refuse work that isn't in the styles you prefer to work in - that's your choice. But it isn't because of an aesthetic (see Candace Olsen example above), it's because you simply don't want to work in those particular design styles.

Lauren said...

Mave, I think we'll have to agree to disagree.

ps- i actually had gold lamps in the original design plan & even though her furniture is brushed all over in gold she told me she hated gold and chose the silver lamps... Also had warm, romantic damask bedding but she decided upon the teal satin that she said she loved. that's just how it goes!

Lauren said...

and also, what you were saying about Candice Olson is exactly what Kelly B was saying. (and I agree!) so I don't understand what you mean about a cop-out but oh well.

thanks for your input!

Fashion Maven said...

After your latest clarification, it sounds like this wasn't an "aesthetic vs. design style" problem. Imo, the problem was that in your case, the client had unreasonable expectations, OR the client was trying to modernize her tastes, but in the end just didn't like what that meant. Maybe it was both. The client thought so highly of you that she thought she could have the best of both worlds, but with the duvet choices and color choices she made, she constrained you too much?

From the last bit you posted, it does sound like she had unreasonable expectations and you did the best you could. I suppose I'm the one guilty of making assumptions then.

My comment about Candace was to show that a design aesthetic didn't prohibit a good designer from being able to design seemingly disparate design styles well, as Candace did and does.

I think we should agree to disagree on the aesthetic vs. design style discussion though. In the end, I don't think that's what this came down to ultimately - but that's not really what your initial posts implied (to me). But I'm not an interior designer, so my opinion really isn't worth all that much in the end. I hope my differing opinion didn't upset you too much.

Lauren said...

definitely agree with you about candice- I feel the same way! and just bc you're not a designer, doesn't mean your opinion doesn't matter in the end. agreed on agreeing to disagree . hahaha

and yes, I also do think some clients say they know that they want but then it turns out to be something else all together when you give them exactly what they want and they say "no that's not what I asked for at all." Vicente Wolf just had a great thing on the Skirted Rountable where he types up everything the client says they like and then gives it back to them with the design & he says lots of times they say "i don't like pink" (or whatever in the plan they say they don't like) and then he shows it to them and they see that they did in fact say that was what they wanted. hahah but oh well it's another issue all-together- prob another good one for discussion but I'm tuckered out of "discussions" for this week hahahahaha

thanks for joining in!!!

Admin said...

Your client had her own ideas of what she wanted, which wasn't working which is why she hired you. I think that maybe there needed to be more discussion between you and your client. I have had clients that required a few initial meetings to really get down to what they were looking for. This day and age people are totally bombarded with diy information, design shows, decorating magazines and opinionated friends and it creates quite a bit of confusion. Just because you see it done on t.v., in someone's home or in a supermarket magazine does not mean it is good design. As designers we leave pieces of ourselves in every room we design. Whether you call it style or aesthetics, that makes you the designer you are. I do not always agree with a clients vision but as long as I get it,I can make it happen. Sometimes the vision or the bits that the client is looking for needs to be translated for them as opposed to a literal interpretation. The designers you mentioned all have their own aesthetics, but I believe their style is what defines their designs. Many of the big names in the industry designs are dated and do not read well for most, but that is why they get hired, for their particular style or look. But I have had to walk away a few times, bad design is bad design and I don't do bad design even if they saw it on HGTV. one of your comments: Designers should never take clients just because they need the money...

Vanya Wilkinson said...

I think as a designer you have to accommodate your clients needs and wishes, but without sacrificing your own design values. My father has his own contracting business and he always said to me, if you don't gel with the client in the beginning and feel like its not gonna work out, recommend them on to someone else, you'll both be happier in the long run. Wise words that I followed when I had my own business and I found he was very right.

It's an experience, don't beat yourself up about it, it will just make you more aware of it next time.

Best wishes xx

Haven and Home said...

Amen! I was actually going to post about something similiar to this a while back because I went through the same thing. I really can' say it better than you did so I will simply agree!

Deb said...

I think clients pick out a designer because they like their style. It is certainly Not egotistical on the designers part.
I would love to see the original post.

Anonymous said...

Any style/design can be aesthetically done, but not the other way around. So I agree with Mave's definition. Good designers have developed a good aesthetic sense/knowledge and a lot choose to only work within their own designSTYLE- but a really good designer should be able /even they choose not to)to use their developed aesthetic sense and create something aethetically pleasing within any designstyle/frame.

I love your blog, Lauren. I think you have zest and energy, and a talent:-),that anybodycould envy. I love watching the development of your new home.

This client (I read the orignal post); did she okay your use of the pictures in the context that you did? That was'nt clear to me from the post itself, so I am a bit confused.


Lauren said...

Once some really negative things were said about the room & design in comments I didn't feel that it was right to keep it up and didn't want to hurt her feelings as she is really excited about the room and helped pick out every piece in the room. (We're "adding more" which was not originally in the budget)

Thanks Suzanne!

Lauren said...

I also think that at this point it sounds like we're all agreeing on the same concept with different wording ;)

Paula said...


I completely agree with you. I'm not a designer but friends occasionally ask me to decorate their places (which I've yet to do). What they respond to is my aesthetic, which in my case includes a wide range of styles, as evidenced by the way my own home has evolved over the years.

I do think your decision to bring these kinds of conflicts to the clients attention as soon as possible is smart professionally. Clients don't always know what they don't know, so educating them about potential differences in design aesthetic will likely
make for a more successful experience or, if appropriate, bring the collaboration to an end.

That said, it does sound like you were able to make her happy, so maybe what it comes down to is whether you want to be the kind of designer who "merely" makes the client happy. You mentioned Vicente Wolf and included a Darryl Carter room, and these designers presumably service their clients, but they do what they do and when you go to them, I imagine you get their aesthetic tailor-made to your specifications. I doubt you get your aesthetic unmediated by theirs. I think people who want that hire what I call a "decorator." I have two friends who hired people whom I would call decorators and their houses looked nice...and boring. They both ended up with nicer versions of a Pottery Barn room (and they did not use the same decorator).

So maybe this is one of those great moments in life when we get to decide who we are going to be or what it is that we're up to.

The other thing I would say from here in middle age (hahaha) is that I wouldn't take the comment that implied that you'd put your ego above the client personally. I just learned this summer, four decades into my life, that everyone has an opinion and so what. If an opinion stings a bit, I ask myself what my opinion is, and if I have a different one, I don't bother getting hurt. I just realize that person isn't me and that's the end of that. (This is a skill that I think is especially useful when you have a public profile since you will have more opportunities than most to hear what everyone thinks). If something in their opinion truly gives me pause, I do what you did, which is I think it through. Sometimes I discover that there is something in their opinion that I need to look at. Other times -- as happened with you -- I discover that I don't agree with their opinion, and it solidifies my own sense of myself and how I choose to live my life. So, again, I wouldn't take it personally. It wasn't a critique of you. It was just an opinion she has that she happened to apply to you, but even if you weren't there, she would have felt that way. And, the great news is, you thought about it deeply and you just don't agree. Hats off to you. Also, for the record, there's nothing wrong with having a big fat ego. I'm betting Darryl Carter and Vicente Wolf have put their ego before clients at some point in their career. If they hadn't, I don't think they would have an aesthetic that is so strong that I can recognize it instantly. I'm betting that, at some point, they decided to only work with clients whose aesthetics harmonized with their own. That takes ego. Because you are a lot younger than me, I feel this inappropriate maternal instinct to tell you to not shy away from having an ego if you discover that you have one. I find that nice people in particular (and you seem exceedingly nice) don't need to worry about their egos. If anything, they may need to develop them a bit.

Congrats on the project and the clarity of vision.

Things That Inspire said...

Wow - where have I been - I missed the original post! All I know is this is why I like to write about design, and not do it - there are some huge challenges to being a designer that people have no idea about.

I find this to be a very, very interesting discussion as I am currently thinking about which designer to hire for a project I am about to undertake, and there is one designer whose look is different than mine, but I can tell that she has a tremendous sense of style that shows through in all of the spaces I have seen of hers. I feel that she can handle my job even though her style is a bit different. However, it does make me a tiny bit nervous. I might feel a bit more comfortable hiring someone who has examples of work that is much more similar to what I like - with the amount of money I will be investing, it seems like more of a sure thing.

What designers sometimes don't realize is that people who don't live and breathe design often have no idea how to go about finding a designer. I can rattle off the names of at least 20 local designers that I would love to work with, but most people could probably not even name 1 or 2. So when they find someone that they know is talented, they often have to trust that the designer is multi-faceted and able to handle a variety of projects. Many designers can do this - but I am sure some cannot. Personally, I can say that when I post on something that really does not interest or inspire me, my post is much weaker than when I post on something that inspires me so much that I can't wait to share it with the world. I can only imagine that it must be similar when doing a design project - one that reflects your own design aethetic is probably much easier, much more enjoyable, and much more inspired than one that does not.

Ness Lockyer said...

I agree with you too Lauren and what Anna Spiro said in the interview. At first while you are a new Designer, you need to take on board all that the client is after and put some of your design asthetics in as well, build your portfolio to show all of the different 'design hats' you can wear/do...then as you are better known you will get clients who love the asthetic you have and will want you to design for them because of that.
I also beleive that you shouldn't take on a client just because you need money...this can lead to bad word of mouth (which is one of the best advertisments about) if you and the client dont see eye to eye on the design because they are after a different asthetic...which will lead to no jobs. You are right though - people get asthetics and design mixed up.
Sometimes it pays to walk away!
Ness xx