Design Snobbery

{remember this scene from Pretty Woman?}

Design snobs.  You know the stereotype: clickity clacking heels, suits, haughty expression, a distaste for low budgets and new entries into the field.   Now, do they really exist or we are imagining it?  Have you ever walked into a store and suddenly looked down at what you were wearing and felt like you didn't belong there?  Was this because someone in the store "made" you feel that way or because of your own insecurities?

I know that a lot of people I've spoken with outside of the design industry- mainly friends & family- think that a lot of interior designers and in-store decorators/ salespeople have a "snobby" way about them.  I think a lot of this can stem from talks about budgets and brands and general nonverbal communication.

People fear someone walking into their homes and "judging" them & their house.  It's a designer's job to look critically at a space, so yes, it won't be all pats on the back when you invite a designer into your home to begin a new project (you wouldn't want to pay for that, would you?)  but it shouldn't be a barrage of judgement & cristicism either.  When I walk into a home with a new client for the first time, it's not the time to judge, it's the time to observe, and I always approach a new project knowing that I've been called in because the owner understands good design and is looking for something more in his/ her home.  I understand that designing is not his/her profession and don't expect to see a magazine-worthy space (that's my job! ;) ;)   Depending upon the budget given and the parameters of the project, I help the client determine the best level they can get their home to.  I help them figure out where best to allocate their time & money to get the best overall look.  I know many people fear telling a designer their budget because they are afraid we are going to use all of it or go way over or judge them for it.  I tell clients that yes, I will use all of the budget you 've given me, but knowing the budget up front helps me figure out how to get the best look for the amount of money you have for the project.  Money is one of the designer's tools whether we want to hear it or not.

So the question is- why do designers have a snobby rap?  I know many of us like nice things and we deal in the business of appearances.  (On one level...  For most of us, it's the business of making people feel something, but it's an appearance that elicits that feeling.)  I'm really affected by my surroundings.  Whenever I go over to my mom's house, I start OCDistically rearranging her sofa pillows the way I like them.  (my poor mom, I wouldn't do this to anyone else...  except my maybe dad!)  So I'm sure if one of her friends saw me rearranging her pillows, she might think I was ridiculous and takingo ver my mom's house, but in reality I do it because my mom's house feels like my house to me (I did used live there for a looooong time) and I treat it just like I do my own house...  Maybe I look like a design snob when I do this?  (I'll have to make sure I never do it in a suit! ;)

I've heard a story about a designer telling a client that something in her home made the designer want to throw up.  After laughing (because seriously???!! really??!) I couldn't get over that someone would say that unless he/she was on a reality show and had been coached by the producer to say it.

I have also noticed in-store design consultants (whom I personally know & really get along well with & love) come across as a bit impatient or snobbish with customers who don't know much about the product or what they want or how to communicate what they want.  I KNOW these women are great people, but I know that the customer walks away feeling not-so-good when this happens.  I think some of it comes about from the customer being uncomfortable shopping for something she's not used to shopping for & dont' know much about, and I think some of it comes from the consultant doing it day in and day out and knowing the right questions to ask but not doing it as if it were the first time for the customer.  Because the customer is stepping out of his or her comfort zone while shopping or inquiring about a product he/she doesn't know much about, he/she needs to be treated carefully & with understanding.

I myself had similar treatment when I called a fabric distributor whose samples I carry for more information on one of their velvets.   I asked him to tell me about the velvet in regard to kids & pets & durability and his response was very insulted: "Why are you asking me this?  It's a high-end commercial grade velvet; one of the best in the industry."  (reeeeeeeally huffy)

I simply responded, "I haven't used this velvet before in a project, was never formally introduced to the pros/ cons of your line by a representative, and wanted to speak with someone who had experience with it."

"Oh," he said and then nicely went on to tell me how awesome it was and how long it would last, etc.  But my point is: why that response?  I wasn't surprised because I had gotten similar responses from him before, but really, why was there a need for that?  I actually love the company and have gotten so used to his responses that I'm fine with it and am not even bothered when I get one of those splashes-of-cold-water-responses, but it would be nice not to have to deal with it. 

My intern, Meghan, used to get off the phone with showrooms sometimes and remark at how unfriendly the people on the phone were.  We actually chose our upholsterer based on his friendliness and willingness to answer questions over the phone (once price & quality were taken into account of course) and he's still one of the best people we work with.  Think about how much business went his way simply because we felt comfortable asking him questions. 

I'm not one of those people who's going to say, "why the attitude?" or let it make me feel small or intimidated(which is what I used to do) but I am going to look for other possible future alternatives.  (Unless in the case of the velvets, everyone else is really nice, the service is amazing, and I'm so used to the dude's personality and it's almost funny.)  I don't think most people are intentionally rude or snobby or brisk, but it can harm them or their company anyway.  I've realized that most of that type of treatment isn't personal, but I'd still rather not have to deal with it. 

But why designers with the snobby rap?  We deal with appearances, we critique people's homes, we're in a field that is out of many people's comfort zone...  what else?

Competition.  I've noticed that there are a couple of different types of designers: those who share and those who compete.  There's no ifs-ands-or-buts about it, some designers view all other designers as competitors.  To some extent, I guess this is healthy, but to another extent there can be some cattiness in it.  I have lot of designer friends and believe that we all bring different styles & skills to the table.  The client that's right for me is not the client who might be right for my friend and vice versa.  The better my friends do, the better I can do.  If I can send over a client for a friend who might not be right for me but right for them, they might do the same for me one day.  There are designers out there who view other designers as competitors and as a reslt, just aren't really very friendly when meeting them.  I've even had a situation pretty recently, when I came accross an old family friend who is also a designer and I felt her hackles raise.  This is someone I've known since I was 5 and who has been designing a decade longer than me.  But I felt it and to be honest, even writing it now, it feels weird to me because I care about this person.      

Why else do designers have the snobby rap?

Thinking you're somebody.  This is a biggie.  I think it's important to never assume that someone knows who you are or what you do.  I was at a designer showhouse once and remarked to the designer of the room how much I loved it.  I introduced myself and put out my hand to shake hers after our conversation began and when she didn't offer her name, I asked her.  Eyebrows raised and clearly insulted, "I am ______________  _____________."  I felt embarrassed myself and realized that she was annoyed that I asked her name, but I didn't have a program on me and had wandered into the room without seeing a name anywhere.  I was honestly just loving her work and wanted to know who she was/ make a proper introduction.  (I won't make that mistake again because it was awkward.)  But I promised myself then that if I'm ever in a position like that, that I'll remember that -however awesome I think I am- there's a whole world of people out there who don't know me.  Humility is a virtue.

ASIDE: On that humility note though, I do think you can go too far- one of my best friends said to me a month or so ago on the phone that she thought I'd looked great after having the baby but had been afraid to tell me in person because I'm "so weird about compliments."  This definitely made me laugh, but I felt kind of bad.  I recounted a a conversatioon I'd recently had when I'd met someone at a party and he said "Oh my gosh your skin is just glowing!" and instead of saying "thanks" I said something like "yeah , I guess the sun'll do that" and it was just kind of awkward because there was a group of us & it came off as sarcastic (I think) when I didn't mean it that way at all.   So I do know that there's also a point when you have to learn to accept praise or a compliment gracefully. 

Why else?

Nonverbal.  I had a friend in high school who people thought were snobby and she blamed it on her facial expression and she was right.  Her natural resting facial expression just looked snobby.  My mom mentioned recently that one of the kids at the school she worked at asked, "Ms.Cox, why are you always sad?"  hahaha  And she has deep, sad eyes (which have always reminded me a bit of Precious Moments) and she said she's now going to have to try to work on her resting facial position because when she walks around it looks like she's unhappy.  Not that I think we always have to go around like people are watching us, but I do think it helps to be aware of how we're being perceived.  Do we come accross as nice, pushy, sweet, polite, rude, snobby??  How do you want to be perceived?  Maybe you don't have to go as far as changing your natural resting facial position, but you can be aware of your nonverbal communication when you're engaging in some way with somebody.  Are you speaking really quickly, giving them the impression that you don't have time for them?  Are you letting them speak?  Are you showing them that you're interested in what they have to say and listening?  Even smaller things like- is your body angled toward them or away from them? Are you looking around the room for other customers or are you paying attention to the person you're speaking with?  People in our industry need a little hand-holding.  (Even I like it! :)

Clearly there comes a point of overanalyzation (And I think I might be there.. I often recount conversation from months past, thinking that something I said came across badly or that I talked too much.  I'm much more critical of myself than I am of others.) but I do think it helps to do it a little and to become aware of how you're presenting yourself.  I majored in communication in college and have always been senstitive to people's moods and behavior and the results are out there, that how you present yourself affects everything from who you marry to how much money you make. 

Experience.  Wow, I can't say enough about experience.  A year of working experience in this industry is pure gold.  Every year you get better, you learn more, you grow, you become more open-minded (hopefully!) you become more confident.  I think this in many ways explains why so many of the great designers of our day our older.  But inevitably, with that experience, comes confidence & knowledge, which are both good, but can lead to ego & cockiness & impatience with those who know less or have questions or don't understand you.  Everyone is a person and everyone deserves respect.  It doesn't matter who you are or what or who you know.  You might be speaking to the next ____________ (fill in the blank).  I think most of us know what it feels like to be underestimated and I'm sure most of us don't like it (unless we're about to win a game of pool.)  Treating "those who matter" with respect and treating "those who don't" (just by feeling this way about someone you have to realize it's wrong)  with indifference or anything less than respect just plain isn't okay.  The receptionist who lets you in the door deserves the same respect as the CEO you're visiting.  I think anyone who has been on the receiving end of a brisk "hello" and then watches that same person turn to someone else and introduce themselves and gush, immediately feels a bit dissed.  I watch this go on all the time at parties and events. 

Who's Who.  Once you really get into any industry, you realize that there are those who are industry-famous.  The rest of the world doesn't know them, but you & everyone you work with does.  There are parties and events and associations and circles just like high school!  Some people are popular and everyone loves them and some people are really good at what they do but people don't like them as much.  It's easy for someone new in the business to feel "small" when entering into everything.  I myself was really nervous when going to some of the first design things a few years ago, but was fortunate to have some really sweet people taking care of me. 

In the design industry, a lot of things have gone into creating that notion of snobbery-  judgements, money, the focus on appearances, impatience with those who don't know, competition, ego, exclusivity, narcissism, etc. and I think some of it is valid and also that a lot of the perceived snobbery is unwarranted.  There are so many people in the industry who do have incredible reputations & talents but are the most down-to-earth people when you actually talk with them.  As is often the case, many of the most successful/ talented/ celebrated people are the most real and have gotten as far as they have not only because of their talents but because of their personalities. 

I'm not sure what I accomplished by this long pictureless post but maybe by thinking a little more we can learn to not pass judgements as quickly on others who might come across as snobby or maybe we can be more aware of our own behavior and make sure we're not coming across in a way we don't want to be perceived.  Your thoughts??


xoxo, Lauren

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

-ps I just recently added this bit above about my design services in hopes that I get more reader-clients...  Since I've started the blog many of my clients have come directly from the blog & it's been so much fun!!

63 comments:

kristen said...

COMPLETELY love you, Lauren! You're a class act, and so refreshing in a maelstrom of negativity.

Aimee@ the Functional Space said...

Lauren! I love how your brain works and that you are good enough to write it down. I am actually dealing with the opposite problem at the moment. I just met with a new client last week that is such a snob, design-name-dropper, etc. I'm actually doing the design work for a remodeler and she is technically their client so I can't really say no thanks. She has a good grasp on what she wants (which I like!) but is so haughty about it. Clearly if she were my direct client I could say thanks but no thanks. How do you navigate people like this? Thanks again for a great, though provoking post.

Acquired Objects said...

I couldn’t agree with you more about this post. I think most people tend to come off being snobby because they either are or they’re just as insecure as you are. Remember the best offense is a good defense. Wonderful post whether it has pictures or not, you’re doll Lauren.

Kathysue said...

Bravo Lauren I think you said it all. Those that want to help and those that want to compete!! I think of peoples homes as such a personal space and I am an invited guest so to offend them is not going to be my MO. I don't care if it looks like a room "I Did!" I care much more that it looks and feels like "Their" Home. I am glad I never crossed over to the other camp and I am alos glad that you are so grounded, keep doing what you are doing.
KATHYSUE

a little luxe said...

Wonderful post Lauren..... I think that the design industry in general can be pretty intimidating at times, even for a designer! I think a lot of clients can be nervous about it as you said for the "judging" that might occur, But you are right... there is no judging only observing. Great design can come at ANY budget and not even the best design is always at the highest budget.... As for the competition aspect, its funny because I was just having that conversation with someone and I was saying how I thought between designers I think it is such a warm industry. I don't feel competion. There is a designer for every client and vice versa. I think we all try to help each other.... especially in this blogging world! Such warm people.... I could go on and on.....Great post again! :)

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I coudln't agree with you more, especially with some high end stores that cater to designers. I think we bloggers all know who the nice ones are (and the not so nice ones) - reputations precede you and is so critical with clients! no one wants to work with an unpleasant person, no matter how talented they are. There does seem to be a higher percentage of snobby people in this field than any other for whatever reason. I've heard from a few interior designers that architects are snobby -when in actuality -i think it is more that we're maybe a bit self-absorbed and busy and don't mean to come off that way at all! We are out of our depth with discussions of fabric and furnishings and maybe won't participate but it's not out of snobbiness (not that I'm aware of). Great topic, Lauren!

Jeannine 520 said...

Lauren, great post!

I'm a lover of great interior design but lack the skills to pull together what I'm trying to achieve so I know I need the help of a design professional. That's where the trouble comes in. I'm not really worried too much about snobbery while working with a designer, it's the insulting and ego bruising that goes on while trying to find a "match" between client and designer that has me at a standstill. After finding a few in my area (SF bay area) whose work I loved I was quickly made to understand that I wasn't going to find a match if my budget wasn't at least in the 100K range. They weren't interested in "helping" me decorate my house, that's not how they worked. That was about two years ago, I guess you could say that I'm now sort of intimidated about asking for what I want from anyone who may be able to help me: a space plan, color help, lighting fixtures, furniture options and some narrowing of my direction. Are these types of consultations a thing of the past?

Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle said...

Very interesting post and not something that I've read about on other blogs. I have only hired a designer once, a former neighbor, who was anything but snobby. I told her my budget (I was working on window treatments for our newly built home) and she gave me some affordable ideas for what I could do immediately and what I could do down the road when my budget was larger.

One thing that she told me later was that when she was just starting out and didn't charge a fee for an initial consultation, people would take her ideas, implement them on their own (not always effectively!) and never call her back.

mark said...

snobby wrap? I think you mean rep, short for reputation?

Meg said...

I LOVE this post. What happened to good manners and a smile? I really believe in karma, and what goes around comes around. Lately I've also experienced older designers being intimdated by younger ones. We aren't threatening! Why can't we all work together? We've learned from our elders and surely we know things they can learn about from us! Social media is a big one of those things! I think it's easy to be intimidated in our industry and it takes thick skin sometimes to be able to hear critiques and judgement. As designers we're always being judged, for better or for worse. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. I remember hearing once a true artist is successful if people not only love but also hate their work. It's better to evoke a reaction, positive or negative, than to not make any impression at all or for people not to notice it. I have to go re-read this again! Thank you!

Kelli said...

Just wanted to say "Thank You" for being transparent and humble, no snobbery on this blog, Thank You:)!

An Urban Cottage said...

Wow, now I'm all concerned about my natural resting facial position.

amymeier said...

Love this post! Just last week my seamstress said to me while we are in an install, "you don't have an attitude like other designers" and I took that as a huge compliment. I love working with people. Teaching them about why I am making certain decisions so that they feel like they are part of the process.
I love to meet designers who aren't afraid to share their sources. Designers that can grab a cup of coffee and share stories. Wish there were more of them!

Susie @ Maddie's Nest said...

Love this post. I have certainly run into this at the Design Center. There are some showrooms/salespeople who will go out of their way to help out, answer questions, etc. Then, there are some who (I feel) treat you like they are doing you a favor to let you shop with them. I don't even find this necessarly correlates to the dollar value of the products in the showroom or anything. Seriously, there are a couple I will do everything in my power to source somewhere else b/c I don't want to give them my business. I've also had some designers email me for help buying products b/c they are initimidated by the design centers in their areas. Maybe I am not a great business woman but when I get these types of emails I usually give them a pep talk and next thing you know they are opening accounts on their own. Shoot, I had a well known local designer ask me to share my sources for drapery workrooms, etc. It never occurred to me to not share. I mean really, someone who hires this woman is not my target customer. On the flip side, I was looking to have my own kitchen cabinets re-painted and asked for advice/referrals from a designer (a friend from a mom's group works for her and said they were working on a similar project) and she was so secretive about her sources I just dropped it. Everyone has their niche....perhaps I am used to the corporate world where mentoring was almost expected but I have found the design arena to be much more competitive than I'd expected. And, I am not even out doing full service design! As a client of a designer before I switched careers, I can't say I ever felt overly intimidated. But, I was perhaps lucky. In fact, my parents' designer from growing up is a dear friend and mentor now.

LeahBK said...

Major kudos - this definitely needed to be said!! Thanks for a great post.

kayce hughes said...

So many great thoughts. Even in the children's clothing business I face a lot of the same people. We see it all from store owners to customers. Some people are so mean for no reason and others are kind and gracious even when we have made a mistake. I think that it all goes back to how your feel inside.

Leah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leah Moss said...

Haa! Yes, it's a funny thing. When I used to work at a design showroom, I remember thinking how far a nice smile, a helpful tone, and an interested manner could get you. It seems very common sense, but it doesn't seem to be in this industry.

When it comes to recommending clients to other designers, the nice ones are always the ones that get the referral. Recently, there have been some awesome potential client that I've felt were not a good fit with me or whose projects were beyond my scope, and I would never think about referring someone to a designer that I thought might treat them with snobbery, no matter how talented.

Nichole @ Parlour said...

I so agree with everything said. Especially after experiencing it this last Monday night at the Rue Launch party (some of the guests.) Some people are so nice and genuine, and others are only friends with people if they can do something for them. It's amazing how there is a hierarchy among designers, or even bloggers for that matter. Not sure I want to be part of that "in" crowd.

Robyn said...

I had worked in a designer showroom for five years in the Dallas Market Center. I began as the bookkeeper and when I left I was the showroom manager. We always heard horror stories of designers going into showrooms and were treated terribly. That was a fear that I always had that you never wanted your showroom spoken about in that way. The Dallas design community is small and talkative. The whole you tell five people of a bad experience and only one of a good one rings true. In my experience, you always helped people no matter how they were dressed or spoke. I've come across several designers who would look down upon me because I worked in the showroom; however, they wouldn't bat an eye to ask my opinion on their selections. I believe it does boil down to confidence in a lot of cases. There were many times that I or another salesperson would guide a new designer or re-located designer through the ins and outs of the Market Center. They were always grateful and would come back to source products whenever our products fit their scheme. It is funny to me that salespeople would even want to be unpleasant due to their commissions depend on their sales. Occasionally, we would get the designers that no matter what we could never make them happy, but they were certainly few and far between. I think it works on both sides of the fence. If everyone is pleasant to one another then we can all get our jobs done with better results and a lot less stress.

www.imperfectnest.com

Annie Pazoo said...

Lauren - you said all of this really beautifully. THANK you especially for addressing the fear "I'm not stylish enough and designers talk down to me" -- something I still experience altho I'm working on it! One of the reasons I like reading you (and Annie/Bossy Color, and Meg/Pigtown), etc.

Jennifer said...

Okay I need to finish reading this post, but 2 things: 1. I cannot IMAGINE that you are a "design snob!" (even though we haven't technically met:) ) but I know what you mean. I hate it when I visit friends and they immediately apologize for the way the house looks -- that is so horrifying bc I would NEVER want anyone to think I am judging them on such a level. 2. but I can't help but rearrange my mom's sofa pillows EVERY time I go in the there -- it's a compulsion :)

Valerie Wills Interiors said...

I could not agree more! Great post Lauren.

La Petite Gallery said...

I agree with you Dear Lady.
Sometimes we walk a thin line
in design.

yvonne

East Coast Suburbanite said...

Thanks for this great post. This is some good advice that I will remember as I begin my journey in the design world.

mydesignchic said...

What an insightful post!! It's so interesting that you wrote on this subject today, because I was thinking today as I was reading blogs, how much you can tell about people's personalities just from what they write and how they say it. Thanks for being one of those beautifully, refreshing designers!!

Alicia B. Designs said...

Lauren, I work in a showroom too in NYC in the D &D and I always try to be friendly and understanding because OF COURSE nobody knows more than I about our product. If we are nice about it, people will be subconsciously more interested in our product. This is such a great point you bring up. I often hope that my good attitude makes up for my coworkers "attitude". yikes!!
xoxo
Alicia B.

Belinda - Nest Design Studio said...

It's an associated generalisation! I recently went to a colour forecasting seminar and because I didn't have glasses (you know the type! Actually, I did but laser surgery so I didn't have to wear them!) and talk with a plum in my mouth, I was an outsider!
I can't believe how rude some designers (and those assocaited with the industry) can be.....I always try and be as down to earth as possible with my client....puts them at ease!

Connie @ SogniESorrisi said...

What a great post! Loved reading your thoughts. Hope you're having a wonderful week.

Andrea said...

Lauren,

After 15 years in the business, we all still encounter the occasional salesperson or fellow designer who displays "casual rudeness". It's sad, as there could be so much to gain by merely being nice and informative.

As for designers who immediately "think" you should know them, as they are a household name...perhaps they have lost touch with reality. One of the most memorable moments that I have as a young designer was being introduced to the infamous Albert Hadley. He was a complete gentleman in every sense of the word. Not only was he warm and kind, he went so far as to ask me for my address and penned me the most eloquent letter. In the letter he encouraged my career and shared his thoughts on the industry. I was in awe of this incredibly talented icon of the design world and I still hold him in the highest regard today. Afterall, he's never lost touch with who he is.

Great post and wonderful insight through the looking glass.

Shannon @ Hase Haus said...

Amen sister! I love how you keep it real and really respect how much original content you post on your blog. Someone with a good eye can compile pcitures from magazines and other blogs and provide insightful commentary, but it takes a true designer like yourself to create beautiful spaces on their own.

Karen said...

Lauren,

What a great piece, we can all learn from some of your wisdom on how others perceive us. When a person (designer or other professional) seems abrupt and snobby I always figure they can't be all that secure themselves---otherwise they would be eager to be friendly and helpful.

Karen@Garden, Home and Party

Gretchen O. said...

your post couldn't be more timely...as I have experienced this in the past week, and just had a conversation about my husband about it. Was it me? Were they being snobby? OR am I being insecure? am I passing judgement to quickly? I haven't quite figured it out, your post makes me think a bit more about it. I think this happens in a TON of professions, and since designers ARE about appearances, it makes it all way more apparent. THANKS again!

--Gretchen O.

qerat said...

Lauren, this is an amazing post. It is funny that we are working on a post that covers this same issue from a different angle, telepathy there??
Actually you convinced me to publish it :)
It is the same all over the world I think there is a lot of misunderstanding and misperceptions on both sides of the equation, clients and designers.
Love your blog and your posts and even though this was a pictureless post (as you say) I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Linda in AZ * said...

* GREAAAAAT POSTING/READ today, Lauren... (Pictures or NO pictures, you really hit the nail on the head!!!)...

IMHO, it all boils down to TWO THINGS to REMEMBER (for "BOTH SIDES"):

(1) "Do unto others..." annnnd,

(2) "Do what's right, even when nobody's looking" (ie: "We're all in this together...be nice, considerate, understanding, non-judgemental & humble"... makes EVERYTHING so much MORE PLEASANT!)~~~

Hugs n' thanks again,
Linda in AZ *
bellesmom1234@comcast.net

diane@onlinefabricstore said...

Very well said. Organizations like ASID and IIDA have a lot to do with the image of snobbery because they exclude so many people in their "clubs" and have made it known via their lobbying efforts that not everyone is good enough. Dont get me on MY soapbox. I also agree with the attitude of many who work at the design centers and just dont quite understand it. But no matter what field you are in there are going to be good people and not so good people and the best choice is to remain true to yourself, know who you are and jsut chalk it up to the fact that they must be very unhappy people and go on your merry way.

Emily A. Clark said...

Lauren--I really enjoyed this post. For alot of designers, I think alot of it really comes down to confidence and over-compensating for a lack thereof. It's so easy to get intimidated by those who have been doing this longer and use terms you've never even heard of. For me, it just comes down to doing what I know and being what I am. (And, hopefully, I'll keep learning as I go.)

Wish you had've been in NYC this week. I would love to meet someday!

Ellen said...

Very thoughtful, truthful post Lauren!

kelli said...

Lauren this is an amazing post, very well said. I'm an interior designer in Vail Colorado and have always struggled working with other designers & people in the industry who feel that you have to "act" the part. My philosophy is that I am providing my clients a service and they don't view me any different than the person who cleans their house or cuts their grass so why would I act any different or treat people poorly. Great job!

Peggy and Fritz said...

Great Post Lauren! I've been in the service industry (sales) for 20 years and if I ever gave my clients the kind of service/attitude that some of the design field does - I'd be out of a job. I did go back to school a few years ago for design and frequented the Pacific Design Center in LA and many showrooms - also, I did a few projects for friends. I experienced both good and bad service. Typically, I found other resources where a showroom had an attitude. I believe in giving positive feedback and constructive feedback and never hesitated on doing either. I once was working for a publisher and was sitting in a very prominent showroon at the PDC waiting for an appt. with the owner for a book I was working on...he didn't know who I was and proceeded to say to the other owner on the phone "You wouldn't believe the rift raft that has been in here this week" during West Week. While I was there to make the sale it took all my time not to say to the owner when he got off the phone, "I'm soo and soo's assistant (picking a name / celeb out of the sky)and we won't be shopping in here since we are part of the rift raft). Of course, I didn't do it but I also never personally shopped in that store ever again.

I believe in giving the BEST service all the time and never underestimating your customer large or small. YOu never know when the small client is going to be a big client and people always remember when they were treated with respect. Big or small my clients know I am there for them 100%.

I think your points are well taken and I think it's something no matter what your profession is that we all need to take a hard look at ourselves and our businesses. When all things are equal customer service will trump everything :)

FABULOUS and BRAVO!

EDYTA and CO. INTERIOR DESIGN said...

What a great post!
I couldnt agree more with everyhting you have said.
I also had the opportunity to experiance snobbery from vendors and sometimes I think that I should tell the showroom owner.
If it was my showroom -I would never let any of my employees treat my customers this way, your customers are why you are in business afterall -right. Plus I always treat others the way I want to be treated, with respect and kindness and for some reason some people don't, I just don't get it.

Great Post!
Edyta
http://edytaandco.blogspot.com/

Melow said...

Here, here!! I always get customers coming into my showroom, sheepishly appologizing as they are just looking at a small accessory item they saw in the window, they obviously felt they shouldn't be bothering me because of the fancy showroom!! and then I see them completely relax and want to hang around and see what else we've got and do, when I say - 'don't apologize, that's what they're there for, please come in' - Seriously, a little friendliness and pleasantness can go along way, it's no skin of our backs!!

red ticking said...

bravo... lets just all be nice... it is so EASY! xxxx
great post..

lisaroyhandbags said...

Great post Lauren, and it's not just in the design industry that this behaviour exists. How many times have you walked into a shop and had someone look down their nose at you? And it's so silly, really. I mean, they aren't earning huge salaries for working there but they've put themselves on some kind of pedestal, thinking they're so much better than you.

I agree that some may just go through the daily motions and things become so routine that they get impatient with questions. But they need to realize that not everyone out there is design educated and informed and that's why they are seeking assistance.

You're so sweet and I can't imagine it's easy for you in an industry known for it's snobbiness. I know I'd be seeking you out if I needed design work done! :)

Cristin @ Simplified Bee said...

Lauren, I love your honest post. I too have been snubbed in the SFDC and it feels terrible. As a professional organizer & designer, many question my approach, but others love it. But, more often than not I have met some very warm, supportive interior designers {many who blog}.

I really wish I could have met you while in NYC... next time.

xo,
cristin

Julie Holloway said...

Yes, there are total design snobs...but there are snobs in every field.

And there are those who truly believe you don't have skills unless you are schooled in interior design (with a degree). I know that not all doors will be open to me because I'm a decorator and not a designer, but I'm okay with that.

Some clients want homes that look expensively and lavishly designed with rich treatment on the windows and full of antiques, but those people would never hire me--that is just not my aesthetic. I love making beautiful rooms out of what clients already have, antique finds and some scores from HomeGoods--but that is just fun for me and the client!

fun post...Julie

satisfyingspacesblog.com said...

Love your post. I was laughing when you said you have majored in Communication in college and are always analyzing past conversations, wondering if you said the right things. I am right there with you..degree in Communication and obsessed with it! ;-) I also think living in the south magnifies the concern on if we have been appropriate and gracious enough to everyone we meet.

Merlin said...

The Golden Rule is still golden! Live, Love, Laugh...even in your job! franki

Maria Killam said...

Loved your take on this whole thing. I was in a show home with another designer once and she proceeded to rip apart everything room by room and I felt like saying "where is the show home you've done?" So much easier to criticize than create from nothing. I don't know why so many designers feel they have to be that way.

Teresa Meyer said...

Lauren, once again you've written a very compelling post. I have to say that I've experienced design snobbery on so many different levels (especially while living in NYC). I felt like it was ingrained in us as students...being pinned against fellow students...competing with eachother's work for the "A". My school, while I still LOVED IT for other reasons, was unbelievably competitive and also made us believe that if you don't get your NCIDQ (and are not an ASID member) "you are not a qualified designer". I could also could go on and on about the snobbery I experience at the D&D building in NYC. I've boycotted a few showrooms simply because the sales people treated me rudely when I was first starting out (um, last year, lol). I now am a returning customer to a few select showrooms simply because of the amazingly nice sales people that work there. A little bit of nice can go a long way!

I would hate for a client to ever feel like I'm going to judge them or their home. I'm there to help, not judge. I know that *most* designers don't even notice the "stuff" and just see the potential as well as picturing the "after".

Thanks for taking the time to write a great post!

Kelle Dame said...

Amen sister!! This is an amazing post and it sums up all of my frustrations with some designers and the assumptions that we get stuck with. Niceness does go a long way and you can't really do your best on a project without a client feeling at ease enough around you to completely be themselves. If you can't be down to earth and friendly enough to really get to know your clients how can you create a room for them that actually reflects who they are???

Thank you so much for this post and the one picture you did include is just perfect!
All the best,
Kelle
xx

Lissa @ After Adornment said...

Very Well Said/Written. I completely agree that many designers/vendors/bloggers/clients/etc. need to remember that we are all in this together and should respect each other accordingly. I as a designer try my best to ever assume a client knows or does not know something. I am there to help them through the process of getting the space they love and will respect them and make them as comfortable as possible through the entire process....it is their home after all! Same goes for me working with manufacturers and vendors....the more comfortable I feel, the more I use them.

Michael said...

i'm not "in" design, so my thoughts are from the outside looking in. there are those of us who are *interested* in design, but not to the degree that those "in" the industry are. and sometimes we aren't treated very well by people for whom design is more important. for example: i'm a young mom with four small kids, two of whom we adopted when their parents abandoned them. we have a very small budget (read: usually $100-$200 per room.) i'm interested in *improving* design in my home--taking it from a complete mess, and making it something warm and welcoming. but it's more about working design in to the already really full plate that I have. my budget and my priorities go to other things: special education for my kids with disabilities, the legal bills we're still paying off from the adoption, etc. so, because design is not HIGH on my priority list, but still on my radar, sometimes I've been treated poorly when I'm trying to do SOMETHING rather than NOTHING at all. (one time a woman at a high-end fabric store basically told me I should be shopping at Wal-Mart instead of there, since I wasn't going to use their seamstress to make my curtains.) if design pros would hang on to the truth that for some people, SOMEHTING is better than NOTHING--rahter than some pie-in-the-sky idea like "ALL or NOTHING!" they might come across as less snobbish. design pros could sometimes use a little "down to earth" added to their palatte. let's face it: most of the rest of the world is just trying to figure out where their next meal is going to come from....

A Perfect Gray said...

wonderful piece, Lauren. thanks for the time and effort that went into it. I can take so many good things away from your post - things that apply to my life across the board.

I appreciate you.

donna

Angela said...

Can I get an Amen?! Awesome post, thank you for taking the time to write it and love the blog. Take care and have a wonderful day:) Angela

Room Service ~ Decorating 101 said...

When I first started in this business, I went to my first appt in a suit, all business... now, I make sure to wear my jeans, and take the truck...lol I try to make the client feel comfortable and they feel free to really open up. If they don't like it, I am at the point I don't care! Find someone else. I treat every job as if it were mine, I try to spend the least amount that I can, use the things already there if possible. I love what I do and would do it for free. I can say this truthfully too, I always get their next project.

go boo boo said...

because design is still a luxury, not a necessity, and some designers/people insist it's a necessity.

nestegg said...

I wish we lived in the same city- I could sit and talk about this topic forever with you! I totally agree with everything you said. I think it has alot to do with competition. I also think there is a lot of unnecessary DRAMA in this industry. If you don't have a good head on your shoulders you will get sucked in! I'm guilty of getting sucked in to the drama and then I think "Why am I making a huge deal about a bolster pillow?!" Reality check, please. :) xoRH

nestegg said...

I wish we lived in the same city- I could sit and talk about this topic forever with you! I totally agree with everything you said. I think it has alot to do with competition. I also think there is a lot of unnecessary DRAMA in this industry. If you don't have a good head on your shoulders you will get sucked in! I'm guilty of getting sucked in to the drama and then I think "Why am I making a huge deal about a bolster pillow?!" Reality check, please. :) xoRH

3 Peanuts said...

Lauren,

I think one of the reasons so many people like you (aside from your extraordinary talent) is because you do NOT seem snobby AT ALL. And yes I have a lot of designer friends and some are snobby (not to me but to others). I think it stems form insecurity and the exact opposite too...being too full of oneself.

The story about the person who was somewhat annoyed because you did not know who she was REALLY bothers me. God gives every single human being gifts...every one of us. And they are all different. My gift is not design (although it is a huge hobby). Mine is marriage and family counseling. But that does not make one person any better than another. In the big scheme of life is being a famous designer any more important than being a really good teacher? NO. I think humility is so important and makes me respect people so much more than pompousness.

Jane @ The Borrowed Abode said...

Ok, I'm going crazy with comments as I catch up on your latest posts, but just wanted to say - Thanks for being so open and honest on here, as always! And I agree with 3 Peanuts - your warmth and genuine nature really radiate on this blog, or so they seem to. You rock!

Laura Lynn said...

Good post and I agree on so many, well probably all that you said!

I think that sometimes designers get the snobby rap because they are basically promoting themselves through design, something that can be seen.
So if their work is scrutinized, it essentially reflects them. It seems like there can be a chip on their shoulder about this. Does that make sense??

Also, customer service really is the basis for so many sales and that does not always come naturally to everyone. Anytime someone is working with another person, they should always be thinking of their service and how they are coming across to that person.

I used to be a corporate customer service trainer for a retail chain and a mid-size HR company. I would cringe at some customer service situations that were so easy to solve but were made difficult by the attitudes of salespeople. It was this inherent need to be right that made the customer feel like they didn't matter.

I think people just like to be heard. It really is an art form to be able to listen and then to steer them in a direction that's comfortable for them.

Just from reading, I feel that you are genuine so you have no worries!

Sorry for the LOOONG comment but thank you!!

chanteusevca said...

Lauren, this may be the first comment I've made after reading your blog for some time. I've so enjoyed and learned volumes from so many of the design blogs out there now and yours is one of my top favorites. And this post speaks volumes in so many ways. I've been an avid design fan since childhood (and I'm in my 50s now). When I was young and trying to choose a career, I sent an inquiry to a interior design school a few states away from me. Back then, one of their reps would travel to visit you in your home. I was extremely shy back then, and when the woman arrived with her hauty attitude, I quickly retreated to my bedroom and would not return to visit with her even at the insistence of my mother. My mother said that she left in a huff. From that experience, I never wanted to be involved or deal with designers or others in the design business because of the way that one person represented the school and the profession. Of course, I've grown and matured since then and realize that there are snobs in every profession and that there are wonderful, giving and caring people in every profession as well.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences on this subject and to bring to light what many of us have experienced with negative people. As a consumer/homeowner, I am much more drawn to those who are cordial, kind and giving and will spend my money and listen to them much more quickly than I will someone of the opposite demeanor. As my southern grandmother always said, "You can catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar."