Behind the Scenes in an Interior Design Project/ Business

This morning I've been thinking about how in magazines & blogs we get to see the fun parts of interior design:  the befores & afters, the inspiration & the creative process, but rarely do we see what goes on behind the scenes: when designers are ordering goods for their clients, handling paperwork & coordinating shipping & contractors, and managing the project and clients' needs & expectations.


{some of my new textiles}

I think it's definitely because it's not an exciting part of the process and also because it can be a difficult part of the process, although project managment is waaaaay more than half of the project.  Everyone has their own way of doing things, but when I work with clients, this is how it basically goes:

We have an initial phone chat or meeting to discuss what the client is looking for and to chat about my company & how we work, our rates, processes, etc.  It's at this point that we decide if we want to work together.  Once we've decided to work together, we have a meeting in which the house is surveyed, measured, photographed or blueprints are exchanged if it's a new build.  We interview our clients about how they want to use their home & the spaces in it, their wants & needs, likes & dislikes, personal style, color & fabric preferences, etc. 


{image via stylehive}

From here we set about creating a design plan for clients based upon everything we've learned.  There is some back-and-forth about a few specifics as we create the plan.  I really like to include antique & vintage pieces in design plans, but it does make the process a little more challenging because you often have to snap up these pieces when you see them, sometimes before you've created the entire plan.   I typically leave "holes" in the plan for certain items that I know we want to find vintage or antique and then we're on the hunt for these items as the project moves forward.

Once we've created the plan, we present it to our clients.  I present one plan.  There may be an option or two to for the clients to decide between, but for the most part, the entire plan is laid out, even down to pillows & certain art or accessories if they're intrical to the design.  I do this because I feel that I know my clients well enough by this point that I know what the best option for them is.  {When I first started out, I used to sometimes create two plans, but I realized that  my clients always chose the plan I wanted them to choose and that the second plan was a waste of time.}  Just like there may be "holes" in the plan for antiques or one-of-a-kind items, there are holes in the plan for art & accessories.  I often present examples of art and/ or accessories I think we should use and once the project is moving forward, we both look for these items & are constantly on the hunt.


{DC Design House board close-up}

{Speaking of being on the hunt...  I am not one of those designers who can go out & be shopping for many clients all at once.  I can typically have 1-3 clients in mind when I am shopping but usually no more than that.  I have serious tunnel vision, I powerwalk, and know exactly what I'm looking for and so I can't keep a catalog of 8-15 clients in my head when I'm out & about.  I go out specifically for certain clients and sometimes I'll even walk around the same market multiple times with different clients in mind, each time noticing completely different things.  Sometimes I have consultation-based clients who say "If you're ever out and about and you see this, buy it for me & I'll pay you back..."  I used to think this was possible, but I've now realized that it doesn't work that way for me.  I have to go out specifically on the hunt for something because when I am out on the hunt for a client, I am out specifically for them. ...  and of course there are exceptions that just smack you in the face because they're so perfect! ;)

Once the plan has been squared away, we move onto the implementation phase of the project.  (The nitty gritty part we don't hear much about.)  I found a really great overview of the emotions connected to the different phase of the project on Jenny's Design Build's website:



Even if there is no construction....  once you get to the design presentation & begin implementation, there is a lot of waiting for clients to do, which is not fun.  Witch custom pieces, the typical time it takes to wait for items to be made is 8-12 weeks but often much longer.  There are almost always fabric & furniture backorders which can delay the project.  (And as a designer, sometimes you don't get notice from the companies about the backorders for a few weeks or even a month after you've placed the order & think everything is on schedule.  How fun it is to let your clients know then! ;) 

When ordering products- which sounds like an easy thing thing to do- but often manufacturers don't get back to you, inform you of backorders waaaaay late, or send damaged items.  Everything that happens is your responsibility to relay to the client and it's not always good stuff.  When I first started, having no idea of the time or risks involved, I used to give my clients trade-only items at no mark-up, not realizing that by doing this I was losing a lot of money & barely surviving as a business.  (My accountant had a talk with me ;)  For one, it takes a lot of time to order something & handle it the entire project.  You can get emails throughout the entire project about a certain product & its specifications.  And oh my GOSH you spend hours if something arrives damaged-  getting in touch with the company, arranging a pick-up, return & ordering a new piece & starting over.  (Think of a custom sofa that is being stain treated...  you have an order with the fabric company...  then it ships to the company to be stain treated... then it goes to the furniture manufacturer.. then it takes a mponth or two to be made, then it goes to a shipping warehouse and then to your client...  SO many things can happen along the way and you're in constant contact alont the way.  It's hours even if it's smooth.   Ordering trade items is very different from ordering retail items, which can even take some time if a return or exchange is necessary.  You end up losing money and working for free...  Once I realized all of this, I began offering goods to my clients at retail or just below retail prices (depending upon the product... pricing is different at different companies) and finally started getting paid for the responsibility & all of the hours spent managing projects.  I've found that for me, there really is no way to charge a client hourly for the implementation phase of the project because so many things can happen along the way that it's difficult to project.  (And no one wants to get a bill charging them for your time on a damaged item or get a bill for 3 hours for a sofa-  can you imagine?! :) 


{image from msnbc.msn.com}


Shipping is another beast.  EVERYTHING has shipping on it.  Even a yard of fabric which is shipped on a roll & costs money.  Every time something is moved somewhere, it costs money.  Many companies do not have an exact shipping price until something actually ships, which is often difficult for clients to understand.  (Rightfully so.)  Some companies do a percentage - which I love for estimates- and others are pretty consistent.  The longer you're in business, the better it gets, but I am still not comfortable enough to be able to give a firm shipping estimate to clients.  Every time I pick up a new vendor, there's a new shipping policy & different rates to try to learn.  Generally, shipping can be anywhere from 10-20% of an order and can be more or less so it's a pretty big range.   

Working with contractors & managing is another time-consuming and risky part of the project.  We spend a lot of time with contractors & going back-and-forth relaying ideas, answering questions, and overseeing the project.  I've also come to realize that it's much better to have a flat fee or a percentage fee for this part of the project because again, clients want to know what they're paying up front, and because designers need to be compensated for their time.

Once you've placed all of your orders & are handling them, your client is waiting and you & your client are seeking out those "holes" in the projects-  the details & the one-of-a-kind items that will truly make the space feel personal & real.  This part of the process is seriously easy for me when it's in my own home, but much more difficult when you're working with a client because you have to get their approval before you purchase and there's often only 1 item and if you leave it that day, it will probably be gone if/ when you return.  Buying trips with clients are wonderful, but the client is either paying for your time or a mark-up on the goods. 

I have recently started having items for my newer projects (if possible) shipped to a receiving warehouse so that final installation can take place all at once.  I think this is really important to a project's smoothness factor.  Until very recently, I used to let items trickle in to clients as they were ready, but this can worry clients.  They analyze each & every piece & begin to get scared because they're seeing just the pieces of the puzzle and not the overall picture.  Clients are always happy with the results in the end, but having items come in one by one often results in phonecalls, understandably, because it can be scary to see a bright green sofa arrive in a white room with nothing else in it.  (Speaking form my own experience in my own house....  oooohh even I was panicked! haha!)


{My living room when my green sofa first arrived-  eeeeek}


{My living room once everything else was in...  photo by Helen Norman}

Once all of the furnishings & softgoods are installed in the room, it's time to do the final accessorizing.  With my clients, I have been stressing the importance of this and I don't do projects without this final step.  Once everything is in, we get to tweak & add in those great one-of-a-kind items, hang artwork and do flowers & plants & personal items to finish off the house.  Clients then get to see the vision fully realized and they get to see how beautiful & personal their home really is.  They know just where to place flowers when they have parties, or how to set up the best way for guests.  It can even get as detailed as helping clients pick out dinnerware and/ or soaps. 


{Dinnerware at a client's home...  photo by Helen Norman}

This is a great time to have the home photographed, and I really think this is an important part of growing your business.  I started out with photos I'd taken of my old townhome about 3 and a half years ago and slowly grew my business from there, weeding out older projects & badly shot photos as I could afford better ones.  I'm still in the process of doing this, and hope to be always doing this as I grow as a designer & continue to get new projects.  Clients love sending friends & family photos of their finished home because they're proud of it.


{A recently photographed client's home- The Hart Family.  Photo by Helen Norman}

I really am new to this business - three and a half years- so I'm still really learning & evolving myself.  My assistant, Meg, is helping too & we are constantly refining our roles.  In our business, the most important thing to us is that the client is happy & feels taken care of and we are constantly figuring out new ways to make this happen. 

A couple things I've learned both the hard & easy way:

1.  Stay in control of the project.  Some clients are used to being in charge and can take over a project and unintentionally send it out of whack.  You have to be firm in your processes and follow the systems you've set into place, and explain to clients why things work the way they do.  (Of course you want your clients very involved in the creative aspects of the project, but don't let them change the way you run your business.)

2.  Be firm in your fees & pricing.  Make sure you set fair fees & stick to them.  You want the clients who value what you do, not the ones who don't feel you're worth what you're asking.

2.  Know the parameters of your project.  Some projects keep growing and growing.  They may start out as a consultation and evolve into a full-home renovation.  As soon as you realize the project is becoming something other than what it started out as, reevaluate, do a new contract & set new parameters with your client.

3.  Not every client is for you.  (I think this is important for designers to know...   I have lots of friends who are designers and we know that we each have our own types of clients.  For example, the client who would want my good friend wouldn't want me.)

4.  Trust your gut.  Seriously.  If something doesn't feel right about a project or client, trust yourself and do not take it on.  If you can't be 100% passionate about a project, you won't do your best and it's not fair to the client.  If you feel that the potential client is going be very difficult for you to work with, don't take them on; it's not worth the stress.  Most of your clients will be with you for a very long time so realize there's no wham-bam-thank-you-m'am- in a full-service project.

5.  Constantly be thinking of where you want your business to go.  You have to remind yourself of what you're doing & where you're going and what your end goal is. 

6.  Put your clients first.  Always be thinking of your clients & how they are feeling.  Check in with them constantly.  This can be really tough depending upon how many clients you have at once.  It's important to know your limit of how many projects you can take on & still give great service.  {I have recently stopped doing two-hour or one-day consultations because -even though I loved helping clients get a quick gameplan for their homes- it was taking up too much of my time away from my full-service projects and it was really difficult to focus because I had so many clients to keep in contact with.  {I was honestly having trouble sleeping at night because of emails & communication...  I would wake up at night & remember people who had follow-up questions from consultations or who just wanted a tiny bit of advice over email and then not be able to go back to sleep becaues I felt so guilty for not having written them back yet.}

7.  Gather an amazing team of people.  Each person who does work for your projects, such as contractors, workrooms, artists, etc. is key.  Find the people you work best with & who do what they say they will do, and your life will be much easier.  It's taken me years to find the right people.  Once you have them, never let them go & treat them right because it takes a village to create a great space.  They can make or break a smooth project.

...  There's much more, but my day's starting & I've got to run!!

I know this is the not-so-pretty-part of interior design but I really think it's important to discuss how the behind-the-scenes stuff works.  Everyone does things differently and I am constantly evolving my own businesses processes, so I'd love to hear how any designers out there work and how they do the behind-the-scenes.  Let me know your thoughts!!


xoxo, Lauren

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

ps- Don't forget to enter the $250 Tracy Porter Giveaway!!  Click here to view it!

77 comments:

Sue Rosenbaum said...

Great post Lauren!!! This clarifies all the steps of the process

Simple Dwellings said...

Wow- amazing information! Thank you for the behind the scenes look! I really appreciate you showing this side. :)

Acquired Objects said...

Speaking as a business owner who ships to designers I know what you mean about shipping costs. There is nothing we can do about them either. I get charged on items coming to me from Europe so I have to place those charges on the cost of items I sell and then I have to charge shipping to send these items to clients/designers. It never ends, everywhere there’s a cost unfortunately. But you laid it all out beautifully for others so they know exactly where all these charges are coming from. I love your green sofa and having that arrive by itself would have been a bold move for anyone!

alittlepaint said...

Such a meaty post! Thanks so much for all the information you shared. It is definitely helpful and I love getting to learn from others.

A Delightful Design said...

Thank you for writing this. I'm just starting out and I have so much to learn! I'm having a difficult time deciding how many clients I can handle at once. I guess that's a good problem to have though!
abby

Janis said...

Wonderful post, as a "newbie" to the design field it's so nice to see how others handle the process.

Teresa at Splendid Sass said...

Love your line of fabrics, Lauren, and your living room is gorgeous.and the DC Showhouse room is beautiful.
Great post.
Teresa
xoxo

Cathy Wall said...

You always have the best posts about the nitty gritty of being a designer. Thanks for sharing yet another informative perspectice, lots of food for thought!
Cathy

Kirsten Krason said...

THANK YOU!!! Lauren, that was seriously so helpful to read you have no idea. I feel like I just got to sit down with you at lunch and pick your brain about your business. The advice was perfect and so good.

Tawna said...

Mmmm, very good look at what really happens, especially with custom furniture. It takes twice as long as promised. I learned right off the bat to not promise things will get here fast, but warn a lot of stuff can happen along the way (without making it sound scary...just not promising the world). I was happy to hear what you thought about taking a client one plan instead of two. I've been debating which way to go...really my first projects brought up more questions, but that's always a good thing, right?

Smitten Design said...

Lauren, this is such a thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing.

Peggy and Fritz said...

Lauren I love that you lay it all out there where some designers won't. This is great insight to what really takes place behind the scenes. I think in any business it's important to learn what clients to focus on and that process changes as your business grows. Also, the shipping part is difficult. I've worked in Logistics for 20 years and work with many showrooms. If you are not familiar with it - it can be challenging because shipping companies charge based on weight or dimensions whichever is greater and furniture and home goods can be challenging. I think you said it well and thanks for always sharing. Love your new fabrics.

Shana said...

This is a helpful post for us non-designers. I am currently working with a designer and it is good to know what all is going on behind the scenes. It's also helpful to know with shipping that freight companies send out full trucks so just because something is available does not mean it will ship tomorrow! We have run into that problem with my crib. It's in Washington state but probably won't be here until June because the truck isn't full. :(

Muffy said...

I wish I would've read this 3 years ago! I'm not a professional designer, but I did a "side business" for people that had seen my home & wanted me to help them with theirs. It was a NIGHTMARE! And on top of that I was personally sewing the drapes, pillows, duvets & bedding they wanted! Why??? I stopped taking clients about 1/2 way through my pregnancy & haven't taken any since. My baby is almost 1. I think what you said about keeping all the items that are going in the space in holding until they've all come in is a GREAT idea. Especially if you have a micromanaging or unsure client. I don't know when or if I will start up again, but I will definitely do things different next time around. :)

Maureen said...

Thanks for the well-thought out post, Lauren. Such great information.

switchstuff said...

Just wanted to take a moment to say 'Lauren you're amazing'. Love your work and of course your blog. You have inspired me to give it a go (blogging) in conjunction with the opening of a new shop. Haven't read anyone who can do it as well as you do!

Trista Hill said...

This is an incredible post! Your advice is so wise and focused. I'm printing it out to save as reference for my own work as a musician (harpist) and artist (floorcloths, etc) -- it's a powerful reminder of how to be true to ourselves as creatives, which only positions us to give our best to our clients. Thank you so much!

Cherie said...

Very helpful and timely, as I'm working with a local designer and your moodboard just seemed to nail the feeling tone she and I have been talking about. She's very good and I can recognize that just by reading your post as she follows this process!

Leah Moss said...

wow, one of my favorite posts ever (and you know how much I love everything you do :)!!!!

You explanation of trade items was particularly helpful. I don't think it's easy to understand mark-ups esp. when most near 50%, but there really is so much that goes into it. Finding the perfect balance between hourly rates and trade mark-ups is so tricky--definitely still trying to figure it out!

Inspirational Sketchbook said...

Terrific post Lauren! You did a marvelous job illuminating the process. PS: where the heck do you find the time to do all you do? My day only has 24 hours in it :D Roxanne

Julie said...

This is so right on- It's always a challenge to be the messenger when there's a delay, but thank you for sharing your experiences- as always- great post! xo, jc

suzanne said...

You are amazing. How you have the time to be so generous with this kind of information and run your business, the design house project, kids etc. I am so grateful for all that you share.

I struggle a bit with how I charge my clients and sometimes the hourly rate seems so arbitrary when you factor in all the e-mails, on line sourcing etc. If I truly charged for all my time, the cost would be so much higher. I do charge hours and then split the discount with the client. I am slowly learning how much variation there is in those who mark things up (including labor). I try to be fair to the client and myself. Not always an easy balancing act!

Nicole Lanteri said...

Hi Lauren! Thanks for this post! It is so on point and it made me feel like I was right on track for where I should be in developing my design business. I really think that it's key to develop a system that works best for you and the client -- things like knowing how a client best responds either by email or a phone call or even what time of day it's best to email them are key to maintaining a good relationship through a process that is at the end of the day very personal! I've definitely had sleepless nights just going through all of the items on my checklist in my head to be sure I've ticked through them.

Chic Coles said...

This is great will be back to send more time reading this job is not all about the glamour.

under spanish moss said...

This is great information for business owners as well as clients. Helps all to understand the process from behind the scenes.

Marissa Waddell said...

Wonderful thoughts, Lauren! This made me feel so much better about my feelings and the hard stuff that happens throughout the process. I'm just starting out and I've had to learn a few things the hard way. (Luckily my clients have been wonderful!) I have been surprised at how hard designing can be, and how much of the work has very little to do with actual designing!

Amanda said...

This post could not come at a more perfect time!!! I am just starting out with my business and have soooo many questions & fears. I will be bookmarking this post to refer back to! Thank you sooo much for taking the time to write something like this. I have read your blog for sometime and when I decided to take the leap and start my own decorating business I actually thought of you-your website, your photos-its all so beautiful & professional. My 1st client was actually a professional photographer and we have now developed a great friendship and she is now my "go-to" girl when I need photos of my clients homes. Because Im just starting out -my photos are everything. People dont want to just hear your a good designer-they want to see it!
Boy I wish I could just hire you for a day to pick your brain!! LOL- oh how I would love to just sit and chat with you!!

Loretta Fontaine (APPLESandRUBIES) said...

Lauren- I spy some gorgeous Lauren Liess fabric on that pillow on your green couch. Is it Happikat in a sage green hue? Beautiful. How pulled together does that look!

"Not every client is for you". So true, and the same for many design fields!

When you bend your ideas so much that you feel out of your element to try to please a client, it's just not worth it in the end. Nobody is happy.

Loretta

Carol@SofasandSage.com said...

Phenomenal. It's hard to believe you've been doing this for only three years. You are AMAZING. Managing client expectations is the hardest part, I think. We all know how hard it is to wait and understand mishaps once we decide we want something and commit to it. And great advice on not taking on a client when your gut says no. I did that once and completely regretted it. It was the only time I walked off the job. But I had to save myself! Best to trust your gut. I hope you are incredibly proud of yourself, every day, Lauren. You are not only talented, you are keenly aware of your business. That's inspiring and impressive. Great post.

pve design said...

I love that happy sad chart! I think doing what you love and earning a living is the best. Bravo to you for sharing your process and a bit of the behind the scene un-glamorous end of things.
Doing it all and raising kids makes for a full life. Oh and we cannot forget our supportive mates!
pve

lizc2b said...

Thank you so much for this post! I am just finishing my interior design qualification, setting up my business and starting to work with my first client. Taking it slowly (my client is a friend of a friend) but there is so much to learn and it's fantastic to hear how it works for you.

Thank you!

Liz, London, UK

The Shade Shop, Inc. said...

Very clear, very concise, very wise. Well said!

Sarah H-S said...

Hi Lauren,
Many thanks for this post. I have just loved following your blog and really like how you mix in vintage pieces with new. I am just starting my business and this is very helpful to ground some of what I am already doing and also give me confidence to do some other things as well.
I wish I lived in the DC area to check out the DC Design House in person!
Thank you!

travelkate said...

This was such an interesting post. I love getting a peek into a designer's process: this was both informative and fascinating!

inspirationfordecor said...

Really, really excellent post! You know, I just finished a Business course for Interior Decorators and I think you summed up the entire course in this one super-informative-behind-the-scenes-reveal-all! I am glad to hear that the real world of decorating is in-line with what I learned in school (because sometimes it's all just theory and not necessarily practical). Thanks for taking the time to share this invaluable information. You and very inspiring!

-Dayna

Pretty Inspirational said...

Great post! Once I actually gave a client 3 designs for just one room! Crazy I know. I was just so eager to please. They of course picked my favorite one. A great lesson to learn. Did you get a chance to see Lee's showroom in High Point? If not, I thought you would enjoy my recent post on my visit.

Crystal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cris said...

I totally LAUGHED at the chart where it drops at painting. I love that part, and at the same time, when there is nothing else in the room but that color, it's scary for me AND the client! My dad was a professional painter for designers in South Florida, he reassured me once by saying ALL designers have a bit of a panicked feeling at that stage.
Wonderful post - and yes, 100% on the gut feeling. Oy, the nightmares I could have avoided had I just listened!

Claire said...

I have to come back and read this later, but I just have to say the phone ... JUST like the one I had in my room as a teenager!! Wow, thanks for the memory.

A Room For Frances said...

Fantastic post! This one I'm printing and putting up on my pin board!

EDYTA and CO. INTERIOR DESIGN said...

Great post Lauren! Yess this is all so true and many people just don't really believe that interior designer's job is not so glamurous behind the scenes :)
Good luck with everything, and I am sure you will figure out all the hickups along the way - we all do :) . You have been doing a wonderful job with having a beautiful family and running a fantastic business.
Hope all is well!

Ps. this post made me think of one I wrote a while ago, it has similar points :) http://bit.ly/fRopsp

Happy Rest of the week!! xo ~Edyta
http://edytaandco.blogspot.com/
www.edytaandco.com

5th and state said...

lauren

you are the 'standard bearer' of blogdom (is that a word?)
you always go above and beyond, and take the time to share in your knowledge. personally i loved this post. as a garden designer i have the fees and mechanics of the process nailed. as we tread into interiors it is dicey. thank you thank you!!!!
xoxo
debra

Decorator said...

Truly, this is how it goes! That's what I don't like very much about the interior designer profession - is ordering and shipping. You are absolutely right, Lauren it's hard))) But the decorative part of the business is amazing))

the industrial cottage said...

Thank you for sharing! Very insightful for clients and designers.

Ruthie's Renewed Treasures said...

Lauren: From one designer to the next....you are right on!!! Loved reading about the behind the scenes and related and nodded my head through the whole post. You are a gem and I would love to be your client. It's so wonderful to have blog friends that we can relate to :) Keep doing what you are doing, it's worth it and is helping so many! I love that I've met you too because now when I read your posts, I can see your expressions and hear your voice and that makes it even more fun.
Ruthie

Janell @ Isabella and Max said...

Great insight, it is so easy to think it just all comes together overnight! Janell

Susie @ Maddie's Nest said...

This is so on point. I don't think people have any idea of how much time the purchasing, maintaining relationships with all of the showrooms and craftsmen, etc. takes. One other thing that can take up a lot of my time is the sales tax aspect. I think people think they can quickly set up a tax id and do everything on their own. But, they don't realize you've got to deal with taxes, businesses licenses, professional liability insurance, etc. There is so much more to the business than the "fun" part that meets the eye!

VictoriaArt said...

Right on! Every point you are making is worth gold! Especially the stick firmly to your work plans and the fees!!!
You are the boss!

alice said...

Totally appreciate hearing another designers thoughts on this process and what methods you implement. Great post!

modernchemistry said...

looking through these images of yours, i'm realizing that i LOVE the way you use green. ferns, couches, art...it makes your rooms look alive. truly stunning.

Roses @ StrictlyRoses said...

Interesting post, thanks for sharing.

Rachael said...

Great, detailed post! I appreciate how you manage to keep it real. Even though I am not a designer and don't plan on designing in a professional capacity, I still found this post very interesting and applicable to other areas of my life. Thanks for taking the time!

bikim said...

so pretty!
Take care,
Rosa

Jenn said...

Very nice! Thank you for sharing this - it's a great primer for understanding the basics...

Bettsi said...

This was a terrific post! I really appreciated reading about the realities of design. I always thought I wanted to be an interior designer, but I questioned whether I could handle that much "face" time with people. This post has confirmed my thoughts! I can love design without getting involved in project management.

Carla@DesignintheWoods said...

What a great post, Lauren. I concur with everything. It's a difficult business to stay profitable in. The old saying, if anything can go wrong it will is so true in this field. Clients don't realize all the time and effort it takes to get an item to installation. So glad to see you charging retail or almost retail to cover your time. It's really the only way to stay in business.

I have decided not to continue to take on short consultations as well. It distracts me away from my full service clients who are waiting for my time and who are much more valuable to my business. I just have to figure out how to deal with clients who up front want full service, then as the project wears on....start shopping on their own and buy retail, trying to get cheaper prices on similar items that I present. Do you ever have that issue? I understand them wanting to save some money, but it can really affect my profit on a job and can water down the look and overall appearance of the project.

Karen said...

Lauren, you are so kind & generous to share your wisdom & what you have learned with us . Thanks!

Karen T.

Betsy said...

I dream of doing interior design as a profession someday and am fascinated by the information you post about the behind-the-scenes realities of the job. I'd love to hear more about how you got started and how you chose your go-to sources and contractors and everything. Do you ever spec furniture from places like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel and such, or must you always choose something to-the-trade-only or one-of-a-kind vintage? Thanks! Love your blog.

Cecilia said...

Lauren,
The timing of this post was perfect for me.

First, let me applaud you for taking your time to write such a detailed amount of information that everyone in the design community can learn from. I know that I really appreciate your willingness to share.

The reason the timing is perfect, is because for the past month I have been collaborating with a couple of designers on a project that we initially had hesitated to take on, but did because we didnt' want to turn down the challenge. Well the challenge, one being the difficulty of the client relationship, has just come to a head this week. Everyone is frustrated and nothing is getting accomplished. It's a sickening feeling, that I've lost sleep on, because we feel like we're not doing a good job and that they're not happy, even though they (the clients) are the ones who keep changing their minds and can't settle on decisions.

Your advice was extremely helpful!

Thank you so much!

Erin said...

nicely done! although my favorite part of this was that graph...bahahahah! so true.

Cote de Texas said...

Fabulous post. Love that you have stopped the labor intensive one day consults. They take so much time and effort for little or no profit. Great way to start out, but you have earned your wings.

Also, always always do a grand reveal!!!! God that is so elementary and I am always shocked by how many designers don't do it, Use your garage to store the furniture if u have to! The piece meal decorating looks terrible, the client is never happy.

I always make the client leave for the day. By the time they come home, the flowers are out, the candles are lit, the lights are low, and they are usually stunned by how great it all looks. So glad you do it like this too. You'll never go back!!!

You are the best. I love you!!!!

Miss B.e.e. said...

Thank you for such a great post! It's great information that someone like me is constantly looking for. I admire your work so much! I have kicked myself daily for years now for not going into interior design. Instead I went into marketing/graphic communications. So, I've finally started to do something about it and although it's a slow start with no degree in the subject, I'm loving every minute and enjoying the trip to whereever it leads. Check out my blog if you can find time. I'd be truly honored:)

Linda Merrill said...

Wonderful tips Lauren - you really captured the ins and outs of the process. so important for other designers AND potential clients!

Annie@A View On Design said...

wow what a gorgeous room, love the sofa! and the reno stress chart is hilarious!!! so true too!!

Capella Kincheloe Interior Design said...

Lauren - this is a great post! I know step by step what is involved in a project, but it is nice to see it all written down. Somehow the order of having it written down brings a peace to the chaotic nature of an interior design project. You are absolutely right, clients do not know the processes and as designers we are responsible for educating them. By educating our clients, we bring more value to our industry. Bravo!

Joanna said...

Gorgeous living room! the colors create a very nice mood of relaxation. Nice post, check out also 3D Rendering

pretty pink tulips said...

Hi Lauren,
I found this so helpful..even though I've worked with interior designers over the years. I think as a client, it is really helpful to understand the designers point of view.

Good design takes work (and a good eye) and is worth paying for!

So proud of how you have evolved your business!
xo Elizabeth

Izzy Herriette & Co. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Izzy Herriette & Co. said...

Loving this shade of green - soft and yet "up-beat" - beautiful! Classy.

Red River Interiors said...

Lauren... loved this post. You've accomplished so much early in your career. I look forward to each post you present.... love your sense of style... you're going far... Fay

smriti said...

Hi Lauren! I've been following your blog for a while and you're amazing!
I am an architect and interior designer in New Delhi, India and we face many of the same issues here too! Not so much about trade only items as that concept doesn't really exist here yet but like Carol said, managing client expectations is the most challenging part. Usually in our contract, we try to clarify the scope of work but there are so many intangible things you end up dealing with and doing for the project that all take up so much more time (than i think they will if I can forsee them at all)!!
I love the way you've been able to articulate all of this by breaking it into a process! Wish I could get some of my clients to read this... Wonderful post! Thank you!!
Love your work and blog!
Smriti

Kristy said...

What a wonderful post! Thanks for the insight...and the honesty! Keep it up, you're doing great! Love your work, Kristy

redbrickbuilding said...

This is an excellent post, Lauren. Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective.

I especially liked the timeline and graph of a construction/complete renovation. The insulators finished yesterday and the drywallers are scheduled to start tomorrow and I feel EXACTLY at the point shown. Here's hoping that painting won't be as much of a dip as is depicted.

Brooks Interior said...

You nailed it! No one realizes the hours that it takes to put a design concept together. I've been working with a building contractor who is now retired & he's encouraged me to use change orders no matter how big or small. The client must sign the change order & the order states the additional charges. I think this is going to be a life saver for me. Draperies are another area that I find very difficult to nail down because we start with a design, give a bid but before the process is complete, the design changes several times which calls for additional measurements & fabric calculations and additional time. Again, I 'm going to implement a change order for draperies as well. Just curios... Do you give an itemized bid to the client or just a total? (They seem to knit pick the itemized bid to death which results in loss of sales, generally. )

karen@huntstudiodesign said...

This post couldn't have come at a better time for me. Lauren, I hear you loud and clear and know what you mean when you talk about losing sleep, haven't had much this week. It's vital to stay on top of it all and difficult when your a one man show. The minutia of this business is daunting. One must be highly organised and even still things can go bad. Good software and VA's are a huge help. I think the most important and best tips I could share is to tell your clients up front that things can go wrong but you will work on their behalf to make it all right. Also under promise and over deliver. It buys me a bit of extra time should I need it.I learned this from a high profile designer, a long time in the business who offers business practice courses for ID's. Even still I always feel so horrible when issues arise as I want to do the best job possible.

casey at loft and cottage said...

Great post, Lauren. Thanks so much for sharing your insights/experience!

Meghan said...

Lauren -

We know you are super busy, so thank you for taking the time to share all your thoughts on what being a designer is REALLY like. It helps those of us considering this field. Bravo to you for all you have accomplished!