Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??
I moved from a fairly modern house to an older house (1920's). We hired a GC to renovate the kitchen of the new house. He suggested I work with a decorator he recommended to help me with things like wall color, etc. Prior to moving into the new house I met with the decorator to discuss charges ($120/hr), what I hoped to achieve (I had a few inspiration pictures) and what she thought I should do with the furniture in my old house (I had pictures). She said to "sell it all - it didn't fit with the style I was trying to achieve"...
The 2nd time I met with the decorator, she came to the house to look at some of the things we were planning in the kitchen and helped to design a built-in cabinet. I received a bill for $320 and promptly paid it.
A few months later, it was time to select paint colors and floor stain colors. Floor stain was especially difficult because we were keeping our stained doors and woodwork which were a redish-orange color. I emailed her to set up an appointment - specifically stating the GC said I needed to select floor and stain colors. Her admin wanted to set up an appointment to meet at the granite yard and tile store to select backsplash and granite. I said - no - what I wanted was help with paint colors and floor stain. The decorator emailed back that she would be in touch, was working on a floor plan and wanted to know what the dimensions of my piano were...And that she was getting the dimensions of the house from the architect (the architect, GC and decorator work closely together even though they are all independent companies)
I sent her the piano dimensions, pictures of 2 dining room sets that I have (asking which would be more appropriate for the look I wanted to achieve) and a link to about a dozen inspiration pictures showing styles and colors I liked.
When we met for our appointment, the GC had the floor installer come at the same time so we could discuss floor stains. We talked with him and she asked him to put 2 stains on the floor for us to look at. Then she proceeded to show me a bunch of furniture pictures and fabrics that she had picked out for my living room and for my office/sunporch. I was a little confused, befuddled, but went along with looking at her suggestions and fabrics, discussing what I liked and didn't like about each. Mostly I didn't like the style and I said that. She pointed out that one of the fabrics and one of the ottomans were directly from one of my inspiration pictures. (which was true, but I really felt that she wasn't getting the "feel" that I was trying to achieve - and the one accent pillow and the one floor ottoman were very small parts of the whole picture they were part of) She had me pick out fabrics and furniture from her pictures that I liked...When I said that I wasn't comfortable with choosing furniture that I couldn't try out - she said she had a client with the sofa and we could drive out there (about 40 minute drive, each way) to sit on it. It was very uncomfortable because I tried to tell her what she had wasn't what I was thinking and she was telling me it was.
To make matters worse, she chose a coffee table almost exactly like one from my last house (that she told me to sell - which I still have (because I really do like it)) and suggested a desk like one I have (but she's never seen because I didn't think we were at the point where we were going to select furniture), and 2 chairs very similar to 2 that she said to sell from my last house.
We ran out of time at our meeting, I had to get to another appointment and we still hadn't discussed paint colors or floor stain. I had to run, she said she was going to set up a display of the fabric samples I had chosen with pics of the furniture I liked before she left, but the very last thing I said before I left was to ask her if she would talk to the floor guy about stains and let me know what she thought. I didn't pursue asking about paint color suggestions because I honestly didn't like any of the fabrics that she had brought for me to look at and knew by then I wasn't going to go with any of those.
When I got back to the house, she had made a little display of the fabrics I had chosen with the pictures of the furniture I had chosen. The floor guy was still there. He had put on the 2 stains she had requested. I asked him what she thought and he said that she left about 5 minutes after I did and didn't say anything at all to him. I went ahead and chose a stain.
I was very frustrated after that meeting with the decorator. I had specifically wanted her to help me with 3 issues: Paint colors, Floor stain color, Which dining room set to use in the house. I probably was going to have her help me with furniture, but we hadn't discussed things like what I already had, what my budget was, what my timeframe was, or things like if I would buy items that I couldn't see in person. This is my 5th house in my adult life and I have a whole collection of furniture that I love in storage (either to use or I'm saving for my children)...we never discussed any of that.
So, when her secretary emailed to set up a follow up appointment, I replied back that I wasn't at the point of making decisions about furniture - that I had hoped that our meeting could have addressed paint colors and floor stains. And that I wasn't comfortable with the thought of buying furniture sight unseen, without discussing the needs of the entire family, that some of the furniture was very similar to pieces that I already own, and that I certainly wasn't comfortable discussing furniture without knowing the price of the furniture.
The reply back from the secretary (which was obvious much of it came from the decorator, as the secretary couldn't have known all of the details replied to in the email) said that you can't pick paint colors before furniture fabric, so just paint the walls white. And that the decorator asked the floor guy to do 2 stain samples, "didn't he do that?", and the decorator couldn't give me prices until I chose furniture and fabrics because they varied so much based on fabrics, and it didn't make sense to look up prices for everything until she knew what I wanted, as for not being able to sit on furniture before purchasing, she visits the NC show every year and is familiar with how the furniture feels and is built, plus she had the one client we could go sit on her couch.
I just didn't reply to that email, thinking that I'd just pay the bill and be done with her. Until I received her bill. $840 Then I got upset. $840 and she didn't do a single thing that I had asked (paint color suggestions, floor stain recommendation, advice on which DR furniture to use). I didn't ever ask her to choose furniture for my house, although she knew that I was probably going to need to replace some of the furniture on our first floor. She did ask me things like was it important to me to hide my TV (we have a hidden tv cabinet now - but it's a little big for the current family room) because what she had in mind for my tv was about the same size, but not as tall, because it didn't hide the tv. I did know she was doing a floor plan because she asked for the dimensions of my piano, but I didn't even ask for that. I honestly thought that she was supposed to be my "sounding board" for my ideas. She obviously had something different in mind. We didn't sign any paperwork, so I guess that explains some of the miscommunication.
What do you think I should do. Am I obligated to pay for her time to do things I did't ask her to do and for suggestions I won't use? Especially when she didn't do any of the things that I specifically asked her to do? I've just ignored the bill for a month and just got a new copy of it in the mail. Ugh...