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Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Posted by dixieman (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 17, 12 at 10:28

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...


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Did she itemize the bill or just charge you for 7 hours at $120/hr (= $840)? Maybe she was charging you for things like lining up the floor guy, her time with him discussing stain colors, etc. Remember you were probably on the clock from the minute she pulled into your driveway not to mention time she spent on her own (even though she was not authorized to do it) researching furniture options. Without a written contract or an itemized bill it's hard to know if you should pay or not. Her making suggestions that you don't use can't be part of your decision to pay or not pay because that's a matter of choice but it's also what you hired her for. Before I paid it in full I would certainly get in contact with her and find out what the charges are for. Then you can decide whether to pay or fight it. Either way, I'd end the relationship now--she seems to have a hard time listening. And protect yourself by getting a contract if you go with another decorator.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Well it sounds like she certainly put some time and effort in the pursuit even though it wasn't what you specified and it also sounds like, at certain points, you were not happy with the way she was progressing. I think at these points you should have had a sit down and specified exactly what you wanted executed and the time frame. So I'd say the blame is about equal. She obviously was on one page and you were on another. Communication was key. I would say your only hope is to now communicate that you were unsatisfied with the direction the project was going and you wish to cease and then walk away and of course pay the bill. Just my opinion.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Ummm... I would be livid. I'd sit down with her (calmly) to talk about the bill and compromise (off the clock!!!) How much of the time/bill was on colors/paint/dining? Explain that you didn't ask for help on certain items and shouldn't be billed for that time. I don't think that is unreasonable......


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Do you refuse pay an attorney if he loses your case? Do you get a refund from your tax preparer if you are found to owe some taxes from 5 years ago? I don't think you were communicating particularly well either, and you didn't have any kind of "scope of work" in writing. It's her fault and yours. I would pay it and sever ties with her.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Unfortunately, you didn't communicate your displeasure early enough and in effect, kind of lead her on. Even though you didn't want to, you did end up talking to her about furniture and fabrics so she probably assumed that she was on the right track.

It sounds like you owe the money so just pay it and chalk it up as a lesson learned.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I sympathize with your frustration. It's hard to direct independent professionals assertively. Going forward, I think the best way to avoid confusion is to make sure that you follow up all verbal communications with a clearly written summary of the key points discussed. State up front in your contract that no actions are to be taken without your express written agreement. Managing the project this way takes more of your time, but you are more in control.

As for your current situation, it sounds like the designer has put in quite a bit of time on your project even though it wasn't time spent in the way you would have wanted it to be spent. Since you didn't have written instructions for her, I think you do have to bite the bullet and pay her. Consider it an expensive life lesson and move on.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I would still ask for an itemized bill before paying anything.

My guess is she has charged you for the day she spent with you working on fabric and furniture instead of stain/paint, along with the time she spent selecting the fabric and working on the blueprint. You said the GC had the flooring guy come out to the house, but if he was there all day, it's possible the decorator (meaning you) had to pay his fee. Remember that even if she had only been a 'sounding board' she would have been charging you for your time.
It sounds as though she thought she had free rein to decorate your whole house and the minute she said to 'sell everything' is when you should have started looking for another ID.

BTW, am I the only one here that finds $120/hr high?

Unfortunately, this will probably be an expensive lesson on how to work with decorators in the future. Also, be sure to let your GC know how unhappy you are with her.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I agree with Pamlimpsest - however badly this person behaved, not listening to you, and grabbing the bit in her teeth, you do have some responsibility for establishing a clear scope of work, for requiring a contract, and for speaking up right away when you see that someone you've hired by the hour is doing things you don't want done.

So i'd say, send the check with a polite letter saying that she has clearly not done what you asked of her, that you don't think the communication problem between you can be solved, and terminate the relationship. It's an expensive lesson, but now you know.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I too can understand your frustration. That's a lot of money especially when you add the other bill that you've already paid. It's really a shame this has put a damper on what sounds like a really exciting project.

I would tell her to please stop the process immediately to avoid anymore charges. Then like Annz, I'd request a full itemization of the bill, lastly, I'd definitely have a sit down with her to discuss it and maybe even some kind of a compromise with the total due.

I don't think this is entirely your fault or hers and to just point a finger at one isn't very fair to either of you. We weren't there during the conversations and really don't know how assertive you were or weren't. In all fairness, it seems as if some Designers can be deaf when it comes to listening to their clients; they feel they know best and it's like they set out to prove that point with the final product. If she is like this, then she's obviously not the right designer for you.

That said there is a process to really good room design. A paint color can be changed really easily but furniture and fabric choices are the most expensive, most used and most permanent items in the room. From that perspective, it makes perfect sense that she'd want to have some those choices made first so she could then determine what the best colors or even stain choices would be for the room. If this is the case, shame on her for not explaining the process to you more thoroughly. If she had I think it would have saved you a lot of anxiety over the process. This designers heart may be in the right place but it's obvious that she's not very tuned in to her clients or able to read them very well.

There was a thread here not too long ago with a similar problem. Two professionals in the business chimed in with some good advise that may apply to you as well. If you've seen this post already you may want to revisit it anyways; I completely agreed with Bronwynsmom and Magnaverde, their responses are equally applicable here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Designers bill


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

$120 is on the low side in my area of CA. Yes, it adds up quickly!


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Pay the bill, tell her pencils down, and sever ties.

You may have felt she was not listening to you and that she was spending her time inappropriately. However, by going ahead and discussing the fabric and furniture with her, you essentially validated what she was doing.

She is correct that it is much easier to design a room picking the fabrics first, since paint comes in infinite colors and fabric does not; although it is possible to work the other way round. Also, if you are not comfortable buying furniture you have not seen, that's fine but that is how you buy most to-the-trade furniture. If you must try out furniture before you buy, you should probably shop retail.

It is important to be very clear with anyone you hire. If they go marching off in directions you don't wish to pursue, you must say something immediately and clearly.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I also think it is crazy to buy furniture you have not seen/touched, specially when it is a sofa and costs around $15K. Most major cities have a to-the-trade design center and that is where I went with my designer. I got to sit on the sofa and choose the fill for the cushions. I am willing to drive 50 miles one way to find a store that carries an item I'm interested in ... there is no alternative to feeling the quality and/or comfort of a piece.

Most of these design centers are also open to the public. They asign you one of their designers to escort you and help you. They will earn a commission for that. In my area I also found a local/online company that will give me access to the design center, but not give you a designer, so more of a DIY approach with access to the to-the-trade goods. They charge about 30-40% above their wholesale price for the service, so less than what retail would be.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Not sure how obligated you are to pay for something you did not "order"/ask for.
The one lady I worked w/luckily did not charge an hourly fee but I guess that she upcharged the items to get her fee.
I asked her numerous times for a paint color and tables for my FR. She never picked a color or showed me any furniture. BUt, she made sure that we ordered the drapes, wall paper and the area rugs. That's where she makes her money, she isn't making anything by picking a paint color.
We have parted ways as I don't think she liked me for various reasons. One being that I challenged what she choose.
If you feel that you were specific about wanting your flooring and paint color and she went off and worked on something else - you should question her about the bill.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

How about some perspective here? From your thread heading and details I was expecting a bill in the thousands, not hundreds. It sounds as though you did not understand her terms of engagement, and that could be the fault of you both. But surely when you gave her the dimensions of your piano you had to have some expectation that you would pay for the floor plan?. And how could you possibly choose Paint colors if you haven't chosen upholstery fabrics and/or window treatments? I have friends who have been advised to paint all interiors white so they could move in and proceed with the design process on a slower timetable---- that's not really unusual.

I have the feeling this story might sound very different if told by the designer. That doesnt mean either of you is wrong, but you certainly weren't "on the same page, " as someone noted above. It sounds as though you actually do need a designer to help you appoint your new home--- even if that just means sorting thru all the furniture you have in storage. And that's another question-- if she thought you sold all or most of your furniture and you didn't bother to tell her about your storehouse of family furniture, isn't it logical for her to think that furniture is a priority? You need to set a budget before you proceed any further--- with her or someone else. For now, if you've signed an agreement with her you're bound by it.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

With a reminder to everyone that I don't work in the field, even though I have a degree (except very specific projects), I want to tell you what one of my instructors said:

"You don't buy a watchdog and then stay up all night and bark for it."

Meaning that if you are going to hire a designer, then tell them exactly which order to proceed with a project (even if it is backward), don't take any of their suggestions (because you know better), and are basically doing your own project and using them only as a purchasing source--not using them for their training ---Maybe you should NOT hire a designer. A designer is not supposed to give you a room or a house that you could do yourself. A good designer is supposed to give you a *better room, that while reflecting your taste, is not something you could necessarily do on your own. It's actually very frustrating to work for someone who claims to want your input and then thwarts the whole process. Or, likes something for the first part of a project and then hates it halfway through.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I agree with Lukki. Especially this part...
"I don't think this is entirely your fault or hers and to just point a finger at one isn't very fair to either of you. We weren't there during the conversations and really don't know how assertive you were or weren't."

While yes, it sounds like you should've put a stop sooner, it sounds like your designer had cloth ears with what you did tell her and should've also done a better job explaining herself. She left you hanging with your requests.

I would've been highly bothered by a lot of what you explained happened. She didn't even look at the stain samples when you asked. If that's not something she was interested in doing right now then she should've said so. Communication is important on both parts but she does this for a LIVING.

I'm sorry you're going through this. Sounds like you're going to have to pay at least most of the bill but I would want it itemized. I would then break all ties with her, let the GC know you aren't happy, and learn from this in the future.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I think it's fairly common knowledge that designers/decorators don't always do what the *client* wants, but do things according to their likes/dislikes. I'm sorry you weren't aware of that 'knowledge'.

I have to ask, how is it you chose this particular designer? Was she well advertised? Thru a friend? Did you not feel some sort of 'vibe' when talking~~those 'gut feelings' are naught for nothing. Unfortunately we usually find out too late when we've clearly made a mistake.

I'm one of those 'up front' people, so would definitely 'have the talk, before she walks the walk'. Be willing to pay 'something,' but seems to me she's wayyyyy over charging for services half-way completed. Good luck! ;o)


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

"I think it's fairly common knowledge that designers/decorators don't always do what the *client* wants, but do things according to their likes/dislikes. I'm sorry you weren't aware of that 'knowledge'."

Patty cakes, I have to take issue with this - a good professional designer is trained and experienced in ways that the client is not. Certainly we all have our preferences, but best industry practices require that we apply our skill to produce something based on the client's wishes that is far better than the person paying our bills can accomplish without us.

I am so weary of the idea that we should apply our training and experience as though we were hobbyists or pals helping out, instead of hard-working experts who deserves success and a decent living. Great rooms don't come out of some five-minute burst of inspiration. Excellence in design is far more complex than just flinging some fabric samples around. The choices we make are based on established principles of art, design, construction, and ergonomics; and on talents developed through practice, not just on simple likes and dislikes.

Bad designers are no better or worse than bad carpenters or bad brain surgeons or bad lawyers...but good ones are equally worthy of respect for what they can do, and how hard they work to do it.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Oh Bronwyns...

Haven't you been reading the threads all these years?

Designers are flighty people who have no interest in really doing what a client wants. They just need someone else's money to design a room that's done in their current flights of fancy.

Oh, maybe on the way out the door they pull together a scheme that vaguely resembles what the client wants. This usually takes about five minutes. But you have to charge many billable hours for it so they THINK you might have been listening.

I actually keep full finish boards and kitchen designs that I would like in my own house ready to go. Then when I have a second meeting with a client I put on a blindfold and grab one. This saves a LOT of time...you should try it.

Of course most clients aren't bright enough to realize they have been taken for a very expensive ride. Or, if they realize too late what a swindle it is they are too proud to admit it (especially to their friends that they have bragged to) and they pay up and live with rooms they don't even recognize as their own.

It takes a discerning and independent thinker to stop this kind of scam artists.

Where have you Been Bronwyns? You must have been skipping threads.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Darling Palimpsest - I must have been drunk! I'll try to be more attentive to your great suggestions about how to fleece the lambs, and get home in time for a nice bottle of the '75 Pauillac...

Ever thine,
B-mom


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Pal, lol! While your post is clearly made tongue in cheek, every time I read one of these threads I am annoyed that most of the replies rush to defend the poor client who has "obviously" been "ripped off." There seems to be a world of misunderstanding about the design process and design professionals. I have never regretted a penny spent with our designer, and after many years count him as the person most responsible for turning our weirdly laid out house into a liveable home.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Ok, Designers, you know the folks here love you guys so instead of getting frustrated by the commentary, which I totally get because my own profession is often thrashed like this as well, please educate us a little.

I've never had the opportunity to use a designer before, but would love to better understand the process which is obviously misunderstood.

To avoid slamming this OP who is just asking for opinions or hijacking the thread, can one of you start a new thread that can provide some clarification about how it works? A Q & A thread maybe??? Say something we can find later in a search?


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

OP I think you have to sit down with the decorator (as you called her) and negotiate payment. Clearly she invested time and energy and deserves compensation but she clearly also did not fulfill the mandate. And in business when the client is dissatisfied with cause concessions are made. That's the long and the short of it. I can't say what dollar value her work was worth but if she agrees to reassess the bill take whatever she offers and move on.

I don't want to wade into a hornets nest here (proudly mixing my metaphors:) because obviously there is a lot of sensitivity regarding the perception of interior designers and decorators. But I think that with a career so open to subjective assessment as this, these professionals have to be prepared to justify themselves more then others. Fair or not.

Design is a process, and the product, a beautiful room, may end up being compromised by a number of unavoidable factors: budget constraints, artistic disagreement, fickle clientele. So I think communication is most key. And as the professional the onus is on the designer to document the process check and double check for satisfaction and to temper impulses to follow a design script about what 'needs' to be done to a clients home and in what order.

I don't think anyone disputes that the trained eye of a design professional is invaluable but perhaps some designers are victims of the status of their customer base. Catering often to wealthy or at least upwardly mobile customer that perhaps doesn't scrutinize a bill a closely because they don't need to. But to make design more accessible to everyone and shake off stereotypes this needs to change.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I am not slamming the OP, I agreed that the designer is partly at fault. The problem is that they did not have a written scope of work.

There are a few things that I will say in defense of clients, as well.

Many designers are not very good business people. I am not good especially when it comes to collecting money. This is why I don't have my own practice in my "day job" either.
So the designer was at fault here for not specifying what the project was going to involve, and did not perhaps, educate the client in where it is best to Start. Since there are almost infinite paint colors, that usually isn't it.

The other thing that I will agree with to a certain extent is that a fair number of designers are not any more open minded than a lot of clients. They like what they like because they like it. And that's okay for a client, especially if you both like the same stuff.

When I was in school, when we had a historic project I did historic. No matter how bizarre it looked to our modern eye, I did the best period project I could. When we did MCM, I did MCM, Hotel was based upon the historic exterior, etc.----

There were a number of people in my classes who, when we did a historic project, they did transitional with a historic style fabric thrown in, MCM they did transitional with and MCM-looking fabric. Their hotel was....transitional with flame retardant fabrics that could be used commercially. They were Transitional One Trick Ponies. They couldn't do ANYthing outside their narrow comfort zone.

When they asked me to teach there, one of the things that I said was that I had a very hard time looking at projects that were only nods to whatever the project Was, rather than an expression of that particular period.

And I was told, "Good Luck, a lot of your students will be limited by only being able to express their own taste, and we can't Teach open mindedness, only how to develop it If They Want. Luckily, most of the graduates will be doing pretty transitional work based on current trends because thats what a lot of clients want."


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Well I would pay the bill and learn the life lessons ...

As for using a designer -- I certainly can not afford to do so -- but I do understand the huge mis-communication gap on both sides of the issue ....

Here's a couple of questions for Pal and brownynsmom(and other designers/decorators hereabouts) And yes -- a separate thread might be wise if you choose:

a)How does an ordinary person find "their" designer? I do realize that the ASID does have a website -- but that not every decorator belongs to that organization ....

b)Should ALL and EVERYTHING be spelled out on paper from the moment that a prospective client walk into your office? Is there a "free estimate"??? What can an ordinary person learn from a designer's profile? Should we talk to some of your former clients?

c)Should a prospective client walk into a designer's office with their OWN home photos and their OWN home measurements? And perhaps a handful of clips from a magazine or two or six?? Does that help or hinder the design process?

d)Should a client arrive with a "hard" budget and timeline??? What happens when a project is delayed? What about overcosts?

e)Yes -- there will be times when the client and the designer disagree (look at the high-profile client that sued Charlotte Moss for not doing his Aspen home in "cowboy" style") -- so how do you iron out the wrinkles?

f)Bottom lines matter to everyone (with some VERY high profile exceptions of course!) -- so basic office procedures (inventory, account payables, account receivables, purchasing, basic communications) SHOULD be in place ... but how does the client KNOW that the designer has actually put these into place? In other words -- this work is not just a fly-by-night operation???

Thanks for your time ....


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Pal, don't misunderstand, I know you weren't slamming the OP. It's just this is the second thread in a short period of time with this type of issue, maybe a Q&A would be helpful for all the folks here. We have that for other trades so why not Designing as well.

Teacats, your questions are a great start!

I'll start the thread, I just figured it would be easier to find if it were started by someone known to be a professional in the industry.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Okay.
I'll start.
Thanks!


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I think some responses here have been too hard on OP. It's the professionals responsibility to guide the process by educating the client. Instead this designer just ignored the clients requests, that's not educating or guiding.
If it were me, I would tell the designer that I am feeling surprised by the bill and disappointed that she disregarded my requests. I would tell the designer that she will not get any referrals from me. It would then be up to the designer to explain, justify etc., and that would be the designers opportunity to offer to adjust the bill.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I wrote my response between patients :-P so I may have been cut off mid thought.
I think that "Design Process" could be a great thread and could be an education for both potential clients and designers as well. I think it is very hard for designers to realize sometimes that a lot of people have trouble translating from schematic to drawings to real life, since it is second nature to a designer. (Probably innate then only further developed through training).

I hope people understand though that it really IS a process and there are reasons that your designer may seem rather rigid about things at times.

Also as a thread I think it could potentially have the danger of Annoying some people, for whom taste is purely personal, purely subjective, and should have "no rules" because if you "do what you love, it's all good". On another forum, I participated in a set of lengthy threads that seemed to be going fine, and then someone posted a rant about how it was a bunch of high minded nonsense if and we wanted to really help people shut up already and suggest the actual name of a paint color for those who needed it.

I promptly dropped the F bomb and was banned from the site, much to my own self actualization and joy.

It sounds like a great idea, but let's keep it open and tread nicely.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I am waiting to hear from some of the commenters in this thread telling us how today their bosses pointed out that they didn't exactly follow his instructions for their recent assigments, and so they will only be paid for half their work over the last month. I eagerly await their enthusiastic agreement with their bosses' actions.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Well marcolo, this is the kind of response I was referring to, mean and sarcastic. I think in todays employment market if you don't do what the boss wants, you may get paid, up until you get fired.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I don't think it's being mean: it points something out. In most professions you are paid a certain salary. You are paid this salary whether your performance is exemplary or adequate, and not reduced if you don't do a project perfectly every time. There is a certain amount of leeway.

But in the creative field, since it is the selling of ideas, people think that it has a very elastic value and that the fee is negotiable on a day to day basis. People in created fields are regulated over time: if you have talent you will make a living, if not, you won't. But you can't really itemize that one idea is better than another.

I was actually approached by someone who wanted me to design two variations on a project and they would "Pay me for the ONE they liked, IF they liked Either of them".

In other words, I was supposed to do it for free, and maybe I would get lucky.

This doesn't extend just to designers though. It effects other fields where the idea or the mind is what is doing the work.

I worked in a particular practice where I did more diagnostics than anything else. I would be referred patients by a couple of the GPs because they didn't know what was going on. So I would do exams, ask lengthy questions about symptoms and such, and come to some conclusions, which often had nothing to do with my specialty in terms of actual treatment. So they would go off to another specialist for a procedure or whatever.

In this office, many people's insurance did not cover this type of exam, (or very much of it) so they had some out of pocket.

More than once I had a patient say "What do I have to pay a FEE for?! All he did was look at me and we TALKED!?"


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

No need to bring nastiness into the conversation, kathy. My point is completely serious. Some of the people who think the OP should refuse to pay for time the designer already worked would be shocked and astounded if their own bosses tried the same trick with them. The parallel is exact, so those who don't see it should go back and review.


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And, Kathy

Everybody IS recommending that this designer be fired from the project. No one is saying to keep working with her.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

This doesn't extend just to designers though. It effects other fields where the idea or the mind is what is doing the work.

This is very true. I'm an attorney (salaried, thankfully), but friends and acquaintances seem to think that it is nothing to ask me to give them advice or "just review this little contract" for nothing in return. I remember a (former) hairdresser asking me to review and negotiate a lease for her new shop. I knew she had little money as she was starting this new business and said that we could barter for some free haircuts for me. She looked at me like I was nuts. Why should she give me the free fruits of her labor when all I was doing was reading?


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I don't think anyone said she shouldn't pay, I know I didn't. The OP wanted to know how to handle it, she wanted to know is she obligated to pay. No one has told her she's not obligated to pay. Some have told her in a less than pleasant way, and that's my point. The designer had the responsibility to guide the project, not the client, so I feel the criticism or attitude toward the OP is unwarranted.

marcolo, I know you are serious, but I don't agree with your tone.

BTW, there is a local school district near me that has RETROACTIVELY reduced teacher pay. After they worked, and got paid, months later the district is deducting from their current pay for the retroactive pay decrease.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

The problem I have with the OP, frankly, is thad she is claiming naivete and an ignorance of the process somewhat after the fact. A better approach would have been to proclaim this at the beginning of the relationship and put all the onus on the designer to educate the client. If the OP had said very honestly, " I am completely ignorant of how this works, I have never worked like this with a designer before, please tell me what it is you propose to do, how much it will cost, and my role in all this," she might have had a different result. Instead, it sounds as though the first thing she did was sell her furniture, and from that single act the designer had good cause to assume the project was a start to finish design and SHOULD have asked for a budget then and there. There's plenty of shared responsibility here. I'm just tired of hearing, "I am sorry you are going through this," as though it was some misfortune that dropped from the sky.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

My ID is an acquaintance. We have kids in the same school district. There are things she does that bother me. She does not itemize her hours. I recently put it in writing that the remaining scope of work was only going to be 4 items that have been ordered and are being built/sewn. A week later she tells me she was looking at item X and wanted to order since they have one in stock. Item X is NOT one of the 4 remaining projects. I will be billed for this time.

I mentioned this before. I have learnt not to mention possible/future projects because I will then get billed for research on project that I had not actually assigned to the ID.

I have no problem paying for her knowledge, but I feel that she makes no effort to give me the best value for my money.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

kathy, when threads get long, sometimes it is useful to reread them. If you do, you will see that multiple people talked about renegotiating the bill, or coming to a "compromise," or subjecting the designer to new demands (itemization) before the bill was paid, or disputing that anything was owed on work that was not specifically requested.

As it turns out, I don't agree with your tone, either, since I don't see anyone else calling out other posters by name or accusing them of being mean. So let's just leave that dispute where it lies, and focus on discussing things that are productive for the OP and other members.

Speaking of which, there are two things that merit more attention.

First, as has been pointed out, the word "huge" in the title certainly did not lead me to expect that the bill in question was $840. That is less than a full day's work. I understand the OP's frustration and still recommend changing designers. However, the amount of shock expressed at the bill suggests the OP really needs to reassess expectations of what professional design services cost.

Second, the OP also said that upon receiving the bill, she simply put it aside and did not pay it. I cannot think of any possible excuse for this behavior.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Chispa, I think you could pretty clearly say that you did not want to be billed for that time since she was acting independently.

If I find a lamp that I like and the client likes but then spend 4 hours online looking at 2000 others, just to make sure (I've done this, I admit)--I don't bill or barter for those four hours.

Actually this type of extra research I do when I am watching TV, answering other emails paying bills or other stuff anyway because I tend to get carried away. I can't do only one thing like that at a time.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Pal, that is the problem, since my ID doesn't itemize her bill at all, it is very difficult to know what I was billed for. I like her, but probably won't use her again after the 4 remaining items are delivered/installed. I will probably recommend her to friends, but will warn them of her billing style. It makes me feel like it is very easy for her to pad the bill and I have no way of knowing. And so you understand my uneasyness, when we are done all the materials & fees will be about 100K, so lots of room to throw in extra hours here and there.

I did work with another Designer for exterior work and that person was very good at itemizing the bills and breaking down the hours it took to do each different job, so I know it can be done.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

i definitely think you should renegotiate the bill!!

i think it is the designer who really needs to learn from this experience and begin to write up contracts for the work that is to be done!! you can't assume your customers are on the same page as you are- and every customer doesn't necessarily communicate effectively or assertatively. a contract will help protect the designer...


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

dixieman,

How was the situation resolved?

Hope you are enjoying your new/old 1920s house!


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Well first of all, you shouldn't ignore the bill. I do understand your frustration in the fact that the designer did not do what you asked her to do and it would irritate me if someone told me to get rid of certain furnishings and then recommend putting some of the same identical items back into the house.

Secondly, this is a good lesson learned - do not have any type work done to/in your house without some type contract. We learned this the hard way in building our home. It really makes things easier for both sides.

That said, I don't see any reason for negative responses to the OP (although again, I don't think the bill should be laid aside), nor do I think it is unreasonable to ask for an itemized bill.

I hope you get it all worked out.

tina


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

OP I think you have to sit down with the decorator (as you called her) and negotiate payment. Clearly she invested time and energy and deserves compensation but she clearly also did not fulfill the mandate. And in business when the client is dissatisfied with cause concessions are made. That's the long and the short of it. I can't say what dollar value her work was worth but if she agrees to reassess the bill take whatever she offers and move on.

I don't want to wade into a hornets nest here (proudly mixing my metaphors:) because obviously there is a lot of sensitivity regarding the perception of interior designers and decorators. But I think that with a career so open to subjective assessment as this, these professionals have to be prepared to justify themselves more then others. Fair or not.

Design is a process, and the product, a beautiful room, may end up being compromised by a number of unavoidable factors: budget constraints, artistic disagreement, fickle clientele. So I think communication is most key. And as the professional the onus is on the designer to document the process check and double check for satisfaction and to temper impulses to follow a design script about what 'needs' to be done to a clients home and in what order.

I don't think anyone disputes that the trained eye of a design professional is invaluable but perhaps some designers are victims of the status of their customer base. Catering often to wealthy or at least upwardly mobile customer that perhaps doesn't scrutinize a bill a closely because they don't need to. But to make design more accessible to everyone and shake off stereotypes this needs to change.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I am waiting to hear from some of the commenters in this thread telling us how today their bosses pointed out that they didn't exactly follow his instructions for their recent assigments, and so they will only be paid for half their work over the last month. I eagerly await their enthusiastic agreement with their bosses' actions.

I agree with your point that if an employee doesn't follow his boss's instructions exactly he still gets paid. But my husband is an engineering consultant, and if his client asks him to perform a service and he performs additional services not requested or authorized by the client, he may not get paid. Or the amount he has billed may be negotiated down by the client, so that he is only partially paid the billed amount. I worked as a consultant in a different industry, and this type of thing was common in my job as well.

I don't think a designer's job is the same relationship as employer/employee. I think it functions much more as a consultant type relationship.

I have never used an interior designer, but I have used a few decorators. A couple of them have been terrible, not listening to my requests and only able to decorate in one or two ways that they like. But the others have been worth their weight in gold and saved me a ton of money. They were easy to deal with, mindful of my budget, worked with my existing furniture, very much kept in mind that I don't change decor very often so the result needed to look good for a long time, mindful of my family's lifestyle, and took my requests and turned them into something far more beautiful than I could have ever done. The decorator I like the best helped me with some of the rooms in my house 12 years ago, and I love those rooms still today just as much as I did the day we finished them.

Another decorator I loved (she moved) helped a friend of mine who still had harvest gold in her bathroom and couldn't afford to change it. They turned that bathroom into the cutest room, my jaw dropped when I saw it.

Until I found someone I really liked, I just went really slow and was very specific and very clear about my budget when I tried a new decorator. When I've tried a new one who wouldn't listen or kept pushing me too much toward her certain style, then I just paid her for the consult and ended the relationship. I figure that's part of the cost of decorating my home, just like if I have to find a new doctor I would still pay him for my exam. But I would definitely negotiate the bill if a decorator exceeded my crystal clear instructions about my budget and what I wanted to accomplish.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

But I would definitely negotiate the bill if a decorator exceeded my crystal clear instructions about my budget and what I wanted to accomplish.

There was nothing crystal clear here. Instead of immediately shutting down the designer's first attempts to discuss furniture and fabrics, the OP went along and participated in discussoins. That's enough to create a contract in fact in any common law jurisdiction I am aware of. So, the money is owed.

Frankly, if someone tried to argue with her over a bill in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars after she legitimately put in the work and the client actively participated, I wouldn't be surprised if she just said no and sent the bill to collections. After judgment, the client could then fondly reminisce about her brave moment of defiance every time she was subsequently denied for a car loan or mortgage.

Pay the bill, cut ties and move on.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Girlville, you are both right and not, about clients with resources and the scrutiny of bills.
For some people, the size of the bill is always going to be manageable, but while some of them are paying not to have to worry about it, and say to a well-known or trusted designer, "Just do it and send me the bill," many others are prosperous precisely because they understand how to set and manage a budget, and they can be the most persnickety - and sometimes tight-fisted - of all.

In my experience, attitudes toward money are based much more on upbringing, life experience, and personal issues than they are the size of the bank account.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

However, the amount of shock expressed at the bill suggests the OP really needs to reassess expectations of what professional design services cost.

Second, the OP also said that upon receiving the bill, she simply put it aside and did not pay it. I cannot think of any possible excuse for this behavior.

Insert Dental for professional design. Or automotive repair.

Everything costs more than we think it should!!

But I agree with Marcolo, pay the bill, or as others suggest, negotiate, but don't stick your head in the sand.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Business deals should be clear at the onset of hiring.
Hiring is done by the client saying 'YES you are hired' and a contract spelling out all details of what is to be done as business and fees should be drawn out. Nothing was done without a signature and a deposit if applicable at that time (drawings approved, etc).

I had a blank section in my contracts for deliverables.
I explained how I charged and what estimates would be,for each service and estimate what her job might cost in each department. I charged for the time I spent setting up my sources and charged for that, no hand-holding necessary if my selections are marked at where my client goes to view, she/he makes selections, signs the order for them and leaves the deposit. I did same with appliances and all aspects of job. My sources called, emailed or faxed me selections, all signed. Then the selections all recorded. The client knew that if I went to be with her for the whole process that would be a charge separate from my setting it all up with source. We called it 'consulting fee'. They knew the difference and the charges. When we met, I reminded them my time as consultant started and when ended (mentioned in a casual way) but clear on what was going on.

In other words, the client knew what to expect and when, also could call me with a question. My clients knew when our next meeting was and what I expected them to have done and what I was also bringing to the table that week and then review.

There is no room in any business for conclusions without discussion. If something is not clear, it is not good business. I loved (saying past tense because I am now retired) working with clients who had used a designer before, they knew the 'ropes' and how things worked. Otherwise first time clients DO need their hands held and led along the way as to how the process works. So, yes, you will have to invest more time in first-time designer users, and if you don't like this type of client, then change your target audience because they will all the the same (first timers) they need their hands held. So, you build in that first experience 'factor' into your fee with limits as to what you will do spelled out ahead of time.

Scams take two people, one who is trying to get your money without doing much. And one who is trying not to pay for what they are getting or to get something for nothing. When the two meet it is not business, it is a scam.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I agree that you should contact her and work something out. I think it's fair to negotiate the amount down, since it sounds like she has done work beyond what you've asked her to do. Keep in mind that at some point you're going to see diminishing returns from pushing the issue too far, so it's probably in your best interest to work something out with her.

Marcolo, I wouldn't be so quick to say that there is a contract -- it doesn't sound like there was a "meeting of the minds" as to the scope of the work.

I think most of us who do work for clients have to deal with clients questioning bills, etc. If I did work for a client who thought it was beyond the scope of our engagement, you can bet that I would be held accountable in one way or another. I don't think this issue is unique to the design world, though I understand it can be harder for designers and decorators to "prove" what they've done.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Marcolo, I wouldn't be so quick to say that there is a contract -- it doesn't sound like there was a "meeting of the minds" as to the scope of the work

LOL. I don't think Clarence Darrow is going to come riding to the rescue for the OP here.

Again, people keep glossing over two very important things.

First, if you are going to argue with a bill for less than a day's work--we're literally talking about a difference of a couple of hours here--you really are overreaching your budget by hiring a professional. It can take an entire day in a design center just to shop for a sofa fabric, going from showroom to showroom and waiting for the ditz behind the counter to pull the swatches for you.

Second, the OP didn't pay the bill. Now that she's in arrears, her moral high ground has turned into a nice deep hole.

A small client with a limited budget who quibbles over a couple of hours and doesn't even pay their bill has zero negotiating leverage. Zero.

Is the designer going to be quaking in her boots in fear of losing out of the potential for perhaps, um, tens of dollars in profit? Or of being badmouthed to other potential low-budget, non-paying clients?

The OP seems primarily irritated by the bad communication she suffered through with this designer, and that's legitimate. But some of this thread has kind of wandered far from the facts on the ground.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

LOL, I wasn't the one giving quasi-legal advice. ;)

I don't think anyone necessarily has the moral high ground here. And, as I said, I think it's in the best interest of both parties to find some middle ground here -- I don't think it's in the best interest of either of them to push this too far, as the costs of doing so will quickly overrun the disputed amount.

But delaying payment for a month doesn't mean that you owe someone the full amount. Some of our (corporate) clients delay paying for longer than that, but that doesn't mean they don't think they can come back and ask questions about the bill!


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Yes, you were.

Again, this isn't one of your "corporate clients." Part of the reason these discussions often become unproductive is the assumption that any professional should be grateful for any amount of business from any client. Anybody who believes that is out of business by now, or heading there fast.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

"A small client with a limited budget who quibbles over a couple of hours and doesn't even pay their bill has zero negotiating leverage. Zero."

A small client is still a client and it may only be a couple of hours but it was a couple of hours that didn't include what the OP asked and the designer failed to explain (from when the OP originally asked) why she didn't want to talk about paint, etc. Echoing again what Kathy said...
"It's the professionals responsibility to guide the process by educating the client. Instead this designer just ignored the clients requests, that's not educating or guiding."

Why should the OP just "pay the bill" without questioning anything? Because it's only a few hours worth of work isn't a good enough reason for me.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

It's confusing....you said -

"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"...
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."

And then you said -

"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..."

I think you did specifically ask her to do some of the stuff she did, it just wasn't what you had in mind.

I think you should just pay, and cut her loose, and also let the GC know that you were unhappy with his recommendation so he knows.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Although I recommended that the OP pay the bill and move on, since she is obviously not satisfied, I don't necessarily think there is anything wrong with trying to get a better picture of what it was for, and possibly the designer would lower it, who knows. I am such a wimp that I would pay it as a client and lower it as a designer.

But I don't think that is what the Essence of the problem is here.

It is a difference of opinion or lack of understanding of the Value of the Advice.

If you go to a Physician, Lawyer, Tax Preparer, or Auto Mechanic and they give you their opinion or advice and you either Don't Like it, or Don't Choose to Follow it...does that mean their Advice had No Inherent Value of It's Own?
In the case of Dr.,Lawyer, Mechanic, et al, I think most people understand that it does, but I have heard over and over again when it comes to Designers in particular that:

unless you Like What You Hear--the Advice and the Work behind it is Valueless.

And, I think, (as it has been my experience, as limited as my clientele have been), that unless you Validate the taste of the client, by agreeing with All of their Decisions...Some of them Don't Like it. They are paying for a consultant to say everything they want to do and could do on their own is Awesome, and they've never made a mistake with a piece of furniture or room that they are bringing along for the ride. If this were the case, you probably wouldn't need me.

I am also a bit leery of the idea that there was furniture that was rejected by the designer only to be replaced with the exact same thing. I have had clients want to cancel orders for specific items because they have found the "exact same thing" for $XX cheaper at $____. And if the criteria is that it's the exact same thing because it has four legs and is made of wood, maybe so. I don't expect clients to have the same level of discernment between X and Y that I have, and they are certainly allowed to ask WHAT the difference is and WHY it is important, and if it is NOT that important to them, we go in a different direction. But I have had projects fouled up when the client has tried to get the "exact same thing" or reuse the "exact same thing" --and THEN they realize that it is not.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

If I go to the physician, tax preparer, lawyer or auto mechanic, I am paying them to do what is correct for that situation, not what I "like". Repair the car, or prescribe the correct medication, etc. If I "like" what the mechanic does and he doesn't fix the car, but damages it instead, that's a problem. If I "like" what the decorator does and it doesn't fit the principles of good design, but looks tacky instead, as long as I like it that's what counts. In the case of a decorator, I am paying that person to help me achieve a look that is my taste. For me, there is no point to hiring a decorator if she can't help me get the look that is to my taste, not necessarily hers.

Perhaps my experiences are not the usual ones, I don't know. But the decorators I've enjoyed using have told me point blank that certain things I had in mind wouldn't work for the look I wanted. That's what I pay them for, to tell me what won't work and show me what will. Their "no" is as valuable as their "yes".

I do agree that the advice and work of a decorator has value, even if the customer doesn't use it. I once tried a decorator I did not like using at all. She came for a consultation ($120/hr, like the OP), minimum 2 hours. After about 30 minutes it was obvious it wasn't going to work for me. I listened politely for about 20 more minutes, ended the consult as pleasantly as I could, paid her for the full 2 hours. She was particularly insistent that I paint my walls tan. I hate tan walls in this house. I had tan walls for a couple of years and felt like I was living in a cave. I physically felt oppressed by the tan walls (in this house, I like it in other houses). But she took the time and expense to drive out to my house and discuss the decor with me, and it was fair to pay her the agreed upon amount. She contacted me a couple of times to discuss ideas and plan further (for free), but I was very clear that I appreciated the time she had spent but wasn't interested in pursuing anything further.

Fortunately I found someone else who didn't like tan, she liked yellow for my room, which I love.

I'm not disagreeing with the point that the advice of a professional designer has inherent value. But I think a part of the value is finding something that achieves the look his/her client likes.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

sasafras, thank you, and congratulations for actually reading what the OP said.

I am wondering if there is a magic number of times people must be reminded that the OP did ask for and did participate in many of the activities she is now questioning. The designer--

- Created a floorplan, with the OP's knowledge and participation (sending in the piano dimensions)
- Shopped for furniture and fabrics (the OP did hear the recommendation to sell her furniture; did she explicitly say no to that?)
- Provided some furniture recommendations that came directly from the OP's inspiration pictures
- Set up a display of the furniture and fabrics after telling the OP explicitly she was going to do so
- Reviewed floor stains onsite (the OP left the meeting early and did not check back with the designer before choosing one on her own)
- Provided a paint color suggestion--yes, it was white, but that was based on her recommendations for her reasons

So, how many hours did that take? I would love the people who think the bill is too much tell me exactly how long it takes for a designer to do an average floor plan. Around here, $500 is a standard low fee for that alone. That doesn't include a minute of furniture or fabric shopping, which can take days.

Yes, of course this designer is not a good match for the OP. But she did do a great deal of work that the OP asked for, whether she realized it or not. Now the OP wants to know if she can skip paying the bill because she doesn't want to pay for "suggestions [she] won't use"--even though the designer did recommend a paint color (oh, white, that's a suggestion of no value); did come to look at the stains (oh, but I had to leave the meeting before we looked at them, and then made my own decision afterwards); and did discuss the DR furniture, even if she didn't yet arrive at a recommendation.

I would be interested in hearing how many hours people think all that takes, in their extensive personal experience.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

"There was nothing crystal clear here. Instead of immediately shutting down the designer's first attempts to discuss furniture and fabrics, the OP went along and participated in discussoins. That's enough to create a contract in fact in any common law jurisdiction I am aware of. So, the money is owed."

Not necessarily. The OP asked specifically about three things that needed to be done first and ASAP. Instead the ID started talking furniture and fabric, drawing floorplans, etc. What is the OP supposed to do, tell her to stop talking? Stop drawing? I think the OP was doing what any of us would do, being polite and listenting to the ID ramble on on things SHE would make money off of. And having NO clue she was being charged for something she didn't ask for. That is not a verbal contract or handshake.

As I said in the other topic, I'd pay the bill, fire her and get everything she's done on paper sent to me.

It's clear to me this ID was only interested in material items she could make money off of, and wasn't in the least interested in really helping her customer.

If a customer has never used an ID before, it's up to the ID to sit down for a consultation, and explain every single step taken, and how the client will be charged. It's not the clients fault that they were bamboozled.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Daisy,

There is a big difference between designing a room that is an expression of the client's taste and simply validating every decision that the client makes.

In the first case it IS a matter of "doing the right thing" vs. "doing the wrong" thing, in order to achieve what the client wants.

I am not interested in recreating my own house or taste inside somebody else's, but I do get that there are designers that are one-trick ponies. But on the other hand I am not going to simply embrace everything the client suggests even if our tastes are sympathetic. I am Really not interested in working with someone whose taste I think it awful.--Nor should a client feel bad for rejecting a designer whose taste they think is awful--

But like I have said many times before, the designer's job is not to give you a room that is exactly what you would do, a designer's job is to give you a room that is Better than what you would do. Sometimes this means disagreeing with the client over some of their ideas or choices.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Not necessarily. The OP asked specifically about three things that needed to be done first and ASAP. Instead the ID started talking furniture and fabric, drawing floorplans, etc. What is the OP supposed to do, tell her to stop talking? Stop drawing?

First, I listed very explicitly what the designer did. In empirical fact, she did spend time on stain color and paint color. Was she supposed to interpret the OP sending the piano size as an order not to work on floor plans?

Second, if you hire a professional who bills by the hour, you will be billed for meetings, as well as for other activities you know they are performing. If you don't understand that, it is probably a good idea not to hire any professionals--not only designers, but attorneys, accountants, psychiatrists, plumbers, and electricians as well.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Time to chime in. I have been peeking in on this thread and I have been AMAZED so many feel this decorator "earned", deserves the fee she charges. marcolo you actually just compared her "professional" worth to be equal to a lawyer,and a psychiatrist?!! A possible two year degree up against 6-12 years of education, SERIOUSLY!?!? This world is upside down and it isn't going to get turned around as long as ANYONE is willing to "hire" someone to sell them the latest greatest fad in home decor to the tune of $120 an hour. INSANITY!! I have no idea if she "earned" her bill. When she said her fee I would have RAN away LOL all the way home. Because you didn't you got SCREWED!!


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

All right, kids -

This has been a wonderfully educational conversation on both sides.

I can't help myself - I must say that I think the hints of snarkiness that have crept in are entirely unintentional. And if they aren't, I'm going to think that anyway. Because this forum is nothing if not civilized and kind.

Tone of voice is extremely hard to transmit and to receive correctly in a written conversation. A vast percentage of human communication involves face, body, eyes, smiles or frowns, lilt, volume, and cultural norms. We don't have the benefit of those things, so we have to be both careful in what we say, and forgiving in what we hear.

I went back to the posts that were a little harsh and read them as though we were on the porch with a glass of wine and laughing, and they sounded quite different.

If someone reacts defensively or snappishly to your post, assume they misunderstood, and don't snap back. Imagine Meryl Streep saying your words as Miranda in "The Devil Wears Prada," and if it fits, edit! If a comment sounds cranky to you, ignore the crankiness, take a breath, and react to the content only. Otherwise, we could lose really valuable points of view.

And that's today's lecture from Sister Serena Opinionata.
I shut up now.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Arcy, $120 per hour is about middle range for designers in my experience. I don't know where you live, it may be different there. Our plumber charges $90 per hour. The lawyer just went up to $450 per hour.

I live in the south, and for the record do not resemble Miranda in form or function. Thanks for that, Bronwynsmom, lol----love the movie, love to hate that character!


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I have to agree with marcolo, the designer did give the OP what was requested.

I had a designer help me with paint colors, stain and drapes.

I never gave her a picture of what I wanted as a finished product, we started with an existing sofa for color and worked from there. Each room had something to draw from for color - either furniture, flooring, or art work. You have to start somewhere for paint color.

For the wood floor stain, I had the exact situation. We had existing reddish colored wood throughout the old house and I wanted a dark floor stain that would look good with it.

My designer had the flooring guy do two samples that would work, and I could pick either one and know I would be fine. I don't see what is wrong with that.

I have have always had good experiences with designers. They have always saved me money in the long run. This time around, I had told the ID that I eventually wanted to redecorate the 2 upstairs bedrooms.

One was a priority, the other could wait. She came back with fabrics for both rooms. My husband didn't like the fabric for the priority room, and I wasn't ready to do the other room.

Then she came up with the grand idea of repurposing the drapes from the formal dining room that were removed for the renovation and using an existing bedspread. It looks great and was thousands less than I would have done.

It sounds like the OP discussed and presented her project in more global terms, and the designer proceeded in that direction.

That was not a huge bill. It may have been more than the OP was expecting, but I would say she probably did get her money's worth.

It also sounds like the OP was rushed at the last meeting, and the designer could have met her goals or intended to try to meet her goals, but the OP had to leave. I might have more sympathy if it was the designer who rushed off before the decisions were made.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

"This world is upside down and it isn't going to get turned around as long as ANYONE is willing to "hire" someone to sell them the latest greatest fad in home decor to the tune of $120 an hour. INSANITY!!"

Rather than "insanity," I'd use the term "capitalism" when describing the transaction - supply and demand and all that stuff. To some people, $120/hr is an enormous sum of money - I drove by a rental house the other day that had a blue velour barcalounger-type chair on the porch. I'm pretty sure the people living in that house could not afford a $120/hr ID under any circumstances, much less an outdoor chair costing $120. OTOH I know someone with a painting by a major French impressionist hanging in the foyer of one of the houses he/she owns....someone with a museum-quality painting in a foyer is probably not going to quibble over $120/hr; someone who cannot afford to buy "real" outdoor furniture most probably will. :)

"I have been AMAZED so many feel this decorator "earned", deserves the fee she charges. marcolo you actually just compared her "professional" worth to be equal to a lawyer,and a psychiatrist?!! A possible two year degree up against 6-12 years of education, SERIOUSLY!?!?"

Yes, seriously. The decorator earned the fee simply because the person hiring her agreed to hire her. (I'm not commenting at all or implying anything about whether the decorator did what the client asked/the issue raised in the OP.) The number of years of education, credentials, and/or resume are all irrelevant. It's back to that whole capitalism/supply/demand thing - if someone charges $X (or $XXX) for a product or service, and I am willing to pay $X (or $XXX or $XXXXX), what do credentials or education have to do with the transaction?

What I am reading from your post is that you, personally, do not value the services of a decorator at $120/hr. Which is perfectly fine of course, but the point is, people who do wish to pay that amount will hire someone like that - hence, someone like that can charge $120/hr.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

There are two interesting undercurrents here.

One, that interior design work is not really work.

Two, that scrutinizing bills is somehow declasse.

They are both bullshlt.

If you draw a pie chart of how an ID spend their day, a disappointingly small part of it might be doing the "fun stuff". A lot of it is dealing with the krap all of us complain about on here. They sent the wrong thing. This sub is not ready yet for the other sub. Such and such arrived damaged. blah blah blah.
Even the fun part probably isn't that much fun anyway, unless you share the tastes of your client.

I've been disappointed in 3 of the 4 designers I've used, and I do think they automatically gravitate to the best of everything, thereby upping your budget and their profits. But I suppose one also has to consider that since they know and appreciate the best, that kind of bias is bound to occur. But as long as they give me a bill that makes sense (and they pretty much all have), well, it's a luxury service and it costs what is costs (here, $150-175/hr)

That said, as I have harped before, I totally dismiss the idea that only people who are scraping by are careful about what they spend. My portfolio has nothing at all to do with what your good or service should cost. I think one must always have a healthy respect for the value of money, and not waste it. If money really doesn't matter, then try giving it all away. It matters to almost everyone and to be dismissive and irresponsible is arrogant.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

"There are two interesting undercurrents here.
One, that interior design work is not really work.

Two, that scrutinizing bills is somehow declasse."

There's another issue here as well, I think - What responsibility, if any, does an ID have when working with someone who is new to the whole hiring-an-ID-thing? Does the ID have any obligation to educate, to clarify, to ensure that he/she and client are on the same page? Or is it the client's responsibility to say, hey, I don't understand why you're suggesting furniture while I want to choose a paint color...what's going on here?


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

In a perfect world, they both have that responsibility. But the punishment for not doing so should not be to invalidate the bill, IMO


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

This is not the hourly salary that the designer earns. This is $240,000 a year in salary and the typical interior designer makes probably a quarter of this. There is actually overhead even in the smallest of businesses.

It is naive to think that $120 is what the billable hours are for a psychiatrist or a lawyer. That may be what they earn as salary but the billable hours are at a much higher rate of at least $300-400 per practioner.

There are procedures that I do that take about an hour that are billed out at about $800, but if you think I get more than a fraction of that, forget it.

Spelling, punctuation, and reasonably proper grammar also make for a more compelling argument, by the way.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Scrutinizing bills is not declasse in the least. I found an error in our designers bill that saved us more than $200., and he was extremely apologetic about it. It didn't make me think he was trying to rip us off--- this was in round two, by that time we knew exactly what to expect---but it did make me pull out the calculator when the bill came :)

I don't think anyone has suggested theOP pay without an itemized bill. However, if his/her aim in requesting the bill is to omit the parts of it s/he doesn't want to pay, I think that is declasse. And wrong.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

The ID should educate, but the client is also responsible for doing some diligence, asking questions and not signing a contract unless you're at least understanding of and comfortable in concept with the arrangement.

I spoke with a designer who I planned to use last year, and she was very up-front about her rate and the percentage of the furniture cost she charged. I asked her for a range of what she thought it would cost. She was unhappy with the question. I think we both passed on each other, as it was obvious that there wasn't a good fit. If I had just shrugged my shoulders when she didn't give me a range and gone ahead anyway, then if she later presented me with a huge bill that I was unhappy with, I would have shouldered part of the responsibility.

I never begrudge people a good hourly rate, as long as they are efficient with their time and aren't milking me. I think a good designer is totally worth it. When the ID I interviewed didn't work out, I ended up using a designer from a high-end furniture store (not a sales person, an actual ID with a real portfolio that was affiliated with the store). The layout he did for me looked simple, but I could never have done it myself and would have totally messed up on scale. So I would have blown a fortune right there on selections that I would have been forever unhappy with without his help.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I don't think anyone has suggested the OP pay without an itemized bill. However, if his/her aim in requesting the bill is to omit the parts of it s/he doesn't want to pay, I think that is declasse. And wrong.

Perfectly put.

And is part of a designer's educational responsibility to teach clients the most basic, fundamental principles of business and economics? Things like, lawyers make more than landscape designers, all businesses have overhead and almost no independent business person bills 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year?


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

If my dh did what the ID did, he'd be out of work. The OP said the ID didn't sit and talk to her about budget. That is the IDs fault IMO, not the OP's. The OP was told it would be $120/hr. But the ID didn't tell the OP she had a ton of work to do NOW which would add up to a large bill.

The ID should have said upfront she was going to do a floorplan and it will cost XY&Z.

When you give an attorney a retainer fee, it only covers the beginning of the work. If more work is necessary, then he tells the client before doing it. If he gets the work done within the retainer fee, no more money is owed. If his time is less than the retainer fee the client gets some of their retainer fee back.

They also sign a contract stating this. That's what good "professionals" do if they want to stay in business and not lose their license.

This has nothing to do with overhead, it's all about ethics. Plain and simple.

Professionals cannot expect a new client to know the ends and out of billing process. And the ID certainly didn't tell her client about it.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

The discussion about overhead was brought up because a poster thought the very FEE in the absence of anything else was ridiculous. I was pointing out that just because you pay someone $X per hour don't assume that $X-$0 is what goes into their pocket. There was no comparison of overhead to ethics at all.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

No, attorneys do not perpetually circle back to you to see if it's OK if they read one more cite. You should ask for and receive a ballpark figure, but no one knows in advance exactly how long every project will take (real estate closings are an exception).

In hiring professionals, I always ask for a not-to-exceed figure, but that is my choice. It is not required. You hire someone who tells you they bill by the hour, then you have to pay them for their time, as long as they legitimately worked it. It's that simple.

No one is arguing the designer here is a good communicator or client manager. However, I don't see anything she did that is as egregious as going into arrears on a bill.

I do get the sense that some people feel the world owes them luxury goods and services at a price they can afford, and that entire industries--multiple industries, in fact--should not only change their prices but also their business practices to accommodate their small budgets. This is not how the world works, sadly.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I've worked with numerous interior designers over the years on selections for two of our new construction homes. Some were really fantastic, and others poor. In one particular case, a certified designer I selected had obvious style preferences that were not my own, but she assured me that a good designer could design effectively in many styles, etc. She charged $100/hr (This was six years ago and in a rural area of the midwest.) We arranged to spend a day selecting carpet, tile, paint, and cabinetry, and she came along with us to meet with the contractors. Unfortunately, her attitude was completely arrogant and haughty. She insulted the work of every contractor we met, i.e. stating that the cabinetry design center display appeared as though someone "ran out of money in completing their kitchen and that no one would want that in their home". This simply wasn't true, and even if it were, there was no need to be so rude. My husband was horrified by her constant negativity and put-downs. It was truly embarrassing. There were many instances. We wanted her opinions and expertise, of course, but her condescending tone was very unprofessional. Worse, she recommended only things that appealed to her personal style (modern, contemporary) versus ours (think French country, antiques, traditional). At the end of the day, on our ride home, I shared my appreciation for a few treasured antique wood furniture pieces I had from our previous home and that I wanted to keep, and she made a comment that she "doesn't do dented/distressed/antique anything".

We paid her $800 bill for the day and severed the relationship. We then promptly returned to our contractors and apologized for her callous remarks. In addition, we changed numerous selections she made that we knew we couldn't live with and had no connection to the preferences we communicated.

Since then, I haven't hired another designer. Instead, I've taken my time finding plenty of inspiration online and in books and magazines. I've had amazingly great help from some of the free design services at furniture stores where we purchased our dining and living room furniture.

I'm a CPA/MBA and have an independent tax practice. The first thing I do each and every year with each and every client is create an engagement letter outlining the services to be performed and the scope of the engagement. Clients must review and sign the engagement letter before any work will be performed. This reduces the risk of misunderstandings. I would think something similar would behove any professional service provider. While your designer unfortunately did not clearly communicate the scope of her services (type of work to be performed) in writing up front, you still should pay the bill. In the future, should you choose to work with another designer, ensure that the scope of the work to be performed is clearly communicated in writing up front.

My advice would be to pay the bill and move on. Not only did this designer fail to communicate well initially about the mutual understanding of the scope of services to be performed, but she clearly did not listen as well as she should have. Going forward, you can either find a better fit with another designer (making sure there is good communication up front) or do it yourself. You'll find a lot of excellent advice and support here either way.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

marcola, thanks. And I totally agree with your comment that "You hire someone who tells you they bill by the hour, then you have to pay them for their time, as long as they legitimately worked it. It's that simple."

I hope we hear from the OP and learn the decision. And I hope it is to just pay the ID and then to make sure all services are written and agreed from now on. I have noticed in this gig that dixieman is totally MIA!


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

sasafras, I was wondering if anyone else noticed that OP disappeared!


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Yes, I noticed that. Don't you think that some people post in order to receive validation of their position, especially if it involves a controversy. OP may have been expecting and wanting positive responses only and when that was not the majority of opinion here disappearing was the easiest route to take.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I also would love to hear from dixieman ; her title was "what would you do?"
so it's not like she was not open to hearing varying opinions.

As far as the number of hours billed, there is probably a minimum charge of 3 our 4 hours for a site meeting involving traveling, then email time gets billed, the OP emailed a dozen inspiration pictures, etc. which I think could send mixed signals as far as wanting to get fabric and/or furniture suggestions or not at that pt in time.

A wealth of info has come out of this thread regarding the designer/client relationship and costs.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Yes, patty, I do think that sometimes! :)


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I would like to hear how things turn out too. Maybe she has other reasons but I'm not really surprised she hasn't come back. Whether they meant to or not some of the comments easily could've came across as obnoxiously blunt. It's not what you say it's how you say it. Since we're not face to face it's hard to tell emotion and I personally think it's nice to consider how something could potentially come off sounding. However, there will always be people that don't care and "too bad" get some thicker skin if it comes across wrong. I'm sure there will be plenty of people here that don't agree with what I just said and that's ok.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

"OP may have been expecting and wanting positive responses only and when that was not the majority of opinion here disappearing was the easiest route to take."

I think that's jumping to conclusions a bit.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Has the original poster ever come back? Unless I missed one of his/her posts I don't think so which I find strange.

OP should call the designer and apologize for not paying the bill yet. Then he/she should politely request an itemized bill. It does sound like the bill was for less then one days work, OP did agree to pay $120.00 an hour so whether that is a reasonable amount is not important.

OP did talk to the designer about furniture and fabric. In the end I think the bill should be paid after an itemized bill is received and reviewed.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Has the original poster ever come back? Unless I missed one of his/her posts I don't think so which I find strange.

OP should call the designer and apologize for not paying the bill yet. Then he/she should politely request an itemized bill. It does sound like the bill was for less then one days work, OP did agree to pay $120.00 an hour so whether that is a reasonable amount is not important.

OP did talk to the designer about furniture and fabric. In the end I think the bill should be paid after an itemized bill is received and reviewed.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

Sorry to be MIA - life and keeping an eye on by GC and subcontractors got in the way...I followed this for a little while, then got out my checkbook and wrote a check for the full amount of the bill, not because I felt that it was fair or that I got what I had asked for, but simply because I didn't want to talk to the designer again. And I was really turned off by some of the "scolding" I received, simply for asking what others would do in my situation...

And to those of you who were sympathetic and offered their interpretations, thank you for the support and kind words!

Here's my thoughts on the entire situation:

I was naive about this entire renovation project. I trusted "professionals" and now I know that not everyone has the same ethical nature that I have. I honestly thought that by starting with "professional" architects, having them recommend "professional" GCs, having the GC (and architects) recommend "professional" decorator that I would end up with people who knew what they were doing and who would make sure that I understood the process. I started each conversation by explaining that this is the first time I've ever undertaken a project of this scope/nature and what my goal was.

What I found was that the architects would cover for mistakes/omissions made by the GC, the GC didn't check the work of his subcontractors and would often cover for them, and the decorator was completely a joke - recommending that I get rid of furniture, then, 6 months later, recommend that I purchase almost the exact same piece...I end my project much wiser, much poorer, and with not the best opinion of people who call themselves professionals. It's not that the GC hasn't made the subcontractors return to fix their errors/problems and that the architects didn't back me up when I pointed out the GC's errors/omissions, but it was clear that unless I did the research and inspections, no one was looking out for my best interest, although, when explaining what their role in the process was, both the architects and GC proclaimed to be my employee, my advocate and to work in my best interest. Hahaha...I still chuckle when I realize how I swallowed that hook, line and sinker.

As to the decorator dilemma, I appreciate those posters who offered insight, advice and were sympathetic. I think I must have struck an extremely sensitive nerve with some, especially palimpsest and marcolo, as I felt they were quite defensive about the situation and I didn't particularly care for what seemed to be a condescending tone in their posts.

I didn't ask for an itemized bill from the decorator because I didn't want to be charged $120/hour for the decorator to sit down and list all of the time that was supposedly spent giving thought to my project and I honestly felt that given my experience with the decorator, I'd have about $300 tied up in getting an itemized bill - which still wouldn't have made any difference in the bill. Was I going to say, um, did you really spend 3 hours looking through magazines to select that sofa - you know - the same one that you selected for another client? Rip me off once, shame on you. Rip me off again, shame on me :)

What irritates me the most about the designer is that I specifically asked for recommendations for floor stain and paint colors and instead I got a bunch of furniture and fabric recommendations. I can't help but to think that there was more money for a decorator to make by selling me furniture than by recommending floor stain and paint colors, thus the decision to start with the furniture.

If furniture and fabric needed to be chosen before paint colors, shouldn't A PROFESSIONAL have educated me to this point? Shouldn't there have even been a discussion as to how we intended to spend time in the rooms and if there were any special pieces of furniture that we wanted to incorporate? I don't think it's unreasonable to expect to have that conversation prior to someone charging me for their time to make recommendations as to what furniture I would like. Would an attorney go ahead and draw up a divorce settlement proposal without asking me what I wanted in it? What assets we had to settle? would a doctor go ahead and prescribe tests and drugs without asking what was wrong...what my symptoms were? Then why should a decorator feel it's ok to recommend furniture purchases when what I've asked for was stain recommendations and paint color suggestions?

I'm almost finished with my renovation and have to say that I'm doing a much better job than the "professional" that I hired...Sorry to offend those who thought so highly of the decorator's suggestions, but they weren't appropriate for our family and personally I feel taken advantage of by the decorator.

For what it's worth....


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

I think I must have struck an extremely sensitive nerve with some, especially palimpsest and marcolo, as I felt they were quite defensive about the situation and I didn't particularly care for what seemed to be a condescending tone in their posts.

No defensiveness here. I am not the one who wasn't paying my bills. Nor were most of my comments directed to you anyway.

I am glad your project is nearly over. I suggest that since many of your issues involve communications, perhaps next time you are worried whether an outside service provider is following directions, you might involve a third party, such as a friend, to help you understand whether what you are saying is what other people are hearing. Everyone can benefit from a reality check on important emails or conversations where billing is involved.


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RE: Huge bill from Decorator - what would you do??

dixieman you articulated your situation very clearly in this thread. I'm not sure why the decorator you were working with didn't get it and chose to do everything but what you asked for. Choosing paint colors last is sometimes a valid strategy but it's not always possible. Sometimes you have to choose colors based on the existing elements because not everyone can 86 entire contents of a room and start over just to facilitate picking a paint color. That's ridiculous.

Worse case scenario is later on down the road, new stuff is purchased and have to repaint. So, I don't understand her logic. I don't understand why she made it more than what it was and harder than it had to be. I don't understand why she choose to not define and confirm the scope of work at every stage - that's her job, not yours. It was her responsibility to establish and maintain communications and touch base throughout the process to ensure you were on the same page with her -- none of that was your responsibility. I don't blame you for feeling taken advantage of and personally I'd be pissed.

Maybe she's one of those designers who got "certified" as a color consultant where the scope of training is really just about how to front color consulting services to get client leads but never actually spec colors. Instead, once they get a foot in the door they sell window treatments, furniture, carpentry, etc. Conveniently they never get around to specifying colors.


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