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Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

Posted by beekeeperswife (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 12, 14 at 18:16

hi gang,

I'm doing a story on what can go wrong when you hire a designer or decorator. I have some ideas but you guys always are so full of info!

I know some of you have had some issues in the past with various designers, so if you care to relive the nightmare one more time, I'd love to read them again.

Thanks!
Bee


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

Are you sure you want to involve yourself writing an article criticizing other members the industry where you are earning a living as a relative newcomer? "S/he who is without sin cast the first stone" and all that.


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

Well I have to agree with pal but since you asked I will share. My sister hired a "decorator" that was not insured or bonded. She broke a very rare and expensive vase and my DSis never got a dime out of her. Very few decorators are insured or bonded. If you are serious about putting money into your home go with a reputable design firm that knows what they are doing and can insure the outcome.


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

I think it is possible to diplomatically write a story about designer mishaps. Communication seems to be a big problem and often both sides make missteps.

A while ago someone posted looking for advice about a designer issue. She went to a designer to order a specific brand of patio furniture. The designer said, "I can get the same thing from another company and it will be much cheaper". Well, the furniture was delivered and it was junk. The designer wouldn't take the furniture back and the customer was stuck with the junky furniture.


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

One would think it isn't a wise idea. But there is a method to my madness..... Top 5 things people google are: "Cost of ______", "Best _______", "_____versus______", "Reviews/Awards", and also "Problems with ____".

The object is to write something, then put a positive twist on it, and use tags in the story to generate traffic to the site.

An example: a guy who sells gunite pools wrote an article about the problems with gunite pools. Sounds crazy. Why would he do that? Because that is what people are searching for on Google. They do the search, find him and read his articles. He has one of the highest conversion rates from someone who is doing research to becoming a customer.

I am looking for stories for example where a designer is not upfront about costs and then hits you with a surprise bill. Or the designer who doesn't know how to measure for window treatments, and doesn't call in someone to do the measuring correctly, etc.

As deee said, it usually comes down to communication, and that will most likely be the lesson of the article.

Certainly not trying to bash the industry, just using the negatives in order to show people what to look for when hiring someone.


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

Perhaps conducting some proactive research using the search function in this forum might provide you with better results than asking us to relive our nightmares. :-)


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

Bee, I didn't have a nightmare experience because in the end I didn't use the decorator. We spent several hours together talking about my likes and dislikes, she toured my home to get a feel for my design style.

When I went to the design center to see what suggestions she had I realized that the room would be a reflection of her not me. She chose colors I didn't like, wanted to paint the walls in a bright, in your face green. There was nothing in her choices that appealed to me at all except for a window treatment for my kitchen that I did purchase through her.

My point to that story is I expected that the designer would be more in touch with my likes and dislikes after the amount of time we spent together but I felt that she either didn't listen to me or she wanted to do the room her way with no concern as to whether it fit my style or not.


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

There is a local designer who used to have a column in the paper. When I decided I needed some help, I checked out her website. She had a 2-hour consultation program for a set fee. Perfect...I didn't want full on help just some direction. I told her I wanted to coordinate my L shaped LR/DR and FR...needed paint colors, some ideas on furniture placement( I was buying all new), etc.

Well, almost the entire two hours were spent with her showing me products on her laptop.....lamps, mirrors, etc. she took no measurements over anything and when the two hours was up she jumped up. When I said we had not even looked at the FR she poked her head in and said I should tile or stone the entire wall the fireplace was on...and that was it! The only thing I got out if it were a few internet sites I'd never heard of.

I live in a typical tract house and I think when she saw my average neighborhood, she just wrote me off. No,I was not in the league that spends $10,000 for a custom sofa, but I wasn't in the Target/Walmart league either....more Ethan Allen. I felt like she really could have cared less about helping me, just wanted her hefty fee.

And here I thought designers were willing to work with any budget, not just folks with unlimited funds.


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

I have used 4 designers since first becoming a homeowner 15 yrs ago.

The first one helped with a MBR/MBA makeover. She was fine, but I felt the end result was her taste and not mine.

The second helped with a kitchen. Same thing. She insisted my kitchen needed something red. I hate red, always have, still do.

The third was a friend/neighbor who essentially gave me D&D access in her stead.

The fourth and last was part of a design/build firm. I had my eyeballs ripped out, partly because they were acquaintances we trusted. The entire reno/build project was very extensive. It took almost 2 yrs and went well above seven figures, and on top of that was an ID portion that can buy a modest home in some areas of the country. I say this because it is germane. I felt she really only earned about 10% of what we paid, partly my fault for not noticing that she was taking fees as part of monthly allowance drawdowns, without giving an billing hour info.

I will never hire a designer again. One, I like to do it. Two, I think, generally, the people I feel have truly exceptional talent (not just folks who can execute a nice room, but real talent) would probably be doing rooms at price points I personally feel to be, well, almost unethical. eg over 100k per room. (understanding that is a total judgment call, but everyone has their own line in the sand on conspicuous consumption).

Here are my gripes with the IDs I have known.

1. They can act snooty about what you should buy, but i am sure they do not buy only the best most expensive stuff in their homes! They seem to have no concept of value. The most expensive option is always the best option, to them. One example. Our CT house is rustic. We have two PR, one near the LR and and one near the sidedoor and kitchen. We bought an old crazed vessel sink for the more casual PR, and were trying to decide on a base. DH came up with the idea of a potting bench, which I thought was clever and sells for about $400. We described it to the ID, and she had the carpenter draw up plans for one for our space. The cost? $18,000. Ridiculous. Offensive, even. We found an old table for under 1000 to put the thing on.

2. This is harsh, but I have to say it. I don't think any of these people were terribly talented. They knew the basics. But I can't think of any ideas I was terribly impressed with. I liked our own ideas and GW ones better. Far more thoughtful. I realized some designers keep repeating their shtick no matter what. In once case I really liked a designer whose work I saw on a house tour. Turns out all the elements I liked were the homeowners idea.

3. In part because in two cases these were :"friends", I am at fault for not being more dogged in billing. Being part of a GC project made it more complex. I feel as though I got close to zero ID advice. We went shopping a grand total of 2x, for tile, which the GC earns a 25% markup one but actually marked up more. Was she with me in GC or ID capacity? Not to mention I found the tile sources, I did not like her sources and all the tile we got was from places she had never before done business with.THe GC was so far behind on the actual constr and reno, that I did all my own decor. She never set foot in a store to look at furnishings, flooring, carpet, lamps, lighting ... nada. I would send her an email about a chandy, and say what do you think, and she would say yes. That was about it; many emails like that. How is that billed? I dont know I never got an itemized bill. She drew on the ID allowance every month along with all the other myriad categories.

4. IDs won't scour the internet looking for interesting stuff. They have relationships they need to feed.

5. A good ID should provide access to and oversight of subs. In the most recent case, her subs stunk, and she did not even know how to oversee them. Favorite example? It was her idea to make a wet room for DH's bathroom. I can share with you now, you cannot do that unless you have a quite large bathroom. Why? The toilet needs to sit on a flat floor, but the whole floor really needs to be sloped so that the water goes to the drain. She didn't know, her subs didn't know, but now I know!

6. Listening. I haven't felt that designers "get" me; I feel they hear a few things and then are off and running. I do not feel listened to (last ID always suggesting formal things, when we told her we wanted it to be informal). By the same token, if I am hiring a designer, I should be listening to them, too? I am not sure i am good at that either.


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

I have to say I have never hired an ID because of all the examples mtn listed.


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Paying an hourly fee and buying things from her that she makes a profit on. Shouldn't it be one or the other? The way they are paid confuses me! I think the way they bill can be hazy and not straightforward. That is the experience I had, from two of them.


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I tried to hire a designer to help me with space planning in the new house. A designer, not a decorator. I had some challenges in the space, and needed early help with things like floor outlets, chandelier placement, etc. Also wanted help blending some contemporary and rustic elements into our home; I'm accustomed to traditional and wanted some different, more casual things in the new place.

She sent me a floor plan for the living room that was NOT TO SCALE. The things she had would not have fit. Then she didn't respond to emails for a couple of months. I managed to get us through rough ins with my builders help. She later sent an email saying she wasn't going to bill me for the floor plans, but I could call her when I was ready to pick furniture and window treatments, because that's where she could be most helpful. Ummmm, I don't NEED help with that part. That's the part I LIKE. Thanks anyway.


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

Delete duplicate

This post was edited by joaniepoanie on Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 12:07


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

Bee, if you do a search we had several "ID Problems" threads the last 2 years.

We had an open budget and the ID took advantage of that. Never recommended anything that would provide a cost savings. We have kids and want to be able to use all parts of our home. She never considered the amazing outdoor fabrics that are available now.

Had I not been paying attention to the details the large sectional would have been the wrong size. The 19 ft built-in in the playroom was supposed to have 2 file drawers on each side. She proudly showed me the nearly finished piece at the cabinet shop and I immediately noticed the drawers were not as specified and drawn in the sketches. Aren't these details the reason why you pay a middle-man?

Then we had the drape saga. Two panels that took 9 months to get right. I was blamed and charged for changing my mind. When they came wrong for the second time, the ID finally dug out her paper trail and found out she/they had made the mistakes all along. I did get a refund for material and hours.

No accountability in her paperwork. No details on her hourly bills or product orders. Found out she was going to keep additional markup, beyond what was agreed, on a product we looked at buying. Too much "smoke and mirrors".

Like others, I made the mistake of giving the job to a social acquaintance. Our kids are in the same schools, etc. Which made it hard to tell her she is a lousy business person. There were more issues, but I think that is enough.

Now I'm all stressed out again!!!


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I'm glad I am not the only one that felt "not listened to". I didn't want a designed room, I like Joanie, wanted help with furniture placement and I was willing to buy all my furniture through this designer.

I suppose my furniture placement was perfect because she didn't even suggest a tweak. I felt that the room was going to lack personality with what she wanted to do.

Worse than interior design is structural design. We hired an architect to design an enlarged master bedroom, master bath, walk in closet, and upstairs laundry. He came back to us several weeks later with a plan to just tack another long run onto our house which is already quite long. The master bath had a huge soaker tub, separate shower, but no linen closet. The walk in closet was absurd in layout.

After several meetings with him he came back with a proposal that was almost double what we paid for the home several years earlier. We sent him on his way with a thanks but no thanks. It amazed us both as this architect came highly recommended but he clearly was out of his league and our home is nothing special.


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Oh...I just remembered our MB remodel 4-5 years ago. I had a designer help me with that and it was my first experience working with one. She was ok....I don't think she stayed on top of the contractors because she wasn't there every day....we we would get home and point things out or leave notes for them to fix or change things.

We went shopping for tile and I found an accent tile I liked...then she deferred to the sales lady to pick field tile to go with it....neither one ever suggested we take samples home to see how it looked in my darkish BR. And frankly. I should have known better but just let her place the order. It looks ok, but darker and more muted than I would have liked. She suggested a shower tower and I just went with it, not realizing the other choice was to have all sprays, etc in the wall. There were still some issues at the end it took 3 weeks of calls and emails to get them back to finish up. And not having been through a remodel before, I realized later it took waaaaaay longer than it should have, but I just assumed it was normal that they didn't show up every day.

I would really hesitate to work with a designer again, even though I would love to and could really use the help on certain things.


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Like others, I made the mistake of giving the job to a social acquaintance

Which is why I'm not hiring my next door neighbor's daughter, who is a very talented interior decorator (her parents' apartment is great!). I just don't want the problem with what happens if there are problems.


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

She was not knowledgable, said a particular shower pan was "really the only choice." I now have an ugly Mustee shower pan, that I was too annoyed to replace (at my cost) - when I later learned there were a LOT of options. I should have just bit the bullet and paid for the Kohler CI pan & install. :-(

GW is so much better than a designer because you can get many different opinions, all in one place. Would rather hire a friend - whose house I like - to help me.


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"A while ago someone posted looking for advice about a designer issue. She went to a designer to order a specific brand of patio furniture. The designer said, "I can get the same thing from another company and it will be much cheaper". Well, the furniture was delivered and it was junk. The designer wouldn't take the furniture back and the customer was stuck with the junky furniture."

OMG, I remember that topic!! It went on and on and on and on...was one of the long, fraught conversations of all time.

Personally, I always thought she sorta kinda got what she deserved, ie trying to buy a cheap knock off and then being upset when it was, well, a cheap knock off. Oops, hope the OP isn't a forum regular reading this :).


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Wow, I am getting concerned.

Someone is giving me as a gift a few free hours for design consultation. I hope it is not a total waste of time. Beekeeperswife, hope you publish soon so I can learn how to make this a good experience!


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RE: Bad Designer Experience Stories Wanted

This is great. Well, great in a bad way. Great in a bad way that will hopefully help some people!

Oaktown--just make sure you communicate, and make sure the designer is listening. And since someone gave this to you, you should get the notes at the end of the consultation which hopefully will be a working consultation with very specific suggestions. If you decide to hire this person to complete the job, you can give the notes back for their use.

As far as "how do they get paid", I like the hourly fee, and sharing the discounts received with the client. The designer needs to be upfront with you on this. You should be able to ask to see invoices to know you are not being ripped. off.

I think the biggest thing that comes back to bite designers is when they try to be sneaky and take advantage and hide their prices. I've seen some designers say, "I don't charge you an hourly fee at all, my services are "free" to you, I am paid directly by the manufacturers" Because they are pushing you into buying what they get the biggest percentage discount on, and then selling to you at retail! ugh. To me this is a conflict of interest. Surely clients must see through this, and realize that if she can earn $6k on sofa A and $3k on sofa B, she is going to convince me to buy Sofa A whether or not is is the right choice for me.

Oh well, it gets me a little crazy.

But I love every example here! These are going to be so helpful.

I will see if I can dig up some of those old threads too.


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Oaktown - I would be totally shocked if you come out of that meeting with anything useful at all. I agree with Mtn 100%. I kind of think that using an ID is like having a meal catered, it can still be the most wonderful meal in the world, but just don't take credit for it. All you did was order and write a check. You can't compare it to cooking the meal yourself.


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Glad you "love" the examples even if we did not!

I think no matter how you structure payment, they always choose the caviar option, for a few reasons

1. It's easier, less legwork, less risk. If you can get your client to buy the best ,odds are there are going to be less problems, less issues and more satisfaction

2. It makes them look like hitters, to their sources, for their portfolio, other clients, subs, etc

3. They want to live vicariously through your money

4. The option really is much much better, and hence worth it, but you the client are ignorant... This is entirely possible, esp since "worth it" is so subjective


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I'm at the lower end and I too had a design consultation (from an hgtv personality) given to me as a gift. I did feel the person worked hard and gave good value for the consultation. We walked away without about 15 pages of written recommendations which is great.

That said, she had a 'look' and we didn't get any advice out of her that didn't go along with her look. E.g. First words out of my mouth were "we love color, to the point of being tacky, and I'd like to get advice on how to add more color, a LOT more color." Every recommendation back from her was grey, putty, or tan. So next time I picked someone I think I'd make sure I really liked their signature look. In other ways our tastes aligned more closely but at no point did I get the feeling she was taking my tastes into account.

My friend pays someone $200/h to shop for her house (no markup) and that flat rate has worked out very well for her. She has a good relationship with the person and the person sends her snaps before purchasing.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 15:46


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When we first moved into our home I tried to hire an ID. I found someone in NYC with a website showing designs I liked. I spoke with her on the phone and she agreed to visit me in the suburbs. She took a quick look at my house and actually said, "Your house is sad." Hmmm, really? I kind of like my house, but why is it sad? She sighed a world-weary sigh. "The suburbs are sad," she said. After she left she proceded to send me a proposal for sky-high hourly fees plus product markup for shopping at... Crate and Barrel! I didn't think I needed her to shop at Crate and Barrel for me. I guess she figured that Crate and Barrel is where all the sad people in the suburbs like to shop.

I ended up going to Stickley and using a store designer that came out to my house. For free. I didn't like all of his ideas, but he gave me some good ones regarding scale and color/fabric choices. It was a starting point. I bought a few things from him and did the rest of the work myself. It was much more satisfying.

This post was edited by sas95 on Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 16:15


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First, I am not going to disagree with anyone's story.

Second, I don't make a living or work full time in the design industry I work in an unrelated field despite my design degree.

One of the big problems is that it is an unregulated industry and in some states anyone who feels like they have "an eye" can get a business license call themselves an "Interior Designer" and wreak havoc all over the place.

I blame the industry itself because for years the educational process was not particularly stringent. Now, it is, to some degree, with a Bachelor's degree and the eligibility to take the NCIDQ exam differentiating itself from associate's or certificate programs

Some states, like Florida have very stringent regulations as to who can call themselves "Interior Designer"

But:
Almost all state and national movements toward the same are Resisted by Industry itself, and by people in your situation Bee, who technically have no credentials at all, but say that ASID is trying to be exclusionary and legally "steal" the clients of any designer who hasn't wanted to join the club, by driving them out of business. It is fought by the kitchen industry and by the retail industry who hire people and call them "Interior Designers" no matter what their actual education or abilities are--and they don't have to pay them very much.

So yes, I think their are a lot bad stories out there. There are a lot of untalented designers, and bad business people (even those who went to accredited programs) because the business classes aren't very good and you don't get graded on "taste" in school.

Ironically, Bee, if Pennsylvania lobbyists had their way you wouldn't be able to Write this article as a marketing tool from the standpoint of a designer, because you wouldn't legally be allowed to Call yourself one without the proper credentials.

You are probably more talented than a lot of credentialed interior designers when it comes to color and other aspects of what you do, (but do you know how to figure out lighting plans and design bathrooms from the rough-in stage?)

You would have to call yourself something else, like "color consultant".


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SAS,
What a sad story. She must have been a sad sack with a very sad little business to have hauled her sorry, sad little azz (hat tip Annie) out with the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. I hope she finds a line of work to make her happier, like sales clerk at C and B, and suspect she will (have to).


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I hired an ID who, as part of his retainer, drew up floor plans for three rooms. I had told him that my DH loved to lie on the sofa, so when the ID specified a white sofa, I realized that he hadn't listened to anything I had said. So I said goodbye to him.
I did get two positive items from him: the paint color that I still enjoy today, and the names of contractors to skim coat some walls that had been damaged. The recommendation came about because the ID felt guilty about taking the retainer and giving me little to show for it. The contractors were excellent.


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Oh Sas95, if only my house were as sad as yours! :)


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She was a winner. I noticed that her website portfolio shows only the same 4 home projects that were there 4 years ago. I wonder if she has worked since.


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Pal,

I know I am not a designer. I don't even have that on my website. I hope you don't think I do.

I use the word decorator, and I always explain to my potential clients the difference. They have never had an issue at all, even when I explain my background. But I am quite clear with them the difference. And whenever I have any questions, whether it is about removing a wall or if a certain fabric will work for what we are doing, I know I must check with the right people. I have enough sense to surround myself with experts.

I totally agree with you about the business side of things too. I have listened to a woman named Kimberley Seldon speak. She teaches the Business of Design, and I believe she may be one of the few out there doing this. I highly suggest her books to anybody in the business.

And while I'm at clarifying my role, I never ever ever use the word "designer" when working on someone's kitchen or bath. (Talk about Taboo) I always say "consultant", and I will accompany the client to the appointment with the ckd. I always tell them I am there to help with selections and make suggestions. This has worked out great so far.

I just wanted to make sure you and other GWers are not thinking I am trying to pretend I am something I am not. I have too much respect for those of you that have earned the title.

Bee


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I've had great experiences with decorators and bad ones. My budget is small and I am not good at decorating so I find a good decorator to be much cheaper than buying the wrong thing. One bad experience was with an acquaintance who only had one look. A second bad experience was with a decorator who hated my yellow walls. I love yellow walls and my yellow walls had been suggested by a very talented decorator (she is sometimes too busy to help). The Bad Experience Decorator was hired to give me advice about something specific and to help refresh what I had. She wanted to redo instead. She kept saying, "The principles of good design....the principles of good design...". Apparently the principles of good design meant I had to repaint the room a dreary tan (I had tan walls before and hated them). The furniture had to be rearranged so that the chairs we sat in to read were in the middle of the room away from electrical outlets (we are all avid readers and this was before the ebook age). In a fight between good design principles and good education principles the design principles will lose every time in this house.

My favorite decorator works on a small budget or a large one and she can find things from Target if that's your budget. She can work with any style and she made a friend's harvest gold bathroom fixtures look awesome on a tiny budget. She is sweet, easy to work with and busy.

Back to Bad Experience Decorator. She didn't hear back from me and called back offering free services but I declined. I'm not paying money to argue with a decorator. The decorator I love will tell me if something is not going to work or if something else will look much better, but she will plow forward with my taste if I tell her that's what I want. Best of all she encourages decorating for life with kids and dogs.

I really think my Bad Experience Decorator used the good design principles excuse to disguise the fact that she wasn't talented enough to pull off a look different than her own taste. Her reason for the tan was that my fireplace is stone. She said principles of good design meant that I had to match the stone so only tan walls. Hmmmm, no.

Good luck with your article.


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Daisy, I think you hit the nail on what I've observed about designer/decorators. Anyone can rattle off the principles. Most can actually implement them (which is why a "designed" room is so recognizable). But application in a real life requires thoughtful interpretation.

I have a friend who recently had a consultation with a designer (she's used many, and her house often ends up like Home Goods threw up in it), and she called me over to her house and shared what the designer had recommended to her. One particular point was the removal of a piano from the LR because it got in the way of what the designer wanted to do with furniture arrangement. I asked my friend how she and her family used the living room. She replied the usual (entertaining, etc.) but also explained that it's where her in-laws like to sit and listen to her teenage daughter play the piano. I reminded her how precious it was that her daughter still wants to play for her grandparents... what a lovely gift that is to her family, and she was willing to give that up for furniture placement? She replied, "Well, the designer thought we should move it to the basement so we could place the sofa here..." I told her I would tar and feather her if she moved that piano to the basement. So she and I got out the tape measure and duct tape, and worked out an arrangement that kept the piano as is, and incorporated everything else she wants to do in the room.


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I was leary to hire a designer. I had a paint consultant come once for 1.5 hours, she was ok, but she did find BM nighttrain for me, which I love love love, so worth it right there!

The second one I hired, I found these amazing houses I loved on Houzz. Loved the design. Also had my beloved nighttrain in the bedroom! (like us!). So I looked up more of her stuff, and she was local to me!

I was so excited. so she came by for 1.5 hours, and I just asked her general questions. She picked a paint colour for the entire house, but it was too green (clarksville grey).

But more was just the general 'look' to the house. She actually suggested ways to save $, and kind of just helped me gather the confidence to pick my choices that I liked with some guidance as to what actually looks good and flows.

Of course she was beautiful too, and made me feel like a little apple dumpling, but she was so nice, and we chatted for a bit.

So can that be a complaint? She was put together, she had 3 kids and a white coat, who does that??! :)


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Eh, the one designer my parents used wore leather pants (this was the 1970s), drove a Mercedes roadster with a removable top, and had shoulder length streaked blonde hair.
She was going to be in town once when my parents were going to a charity event, so they took her and she came downstairs in a Russian Sable that probably cost more than her Mercedes.

She had four kids. But she just had an ex-husband that paid good alimony and she borrowed or rented the coat.


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We needed space planning advice for an open concept living room/dining room area as part of a kitchen remodel. I agreed to pay up to a certain number of hours at an hourly rate.

What I got was a kitchen design, some window and door recommendations, and not much else. HUH? She planned my kitchen space in detail, which of course was not what I asked for, without ever asking about my appliance choices, cabinet choices, how we cook, nada! Beings that she saw the overall plans for the space, I guess she just didn't like the scope of the project I gave her and decided the kitchen would be more fun? I laugh about it now. At the time I was dumbfounded. TOTAL waste of money.


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It floors me how many designers list color consultant as part of their services when they in fact have no business doing so. Having the ubiquitous "flair" or "eye" for color does not a color expert make.

A degree in some genre of design (interior, graphic, fine arts, whatever) is absolutely not a guaranteed credential for color.


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I agree that there are problems with the terminology and designations. "Consultant" is another one of those terms that can be used in a very generic sense ( I just used it myself) and it probably shouldn't be. But it sounds so much more official than "I can help you pick out paint colors" which is really what is meant.

I think that's why being able to say "licensed" or "certified" or "accredited" or something would be better.

Because some of the titles used on HGTV for some of their hosts are "Design Expert" or "Staging Expert" ...they are careful not to say interior designer, etc. but "Expert" is even more misleading. What are the criteria for "Expert" designation?

In my specialty "Board Certified" is the highest standard. I don't happen to be Board Certified, because at the time it was a pain. So I am "Educationally Board Eligible" and "Certified" which is different than just saying "Practice Limited to" because you can do that without a specialty certification.

So I think part of the problem is that the Industry itself needs more criteria all around.


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No what you asked for but my neighbor does an interesting thing. She goes into people's homes and rearranges furniture and redecorates with their existing stuff. She did my house when we first moved. I went to work and let her loose for the day and came home and hardly recognized the place. Not all of it worked for a variety of reasons but it was really interesting to get fresh eyes on my old stuff.


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I make a modest living; in my younger years, I could never consider hiring an ID because there were too many other financial obligations. Now, I could probably afford to hire one on a small scale, but have no desire to do so.

I agree that the best information I've received comes from this forum and reading reviews and gathering pics and ideas of what might work for my house. I greatly appreciate the professional insight and/or good eye that all of you provide here.

And I definitely agree with all that Pal has said. I don't think I would trust paying anyone that doesn't have a designer certification. Not that it's a guarantee, but...

That's where my friend's story originates -- with an unlicensed "decorator" who was an acquaintance looking to get into a new profession (you know, because decorating is easy - eye roll). That acquaintance offered her services for free as "practice" - a chance to test out her decorating skills on my friend's house. Later, the friend found out that the "decorator" was actually keeping the 10-20% discount her suppliers had given ID discount - after steering her towards those specific suppliers.

It's fine if she was planning to keep that money, but she should have been honest about doing so rather than suggesting that she was doing this for "free."

This "decorator" acquaintance now has one of the most advertised businesses in our area. :-(


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Edit: I've never really had a "bad designer" but did have one who charged me for 15 min of time if she picked up the phone & had a 5 minute conversation with anyone about anything related to my project. It really turned me off to the hourly fee structure.

This post was edited by romy718 on Thu, Aug 14, 14 at 17:44


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I keep trying to delete this duplicate post and it keeps showing up. Not sure why. Or maybe not enough coffee yet.

This post was edited by beekeeperswife on Thu, Aug 14, 14 at 9:24


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ID's tend to make a room/space look too contrived, rather than a 'created ' space. Maybe it's because a single space can be completed in a relatively short time if walls, pipes, etc. aren't a problem, and something 'gets lost' in the process. Like celebs who get too much plastic surgery, if a room gets too 'done' too quickly or looks to be perfection, it isn't a room/space which can realistically be lived in. A personalized space may take more time than an ID is willing to put into it.


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A personalized space may take more time than an ID is willing to put into it.

They're getting paid, why should they care how long it takes (unless the client is giving them a hard time)?

I have yet to use an in-person ID or decorator, although I did use someone who looked at my pictures online and helped me a lot with some layout issues, paint colors, floor stain color, and some furniture choices. I can easily (well, not so easily, we're returning the chair and ottoman we got for a corner of the living room - color and fabric worked, but not the shape and dimensions) pick the big pieces - sofa, media center, rugs...but I'm absolutely horrible at putting it all together with accessories, art, etc. That's where a decorator comes in for me. A friend hired a women by the hour who helped her arrange the stuff she already had (having moved from a fully-decorated large home to a much smaller apartment), buy a few additional pieces, and accessorize. That's what I need.


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Sjhockeyfan, I'm the same way. I have a thread going now asking for help accessorizing. I wish I could find someone to hire to do it!


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Sjhockeyfan, from my personal experience in my own home, it's taken at least 5 years to achieve the comfortable, personalized space I can call 'mine', but I've done it myself so time constraints aren't an issue. For an ID using up such a long period of time on one client would surely not pay off, unless he /she has been given full rein with re:to money. Like many professions where you may be working with a handful of clients, their comes a time when he/she feels the need to move on, as it could become a waste of time, or simply become frustrated with the homeowner.


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Ok, not about a bad designer -- just a bad story. Involving a designer. Years ago, 25-26, I hired an up-and-coming designer team of two men from my smaller hometown that were just starting to make a name for themselves in the bigger nearby city. They did a great job and went on to become very successful.

Anyway, back to the story. The guys would usually stop by my house on their way home from their new shop in the city late in the afternoon usually about the same time I got home from work. One day, I had walked into the house and I guess I must have unconsciously started to undress as in I had unzipped my skirt without realizing it when I heard them at the door. I'm slim hipped but the skirt stayed put as I answered the door, but as I led them into the house suddenly my skirt fell and I am standing there in my pantyhose, with my skirt around my ankles and my face beet red! The guys were graceful and it ended up being an inside joke, but WOW what an embarrassing moment!


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No bad designer stories here, have a great one with a great "partnership with the client" ethic, but I am curious about one thing--- why would you buy stuff you don't like? If you have a bolt or two of fabric you hate, why did you buy it in the first place, when ID showed it to you? I have been shown stuff I didn't like and said so, and nobody's feelings were hurt and no fire rained down from the heavens. I am not intimidated by our ID, who has worked for me as well as three close family members over the course of two decades, and I don't hesitate to ask questions or veto suggestions. It seems that is the client's fault, to acquiesce to something you don't like, then blame the designer that you don't like it.

This post was edited by kswl on Thu, Aug 14, 14 at 15:03


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Louislinus, I would love to find someone like your neighbor! I feel like I have lots of lovely stuff but don't know what the heck to do with it!


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Jelly, so bring on pictures! Maybe we can be of some help to you. At least it could give you food for thought, which is a start.


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kwsl, here is my .02 on your question of why people buy things they don't like. Some people that hire designers don't know what they like. So when the designer presents them with something saying it is all that, they take their word for it because the designer is the pro and that is why they hired them. Not saying this is always the case.

One of my best friends is design challenged. She has had three homes decorated by different IDs. She willingly admits that she doesn't know what she likes or wants. Each home has basically looked the same - various shades of taupe and tan, looking like a Pottery Barn/Restoration Hardware catalog. Now, she isn't a fan of bold color - that she does know. So you would think what they did for her was fine, as it looked collected and cohesive. But she never liked it and complained on the lack of color! So, I feel for the IDs that worked with her, as she is a tough case.

In this last home she finally found an ID that she loves. He dares her to be a little different but not too different. She has found peace!!


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A lot of these stories really illustrate how communication is key. The problem is that most people don't know the specific questions to ask regarding fee structure and just how the business works. A comprehensive Q&A section would be invaluable.


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Jellyben - The best part is that she only charged me $10/hour! She really likes doing it and lives right across the street and I think she thought I'd be an interesting challenge. lol


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One of the problems is that about $10 an hour is what a lot people seem to think a job like picking out and arranging accessories is worth. That's below poverty level here.


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Patty_cakes, I will be asking for lots of help here with my new house! I already got some good advice regarding window treatments.


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Palimpset, around here, that job goes for between $75 and $150 an hour.


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I am not saying what people who pay for it actually pay. I am saying that a lot of people, even if they utilize interior designers for some things, don't put much value on the service. This last step is something a lot of clients will bail on even if the job has stayed on budget. (and then wonder why it looks a little stiff and unfinished).

Or they say Okay, whatever you can accomplish in a couple hours, and then complain that it looks like one-stop shopping....but it Is if you do it all in a couple hours.

Also keep in mind that the designer who charges $75 an hour is Not making $150K and one who charges $150 an hour is not making $300K a year.

The average interior designer salary is a bit under $45,000 a year.

This post was edited by palimpsest on Thu, Aug 14, 14 at 21:22


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Hence the trying to make out on markups and the smoke and mirrors games, clients not valuing the time enough to pay full value for it by itself.

Of course, some designers will also be at least a little crooked or incompetent. And the lack of professional certification will be a big part of it, otherwise if you don't already know somebody is up to your requirements beforehand then you are gambling that they will happen to work out. Even medical doctors, with all their schooling and certifications can turn out to be terrible - when you bring in a supposed design expert that doesn't have top notch paper credentials that initial interview better be a two way street. If somebody has a trademark look that they are trying to sustain - and you did not hire them specifically to provide that same effect for you - then they are going to be using your project as another brick in their own wall.


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My neighbor is a SAHM who just does this on the side because she likes it. She isn't trying to make a living at it.


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I am not criticizing you or your neighbor. She should be allowed to charge whatever she feels like charging, or do it for nothing if that's what she wants to do. My point is that she obviously Couldn't make a living charging prices like that even if she had enough clientele to keep her busy 40 hours a week, which she never would. She might as well clean houses--not that there's anything the matter with cleaning houses. I would do it if it paid more.

My point is more that people do Not, for the most part put much value on the services of an interior designer. Many people, of course, see no value in it at all because they can furnish their own houses well enough by themselves to suit their needs. But even people who Do want to utilize the services of an interior designer don't place a high value on certain aspects of the service, and want to really be able to almost dissect the process into it's component parts and nickel and dime it to death.


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Pal, it's not necessarily the value people place on the service, but the vast choices people have for the service. As you noted earlier, it's nothing for someone to call themselves a "designer," and I'd hedge that most homeowners do not ask for or even pay attention to an ID's credentials (and don't notice when a decorator doesn't have them).

It's the same reason why English faculty at universities make so much less than Accounting or Engineering faculty. Supply and demand. Between decor blogs, HGTV's flipping shows, Pinterest, Home Depot's "that's the power of" commercials, etc., the number of people who coin themselves designers has dramatically increased in the past decade.

This is why the average ID salary is what it is. It's not the customers' fault the industry is so saturated. Heck, even Pottery Barn advertises its "design services" for free. What value should the customers be placing on IDs?

There are many parallels between an English professor and an ID. Each knows their craft very, very well. But, on a subjective level, so does everyone else.


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In my limited experience trying to hire an ID, it's not that I felt that their time was worth little. I saw great value in the right relationship and as I had a fairly healthy budget for my furnishings, I saw even greater value in working with someone who could help me avoid costly mistakes.

My issue was the lack of transparency. I spoke with a handful of designers, and was very upfront about what my budget was, and the limits to which I was willing to exceed my stated budget. But when I asked for an estimate of what their likely fees would be, I never got a straight answer. I understand that for a service like this they couldn't possibly know the fees with certainty, but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for an estimate of what the range could be. And when the answer is evasive, it does not inspire confidence. Being willing to pay a generous fee does not equate to being an open checkbook, and that's the path I felt I was being led down.

The store designer I ultimately worked with was actually a credentialed ID and not a salesperson posing as an ID. But at least it was clear from the outset that although he was helping me with design, he was a salesman and his financial objective was to sell me furniture, and lots of it. With that upfront, it was easier to distill his advice.


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Peony, sure, the related industries themselves have created a situation where what the market will bear may be anything from $0/hr to $100+/hr.

The problem is when the consumer wants $100+/hr service for the $0/hr price point. That's like expecting perfectly placed breast implants from the community free health clinic.

Of course, there are also the designer/providers who are providing close to $0/hr service for $100/hr fees.


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I think to have the ID I wanted would be prohibitively expensive --- unless I had extremely specific questions and needed an expert solution. (But then I could probably figure it out by myself). What I'm trying to say is that in my price range, basically IDs need to rely on cookie-cutter suggestions ("design principles") to make it worth their time, unless it's a hobby.
I find this similar to college admission counselors or travel agents. When I plan a vacation, I put in way more time than any TA could, so my vacation is obviously way more customized to my needs than a TAs who charges a couple of hundred dollars. Same with a college admission counselor. My DD provided her friend with the same advice (perhaps better because she knew her) than the 300.00/hour consultant.


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I think there is a difference between an ID and a travel agent. If you have the time and inclination, you can spend hours researching a vacation destination and probably get an itinerary more customized to your needs than a TA could give you.

However, at least for me, with design, I can research forever and still not be as confident on matters like scale, coordination of fabrics, etc. For example, I have a patterned rug in my bedroom and was looking for a chair. My inclination would have been to pick out a solid color chair pulling out a color from the rug. Safe-- and it would have been fine. But the ID showed me a variety of fabric choices that I never would have known to look at-- most of which turned out to be better than the choices I made myself. If you order a lot of custom furniture, it's not like you can just return it if it is the wrong size or otherwise looks lousy in your room.

Travel agent training is mostly training in how to make reservations. Most travel agents have not traveled themselves to many of the places their clients want to go; heck, the TA our company uses has never left the East Coast. With the wealth of information available on the internet, anyone has the ability to plan a vacation if they want to. I do think a good ID can bring something to the table that many people cannot do themselves. But that assumes you can find a good designer that also works well with you-- which, from many of the comments here, seems difficult.


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Yes, my comparison wasn't quite accurate. However, I wasn't so much commenting on the difference in training/expertise but rather that if you want something completely customized, it is expensive because the service provider will have to spend considerable time on it, for which s/he needs to be compensated. (Same with TA who provide a customized travel schedule, not just booking a flight or hotel.)
Actually, maybe similar to event or wedding planner. Brides want unique but many/most weddings are cookie-cutter.

This post was edited by nosoccermom on Fri, Aug 15, 14 at 11:01


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This is kind of veering way off topic but in some ways in may be related to some negative experiences regarding the quality of services received. These are extreme but real life examples.

Many interior design programs are within a technical-school type setting (problem and task focused) vs an academic university setting. The better students when I was there all came from other backgrounds of education.

In my relatively small class (under 20) there was one woman who was a cage dancer, and one who was a stripper/dancer and essentially an escort with an extremely limited clientele.

The cage dancer, whose name wasn't even spelled correctly (you couldn't get the pronunciation correct if you read it grammatically or phonetically) was actually a whiz on Autocad and could hand draft efficiently. But she had probably never seen a decent piece of furniture in her life, and yawned her way through Period Room museum visits and sneaked out of antique store visits.

The stripper/escort actually had a bit of a better background and education --and actually had good technical skills, but her taste was pure Vegas.

There was another student who had never heard of Frank Lloyd Wright and after she did, wasn't overly impressed.

So to some extent it may be difficult to find an interior designer who is well rounded, well versed in antiques and architectural history (even if you don't work in those styles you should understand history) *and* run a good business. Unfortunately I think a lot of designers have some decent skills about making a room pretty within a very limited set of their own parameters and that's about it.

The elite interior designers seem to have backgrounds in other professions and often come to the profession with lots of money and connections and people just like them are their first clients.


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I really think my Bad Experience Decorator used the good design principles excuse to disguise the fact that she wasn't talented enough to pull off a look different than her own taste.

I run into it with "landscape designers" and consultants ... They aren't good at interviewing the client to find out what is really important to the client (like the piano), and aren't confident enough to know which guidelines can be tossed out the window ... so they stay inside their box and pull other people into it.

They never internalized things like scale and proportion, so they have their checklist to follow.


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Bee, don't you wonder what some of these stories would sound like from the designers' points of view ? :-)


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My ID would probably say that I wanted to be too involved ... but if I hadn't, several things would not have been done right. So, after you screw up the first time, you can bet that I'll be micromanaging to be sure I get what I thought I ordered and paid for.

Budget and paying for her services was never an issue in my case ... she took advantage of that. Even raised her hourly rate 3 weeks after we started working together and made even more money on the projects. I kind of felt backed into a corner and stupidly I agreed (see comments about not working with an acquaintance!).

I also only found out about her not honoring the cost+20% markup because I became friendly with one of the managers at the Design Center. When he heard of my ID issues, he shared what the discounts were. After getting to know me a bit and seeing some of the things I had done on my own, he told me I should get my resale license, do it on my own and save some money.


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I've never had a good experience but I keep hoping to find the right person.

This post was edited by rrs626 on Tue, Sep 2, 14 at 8:49


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Never, with multiple designers, anything but bad? hmm.

Reminds me of the man who married four times and all four of his wives were barren. None of them could get pregnant. What a terrible coincidence.


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Chispa, that's a low discount plus rate. Ours charges his cost plus 35%, regardless of the cost. For example, when I picked out something from Circa lighting a few years ago he said it would cost more to go through him than I could get it at retail.....I would pay his cost plus 35% as always, even though I could buy it myself in a store for less. The fact that I could buy it somewhere else less expensively had no bearing on the amount of work or his fee structure. But he was very forthcoming about this. I ended up paying over retail on several things he shopped for on our most recent project. Nobody likes paying more, me least of all, but I can't say I didn't know about it before the bills came.


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Palimpsest, are you saying I'm the problem? Perhaps you're right. There are many wonderful designers out there, but I've just not found one where I live. Also, I'm not sure of the accreditation of those I used - so in my case, I am at fault.


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Palimpsest, I think you hit the nail on the proverbial head when you tied elite (successful) designers with moneyed clientele. I have never hired an Interior Designer simply because I did not think I could ever afford someone who was top notch. I do not need to hire someone to do as lousy of a job as I can. Many of us feel the only thing we can do is to try to educate ourselves. This is why the Garden Web Decorating forum is so much fun. We learn from professionals like you, who are willing to teach us things we would never otherwise be exposed to.


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Just wanted to say thanks to everybody for all your stories. I think the bottom line is lack of communication from both sides.

People hire me because they like what they see on my website or because a friend referred them to me. I am always very clear with them about my background and I educate them on the difference between a Designer and a Decorator. I just feel that anyone who tries to deceive their clients will be found out and it will somehow come back to bite them in the end. Transparency is key.

And many posts earlier Pal asked if I could do a lighting plan from scratch. I don't want to say "yes" but I can read them and can logically work through them with someone who does them. I also know when to hire a professional to do such things. I do know my limitations and would never try to fool someone otherwise. I do however, know how to pick out killer lighting fixtures. :)


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rr,

Well, "At fault" is a bit strong, and my post was snarky...but if none of them were able to do anything you liked, you must have contributed to the problem.

One of the complaints that I often seem to hear (besides about the money involved) is that people have felt "talked into" certain things or that the client ended up with a design they didn't like overall or individual things they didn't like, or a room they could have done themselves or even better themselves.

I have had clients who've been pretty insistent on having input that I feel has made for an inferior result. If they are happy, that's fine. But I've had a client or two who have not been happy with the way individual things have turned out, and the individual things they don't like were a result of their input (or interference, as it may be).

Also, if a client doesn't like a choice, they should not approve it, and sometimes they do.

If a client feels "overwhelmed" by all the choices they have to make and blame the mistake on that, think of it this way.

I've looked at maybe 500 or 1000 lamps for some clients. I may present them with two or three options. You as the client should not want to see all 500 that work. Let the designer winnow them out. If you don't like one the designer picked ask for another one.

I think my mother was a good client: She wanted her house to look good, but she wasn't interested in the design PROCESS. Not at all. She told the decorator or designer what she wanted in general terms, they presented her with ONE scheme. If there was something about it she didn't like, she said "I don't like XYZ", and they presented her with another option.

That's not to say she never flipped through a wallpaper book or swatches, but she mostly let the designer do that and did not interfere. But again, if she didn't like a selection made by the decorator, she told the decorator during the selection process, not after the trigger had been pulled.

I really think that one of the reasons so many people in Gardenweb have trouble with designers is that the GWers are too interested in the process itself. It's like a doctor having to go to a specialist. They may not know what the specialist knows to the degree the specialist does, but they may know enough to interfere somewhat.


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Kswl, she saya she charges cost + 20%, but since there is no transparency or paper trail, who knows. She also has an hourly fee and does not itemize or detail those hours, so again, lots of room for manipulation. For months I got monthly invoices for around $1,500 in hourly fees with no details at all. I paid, but became increasingly annoyed at putting myself in that situation. When I said something to the ID about needing more details in the invoices, she would then get all upset saying that I was accusing her of being dishonest ... again, do not do business with an acquaintance!


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voila--a very good post. I feel that way about everything--secretaries, tradesmen, "landscapers--who don't know the difference between a hydrangea and crab grass" --and "administrative assistants"--if I can do it better, I don't want them around. Bad way to live--you end up overwhelmed with little stuff that demands being done and taking time. (I was just out pulling weeds....) Hairdressers, too--people wonder why I have been going into NYC for haircuts for decades--because I don't want to look like the hairdressers in my neighborhood!


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Chispa, it sounds like she really IS dishonest! You should report her to whatever licensing board that credentialls her......is that possible?


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To be fair, just wondering why you didn't include "decorator" in your subject question? I think you would have gotten a lot more bad experience stories had you included it.


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The first designer wanted me to get rid of everything in stead of trying to work with some of the things I already had.

Another designer didn't listen and or measure correctly.

The fees were around $200 per hour.

I think listening and attention to detail are to very important qualities needed.

This post was edited by rrs626 on Tue, Sep 2, 14 at 8:45


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While I don't know what the cost would be, I would not use anyone who did not have a professional asid. Otherwise, it could be anyone off the street who reads a lot of magazines and watches tv for ideas.


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Bee - how do I find your website?


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kswl, not much I will do except bring up her name as "who not to use" when talking to people in town. Our paths cross too often in town ... we now have kids in the same school/grade. I will be giving her an honest review on Houzz and let potential customers know what they need to ask and include in a contract if they choose to work with the ID. A post, with her company name here, would guarantee it would show up in any search done by a potential customer.


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I wonder if Houzz will actually publish a bad review, since I've never seen a bad one and they are in the business of keeping their content-suppliers happy. Keep us posted on that if you would, as I would like to know if the site can be trusted to provide ALL the feedback they get on the businesses that drive their readership.


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