In my years pounding the retail sales floor as I raised three of the most amazing women, I am honored to know (my daughters - my heart) one thing that bothered me more than anything else was the lack of confidence women would have when they came into the store to rework a space, or replace furniture that was in disrepair. I once had a client tell me, “I have been carrying this picture of this sofa around with me for 10 years and I just can’t pull the trigger”. My reply to her was simply "then toss it because you don’t really need it. What you are sitting on is working just fine, if you have been suffering along with what you were sitting for 10 years."
After we both had a good belly laugh, I learned that her family had been sitting in camp chairs in the living room of a 300k plus home for 10 years. She was about to empty nest. Two of her kids who had grown UP sitting in camp chairs in their living room because mom was not afraid to make a purchase but was so terrified of making the wrong purchase that she always left the store emptyhanded.
I simply asked her, “Who LIVES in your home?”.
She looked dumbfounded that I would ask such a question, but the shackles fell and she knew immediately where I was going with this line of thinking. “We do”, she said, “my family”.
I said, “Ok, GREAT. Now, who takes the absolute BEST care of that precious family?”
“Well my husband and I do’, she replied.
“Well”, I continued, “you are going to be THE BEST person to determine how they like to sit (sit on or sit in – soft or firm) and you know whether they are rambunctious or very calmmmmmm. Are there pets and are they big or small and where do they relax with the family? You tell me how your family FUNCTIONS and what your personal style is and I will show you the EXACT materials and styles that will work within your dimensions and how your family functions”. Within a few minutes, we were able to edit styles, features, fabrics, and frame constructions and configurations to have a piece that fit HER FAMILY.
My point is this: We all want our homes to be a reflection of ourselves but we often lack the confidence in who we are to let that amazing self be reflected in the décor of our homes.
We are afraid of what our guests might say or think of our choices. They don’t LIVE there. Your home is your kingdom, your little slice of heaven. Whether it is an apartment, a loft, a condo, a sprawling estate, it IS where your life happens. It is the canvas and the backdrop on which your amazing days are spent and your life ticks away. BUY the sofa YOU like. Paint the walls YOUR color. Accessorize with YOUR FAVORITE things. It doesn’t matter who your guests are; YOU DO YOU. A good designer can use the principles of design to make the elements you have or acquire into a panoply that isn’t a reflection of HER or HIS tastes, but of YOURS and your family’s story.
In conducting interviews of design students or designers to staff the sales floor, I would always ask them a series of questions arrived at over the years to help me determine if they were locked and loaded on pushing THEIR tastes onto their clients, or if they were selfless enough to take the pieces a person and have the skillset to make those elements reflect the person they were working for. Were they focused on meeting the needs of the client or were they just going to push their personal taste level onto their clients? The first leads to sales and repeat loyal customers; the second leads to frustration as the client sees their world being turned into a space they can’t relate to and a feeling of loss of control. They don’t love it or recognize themselves in it but they are probably not able to vocalize why. The designer is presumed the expert. Well, there is ONE expert on YOU and that my dear sweet friends, is YOU.
I received a call recently from a client I had assisted almost 20 years ago (she still had me in her Rolodex and I still have the same cell number). She was downsizing to move into assisted living, and she and her precious husband were gifting the home we had done together to their daughter, her husband, and their two kids. She called to tell me the antique wool rugs we had placed in their living spaces were just cleaned and her daughter kept them all; they were still beautiful in the spaces and her daughter had such fond memories of that home and its appointments that she wanted to have that same emotional connection with the house and her parents for her children and her family. Mrs. Johnson just called on the off chance that I might still be accessed, to say “Thank you”.
I know of few professions short of ministers who marry and bury us or gynecologists who deliver our precious babies who are as impactful in the lives of people as those who craft the places we live in. If you are a designer, take that charge carefully. And if you are a potential client looking for change to your décor - a complete overhaul, a little uptick, or a small refresh your space, or if you have a picture of a sofa you have been carrying in your purse for 10 years, move that needle! Get on it. Take a DEEP breath and plunge right in. YOU DO the most amazing - one and only - one of a kind - broke the mold - YOU!
And my dear fellow designers, if you meet the needs of the client, the money will come.