The Client - Designer Relationship - Part 3 The Client - Designer Relationship - Part 3

In the last installment, you met your new clients Joan and Bruce Redford. In an effort to help them overcome the first of the Designer's Basic Facts of Life - When you first discuss a design job with the clients they rarely know what they want - you've given them an assignment. You've asked them to do some research by looking at design magazines and marking what rooms they like and which ones they dislike.

With most clients, this exercise will help them start to decide on what kind of decorating job they really want from you. But what about your clients? How can you determine more about them? After all, to create rooms that will meet their needs and desires, you need to know quite a bit about their lifestyle. How can you gather that information in a way that is polite and professional?

You also need accurate information. There are people who describe themselves in a way that is not accurate. The couple that tells you they want a formal living room may not realize that allowing their two golden retrievers to sleep on the living room furniture will limit how "formal" their living room can be.

So there's a logical place to start.

Ask Questions!

Why should you ask the Redfords questions? Because they are your clients and you are designing for them, not for yourself. They must be able to live in their home "happily ever after." You may love the rooms that you create for them, but you're not going to live there. They are.

Your aim is to design an environment in which they will be comfortable. To do so, you must find out enough about them to successfully achieve three objectives.

First, you want to design a room that functions in a way that satisfies their lifestyle.

Second, you want to design a room that expresses a mood in which they will feel comfortable.

Third, you want to create an environment in which all the elements fit together in harmony with one another and with the rest of the house.

Do these three objectives sound familiar? They should, since they are, in effect, the Sheffield Guidelines to Interior Design.We use these Guidelines each month in Designer Monthly's Room of the Month feature to analyze the room featured that month.

Let's take time to review the Three Guidelines in a little detail.

Guideline One simply says that before you start to design a room, you must define the functions of the room. In other words, you've got to know how your clients will use the room. How do you find out? Simple. By talking with them and asking them questions.

Guideline Two is that before you design or decorate any room, you must define the mood of the room. In other words, you have to decide whether to make the room traditional or contemporary, formal or informal, warm or cool, bright or subdued, and so forth. How do you decide upon the "right" mood for the room? By finding out the tastes and preferences of your clients. By meeting with them and talking to them. By asking them questions.

Guideline Three is perhaps the most challenging. All the elements in your design should work together in harmony. To be in harmony, your furniture and furnishings must be appropriate to the mood and style you and the Redfords want the room to express. It must be appropriate to their lifestyle. It must be appropriate to any of their current furniture that they want you to use in the design. How do you decide what will be appropriate for the Refords? By asking them questions.

We have made the assumption for this series on the Client-Designer relationship that you have already been hired by the Redfords to design their new home. In many situations, you can ask questions that will help you develop ideas for potential clients. That means you can use these questions to help sell yourself and your services. But in this instance, you've already got the job.

As you ask the right questions to address the Sheffield Guidelines, you're going to learn a lot about the Redfords. In the next installment, we'll look at what questions you need to ask, and how to handle some of the more delicate topics. For the moment, realize that you're not going to ask questions in a haphazard manner. By working through the Sheffield Guidlines, you will be able to ask only the necessary questions, and in an order that will help you learn as much as possible about the Redfords in the least amount of time.

Excerpted from the Lesson "Client Designer Relationship" from the Sheffield School Complete Course in Interior Design.
Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

Got a New Project You're Proud of?

Post it on Your Projects!