The Client - Designer Relationship - Part 04 The Client - Designer Relationship - Part 04

We've discussed all the reasons you need to ask questions of your new clients, the Redfords, in order to determine how to design rooms that will meet Sheffield's Three Guidelines and also fit in with their lifestyle. The meeting time has arrived, and you're ready to sit down with them. What, exactly, do you want to know about the rooms they want you to design?

Obviously, you want to find out how they intend to use each room you are going to plan. As a living room? As a bedroom? A playroom or a dining room? This is the easy part.

The more difficult part is to determine how the Redfords want each room to fit into their lifestyle. How will they actually use each room? To find out, you have to ask more questions:

  1. How big is their family?
  2. How old are the children?
  3. Do they have pets?
  4. Do they entertain a lot?
  5. Is their style at home formal or informal?

These are just a few of the types of questions you will ask. Your objective: To find out everything you can about the Redfords and their dreams that will help you design an environment that fits right in with their lifestyle and helps them live out their fantasies.

Your questions are important not only for you, the designer, but also for them as your clients. By asking the right questions, you force them to decide what they really want from the room you're designing. All too often, the desire to decorate a room is a vague notion in the client's mind of the following sort: "I know that I want the room to look different from before, but I'm not sure what I want." Or, "I know what I want but I'm not sure how to put it together."

What clients are saying with statements such as these, in reality, is that they don't know what they want. In fact, that's why they've called you in. They expect you to help them decide what they want, or perhaps decide for them.

How can you decide upon décor in which they will live happily ever after if you don't yet know the type of lifestyle that will make them happy? You can't. So, you've got to lead them to seriously think about how they envision themselves actually living in each room.

Does Mrs. Redford really intend to use that little room as a sewing room, or is she more likely to sit in it and watch TV?

Does Mr. Redford really intend to use the room as his quiet den, or will he really be sharing it with his wife, the four kids and the family St. Bernard?

Will they really be comfortable with a cozy rest-your-feet-on-any-chair type of living room, or will Mrs. Redford have apoplexy the first time Uncle David plunks his beer can down on the walnut end table?

As you can see, you've got to play the role of psychologist/counselor as well as designer because you have to fulfill not only the Redfords' needs but also their dreams.

In the business lessons in Sheffield's Complete Course in Interior Design, we present our students with an entire Lifestyle Questionnaire that covers three important aspects of the job:

  • The clients' lifestyle.
  • The clients' preferences (or taste).
  • The clients' objectives and budget.

While the entire Sheffield School Lifestyle Questionnaire is beyond the scope of this series of articles, we'll discuss some of the key questions and how to handle them in the next installments in this series.

Excerpted from the Lessons "Client Designer Relationship" and "Planning for People" from the Sheffield School Complete Course in Interior Design.
Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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