Most of the time, working with an interior designer on a project for your home is fun, creative and satisfying. I mean, what's not to love about letting a style guru with access to gorgeous, exclusive products guide you through fabrics, wallcoverings, lamps and furniture?!
But every now and then your designer might tell you something that's decidedly un-fun. Maybe they deliver the news that something you planned to keep is making your home look dated and unappealing. That something you had your heart set on just isn't going to work. Or that you actually do need to invest in something you'd hoped to sidestep.
Believe me, I feel your pain! It can be discouraging and frustrating to hear that you need to be open to something you'd rather not have to consider.
But if your designer is worth their salt, they're only trying to help you. Their design advice is rooted in the fact that they have your best interests at heart - whether you like that advice or not.
I've definitely had the experience of steeling myself in preparation for telling a client something I knew was vital to their project's results . . . but that I also knew would be hard for them to hear. Fortunately, I have the most amazing clients who have just about always ended up thanking me for telling them the truth. It might not be until the very end of their project when they see how it all came together, but eventually, they see the wisdom in my hard-to-swallow words and realize that I really did have their backs.
As far as the kinds of things I've had to tell my clients, here are some highlights.
"Yes, you really do need to add window treatments."
I've actually said this to more than a few of my clients. Once the big swag-y, swoop-y window treatments of the '90s and early 2000's went out of style, many homeowners got a little gun-shy about having any window treatments at all.
But while they may not be the show stopping, attention-grabbing features they used to be, curtains and blinds still play important roles in our homes' designs. Even the simplest, most unassuming window treatments will go a long way toward warming up your space and making it look truly "finished."
Without any fabric on your windows, you could end up with an unbalanced ratio of hard and soft surfaces resulting in rooms that feel cold. Plus, whether they're functional or just decorative, the presence of window treatments lends a sense of privacy.
Matching or coordinating your window treatment fabric with the wall color is a great way to create softness without introducing too much of a standout element to the room.
Of course, white is almost always a great choice for dressing your windows.
For more formal rooms or in cases where you want to add some style, a great approach is to edge otherwise simple curtains with an eye-catching trim.
Alternatively, blinds and shades in natural materials look effortless and "just right."
"Stop trying to decorate around a hand-me-down piece of furniture unless you really like it."
I know, I know - your mother-in-law saved that dining set from the "old country" for all these years. How can you not keep it - in all its dark, heavy, ornate glory - as the centerpiece of your dining room, even though your style is much more relaxed, bright and airy?!
Trust me when I tell you (just as I've told a client or two of mine) that the style of the items we use in your spaces dictates the style of your spaces. Filling the room with other things you love cannot and will not make you love (or even just not notice) an heirloom piece that's not to your taste.
Sometimes contrasting styles works beautifully, but if the styles of the new items are completely discordant with the style of the hand-me-down piece, redesigning the space around it will only serve to make the old piece stick out like a sore thumb. A very obvious sore thumb.
Of course, it's always worth asking your designer if they think a piece can be worked into your room's design. But be open for the very real possibility that even a seasoned, highly creative designer can't work that kind of magic.
And if you simply can't face your mother-in-law if you get rid of that dining set, it might be best either put it into storage or postpone your design project.
"No, that paint color really isn't too dark."
Yet again, this is a case of what the average homeowner knows about design versus the real design project experiences of professional interior designers.
Everyone's heard the design "rules." Don't place furniture against walls. Avoid mixing patterns. Don't paint a small room a dark color lest it look even smaller.
That's all completely irrelevant in reality - especially for skilled, experienced interior designers.
We know when it's ideal to place furniture against a wall, how to mix patterns to stunningly beautiful effect and that painting many a small room dark is the perfect means to a cozy and/or dramatic end.
With every design rule, including the dark paint/small room one, it's a case-by-case basis. If it will ultimately be a bad thing for your small room to be painted dark, we won't do it. But if it will add just the right moody drama or warm, cozy vibe to your home we'll be all over it.
Trust that your designer knows the difference between bad-dark and good-dark paint for your rooms.
"Design is a gradual process. Don't freak out until you see everything come together when it's completely finished."
Again, hopefully you hired them because you trust them and know that they truly have heard you on your tastes and preferences. But it's also our job as designers to bring in ideas that might be a little bit out of your comfort zone.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard this from my clients when they see the finished product:
"I would never have thought I'd love ________ so much but it looks amazing in this room!"
Seriously, context is everything when it comes to design choices. Each ingredient from the color palette to the furnishing selections to the lighting choices and every little accessory are chosen by your designer as one piece of the larger whole. We choose them because of how they all look together in the space.
Generally speaking, the average homeowner just can't picture accurately in their minds what an item is really going to look like in the finished space, but the designer can. That's actually one of the biggest reasons to hire a designer in the first place - because they can see the big picture and make every decision to move your design toward a specific end goal.
Sure, there's a chance you might still hate that rug or the ottoman. But there's an equally good (or even better) chance that your designer knows you'll actually love it for what it adds to the room as a whole when all is said and done.
Give them the benefit of the doubt by taking a deep breath and trusting that they would never deliberately do something they know you'll hate. Be open to something new and different. After all, isn't that what this process is for?!
I know it's uncomfortable to give your trust to your designer - especially if they're telling you things that seem counter to what you think or what you think you want.
But before you send your designer packing, think about it this way:
Would you want your doctor or lawyer (or even your hairstylist for that matter!) to just nod and smile and let you dictate what they should do no matter what their education and experience tell them is best?
It's really no different with your interior designer. Of course you want them to listen to you and to take your ideas and preferences into serious consideration. But you should also want them to bring their experience and know-how to your project. They do this all the time. They've seen what works and what doesn't, what's worth the money and what isn't, what stands the test of time and what's just a passing trend. If they feel strongly enough about an issue in your project to tell you something they know you might be very happy about, you can bet they have a good reason. They're trying to protect you from making a design mistake and to provide you with the best possible results.
Trust their expertise and know - like my clients did when I gave them some tough-to-take perspectives - that they're looking out for you.
Then give them some love. Or baked goods. Or both.