I have a hard time looking at Architectural Digest. Not because I don't like it (true, my own taste may be more Met Home than AD, but . . .). To be honest, it makes me a little jealous. I can't help but look at all those perfectly coiffed rooms with their luxurious furnishings and get a little envious. I read about the fabulous A-list designers, the fabulous A-list clients, and their fabulous creative collaboration that resulted in these magazine worthy homes with their "name" fabrics, designer rugs, and antiques culled from trips made across Europe. I'm left feeling a little cheated. I suspect that if only I were on the design "A-List," that world could all be mine. Isn't that what being a successful designer is all about? I wonder. . .
The reality for me is a little different than what I see and read in the pages of design magazines, and that's okay with me. A successful project is less about creating a magazine-worthy room than about meeting the needs of the client. Design is a service more than a final product. A design project is a process of working with the client to figure out how to best help them achieve what they want. It isn't about telling them what they want (or "should" want). Yes, design is about creating something that meets the client's aesthetic goals, but that rarely means simply developing a plan and saying: "Here, this is what we should do. It will be fabulous! Presto!"
The projects that I consider most successful are those where the relationship worked best with the client, where we were in sync. Design is a relationship business, and a good relationship is critical for a project to be successful. Every client is different, with different needs, different ways of communicating, different budgets, different tastes, different "emotional" investments in their homes and projects, and different desires for the level of involvement they want in the design decisions. Pointing out these differences may sound pretty obvious, but getting "in sync" is no easy task and requires work from both the designer ("me") and the client. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. It sucks when it doesn't happen!
So what makes it work? Lots of things: communication (that's the big one!), trust, flexibility, compromise, a sense of humor, honesty, being realistic, a willingness to take some chances, a mutual understanding of the goals, making decisions within a clear context, etc. As you think about choosing and working with a designer, I encourage you to think about your own investment in making the design relationship work. After all, for a designer to give you the result you want, he or she has to understand what you want, and that happens best when the communication is strong and the goals are clear and shared. While making the design relationship work definitely requires something from "you," I promise the end result will be worth the effort!