Client Confessions: Capella Kincheloe

Client Confessions: Capella Kincheloe

You very rarely hear about design from the design client unless it is in a shelter magazine or a bad review online.  But there are thousands of experiences in between.  Here is a perspective of different projects through the eyes of a client and the value they see in interior design.  This series is to help other designers understand design clients better and for clients to see the value of interior design.

What made you decide to hire a designer?

I had to get very honest with myself about how I wanted to spend my time. While I love looking at furniture and everything related to homes and decorating, it is an entirely different process to have to shop for a room full, or a home full, of furniture, rugs, art and accessories. Even if you don’t mind the amount of time and energy it takes to do that amount of running around, I think you have to ask yourself if you have that very specific skill set 

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most common mistakes when hiring an interior designer photo credit: dttsp

Sadly there are times when a designer or a client feel dissatisfied by the design process and their working relationship.  Here are the most common mistakes when you hire an interior designer.

Not being clear about your expectations

For me honesty and transparency is the most important part of the designer/client relationship, for both parties.  If this relationship sours, it is likely because either party was unclear on their expectations.  As the client, it is important to be very clear on your expectations for the project.  Speak to your designer about your budget, including what you're comfortable spending on various things, as well as the service costs.  You'll also want to be very clear about what work you want accomplished and in what time frame and what the end product should look like.  If you have expectations about anything related to the project, discuss that with your designer.  It is said that you'll never be disappointed if you never expect anything, but since that is not possible for your home design project, be as clear as possible as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Not vetting your designer

Because this is a relationship, you need to be absolutely sure that you trust, like, and respect the person you are getting into a relationship with.  Check recommendations, check experience, check education, and make sure that you like what you find for projects that are similar to yours.

Not having a contract

A contract lays out the responsibilities and expectations for this working relationship.  Do not start a project without one.  Again, do not start a project without one.  There is a lot of money involved in a design project and you need to protect yourself and your home.  A contract should be mutually beneficial.  If you don't understand the contract, ask your designer to clarify or speak to a lawyer.  A contract should include the scope of a project, the fees, and how any disputes will be resolved.

Not checking insurance coverage

A vase breaks.  A contractor installs the wrong tile.  The wood floor scratches a year after installation.  The electrician falls off a ladder.  The plumbing goes missing from the job site before installation.  The plumbing goes missing from the job site after installation.  A table finish starts peeling.  Who's responsible?  You don't want to have a gap in your insurance coverage.  By checking insurance coverage of all those who will work on your project as well as your own homeowners insurance you can purchase supplemental insurance if necessary.

Not expecting the unexpected

It is inevitable that something on a project will not go as planned.  You must allow for some contingencies.  No project goes perfectly and no matter how experienced your designer is, not every situation can be foreseen or avoided.  So you can expect that these unexpected situations will arise.  A vendor will tell you on shipping day that your table is now backordered.  The upholstery that was supposed to take 4 weeks suddenly isn't going to be done for another 6.  The bathroom tiling project is much more complicated than anticipated.  One roll of your wallpaper order was a different color way.  The delivery truck is stuck in a blizzard across the country.  There are things that you can't see until you open up the walls and floors of a house.  There is a pipe in the way of your new hallway.  There is mold in the walls.  The electrical panel is incorrectly wired.  These are the things you can't plan for.  Expect to make some compromises and expect the unexpected and you'll be much happier for it.

Not realizing the emotional toll

Any sort of home building, remodeling, or redesigning carries an emotional toll.  These projects are a lot of money that you probably feel quite attached to.  Progress may be slow until the end.  It is difficult to have people in your space and it is difficult to live in limbo.   I've written an entire article on the emotions involved in an interior design project, but as long as you realize that there will be ups and downs you can avoid this common mistake.

Not taking the advice of the designer

If you hired a design professional, remember to listen to their advice.  Designers are skilled and experienced professionals.  If you are looking for someone to back up your choices or to go shopping with, take a friend.  If you have hired a designer don't let those same friends (or mothers, brothers, and dog-walkers) sway your opinion.  You're not paying them for their opinions and they won't live in your home.  If you feel like you're not getting on with your designer, say something.  Maybe you can work it out and maybe you'll need to go your separate ways, but it does not one any good to continue in a relationship that doesn't have chemistry and communication.

Expectations exceeding budget

Interior design is a luxury service.  HGTV is entertainment and not the real world.  Be careful and heed your designer's advice when you expect more than your wallet will allow.  Just because you are paying for a service and are paying for something new doesn't mean that it'll be top quality.  Really, the bottom line is you get what you pay for for better or for worse.  This is true for products and services.  Designers can stretch a budget, but they can't turn pumpkins into horse-drawn carriages.  Have a heart-to-heart with your designer about how much you want to spend, a good designer can help you buy quality pieces over time or tell you to save up some more for your dream.

Now tell me, are there any mistakes that I missed?  I'd love to hear your stories in the comments below.


What you must know before working with an interior designer on capella kincheloe interior design phoenix

When I get a call or email from a potential new client there are many things I ask to determine if we're a fit.  Oftentimes, people have never worked with a designer and are calling to get familiar with the basics.  Generally, before you contact any designer you should know a few things to help the process and to provide an accurate picture of what you are looking for.  Here are the top three things you should know before contacting a designer.


How much do you want to spend?  How much do you want to invest in your project?  Sometimes it is hard to know, right?  But if you really ask yourself what you are comfortable spending you should be able to settle on a number.  Also ask yourself if that amount is firm (in which your designer should work in a contingency) or if it is a range.  Ask yourself hypothetical questions and really gauge your response.  When I speak to potential clients that tell me they don't know what to spend, I start by asking them if they want to spend a million dollars on this project (the answer is usually "no"), then I go down in increments from there.  Simply by asking yourself if you are comfortable spending a certain amount should give you an idea of what your budget is.  For example: Would I spend $50,000 on this powder room remodel?  $20,000?  $10,000? $5000? $500?  $5000 may feel too high and $500 would probably feel too low, so you'd probably say that you wanted to spend between $2000 and $4000.  You can also get very specific - would I want to spend $10,000 on a new bed?  $7500?  $4000?  Once you hire an interior designer you can work out a more detailed budget and they can talk to you about what you can get for your budget, but by asking yourself these questions before you hire a designer you will be able to find the correct person for the job and enjoy a smoother process.  Visit this site to see remodeling cost averages by region and project.  Bottom line: Don't contact a designer unless you've thought about what you want to spend.

You may also like: How to Budget Interior Design


There is a range of potential clients, from those that have no idea what they want to those that know exactly what they want to do.  Obviously most fall somewhere about in the middle of that.  No matter where you fall on the spectrum, take a look at different designers' portfolios and ask yourself if you like what you see.  Do you like the layout?  The feel?  The furniture?  If you're digging the overall feel of the spaces, it could be a good match.  This isn't the only place you should look though, because portfolios aren't always a great representation of the designer's style.  So you can look at their Houzz ideabooks, Pinterest page, and even Instagram.  This will give you a well-rounded idea of the designer's style.  Bottom line: Narrow your designer choices by thoroughly researching their styles and make sure you're digging it.

You may also like: Your Style v  The Designer's Style


You designer is there as a guide, but unless you want to give them cart blanche (and are going to be totally a-ok with the outcome), give yourself some time to think about what your expectations are for hiring a designer and the outcome of the project.  This is especially good to think about before you hire someone so that you are clear without letting the professional muddle too much.  Just like you had a list for non-negotiables when searching for a home or a mate, you can also have a list for doing interior design projects.  This way when you contact the designer and tell her that you'd like it done in six weeks or want to install an indoor above-ground swimming pool, she can gauge if your project is the right match for the company.  A question I love to ask and one you can ask yourself is, "How do I want my house to feel?"  Bottom line: If you're not clear about your expectations your (potential) designer isn't getting a clear view of the project.

You may also like: Working with a Designer: Expectations


Working with an Interior Designer Expectations by Capella Kincheloe Interior Design phoenix

The only reason that interior design relationships sour is because of unfulfilled expectations.  Really, it is the only reason that any relationship hits bumps - friendships, family, romantic relationships - all strife is caused by unfulfilled expectations.

As Buddha teaches, if you release your expectations you also release frustration, unhappiness, discontent, anger.  If you expect nothing, then you will never be disappointed.  If your happiness is tied to the outcome or the process and it doesn't turn out as expected, you suffer.

Simple, but terribly difficult.  Especially in something so personal as a home.  This post is extremely timely and ever so personal to me right now because I recently saw first-hand in my own business how different my clients expectations were from my own.  I keep replaying conversations in my head, wondering how I could have set up their expectations better, how I could have communicated the situation better,  if there were signs in their words and behaviors that I should have read better.  This is where interior designers joke about being a part-time psychiatrist.  Because what clients say and do is not always what they expect.

As the client, it is important to be very clear on your expectations so your designer can focus on designing your space and not trying to decode your message and meanings.  Here are some examples:

You say: Red is my favorite color, I'd like to incorporate it in my living room. You mean: I want my walls, carpet, sofa, and curtains to be red.  Your designer hears: She wants a red sofa or upholstered chair.

You say: I have $75,000 to spend.  You mean: I have $150,000 to spend but don't want my designer to spend it all.  Your designer hears: They want to spend around $75,000.  

You say: I'd like to have a place to store my surf boards.  You mean: It is non-negotiable to have a place to store my surf boards.  Your designer hears: Let's see if there is a feasible place to store the boards, maybe we can fit it in maybe not.

You can see in the examples above that the clients expectations are different from the designer's expectations because of vague communication.  So in the first example, the designer may show the client a red sofa and the client tells the designer, I'd like a little more red, so the designer adds in a red chair and the client is still not happy and feels like the designer doesn't understand or listen.

In the second example, the designer is showing the client's items within their budget, but they are unhappy because it is not at the quality they imagine - because to them, their budget is $150,000 and their designer shouldn't be showing them such cheap furniture.

In the third example, the designer doesn't see the surf board storage as important as the client does.  The client is sure to be disappointed, frustrated, or angry if the designer doesn't find a place for those damn surf boards.

As humans, we all expect something.  To a client, spending $5000 on a dining table may be reasonable, but spending more than $50 on a lamp is crazy.  Then that client expects the designer to know or understand the client's money expectations.  A client may have expectations that trying to get it done by Christmas means that it'll be done by Christmas.  The designer expects that the client sees trying as an attempt to get it done but it's likely not going to be done.

Oh so easy for the project to make either the designer or client unhappy because of unmet expectations.  So we know and see some of the traps that can occur, what can be done about it?

Be clear, crystal clear on what your expectations are and what you want.  Sometimes we feel a little icky for asking for exactly what we want.  It can feel demanding or you could be concerned for the other parties feelings.  But it'll be so much better for the relationship and the project if you are clear about your expectations always, beginning, middle, and the end.  Do not be vague.

Be reasonable, if your expectation is that your designer will complete your living room remodel in 4 weeks - let her know and then listen when she tells you that the remodel that you are expecting cannot be completed in that time frame.

Be decisive, make a decision quickly and stick to it.  If you wait too long in communication with your designer, memories fade and new expectations arise.

And if you are up-for-it and more highly evolved that the rest of us, you can be Buddha-like and simply release all expectations.


Working with a designer how to be a good client on Capella Kincheloe Interior Design Phoenix

In my series, Business of Design,I help designers run better businesses.  I also have helped a client or two find the right interior designers.  This list, how to be a good client, is based on hiring the right designer, someone who is just as considerate of these items as you're going to be.  Designing a home is a collaboration, so the project can only be completed with cooperation from both the clients and designer team.  So you've found a great designer, here are 7 requirements to being a good client and having the best experience.


This is the most important.  If you hired a designer to help you, you better trust them.  Trust them to make good decisions for you, trust them to be honest, because nothing sours a relationship more than distrust.  Trust their design, because we are creative people and when client's second guess or reject creative ideas we die a little inside.


Be open to your designer's ideas and vision for the project, trust them to take you out of your comfort zone a little.  Designers are creative for a living and if you open your mind to their ideas you will end up happier in the end for it.  You hired them to do something to your home that you couldn't so let them flex their creative muscles.  One of the most rewarding things I hear from clients is, "I would have never thought of that."


If you hired the right designer, they will be a great project manager or have a great project manager.  Do not tell your designer how to do their job or obsessively check to see if they have done something.  You know what micromanaging is - don't do it.


Thou shalt not shop behind your designer's back.  Thou shalt not steal your designers ideas.  Thou shalt not lie or be sneaky.  Thou shalt not be unethical.


Don't waffle and waver.  Stick to your decisions and make decisions quickly.  Not doing so can delay the project and cost you money.  Constantly questioning the decisions you've made and the choices of your designer is a slippery slope to a design that lacks integrity and ultimately frustration.


This also goes under be ethical, but your designer is running a business, not a bank and should be paid for her services.  If you are concerned about the bill, open the dialog with your designer - if she is the right one she'll explain and help you understand the charges.  But if you don't trust (see #1) this may not be the right fit.


Often the designer will see the big picture, the end result, the ultimate design when the client cannot.  The best results are when the clients can let go and let the designer do their job.  So often clients second-guess or over-analyze.  In the end, projects turn out better when the clients aren't stressing over every detail.

Title Image: Flowering Cherry 1 by Michaela Pereira