Here's a question I've been thinking about as I just signed a client and encountered this situation. How do you navigate the beginning of the concept & design process with a client who has almost zero reference points? Who can't identify a style they like, doesn't have inspiration images, doesn't provide many answers on questionnaire, and house is essentially a blank slate? Especially if this is an e-design client and you can't go through a laborious process of discovery? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.
Sam, the simple answer is: I don’t. I don’t sign a client until I know what they want - and part of that is understanding if our styles are a match and if I can give them what they want design-wise.
Clients have to like my designs, like my aesthetic, they have to send inspiration images, and have to answer a very extensive questionnaire all before I take them as a client.
Now, you could create a style questionnaire that would allow you to uncover their style if this is your target market - the ones that are clueless about what they like. It could be a this or that situation. This rolled-arm sofa or a straight-arm sofa? This antique armoire or that modern dresser? This solid fabric or that print?
But ultimately, the client should hire you because they like the existing work that you’ve done. I don’t think any interior designer should exclusively design “in the client’s style”. You need a design point of view. This is another brilliant reason to choose a specialty. When you take projects that have a many different style/budget scopes you will need to cultivate vendors in these different areas which is not very efficient, productive, or profitable.
The only way I would sign a client who had no aesthetic input is if I knew they liked my existing work AND they were giving me carte blanche with the design AND it said that much in their contract. Some clients may not care that much as long as it looks nice.
So, back to Sam’s client. I would tell that client that I can’t do a design plan unless I get that information back from them. That the design will only be as good as the information they provide. Alternatively, they can just let me do my thing within their budget and space constraints.
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