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.