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Connecting >> How to talk so designers listen

It always makes me a little sad when I hear people say they are afraid to work with a designer or decorator because they might not listen. While that can happen, I believe it is generally the result of a breakdown in communication.

Trained designers and decorators have a wealth of technical knowledge that underpins their recommendations, which means they can get caught up in the jargon that every industry collects.

However, the designers I know are usually only too happy to explain why they are suggesting the approach they do, but sometimes clients don’t ask.

Here are my top tips for talking so designers hear you.

1:: Collaborate

There are usually several ways a space can be configured, but the right one depends on your goals and priorities. Taking some time to think through those goals and being honest about what is most important to you will always result in better solutions coming forward. If you want a room to be a showpiece, say that. If you want a room to accommodate eating chips on the couch, you need to say that, too. Any designer that judges how you live, or the preferences you have, is probably not the right fit.

2:: Show Don’t Tell

You need to know that different terms have different meanings, but are sometimes used interchangeably. For example, modern and contemporary. Also the word “relaxed” can mean different things depending on who interprets it. My advice is not to rely on vocabulary at all. Browse, tag and pin the things you like into online ideas books (my favourites are Houzz and Pinterest), or scrapbook and dog-ear your magazines. A good designer will be able to see the colours, lines, textures, proportions and scale you are drawn to and create designs that appeal to you.

3:: Expectations. Expectations. Expectations.

Establish your communication preferences and expectations early in the relationship, and ensure that everyone is clear on the scope of work and the budget. Money is an emotionally-loaded topic, but having an early discussion about it is critical. It will save you the wasted time and frustration that comes from seeing options you cannot afford, or do not value in. The earlier you can have straightforward conversations about money the happier everyone will be.

4:: Speak Up

If you don’t like something, say so. However, spend time thinking about why. Try to explain what you are reacting to so the designer can factor that in. I don’t like it, is not has helpful as “I think the pattern is too busy”, or “I don’t want to clean fingerprints”. Also, don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand if the designer makes a recommendation that you don’t get.

5:: Trust

You’ll have to trust and take some risks if you really want a space you don’t have the time or ability to do for yourself. If you clearly dislike something, it’s probably not a good idea to proceed. If you like elements individually, but are not sure you can see how it works together, it might be time to take a leap of faith. I hear clients say over and over that they were unsure about something at first, but now can’t imagine anything could be better.

 

Finally, remember to keep some perspective. At the end of the day we are talking about decor, not world peace. If it doesn’t work out, it can usually be changed.

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