people ask better questions” says
life coach, author and consultant Tony Robbins, “and as a result they get better answers”. Whatever you do, whether
you’re a doctor, lawyer, accountant or retired teacher much of your success in
life relies on the “quality” of your questions. I experience this myself every
I was recently looking for a
doctor specializing in the holistic care of arthritis. Should I call an allopath
or an osteopath? I’ve been working on my marketing plans for 2015 and need a
way to organize its many facets. Do I create a “flow chart”, a narrative report
or a spreadsheet? In 2007, an accountant suggested to a friend that she invest
her life savings in second mortgages for a 10 per cent return. Certain it was
too good to be true, she got a second opinion from someone who said that if
those homeowners she loaned money to defaulted on the mortgages, she would be stuck
with the properties. She declined the first accountant’s suggestion and ten
months later, the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Without “quality”
questions, questions that are already somewhat informed, you’re like a ship at
sea without a compass.
Occasionally someone will call and
say “I’ve worked with a designer before and I’d like you to help me with….chairs
and window coverings” or something equally precise. But usually calls come from
people who haven’t a clue what they need. They don’t know the right questions
and they are relying on me, someone they’ve never met, to essentially tell them
which ones to ask.
Questions to Ask Your
How can I be sure you’ll
understand my tastes and lifestyle? How can I be sure you won’t try and sell me
something I don’t need? Can we start out slowly, till I gain a comfort level
with working with a designer? How do you charge for your time? How will I be
able to “envision” the changes you’re suggesting for my home? How do you know
I’ll like the changes?
The answers to these questions
exist in a transparent, give and take conversation between client and designer.
There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. If the person you’re entrusting is
trustworthy, they will “want” to reassure you. If they’re not, you’re better
off without them.
In answer to the above, the
designer will ask you questions about what you like and dislike in your home
currently, how you live in it now versus how you’d prefer to live in it, and based
upon your input, he or she will build a variety of optional design schemes for
your approval. In your first consultations with the designer you’ll be able to
tell if she is self-serving or client-serving. One clue that she’s serving your
best needs is she will ask a lot of questions as opposed to pushing products
without getting enough information from you. Visual aids in the form of
pictures, 3D floor plans and drawings, and over sized fabric swatches will help
ascertain you get the right things for “you”. On presentation day, you’ll be
able to envision the plans from these aids. If the schemes are right for you,
something usually clicks. The possibilities of the design schemes and visual
aids will excite you.
Ask quality questions again on
presentation day such as “are the sofa cushions good quality”; “do the curtains
allow enough daylight”; “will my napping dog damage the fabric for the chairs”;
and “does the dining room table have leaves.”
Questions Your Designer Will
What do you love about your current
home? What do you dislike about it? Do you get a lot of sun in this room? Will
you be doing any entertaining? How many children or grandchildren do you have?
Any pets? What colors are you drawn to? What’s your budget? Do you have any
deadlines? What do you use this room for? Can we work around this antique table
or do I have to omit it from the plans? Any rooms you don’t use in the home? Do
you like your home to feel formal, casual or a little of both? Do you like
pattern and color? Any physical disabilities or challenges? All of these
questions may not seem vital but a designer uses many of them as perimeters for
myriad decisions from planning furniture layouts to choosing fabrics and window
covering styles to lighting plans.
His or her questions and subsequent answers are
only as good as your designer’s listening and communication skills. If you
don’t understand something, stop the conversation and ask for
clarification. If you or the designer are jotting down notes while the other person
is speaking, stop writing, and ask the person to repeat themselves. If you or
the designer is writing or thinking about what they’re going to say next, they’re
not really listening. Take copious notes. Clarify uncertainties. All of these
are key in good communication.
Start out slow the first time
you work with a designer till you get comfortable. As your project proceeds
from initial consultation to proposals, design schemes, orders, fabrications and
installations you will become more familiar with how designers work and charge
for their time.
It really helps if a client has
at least some idea of what they like and dislike. We can gain a lot of
knowledge from some of the simplest visual aids: pictures of things you like;
swatches of fabric; or even a framed painting can act as a catalyst in your
The aesthetic quality of the
project will be evident in the designer’s presentation. Look for outstanding
fabric combinations that also have some flexibility; tear sheets of beautiful,
high quality furnishings; well written plans that evolve around your existing
furnishings and architecture; and professional, clean looking estimates and
budgets with branded logos and signature fonts and colors.
Look for designers who have workrooms
with at least fifteen years of experience. I have seen many otherwise beautiful
projects look amateurish and silly because of poorly crafted upholstery and
Live beautifully. Eat beautifully, Shiree
Click “Pain Free Design and Wellness” for a free chapter of my powerful new book that helps women with arthritis create beautiful, functional homes and take better care of themselves every day because home is where it all begins.