Hello my friends. Sometimes I find myself walking on a tightrope high above the ground with no safety net. No, I don't work at the circus part time, rather this is how I feel when working with some couples. When I started doing design work, I somehow missed the part about needing a marriage counseling degree. Getting two people to agree on what they want in their personal living space can be a real challenge. And we are not talking about small dollar amounts- we are talking major investment! So, believe me, I understand why it can be a tough situation for many couples.
I would like to suggest that all pre marriage counseling include a section on design/color taste. Counselors and ministers, this is just as important as questioning the lovebirds about how they view discipline in child rearing, who will take out the garbage and how often the in-laws can visit. Generations of designers and decorators will thank you and call you blessed. I would be happy to create the test. This is what I find myself dealing with at times:
Funny, builders don't like getting a change order request for 2 living rooms. Nor does King Solomon's solution of dividing the room in half go over very well with couples. What to do, what to do.... I had better figure this out fast because this perplexed expression is giving me major wrinkles!
One way out of this is to create a mix, a blend, of both styles. Thankfully eclecticism is big now. I don't know what designers did back in the day when everything had to be of one style and period. Perhaps that is why smoking like chimneys and drinking martinis during the day was de rigeur? Ok, easier said than done because this often means that every single item will be negotiated with each side keeping tabs on how many industrial modern or english romantic things are selected for the room. In addition, if following this model, I must be very careful to remain impartial and NEVER take sides and gang up on the other person no matter how wrong they may be. It is a veritable mine field, the likes of which you just cannot imagine. Furthermore, the end result is rarely the designer's best work. The room has been negotiated within an inch of its life and looks nothing like the initial plan, in my experience.
So, what is the best way to handle this situation, remain sane, minimize wrinkle formation AND end up with the best room? Figure out who is driving the decisions. This takes spending some time with the couple and keenly observing their interactions. Not so easy as this must be done while presenting a plan with many layers and doing it in an engaging exciting way because let's face it, doesn't everyone want their designer to be enthusiastic, entertaining and even a bit theatrical? Boring designers don't seem to last long in the business. There are some clues to be on the look out for when trying to decide who to subtly and very quietly ally with.
At first glance, it may seem that the person who takes charge of the meeting, and controls the conversation is the one to get on board with. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it is the person who is in charge of the finances. But not always. Sometimes it is the person who has devoted hours researching Pinterest, Instagram, and Houzz with HGTV on 24 hours a day in the background. But often it isn't. The biggest clue to who is really going to determine the success or failure of my efforts is...... ready? Drumroll, please. Silence. Yes. The person who has nothing to say, seems distracted and disinterested and asks no questions, offers no opinions, but is hovering nearby, is the one who will decide whether the room looks like an English country house or a converted factory loft. The reason is simple and it is an age old negotiating principle. He or she who cares the least has the most power. The person who seems to be almost panting with excitement over a flooring sample or paint color will not be your decision maker. Spend the rest of your time trying to get the "could care less, silent partner, whatever you want" person on your team. Because, let's face it, the other person will be happy with an amazingly well done industrial loft because it will be a vast improvement over the way their house looks when they call you in. They have an educated eye and can be happy with more than one style usually. Yes, the only way to win when you are in this very tricky, dangerous business is to play to the one who could care less if you even remove the hideous 1980's rooster wallpaper from the kitchen.
See you next week.