When I tell someone I’m an interior designer and decorator, 9.5 times out of 10, here’s what they say:
“Oh, you must have such a FUN job!”
“If I weren’t doing my job now, that’s what I’d be doing.”
“You’re so LUCKY to be spending other people’s money.”
“Oh, my friend/wife/whoever has a flair for that…”
The reality is that the creative brain is very undervalued. The grim reality is that you better know what you’re doing if your spending other people’s money; they work hard for it just like I do! If those blinds don’t fit…I buy them. If the furniture doesn’t work out…I buy it. You get the idea.
Thanks to all those TV design shows, many people think designers just boss around contractors and tradespeople and stand around in their Tom Ford suits…after coming from hair and makeup, of course! Well, I’m here to inject a solid dose of reality into that fantasy: nobody looks that good all the time, especially not designers! Job sites are dusty and grimy. It doesn’t matter who you are, at some point, getting the job done right will require “de-glamming” and getting your hands pretty dirty.
First client meeting: This is where I pull off the glam part, because whether they mean to or not, all clients want someone who can put themselves together. They’re thinking, “If you can’t look presentable, then how can you possibly make my space look good?” Show up on time in a clean vehicle, and check your teeth before knocking. Once you’re inside, you better have all the tools in your briefcase (business card, camera, measuring tape, etc.). Be ORGANIZED!
You have to make a good impression and be likeable. Maybe it doesn’t sound that difficult, but introducing yourself to a complete stranger, making them feel comfortable with having you in their home which they want to redo, gaining their trust that you will execute their vision…it takes some talent and creativity. Still think it’s an easy job? Read on!
We are psychologists. Good designers read people’s wants and needs, and I mean their real wants and needs…the ones they most of the time don’t even know about! But that’s a whole separate topic.
We are salespeople and personal shoppers (but whatever we buy must get to the client in perfect condition…you break it, you bought it). Yes, shopping can be fun, but I am a trained shopper running feverishly all over Edmonton from HomeSense to HomeSense depending on the job. Not so much fun. Plus, I ruin my vehicle. On new builds, you often end up with flat tires. All that driving = many rocks chips in my windshield. And that’s not even mentioning the wear and tear from shoving thousands of bags/furnishings, etc. into whatever space is available. I’ve made many a salesperson laugh with my creative truck/car Tetris game. Oh, and there are many broken nails and scrapes and bruises from ripping labels off and moving all that stuff. Ouch.
We are housekeepers who vacuum, iron, and scrub when the job’s finally done to make the client’s dream renovation as good as can be. We are project managers, organizers, coordinators, installers, and even babysitters!
We are councillors…I often joke with clients that I charge more for marriage counselling! Sometimes I wish I could. Haha!
Don’t forget bookkeepers and budgeters (we have to keep all receipts for all clients, invoicing, billing, etc. and make champagne dreams fit into regular budgets).
And also security guards and sometimes a safety deposit box when we have to look after expensive stuff. Occasionally artwork must be reframed, or precious keepsakes restored. I once had a client who gave me her husband’s special edition Rolex to have it “designer gift-wrapped”—can you imagine the stress? What if I forgot to lock my car?!
Sometimes, we are bearers of bad news. Fabric flaws, new furniture is delayed when they really wanted it for Christmas, tradespeople didn’t show for whatever reason and now the project is behind…the list is long.
We are not slaves. One thing clients don’t realize is that, just like they can fire me, I can fire them. Somehow, in the creative industry, people feel that your time is not worth as much. They can call and text whenever they want, and never worry about a charge…well, I ask you, can you text or call your doctor or lawyer without charge? And I love that people expect my first consultation to be free. Really? In the creative world, just as in the professional one, this old standard remains true: “You get what you pay for!”
Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE my job and there’s absolutely nothing else I’d rather be doing. I’m very hands-on. I regularly show up in a ball cap with grubby clothes and get the job DONE! And I love every…well, maybe almost every…minute of it…even all the sleepless nights!
We are human, and like everyone, we make mistakes. What sets a professional apart from the crowd is how you deal with those. But that is a whole different story.
So: how’s that for my “oh so glamourous” job? Who’s coming with me to scrub my next job site until it shines and delights the client?!
See you there!