As you know, the mailbag is running a bit low so as I wait for it to be refilled, I still wanted to make sure to get out an episode for you. This episode is going to be a bit of a design TMI. I am currently working on a handful of projects so I’m going to share with you what I’m working on wit clients and challenges I’m having along the way.
If you’re watching this on YouTube, you may notice that I’m looking down a little bit and that’s because I’m referencing my client questionnaires to make sure that I’m remembering things correctly.
This episode, we dive into:
[3:12] Refinishing floors in a large apartment
A new client of mine has been considering refinishing her floors because they aren’t in great condition. She’s planning on leaving the hallway floor as that is in good condition still but the living room floors will need to be restained and she also wants to refinish the flooring in the primary bedroom.
She has always had this dream of having white bedding, light blue walls, and navy accents with ebony stained floors. She asked me if I thought the ebony floors were a good idea and because she is not a super clean freak, black flooring isn’t super forgiving when it comes to dust bunnies and other messes. In addition to this, her bedroom opens up into her hallway so there would be a sharp delineation between the walnut and ebony flooring and it will just look a bit weird.
I really don’t think it’s the best choice so I said that she hired me for my professional opinion and I don’t think she should do it. Keeping them all consistent will look cleaner and show less dust. The client agreed and then 20 minutes later she said “I really want ebony floors in the primary bedroom”.
And I said, “Wow, as a designer, you call me for my professional advice. And my professional advice is, that’s not really what one does, If you’re trying to get that deep contrast of a dark color, we could do it in some wallpapers, and art, maybe a coverlet on the bed. But it sounds to me like you really want dark ebony floors and because you’re not worried about resale, and because we’re not shooting this for a magazine tomorrow, you should have dark ebony floors and your primary bedroom.”
Another 20 minutes passed and my client asked if I thought she was going to regret doing ebony And I said, “No, you should definitely do ebony floors in your primary bedroom.”
So these are the types of conversations I have with clients and maybe this resonates with you when trying to make decisions. If you’re doing this as a business or even a hobby, my advice to you is to offer your opinion three times and share three different reasons why.
Because if they’re pushing back three times, then they really want it. If I continue to say no to something they’re going to do anyway, it is going to tarnish our relationship and they are no longer going to trust me with their ideas.
So unless it’s just totally egregious and horrible, after three pushbacks, I’m going to immediately jump on their side and say, “You know what, that’s a fabulous idea. I think that would work really well. I have some great ideas for how we can integrate that and make it feel more cohesive. And I definitely think you should have ebony floors, in one room, only one room of your home.”
So I left the appointment very inspired, there was so much that we’re going to do and change and integrate, but also a little tired, because it’s hard to navigate when people really want something that goes against advice you might have given.
[12:10] Completely overhauling a fixer upper
My next client has a home in Scarsdale that he’s been working on for several years. He bought it, gutted it, and decided to completely redo the interior, changing the layout of pretty much everything except a fireplace and the front door.
His vision is to make the home much more contemporary but also transitional. This client spends all of his free time working with grid paper and outlining different rooms and showing me his sketches. Every six months or so he has me come back to the space to not only see the progress that his friends who are contractors have been making, but also to see if there’s any adjustments or tweaks.
The last time I went back he’d been working on this house for about a year and it was clear to me that we needed to change one of the rooms into a bedroom. I didn’t feel that he had enough bedrooms upstairs. He only had the primary bedroom and two other bedrooms. And then he was going to use another room as an ancillary small office or laundry room like office/laundry room and for me that’s a little disconnected.
He is hoping to sell this house within the next 10 years because Scarsdale has super high property taxes. So once your kids are graduated and out of high school, you know might be a good idea to leave. It’s got I think one of the highest property tax rates in all of the United States. For him, we discussed changing it and he actually had to move the studs because it made so much more sense to turn it into a bedroom.
I had given him this idea before and stressed the importance for resale value of having four bedrooms upstairs rather than just the three. I really thought that the laundry could be done In a smaller way, and that the office could be done in a way downstairs, that would still feel quite practical, but would really increase his resale value. So as a designer, my primary function is not to think like a real estate agent, not to constantly be judging people’s ideas based on resale value. not to constantly be judging people’s ideas based on resale value.
I do think when you’re doing something very structural and very expensive, like moving walls, or renovating a kitchen, if you’re going to be moving in the next 10 to 15 years, you need to be thinking about resale value. After those 10 to 15 years, everything you do is going to be dated. But one thing that will not be dated, is creating that extra bedroom because anybody who moves to Scarsdale, as you just heard me say from the property taxes is probably going to have kids that they want to put in the amazing school district.
With him, it’s been a lot of push and pull but immediately after my idea he went downstairs, took his little eraser, erased the line, moved the studs with his number two pencil and then I came back just a couple weeks later, and the studs were removed. Everything looks great, it’s going to make so much more sense. And we found an amazing place for a stackable washer dryer versus a side by side. You can have your cake and you can eat it too.
[16:40] Designing an eat in kitchen nook
My next client is in Connecticut and he has a lovely home that is right on the water. Then I go in his house. All I’m there to do is design a very small eat in kitchen nook but he had a lot of needs for this nook because not only was it right off the galley kitchen. So it’s very hard to talk to someone who’s cooking or preparing cocktails in a galley kitchen because it’s so long and narrow. It’s basically two sides that are quite enclosed. There was no opening to another space except for this small eat in kitchen hexagon. There was a bay window overlooking the bay.
So not only did it help to open up conversation in terms of when he was entertaining and wanted to be making food while talking to his guests, but also it just had the best view in the house. So he wanted to change this eat in kitchen to not only a dining space, but also a space that could have like comfortable lounge seating because he wanted people to sit there, he wanted to sit there work on his laptop, hang out, put his feet up, have them be drinking their cocktail while just chatting with him and he didn’t want it to always feel like a dining room.
If the space were large enough, you could accommodate a seating area as well as the dining area but it does look weird to have so many chairs. He likes to entertain a lot so he wanted eight seats. And then there’s going to be chairs in a seating area and that’s just a lot of seating crammed into one location or one room right unless the room is expansive and can be defined with separate area rugs and just looks like a lot of seating like almost a chair or seating showroom. This space was only 12 feet by 12 feet.
He had thought about incorporating window box seating so built in seating around the hexagon that could accommodate extra people. But the problem is this hexagon is 12 feet wide. A 12 foot long banquette is going to be weird and cumbersome and the windows are on the back. So either you build up the banquette back so that it partially blocks some of the window and some of that amazing view or you don’t have any back support, and you just have random cushions that are leaning against a window, which is not very comfortable if he wants to lounge and work there for a few hours.
What I like to do in circumstances like this, where there are a lot of options, but none of the options feel super organic and this somewhat unusual space. And when someone wants to do lots of things with the space and really can’t prioritize in a clear way, then what we have to do is make a list of all the things that are possible.
We came up with all these different options and then I like to process of eliminate one by one. So we came up with all the different options, I dropped the footprint of the room into my floorplan software, and we played around with each option and as we weighed the pros and cons of every single option, we eliminated them.
To design this one rather small space. It took us over an hour and a half. But we explored every possible option and came up with the one option that fit his needs the best. In this case we are going with a 60 inch by 60 inch square table that’s going to have two very slim banquette style sofas on either side, and then upholstered chairs on the opposite sides. So that way, you’re kind of getting the best of both worlds with a bench that feels like a sofa, but doesn’t have high arms and you’re getting chairs as well for people who are just having a typical dining experience.
it’s worth it to go through that time and energy to play around and keep an open mind. Because now when he’s buying this costly 60 inch square table, there’s not a lot of options for something like that, that aligns with his beachy style. When he’s investing in this table and buying those benches now he knows with confidence, you know, we tried everything with our designer, we had an expert hold our hand through every option and now I feel quite confident because she’s guided me. And because she was open to even our unusual ideas. Now I feel quite confident that we’ve landed on the right one. And now he’s not going to come back to me in six months and say, Betsy, you know, I really liked what we discovered. But I’m wondering, do you think there’s something better?
No, no client we explored every possible option. Remember, I can send you all the scenarios we saved in my floorplan software, and you’ll be reminded of why this one is the only one that makes sense.
So if you’re saying Betsy, we don’t want any more diary entries. We want you to help us with our issues, make sure to submit your questions here.
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