Being flexible with design expectations

I am constantly learning to fine-tune my expectations. My career is a careful balancing act of setting the correct expectation and hoping that my clients interpret in the same way I am presenting. Working with clients on improving their home is a delicate thing. There are emotions involved and an unmet expectation can turn a great relationship sour in a matter of minutes.

It starts with the initial consultation and meeting. We size each other up to see if this is a relationship that will be successful and fun. I am being sized up and I am listening to them for cues to their wants and needs. I had no idea when I studied design that there would be so much psychology involved. It is a relationship that continues to evolve and change throughout the design process and as a result I have gotten to know some of my clients very well.

Embarking on my own basement development I am put into the shoes of my clients as I watch my original design (expectations) be drastically changed by unforeseen things such as drains not being placed where I wanted. I have two choices, either I get upset because things aren’t going the way I thought they should or I rearrange my expectations to accommodate what probably can’t be changed. Due to a large opening in a floor that I thought was solid concrete, I have to re-position the shower to a different side of the bathroom which moves the closet, walls and puts the door on a completely different side of the room.

In all honesty my job makes it easy for me to visualize outcomes and my experience with my clients has taught me that nothing goes as perfectly as we planned and it is beneficial to be flexible in our expectations. So with a few chalk lines and a discussion with my ‘guys’ we came to an equally wonderful plan which is as workable as my original.

I wish I could impart this understanding to my clients, time lines and design wishes don’t always turn out how we expect and it can leave some people pretty steamed. I have a lovely client working on her basement who is a joy to deal with. She runs a business out of her basement and is expectant about getting flooring, paint and custom cabinets done. When I called her today to tell her the tile is backordered until June, she said ‘no problem, I like it and want to wait’. We can still paint and install flooring but some of it will have to wait and she was OK with it. You have no idea how I dread making those phone calls because people often lose their cool with me. It was such a relief to have that calm response.

This client simply adjusted her expectations and decided that it was OK to wait a little bit longer to get what she wanted. It is a good skill to learn if you are in a home renovation or building project; that things may not go exactly as expected and you may need to amend expectations, it will give you so much peace.

Kim Lewis is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre.

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