So, you’ve found an image you like on Houzz, Ava Living, or any of the thousands of other websites or blogs dedicated to interior design, and you decide you’d like to have a room (or chair or even paint color) just like the one in the picture. You leave a message for the designer asking where they got it, or what paint color it is, what contractor they used, etc. – and either get no response, or the designer won’t or can’t tell you. Or tells you to hire them and they’ll be happy to help you with your project and sourcing something similar.
What’s going on? Especially on a site like Houzz that seems to be dedicated at least in part to helping do-it-yourselfers source and create their own designs? I mean, how dare those designers not just answer a simple question like this? Or want to be paid for the information no less?
Well, there are a few likely reasons you may not get an answer to your question (or the details you are seeking), as follows.
1. We don’t remember.
Yes, it’s highly likely it’s just that simple.
There can be literally thousands of products and decisions involved in a single design project (even a single room), and we simply can’t remember everything for every project we ever do. No one can remember all the details even in a current project, never mind something finished years ago.
Yes, a good designer certainly keeps records, but the time involved to look up a detail from an old project whose records may even be offsite in storage or otherwise archived simply isn’t usually worth the sometimes considerable effort, particularly when we know we’ll never see a penny of income for doing so.
It also actually costs us money and time to look things like this up, both outright in paying staff to do it, or simply in opportunity cost because it’s time that could otherwise be billed to a paying client or marketing to find new ones in order to access information like that. And especially if we happen to be on a tight deadline right when you ask, well, paying clients simply always come first.
2. Custom-made, or otherwise one of a kind
Much of what a professional interior designer does is custom designed specifically for the project shown, and thus not available anywhere anyways. Ditto with even paint colors – they are often custom blended for that particular project, and thus can’t be purchased anywhere but through that designer (and maybe not even then).
Or maybe it’s an antique or other one-of-a-kind piece for which a duplicate also doesn’t exist anywhere or could never be easily found. Or we know it’s been discontinued.
3. To-the-trade only
Many more of the resources we use are only available “to the trade”, meaning only to professional designers. So, just like with anything fully custom-designed, even if we were to tell you where we got it and exactly what it is, you wouldn’t have access to be able to buy it on your own anyway.
4. Mismatched expectations/poor outcomes, and/or liability
If we share names of contractors or vendors with non-clients, and someone has a bad experience with them, it can reflect poorly on us – through no fault of our own – and may also raise concerns about liability and/or negatively impact our own working relationships with these people.
One or another of these problems has happened to virtually every designer (I know it certainly has to me), and no one is eager to repeat the experience. Trying to help people out like this can and does backfire, and it makes us very wary of what resources we share, and with whom.
Many of the sources we use work either exclusively or primarily with designers, and expect a certain level of design knowledge of the client, which the average DIYer lacks. This mismatch of expectations can lead to a poor outcome, or at least disappointment on the part of the client who doesn’t fully understand what they’ve gotten themselves into or how to explain what they envision so they actually get it – or how to get it fixed if something goes wrong or it just doesn’t turn out like they’re expecting. It can also frustrate and upset the vendor or contractor, and these are people we like to keep happy, not annoy, because we want to be able to work with them again ourselves.
As professional designers, when we are involved, we mediate and even control that process and are far more able (for many reasons) to make sure that the final result matches the design intention, that errors get corrected, etc. – and this is true whether it’s a contractor remodeling a whole house or a workroom just making one window treatment. (Please also refer to my post entitled “Reason 465 to Hire an Interior Designer: Better Contractors and More Leverage With Them“, which details why we’re better able to do this than you are.)
5. We know it’s way, way outside your budget
Particularly on sites like Houzz, we often have an idea of the budget you may have, because you’ve either said so straight out, or it’s reflected in your comments on other discussions, or your ideabooks, etc. When someone is looking to somehow furnish an entire room (or God forbid, a whole house) for $10,000, for example, and we know that the table or cabinet or one similar to the one you’re asking about will easily cost double or triple that or more by itself, what’s the point?
We’re not going to tell you right out that you can’t afford it, of course, but we are also not going to go out of our way to look up the specifics for you, either, when we already know there’s not a prayer on earth you’ll actually be willing or able to buy it, from us or anyone else.
6. Someone else paid for it and owns it, and deserves privacy
In all cases, someone else paid for that design and every component you’re asking about, and deserves some protection against other people copying it, especially for free. They certainly deserve particular protection against the actual designer they hired giving it away to someone else. The designer may also have absolutely no legal right to share the information because of contractual terms with the client involved, and could potentially face legal action for doing so.
How would you feel if you had been the client to commission a design and paid good money for it – and then realized your designer was giving it or parts of it away for free to others? Or knew that people you know or might meet might query the designer about how much you paid for everything and where you got it – and get the answers?
7. It’s proprietary information
Frankly, the sources and vendors we use are a major part of our stock-in-trade, along with our design tips and tricks. Quite simply, why would we give away for free much of the proprietary information and resources with which we make our living? With which we are able to distinguish ourselves and the value of what we in particular do from other designers?
We are professionals who are in business to make money, just like everyone else in any other business anywhere, and yes, part of being able to do that very much involves protecting the majority of our sources.
One of the best reasons to hire a designer in the first place is that we maintain vast lists of resources, and know which ones to draw on for which purposes. It takes years and years, and constant, unending research, to find the best resources, contractors, etc., to build the list we draw on, to keep it current, and to develop and maintain the personal and professional relationships that lead to the best outcomes. I personally have literally thousands of listings just in my address book, compiled over several decades, and at least several thousand more bookmarked online and recorded, filed, or referenced in other places including a large library. That resource base is of absolutely incalculable value to me.
When you hire us, you get the benefit of that vast storehouse of talent and materials – in combination, of course, with the our training and skill and ability to source just the right things in each situation and orchestrate a coherent whole that uniquely fills your personal requirements.
We certainly don’t mind sharing a few things, and a few general pointers. Part of what we do does involve educating our clients, and an educated general populace can also produce better clients as well as raise the overall level of design and appreciation for good design in the world. It benefits everyone when we do share some of what we know, and most of us enjoy doing so anyways. I certainly do.
But you know, please don’t ask us to give away the farm, or to go particularly out of our way to help you when you have no intention of ever paying us for anything – or to violate our contractual agreements with others.
You wouldn’t give away the trade secrets of how you do whatever you do professionally, would you? Or provide all or a substantive amount of your services for free?
Or honestly expect your doctor, lawyer, accountant, plumber, gardener, dog groomer, or car mechanic to work for free, or to provide parts or training in how to do it yourself, especially for nothing?
Designers everywhere thank you for understanding why we won’t do it either
If you’re ready to create the uniquely beautiful and functional home of your dreams, or even to just redo a single room, please drop me a note via the Contact link on this site and we can discuss your needs, and how my experience and vast resource base can help.