What Americans have to be Vigilant About My family endured the Nazi years in Germany. My grandfather was an entrepreneur in the publishing business, and he was very aware of the power structure tha…
Posted by my friend and colleague, Laurie Burke. Don’t fall for a scam like this!
It’s a typical scenario: the phone rings and on the other end is an appointment setter announcing she represents a home improvement company working in your area. She asks you a few questions and sure enough, her company can have a salesman come out to meet with you about your project.
The happened to my elderly mother, who had a visit from the salesperson who spent two hours in her house for a high pressure sales call for a patio enclosure. It seems the older one gets the more the phone rings with cold-callers wanting to sell you something!
Fortunately she didn’t sign a contract but unfortunately not before he got her ID and Social Security number to check her credit for instant approval.
With a swift search I found out this is a slick operation that prays upon unsuspecting elderly people. He left no business card, no written estimate…
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In the wake of this past week’s historic Supreme Court decision affirming the right of gay people to marry throughout the land, and in the face of ongoing idiocy opposing this among some of my friends on Facebook, I started to think about how I myself came to support gay marriage, moving from an initial stance opposing it. This post obviously isn’t directly about interior design, but a) lots of designers are gay, to the point that the entire industry is associated with gay men, and b) I simply needed a platform for this post. Some things are important enough that I feel no compunction in straying off-topic here.
There was a time, long ago and far away, when I was opposed to gay marriage. Yes, hard to imagine now, for anyone who knows me, but it was true. I never hated gays, but I bought into a lot of the same arguments I hear from other opponents, thinking they made sense – things like how the increased cost of benefits would supposedly sink employers, the so-called “biblical” ones equating marriage with one man/one woman, and probably others. Why wasn’t domestic partnership good enough? What difference did it make if it was called “marriage” or not as long as they were together?
So yes, I understand your arguments, because I was once there myself. Once, but no longer, because I’ve got a brain and used it to think for myself about these issues, along with using my inborn compassion for others.
And then I found out that one guy I’ve always liked and at one point had a crush on was gay, back when I didn’t even really quite know what that even meant. Then that a couple of others were, lovely men who shared their stories of how they were tormented in childhood by other kids, and even by their parents, not to mention their own self doubts, including thoughts of suicide and even attempts because of hating themselves for who they were and couldn’t help being.
I not only survived a pass being made at me by a woman with whom I was friends, but the friendship survived it, because I simply liked her and we had a lot in common. I ultimately realized that it takes a lot of courage for *anyone* to make a pass at someone they find interesting, much less someone of the same sex, not knowing how that person might feel about it. I also realized that not only was I no more harmed by a pass from a woman than I was from a man in whom I have no interest, but it also occurred to me that at their core, most such passes are actually deep compliments. Why should I be insulted or upset that someone whose company I already enjoyed was complimenting me that way? So, another chink in the armor fell…
Then I started meeting a lot more people who were not only gay but bi and even poly, both of which add even more complications to people’s lives. I learned that a guy who had been incredibly kind to me when we were children and all the other boys in the dancing school class were mean to me was not just gay but actually grew up to be the one spearheading the whole gay marriage movement in the US. Chances are good that he was fighting a lot of his own battles at the time we were cavorting on the dance floor in fifth grade, unbeknownst to me, and I know for certain he was ridiculed by a lot of others for his kindness to me, because I witnessed that much myself, but there he still was, and I am grateful to this day for his gestures of kindness. And a girl I’d grown up with and always liked, whose parents and mine were close, someone I don’t remember life without being in the wings. Mutual friendships and interrelationships that have turned out to be without number, and this was only two of them.
Throughout this all, of course, was woven the realization that these people were no different from me. How could I ever even *think* to deny any of these lovely people the same rights and privileges I enjoy, solely because they happen to love people of the same gender while I am heterosexual to the core?
To this day, I continue to learn about others around me with whom I grew up or went to school who are gay, even a distant cousin with whom I have become close. People I *know* to be good people by any definition – upstanding citizens, successful and productive businesspeople, civic leaders, doctors, judges, lawyers, homemakers. Good children to their parents, good parents to their own children, caring partners, good friends to others of all genders and orientations. Caring, loving, intelligent, and *interesting* people, the same as any others I have called friends over the years.
Then I started to learn about how people were being banned from the bedsides of their lifelong partners by those partners’ biological families just because those people didn’t approve of the relationships. People who were deprived of the right that every other lifelong committed couple has to make decisions on behalf of one another in healthcare. People whose partners’ bio families were literally barring them from even visiting their beloved in the hospital even as that partner lay dying. People who were literally being disinherited despite even as much as half a century of building lives and businesses and fortunes together, solely because they had not been able to “seal the deal” with a wedding ring and someone made a mistake and not included them on the deed, or assumed that they would automatically inherit, or whatever.
People who were losing the homes they had helped buy themselves because their now-deceased partners’ bio families were kicking them out, in some cases literally overnight after the death.
People who were even losing their *children* when they split up or especially if the other party died, solely because they were not legally married to the other parent and not themselves the biological parent. Children being taken by the deceased parent’s parents to raise, who were then denying access to the surviving real parent. And this being not only possible and legal but *acceptable* (to some people), solely because the two loving parents did not have the advantage of the legal sanctification of their loving partnership that was a committed lifelong marriage in all aspects but name and law.
And let’s not forget the effect of losing both of their own parents in one fell swoop that these situations have on the innocent children themselves. Horrible.
Can you imagine???
No, I couldn’t either.
And I *doubly* couldn’t imagine it happening to people I knew and cared about.
I had had no idea that things like this happened. Or *could* happen, and yet they do, every single day.
Gradually I started to realize that among other things, no company was going to go any more broke paying out benefits for same-sex spouses/partners than they would if those employees had been married to someone of the opposite sex. The very idea makes zero actual sense, and I became embarassed that such a stupid thought had even ever occurred to me.
And if people were going to marry just for this sort of economic benefit, so what? That has been what marriage has historically been about for most of its history anyways – a purely economic, social, and often political contract, usually between two families or even two nations. Love only entered the equation as a criterion at all in recent times. Put the same legal requirements on gay couples as on straight ones, and fewer people will abuse the institution for personal gain anyways, because people aren’t stupid.
I started to think about how unfair it was that some of my friends were having to face things that others never would, particularly around hospital visitation, end-of-life and other healthcare decisions, insurance, parental rights, and inheritance.
The topper came when I learned that there are something like over 1,000 rights and privileges that married couples have that unmarried couples do not, even beyond these. Yes, that’s the correct number of zeros – more than a *thousand* separate rights, privileges, benefits, as well as obligations. One thousand one hundred and thirty eight of them, actually, give or take a few that may have fallen since this list was written – 1,138. http://www.freedomtomarry.org/resources/entry/list-of-1138-federal-rights-benefits-and-privileges-of-marriage
Read through this list: it will completely blow your mind. There are various other sources of similar lists, and there are state rights and obligations as well as the federal; this is just federal.
Literally thousands of rights and privileges we all take completely for granted and in many cases don’t even know about until a need to know arises. They are financial, legal, social, and cover all other areas of life you can imagine – including obligations such as being responsible for one another’s debts, which may not look like such a benefit to many, but is part and parcel of how society keeps itself together financially, and is often a viable deterrent to people who might otherwise marry irresponsibly. If you are a heterosexual person who is married, you bear these and other similar burdens, along with reaping the benefits of the various rights. Why shouldn’t others partake on both sides of that fence as well?
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I became an interior designer, joining a profession that had been decimated in the 80s by the AIDS epidemic, especially in San Francisco where I lived and went to design school and was active in the design community, and that in many ways is actually directly associated with gay men because of how prevalent they are. In my growing friendships and professional relationships with many of my colleagues, it became increasingly impossible to fathom why so many of them were being denied rights that the rest of us took for granted.
So, bottom line, my route to supporting gay marriage underwent a significant transformation over time as I not only learned of the real human toll its denial was taking on millions of people, some of whom were people I myself had come to care about, but as my own sense of myself as a caring, just person came into question as I continued to ponder the question.
How could I reconcile my own self image as one who does not discriminate against others, who supports equal rights, who simply does not like to see people suffering unnecessarily with a stance that systematically denied so many people so many of the rights and freedoms I took for granted and didn’t even know about? How could I continue to support a position that left so many people hurting for no legitimate reason, and for no fault of their own?
The answer was I simply could not.
Especially when I learned that people I myself had come to care about were having to worry every day about these issues. When I heard the first hand stories and saw the heartbreak at close range.
There is a saying that familiarity breeds contempt, but truly, what it really breeds in caring people is compassion. Compassion and understanding, and a desire to set things right.
I can just about guarantee that even you biggest gay-bashers out there know and care about people who are themselves gay and facing these same issues, even if they have not identified themselves to you. They may not be in your immediate social circle, but they are for certain somewhere out there, and definitely somewhere in your extended family trees, if nowhere else, even if you don’t know anything about those branches yet.
Why didn’t that maiden aunt or confirmed bachelor uncle of yours ever marry? Why didn’t you ever see them with a date? What was that best friend they always spent so much time with *really* to them? Yes, lots and lots of these may well be gay – but also people in branches you never knew existed yet. I’ve found them because of the genealogy research I’ve been doing. Your own flesh and blood – I can guarantee they are out there somewhere, because it is statistically impossible that they are not.
Open your eyes and see the *people* and the humanity that your homophobic and anti- gay marriage stances hurt.
And don’t tell me you believe in equal rights or Jesus’s teachings or anything of the sort if you can truly still support that stance after trying to put your own self in those people’s shoes, and after reading this. If you are following the Bible’s teachings, it puts forth a remarkably wide range of definitions of marriage, well beyond the “one man, one woman” notion people think about today. It also preaches compassion, not exclusion. And there are many other things it commands that we no longer do today, including prohibitions against mixed materials in clothing, mixed crops, marrying women off to their deceased husbands’ brothers, keeping slaves, and much more. There’s a letter to Dr. Laura Schlesinger attributed to various authors making its way around the Internet that snarkily (but accurately) outlines a few of these, as commanded in Leviticus: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/drlaura.asp Times change, and so do many biblical interpretations and commands of this nature. We must change with them.
If nothing else, there but for the grace of God go you or I. And who are any of us to deny the comforts of loving relationships to others solely on the basis of the gender of those they love? How would *you* feel if it were your rights being denied by others like this?
Love is a beautiful thing, wherever we find it. Let us do what we can to foster it instead of perpetuating war, ugliness, and hatred of others just because of who they happen to love. Live and let live, because other people’s marriages have precisely zero effect on our own lives just because they are married to people of the same sex, any more than other people’s heterosexual marriages affect us.
Let us work towards a world in which there is only love, not gay or straight love, and only marriage, not heterosexual or homosexual marriage. Let us celebrate that people want to spend their lives together creating something bigger than the sum of the parts, and let us work together to create a world in which the genders of the people involved are complete nonissues.
In a world increasingly torn by strife and war, both between nations and between political parties within our own country, never has the 60s cliche mantra of “Make love, not war” been more relevant or important.
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.
From Buzzfeed’s article “33 Insanely Clever Things Your Small Apartment Needs”, with thanks to Katy Wolk-Stanley, The Non-Consumer Advocate for pointing it out. Because sometimes, especially when you live in a really small space, you just need some things to make life easier, and these clever items do exactly that.
Not all of the items shown in this Buzzfeed post are beautiful, but they are all divinely functional and useful, especially in a small home, and wonderfully carry out the “useful” part of the mandate of the fabulous William Morris, who opined that one should “[h]ave nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” This mantra of the Arts & Crafts movement has been a touchstone for designers and style mavens ever since. Personally, I believe that as much as possible should be both beautiful and functional. There’s simply no need to sacrifice style for practicality.
A few prime examples of practicality from this terrific post (that also happen to be beautiful and/or unobtrusive – because this is, after all, a blog about interior design, and aesthetics definitely matter!) include the following:
If you’re ready to create a beautiful home that is also tremendously practical and functional for your lifestyle, whether your style is contemporary or traditional, and you’re not into doing it yourself, please drop me a note to get started!
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone complain about a contractor who hasn’t done the job right, or hasn’t scheduled enough time for the job, or walked off the job in the middle never to be heard from again, leaving a mess in his wake, or who has taken so long to get the job done that an important deadline has been missed, etc., I’d be a wealthy woman.
The cold, hard fact of the matter is that not only are there a lot of bad contractors our there, but the average contractor doesn’t give a rat’s patoot about you, Jane or Joe Homeowner.
Sure, some are better at business than others and do recognize the importance of taking good care of their customers no matter who they are, and there are in fact some really fabulous ones out there – but the reality is that every single one of them is going to go on to their next job when finished with yours, while you are probably only going refinish your floor or redo your bathroom or put on an addition once in your whole life, and chances are you’ll forget who they are anyways the next time you do decide to do something to your house.
You hear endless horror stories about contractors and remodeling, too, because the average homeowner simply doesn’t know what to look for or how to hire one and ensure the job gets done right, on time, and on budget. Most people simply have no clue about what they don’t know until they find themselves in the middle of a big, expensive mess.
Most people also go about a remodeling project backwards, by hiring a contractor first, and then letting the contractor essentially end up dictating how the job gets done, only giving him very vague instructions. If you do that, you will end up with problems, and not with what you want, because it is absolutely essential to have the design completely finished and fully spec-ed out in every tiny detail down to the door stops, cabinet hinges, and edge trim on the countertops before you go out to bid. If you don’t, you won’t even be able to fairly compare bids because each contractor will be making it all up in his own head as he goes along since you haven’t specified everything. Incomplete design will always lead to cost overruns and a job taking far longer than you expected even if you hire the best contractor in town.
It’s not really a personal failing if you find yourself in this kind of position; you just haven’t had any reason to know before, and we are simply not all experts in everything – nor should we be. This is simply not your area of specialization.
Interior designers, however, not only do specialize in this stuff, living, eating, sleeping, and breathing it for decades on end, but we also get the design finished down to the last detail before putting it out to bid so that you can compare bids fairly. We know every detail that has to be planned.
We also maintain solid working relationships with usually several top flight general contractors – and most importantly, those are ongoing relationships. This breeds loyalty as it does in any field in which collaboration and partnership are part of getting the job done successfully.
We do know how to assess who is good and who is not, and how to level the playing field in the world of obtaining bids. We have backups we can call in quickly if an insurmountable problem does arise with one contractor during a job, and that does happen sometimes, even with the best of them and the best-planned projects. We know which contractors are best for which types of job, and only refer ones who we know are definitely committed to excellence and customer satisfaction.
We are able to realize economies in working with a contractor that you can’t because of the working relationship one develops when doing multiple projects together, and because of having already-shared common professional ground and knowledge. When you work with someone regularly, and you share a professional knowledge base, you learn each others’ strengths and weaknesses, how they think, etc., and that ends up saving time, which saves you the client money – oftentimes a lot of money.
These ongoing working relationships also help us during the design process. We can get feedback from the contractor about ways to do things that might save money well before the design is finalized and the work started. The most successful projects that involve construction actually start off with the designer and contractor collaborating right from the beginning. It is always, always, always cheaper for you-the-client to change a design on paper before starting construction (or purchasing) than once things are underway.
But most importantly in some ways, and a big part of why these relationships matter to you the client, is that contractor knows that if he doesn’t get the job done right and take good care of the designer’s client, and absolutely get that work done in time for her to put her house back together for holiday visitors if that’s what is promised, the designer is simply not likely to call on him again for her next job.
And the designer will have a next job for him, while you simply probably won’t.
Which means, practically speaking, that he’ll take her call even if he might not take yours. He’ll be more likely pull guys off another job to finish yours if necessary where he might not without the designer being part of the equation. He’ll simply take better care of you in every way since he’s probably a better businessperson to start with than the one you might find on your own, but also because he definitely wants to keep that designer happy so she will bring him her next project.
A good designer and contractor combination will also be able to tell you up front if the job can be done in the time frame you have in mind or if you’re dreaming and need to come back into the land of reality – before you even tear your house apart and start, or break ground on a new one.
And a good designer will know to warn you about things a contractor might not – like how you need to plan on a certain level of cost and time overruns, and build them into your plans and budget.
These overruns do still happen even with the best design and best contractors, because there are many things that can crop up in the course of even the best-planned project that no one on earth could ever foresee, but you simply minimize the chances of them (and the extent), and certainly minimize the likelihood of the most predictable problems cropping up when you work with an experienced designer who already has established trade relationships.
If you’re ready to get going on that remodel or new house that you’ve been thinking about for so long, and want to make creating your dream home or room as easy on yourself as possible, saving yourself both time, money, and aggravation with one stop shopping, freeing you up to take care of other more important things in your life even while your project progresses, please contact me by clicking on the “Contact” tab above. I look forward to working with you!
Every so often, a piece of furniture comes along that can only be described as a work of art, or jewelry for the home. These beautiful nesting tables are a prime example of this breed of goods – and vastly prettier in person than the images show. The gleam of the highly polished metal base contrasts with the sparkle of the hammered finish of the tabletops in these distinctly contemporary pieces, while the detailing of the bases recalls more traditional design – crenellated castles, anyone?
The weight lets you know you are truly dealing with a quality piece, as does the sheer perfection of the finish and attention to detail. The finishes are like silk.
This is a magnificent melding of form and function in a pair of petite tables that will be at home almost anywhere.
Made of bronze, these nesting tables are available in a variety of polished and patina finishes (11 in all), including the three shown here.
Size: 11.5″ square x 20″ high
Please contact me for pricing if interested in adding these jewels to your own home.