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Archive for the ‘Working With a Designer’ Category

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 😉

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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.

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House in Hawaii, The Wiseman Group and architect Ricardo Legoretta
photo – Matthew Millman

I was just reading an article in Fast Company about why generalizing is often better than specializing in the job market, despite the push we’ve seen for decades to specialize, and it got me thinking of one of my pet peeves in the interior design world.

Today, most business consultants who work with interior designers are advising us to specialize for marketing reasons, often in a particular style or look, or targeting a particular demographic, which I think is a huge mistake.  Clients also often look for designers who do the particular style they want to the exclusion of everything else, thereby likely ruling out a tremendous number of other highly competent designers who might actually do an even better job for them.

Oftentimes designers who only work in one style are basically repeating what they themselves prefer, which is fine if that’s what you really want, but if you want a really creative, and truly customized design, you want someone who has the ability to bring as broad a set of resources and skills to the table as possible – and the interest in doing so.  It takes a little more work to keep up on a wider range of resources, to be sure, and not all designers really want to be bothered.

Apartment on Nob Hill, The Wiseman Group
photo – Tim Street-Porter

Speaking from experience as someone who has worked for and learned a great deal from a very gifted designer who nevertheless tends to stick to a similar aesthetic for all projects, it can also get really boring to a creative mind that gets fired up by a range of options and the process of really digging in and solving the specific problems each individual client has in a unique way, not applying the same solution to them all.  Working in aesthetics other than those towards which one is personally inclined is a key way to keep the creative fires stoked, in what is fundamentally a creative discipline, and to keep that saw sharp.

The thing is, the fundamentals of the interior design, and the design process itself, are largely the same regardless of style, and a good designer who wants to create truly personalized solutions will deliberately cultivate the ability to work comfortably in a wide range of aesthetics.

The Wiseman Group
photo – Matthew Millman

What really matters most is the ability to truly listen to the client, and then to translate the client’s desires into tangible reality, and that entails a skill set that is completely independent of the style or color scheme selected.  Scale is scale, balance is balance, etc., whether you are dealing with a modern building or a traditional one, and if someone is really good with color, they should be able to produce a wonderful color scheme in any hue in the rainbow.

Anyone can learn to repeat the same basic thing over and over again, but a big part of the point of hiring an interior designer is to have a customized solution that is unique to you and your own particular needs and style, and of course the architectural realities of your own home or office.

The reality is that not every designer can actually do it – or wants to be bothered.

Seeing projects that all look similar in someone’s portfolio raises the question about how versatile that designer really is.  When you see a range of project styles that are all well done, you know you’re dealing with someone who has the ability to really customize as needed, and likely has a wider range of resources to bring to bear on the project as well.  It takes more work to keep up on that range, but that also means the designer is clearly exposing herself to a wide range of options on a regular and ongoing basis – which can only mean good things for clients.

One of the world’s greatest designers, the Paul Vincent Wiseman of The Wiseman Group, who has long been one of my most revered design heroes, regularly demonstrates his ability to work brilliantly in virtually any style, as the contrasting photos above of his work attest.  The first two projects shown, both frequently published and among my favorites of his work, could not be more different – the first, an apartment in an historic landmark building on top of San Francisco’s Nob Hill; the second, a vacation home in Hawaii built by one of the foremost modernist architects of our time.  The third, equally distinct from the first two, is an estate in the Napa Valley with a 20th century design aesthetic with midcentury touches in a house built in a somewhat Spanish colonial style.

This is really what it means to be a great designer, in my opinion.  You know just by looking at the range of his projects that Wiseman has both listened to and actually heard what his clients have said they wanted – and then delivered.  Many of his clients have done multiple projects with him that span a wide range of styles, and he has to be able to handle that range, or frankly, he’d lose those clients to someone else when they want a different aesthetic in a new home.  You know without asking that he could do anything asked of him, even if he hasn’t shown an example of that style or project type in his portfolio.  Whether you like these particular examples or not, and regardless of your preference for these color schemes or others, these projects share the qualities of being perfectly scaled and designed for their respective spaces and environments, and every detail contributes harmoniously to the whole.

When you get into things like green design, aging-in-place/accessible/universal design, commercial design, or design for special functions like doctors’ offices or jails, then you do indeed get into a greater need for specialization and often additional training beyond that which is usually taught in design school.   When dealing with nonresidential environments, building codes tend to play a larger role than they do in private homes, and the more specialized the function of the space, the more specialized the code and other technical issues.

Aging-in-place, etc. is becoming the big buzz word these days, and there is clearly growing demand, but I’ve encountered very few designers who have actually got the necessary training, or who otherwise show they’ve learned what they actually need to know to work with this specialized and growing market effectively, dealing with both the architectural requirements down to the selection of fabrics, colors, and furniture styles that are best for this market or subsets of it.  With a few exceptions, most I’ve seen only understand part of the requirements.  Strangely, most people who are Certified Aging in Place Specialists (a designation I hold, as one of only about four such certified interior designers in Northern CA) aren’t even designers, and while they could certain tell you where to put grab bars and how to build a ramp, and maybe do the work to install them, many couldn’t design their way out of a paper bag and integrate accessibility features into an overall beautiful aesthetic that doesn’t scream “institution” or “add-on” at you because they are simply not trained as designers.

For the vast majority of interior designers, however, and certainly within residential design or commercial design as broad overall categories, the ability to generalize and work in a wider range of styles is truly an asset, and the mark of a really proficient creative person – and one who is truly more interested in giving clients what they want than imposing a particular style upon them. Whether your project is a large estate or a single small room, wouldn’t you really rather know that this is your designer’s honest focus?

It is, of course, essential that your designer fully understand the code issues that are involved in whatever type of project you have, but at the end of the day, the way most people interface with their space demands the ability to produce the creative vision, and to make the technical matters disappear and to function seamlessly behind the scenes, supporting the overall desired function and aesthetic of the space.

If the designer is properly conversant with residential codes, she will be able to deal with them whether it’s a modern building or an older one, and the same for the commercial designer int he world of office buildings.  Some designers know both, but not all.  Don’t assume; ask what types of projects they have done and/or are trained to do.  Just because there isn’t an example in her portfolio of exactly the type of space your project entails doesn’t mean she isn’t trained to handle it and can’t still do an excellent job.  (Beware if the designer doesn’t know that there are huge code differences, however!  And that they may need to use different contractors for different job types.)

It takes staying on top of continuing education whether it is required for local certification or not to maintain one’s knowledge of the technical side of things (and doing that is vastly more important in the end than any alphabet soup of professional designations a designer may or may not choose to obtain – and almost all of them are entirely optional and not required in any way by the vast majority of states and countries), but it is critically important not to forget the creative side of things, either, and to select a designer who shows she has the ability to do what a range of work, and to think outside the box.

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Louis Tenenbaum has written a very nice article  about the basic strategy for aging in place remodeling, discussing the important considerations.  I wrote a short response on his blog, then decided to take a more comprehensive look here on my own.

In addition to the main points inherent specifically with aging in place, Louis has hit on a couple of things I rarely see spoken about, namely the challenges inherent in figuring out what a client wants and needs, as well as their aesthetic preferences, and translating it all into something workable – and the design team’s role in helping the client envision what is coming from a medical point of view.

One thing that really surprises me is how seldom anyone involved in universal design and aging in place ever thinks to include an interior designer on the team.  Most interior designers really have no idea what they are doing with respect to aging in place, etc., but all really good ones certainly know how to figure out a client’s aesthetics at minimum and translate them – and how to work with a team of architect, contractor, and other consultants to create a comprehensive whole.

A few undertake additional training to learn about this specialized area of design, but exceedingly few go the extra mile to obtain the Certified Aging in Place Specialist credential that verifies the designer really understands the needs of this population.

What good interior designers in general do, however (even those without such specialized training), perhaps more than any other party to the design team, is translate all of the needs and desires to a workable daily interface that also meets all of the client’s aesthetic requirements, both interfacing with the structure itself, and in selecting the most appropriate finishes and furnishings, and all other interior elements.  The best designers know how to get past what is not said or is poorly articulated to ferret out the real needs and desires and to translate it all into what is actually wanted and needed, both functionally and aesthetically.

A good interior designer adds far more value to this whole undertaking than most people have a clue about, both in this arena and in working with any other kind of client as well.

(more…)

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For designers and clients alike.

Clients, if you’ve ever wondered why designers sometimes tell you they can’t tell you what they charge when you ask that early on, this is at least part of the answer.  You don’t want a one-size-fits-all answer anyways.  The designer you’re thinking of hiring absolutely must spend enough time getting to know you and what your needs, wishes, budget, etc. are to be able to give you a fully informed answer.  Most designers are willing to tailor a plan to meet your needs and budget, so don’t shop just on price.  The designer/client relationship is a very intimate and complex one that offers tremendous value, and that can’t be easily reduced to a simple, pat answer to “How much do you charge?”, just as Fabienne explains below.
-Wendy

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NEVER Answer The ONE Question Prospects Always Ask (If You Want Clients)

One of the best things to do to quickly establish credibility, get massive exposure, and attract new clients, is speaking. Hands down. Whether you organize your own seminars on a regular basis to continually fill the pipeline (the way I did for years), or get booked for talks to “pre-formed” groups like associations, it works like a charm?provided you give very good info.

If you deliver the talk properly, there is always a group of people at the end of your talk who rush up to the podium to chat with you. Some will tell you how much they enjoyed the talk, some will be e-zine readers who have wanted to meet you for years, some will want free advice or to “pick your brain.” But, there is one question you will almost always get and it comes in two parts. The first part is the good part; “I am interested in working with you.” The second one is the tricky part; “What do you charge?”

There is ONE fundamental problem with answering the second part of that question. If you answer it right there on the spot, you will most always lose that client on the spot. Here is why.

When making a purchasing decision, if they are only focused on price, there is not any room for VALUE or RESULTS. And I believe people buy in three ways: by emotion, by results, and by value (what they are paying for what they are getting). If you do not get the value part right, you might as well not even bother. They will always go into sticker shock.

The solution? Do not give them your rates on the spot. Instead, invite them for a conversation to be held at a later date where you can fully describe the value they will be getting from working with you. I call mine the “get-acquainted session,” you may call yours a free-consultation, whatever. The important thing is that is where the magic happens. That is where you can find out more about them, get to the root of their problems, describe solutions, and they sell themselves into your services, based on value.

Now, by the way, this situation does not just happen at the end of a speaking gig. If you have got a kick-butt elevator speech that makes them say, “Wow, that is exactly what I need, I want to work with you,” then you will also get the question at networking events, at the cocktail hour of your friend’s wedding, or simply when someone contacts you by email or phone. The answer is always the same though. Invite them for a get-acquainted session.

Your Assignment:

Never give your rates cold. You will almost always lose the sale right there on the spot. Instead, invite them for a conversation. Here is what I recommend that my clients say to their own prospects:

“I actually offer several different programs, depending on how quickly you want to get results, and of course, on your budget level. What I usually recommend is that we set up a get-acquainted session. Not only do you want to find out more about me, my programs, etc., but I want to find out more about you and your situation to see if you are going to be the right fit for my programs as well. Shall we set that up?”

Done. The prospect almost always lets out a sigh of relief (it is almost as though they did not REALLY want your rates after all) and then you are all set. Now, you are ready to close the sale. Easy.

Now, if closing the sale 97-98% of the time is not a reality for you yet, then we have got to change that ASAP. My own formula, step-by-step process AND closing the sale script is all laid out and available to you, in a turnkey, easy to implement one foot in front of the other process. The Client Attraction Home Study System includes everything you need to know to fill your practice quickly and close the sale consistently; no matter how long you have been in business. All the tools, scripts, templates, and examples are handed to you on a silver platter. So, you do step one of the system, and when you are done with that, you move on to step two, and so on. So easy. That is why my customers have gotten such great results from it. You can get yours at www.TheClientAttractionSystem.com.

© 2010 Client Attraction LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Want to use this article on your website or your own ezine?
No problem! But here is what you MUST include:Fabienne Fredrickson, The Client Attraction Mentor, is founder of the Client Attraction System , the proven step-by-step program that shows you exactly how to attract more clients, in record time…guaranteed. To get your F.R.E.E. Audio CD by mail and receive her weekly marketing & success mindset articles on attracting more high-paying clients and dramatically increasing your income, visit www.ClientAttraction.com.

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Lately I’ve been pondering how to communicate the value of what professional interior designers bring to a design project that no one else can, and like many other designers, coming up a bit short on a good explanation, although it’s something we designers certainly all know intuitively.  Conveying that to the public is a different matter, however.  The following articles explain it better than any I’ve seen elsewhere.  Stanley Abercrombie is one of the most influential design writers of our time, for many years the editor of Interior Design magazine, one of the industry’s most important professional journals.  In a profession sadly lacking in philosphical underpinnings such as architecture has, he’s also written one of the most thoughtful (and indeed only) books on the subject with the appropriate title of  A Philosophy of Interior Design.

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The value of interior design, 1994. (interior design as an artform) (Editorial)

Article from:Interior Design Article date:January 1, 1994 Author: Abercrombie, Stanley

Please don’t think I plan to make a habit of this, but just this once I want to take more than the usual space for an editorial statement. On this page in October, comments titled “It’s the Design” urged designers to value–and to charge for–their design expertise. Some of you agreed with my comments (for example, see Marvin Affrime’s letter in our forum section); some of you didn’t agree; and the following expansion of those thoughts will also, inevitably, be controversial. That’s fine. But I feel passionately about the danger of something important being lost if designers continue disguising their profession as just another business.

Interior design is a business, we recognize, and a demanding one; the forum instituted exactly two years ago and dedicated solely to business and professional news and opinion, demonstrates that recognition. But, for most of us, the business aspect of interior design is not its chief attraction. What drew most designers to their profession is the fact that interior design is an art.

It is not a fine art, but an applied art. It cannot luxuriate in its independence as can painting and sculpture, forming itself without regard to any but aesthetic demands. It is, instead, a hardworking art, with serious and sometimes mundane problems to solve. And just as there are a great many buildings that never achieve the status of architecture, there are a great many interiors that never achieve the level of art. But there are many that do, and, at their best, interior designers are artists. Although the artistic element is difficult to separate from interior design’s more practical elements, it must not be denied that it often exists and can add an important extra value to our work. Granted, a designer who idealistically focuses solely on art may have trouble finding any opportunity to practice the art; still, it seems undeniable that in today’s difficult economy, the art of interior design is undervalued. Talking recently with the impressively articulate principal of one of our Giant firms, I was told that the firm’s emphasis now, in its efforts to get new work, is on economic benefits for clients. Similarly, a fine designer in California told me a couple of months ago that he never mentions appearance or design in making a presentation these days, but that instead he promises to produce a more efficient plan than his competitors. And one firm that used to call itself “architects” is emphasizing its technological savvy by now calling itself “cybertects.” If the work of these firms sometimes transcends problem solving and becomes art, they’re certainly not bragging about it. One likely reason is that in interior design, the element of art is inseparable from more practical elements.

It arises, in fact, from the thoughtful accommodation of very practical needs, not from any impulse or motive that is extraneous to such accommodation. As architect W. R. Lethaby wrote in Form and Civilization, “Art is not a special sauce applied to ordinary cooking; it is the cooking itself if it is good.”

Another reason for ignoring the element of art in interior design is that the value of art is notoriously difficult to measure. The essence of art is intangible. It cannot be quantified as a number of square feet or pounds or yards; consequently, it is difficult to value in terms of dollars. It is true that the number of hours taken to achieve a work of art can be recorded, but such records rarely include the value of previous experience. Whistler, accused of excessive pricing for one of his paintings, was asked, “For two days’ labor, you ask two hundred guineas?” He replied, “No, I ask it for the knowledge of a lifetime.” Which reminds us that, if it is both an art and a business, interior design is also a craft.

Technique and experience count a lot in this field, just as they do in the finest of fine arts. Whistler had more than a painter’s vision; he also had the technical expertise to effectively manifest that vision. Such expertise is not achieved by the novice or the housewife-with-flair or the guy-who-can-get-you-a-good-deal. It is achieved through the increasingly rigorous education that our profession requires and through the subsequent practical application of that education. Like the surgeon or lawyer, the interior designer must be both educated and practiced. Like them, the designer deserves appropriate compensation.

But Whistler’s vision was his main asset. Beyond skill and competence, there remains the special but hard-to-measure value-added element of art, and only the designer’s education, practice and vision can combine to produce that element. The designer does more than plan; the designer designs [emphasis added]. I believe it is the difficulty of determining appropriate compensation that has led to attempts by many interior designers to measure their art in inappropriate ways. Sometimes, by ignoring their art altogether, they underestimate their own value; at other times, by confusing their art with the more mundane functions of their practice from which their art arises, they overestimate that art. Art, for example, does not necessarily solve social problems.

I do not mean that interior design cannot address and sometimes solve such problems; in some cases, it must do so. But the aspect of interior design that is aesthetic does not solve them; it does something quite different.

In the early 1950s, designer George Nelson, speaking to the American Institute of Architects, expressed it this way: “…nothing is less consequential in the creation of a work of art than good intentions.”

And a couple of years later, lecturing in Vienna, Alvar Aalto made a similar point: “Form is a mystery,” he said, “which eludes definition but makes us feel good in a way quite unlike social aid.” [emphasis mine]

If art is amoral, then, and “quite unlike social aid,” what is it that art can do for us? How is it that it “makes us feel good?”

Art heightens the quality of our lives. Walter Pater, in the last paragraph of The Renaissance, his book of just more than a century ago, observed that “Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing, except the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake.” This view has been criticized as proposing “art for art’s sake,” but, at least in this passage, Pater is clearly proposing art for the sake of the quality of our lives and of our clients’ lives. It is this heightened quality that interior designers as artists can offer and that no one in related fields–not space planners, nor realtors, nor developers, nor construction cost analysts, nor facility managers–can. These people perform useful functions; interior designers can perform them too; but interior designers can bring something more to a project. It is this heightened quality, this civilizing of our living places and working places, this art that designers not only must continue to offer but also, I believe, must emphasize. Despite the difficulties in isolating, measuring and evaluating the artistic element of interior design, that element must be recognized [emphasis mine], and even be bragged about, for it cannot be appreciated and will not be properly rewarded unless it is recognized. A question designers should ask their clients and their potential clients to ask themselves is this: What are you going to be seeing in your new space? Assuming that your newly planned environment is going to be efficient, well organized and supportive of increased productivity, is it also going to be interesting, uplifting, enriching–or even bearable–to look at and to be in day after day, year after year?

Art is worth paying for because, in these days of social discontent and random violence, in these days of homelessness, drugs, guns and plaque, when our urban environments are becoming increasingly brutalized, we increasingly need both physical and mental refuge from that brutalization. We need the solace of interiors that are not only intelligently functional but also intelligently artful. In these days more than ever, the art of interior design is worth paying for, because a heightened quality of life is worth paying for.

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It’s the design. (design profession)

Article from:Interior Design Article date: October 1, 1993

Author: Abercrombie, Stanley

It is commonplace these days to hear architects and interior designers describe job meetings at which they are surrounded by various representatives of the client’s interests: lawyers, developers, real estate brokers, strategic planners, programmers, construction managers, project managers, facility managers. Every one of this new crop of experts demands and gets reasonable time for performing a function; every one demands and gets reasonable pay for doing it. Only the designer is expected to turn out overnight miracles, and it naturally follows that work done quickly comes cheap.

Today’s designer, it seems to this former designer, will not be paid what he’s worth without conveying a clear idea of that worth, not by competing with all those lawyers, brokers and managers, but by proudly providing the services the designer alone can provide; not by presenting the profession in some new guise but in the old and honest way; not by pretending to do work that necessarily saves the client money; but by doing work that is worth the client’s money. That client must somehow, gently, tactfully, but firmly be made aware that:

1. The primary function of a designer is to provide design (and that design includes not just decorating but an interrelated network of problem solving) [emphasis added].

2. Good design requires the time and effort of highly educated professionals.

3. Such time and effort deserve fair compensation.

Not every prospective client really needs design services, perhaps, but those who do should be prepared to pay for them. The current abhorrent practice of clients demanding severe cuts in designers’ fees cannot be expected to end until those clients are reminded of what those fees are purchasing. In these economically troubled times, the design profession does not need to be reshaped; it needs to be reasserted.

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Thanks to Vicente Wolf for raising the issue of why designers ourselves tend to undervalue what we do.

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(Please note:  This video may not run smoothly for some reason; you may have to restart it several times where it leaves off in order to view the whole thing, but make sure you watch it all, including the testing processes.)

Glass tables can be wonderful additions to many rooms in the house, and are particularly popular as coffee tables, end tables, and dining tables. They are stylish, help small rooms look larger, and can help reflect light that will help brighten any space.

But they do have one major downside, that people should be aware of, and that is that they can also provide a significant hazard for everyone in the house, but particularly for children and the elderly. Sharp edges can cause cuts and bruises when people bump into them, and particularly for the elderly, whose vision is not what it was when they are younger, they can just be more difficult to see, and thus harder to avoid bumping into. As we age, our skin gets thinner, so elderly skin is more likely to tear easily on a squared edge, too, than on one that is more rounded. Much is already made of these particular issues in aging-in-place and universal design circles.

However – and even more importantly – glass tables of all sizes and designs can also shatter, especially if someone falls on them, and severe injuries and even death may result, as the above video shows.

Even young, able-bodied adults are not immune from this risk, as both this video describes and the one blow shows graphically.

Although this second video starts out humorously, and looking like a commercial or a joke, the injuries the woman shown has likely sustained could well threaten her life, as well as disfigure her forever. The chances that the glass may penetrate her abdomen or chest, or sever a carotid artery or femoral artery (among other possibilities) are high, any of which injuries could cause her to bleed to death in a matter of minutes. She may well have also sustained a severe neck and/or back injury from this fall, fractures, and could need reconstructive plastic surgery to repair her face. This sort of trip and fall is not at all an unlikely occurrence in many homes, either, particularly as anyone who has ever had children or pets will attest.

Children are also particularly susceptible to such injuries, when they run around and jump on the furniture. Consumer Reports and the Providence Journal reported on one such tragic case of an 11 year old dying from a severe puncture wound to her leg that caused her to bleed to death.

According to Consumer Reports, “Each year an estimated 20,000 people, most of them children, are treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained from glass furniture. In an average year, three children die”.

Pets can also cause the same kind of damage to glass furniture, and sustain the same kinds of injuries, especially if they are large and/or rowdy.

So, does this mean you should get rid of all glass tables, or never use them?

No, it just means you have to do a little homework when first buying them, and be sure that the glass is tempered/safety glass, not the more typical annealed glass used in most furniture.

Tempered glass (also known as safety glass), which is what your car windows, shower doors, and storm doors are made of, shatters into many small pebble-like pieces when it breaks, none of which are likely to cause life-threatening injuries, most of which have very few sharp edges. Annealed glass, however (which is what most home windows are made of, and almost all glass furniture parts), breaks into slabs and slices of glass of varying sizes, some quite large, with edges that are as sharp as knives, and which will quickly and easily penetrate all soft tissue, and even bone, if the force applied is sufficient. The first video above shows the difference graphically in a testing situation.

Because there are no safety standards or codes that apply to the type of glass used in tables yet (although they are now under development), it’s up to you the consumer (or your designer) to ensure that safety glass is used or specified, in order to ensure maximum safety, especially in areas of the home that have a lot of traffic, although it’s best to ensure the use of safety glass wherever glass is used in furniture in the home.

Some tables are made entirely of glass, and it may not be possible to get them in tempered glass, or they may be made in a way that makes replacing the glass portions impractical or impossible, so you will then have to decide what’s most important to you, taking into consideration where the piece will live, who will use it, the amount of traffic that will pass near it, etc.

Some manufacturers already use tempered glass as a matter of course, but far from all, so you will have to ask before you buy. If it’s just a glass top or insert, and you cannot custom order the piece with tempered glass (or you already have the piece), you can always have a replacement made of tempered glass yourself by a local glass shop. You could also have a replacement top fabricated from another material, including wood or stone, if that works with the piece and your space, and the look appeals to you, but then you will lose the visual appeal and other qualities of the glass, if that’s what you really want.

It’s also a good idea to ensure that everyone in your home and to whom you entrust the care of your children 0r elderly relatives, including babysitters and other caretakers, is trained in basic first aid, just on general principles. I don’t know enough about the case in Rhode Island, but depending upon the location of the puncture wound that bled uncontrollably as reported, it’s very possible that prompt first aid including direct pressure on the wound, arterial pressure, or even a tourniquet if necessary and possible based on the location of the wound, may have saved her life.

So, don’t let this post scare you out of using glass tables, because they are wonderful in the right settings, and totally appropriate. Just take reasonable precautions to ensure safety when selecting them – and enjoy your furniture for years to come.

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Canned Foods (Consumer Reports)

Image courtesy of Consumer Reports

Almost everyone knows by now that many of the refillable water bottles we love are lined with an epoxy-based material that contains carcinogenic chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA). Public outcry has resulted in several manufacturers now offering bottles with alternative, non-epoxy-based linings.

What is not quite so well known, however, is that the linings of most food and beverage cans are also this same type of epoxy resin that also contain BPA. This is the chemical that is responsible for the vastly longer shelf lives of canned foods in this day and age, which is why it’s become so ubiquitous.

Consumer Reports recently tested a variety of canned foods for its presence, and found that even organic foods, and those made by manufacturers who make a concerted effort to avoid the epoxy resins still have significant levels of BPA in the food samples tested. Only one manufacturer, Eden, has so far managed to find a source of cans that was even willing to address the problem and attempt to make cans without BPA.

Despite being packed in cans made by the Ball Corp. with the oleo-based material previously known as “corn enamel”, which was common in food can linings prior to the 60s, testing still found measurable levels of BPA in Eden’s foods (although vastly below those found in other brands), suggesting that there may be multiple sources of exposure to the chemical in the food chain, not just in the cans.

You can read the rest of the whole article about this, and learn about the FDA’s new assessments of what a safe level of BPA exposure may be on the Consumer Reports blog.

So should you clean out your kitchen cabinets, throw away all of your canned foods, and never buy any more? In the ideal world, perhaps yes, but we all know that we don’t live in one. BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals in the world, though, even found in dust and water samples from all over the world, so at this point, it’s completely unavoidable in the environment, and it would be a reasonable assumption that this is one of the additional sources Consumer Reports speculates about. Eliminating BPA from food can linings may help, but until that happens, you can at least dramatically decrease your exposure to it by avoiding canned food wherever possible.

So what does this have to do with interior design?

Kitchen Storage

Kristi Stratton, CountryLiving.com

Well, clearly kitchens are where food is stored and prepared, and most are now designed with as much storage space as possible for both housewares and packaged foods. You may find, however, that as you reduce your reliance on canned goods and other processed foods, that you may need different types of storage, and it may need to be configured somewhat differently. Many things can be packaged in glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic or cans, but both glass and ceramics tend to be a lot heavier and bulkier than cans and plastic containers, and of course will break if dropped, so you’ll need to pay careful attention to how your storage is laid out so that they are easily – and safely – accessible. Increased refrigeration space may be required as well, in order to accomm0date a wider range of fresh produce and other foods.

It may be that you won’t actually even need as much space, though, because the shorter shelf lives of fresh foods and those that come in jars instead of cans means you’ll probably be shopping more often, but for smaller quantities. Or perhaps you’ll start buying in bulk and doing your own canning and preserving.

Well Stocked Pantry with Preserved Foods

Library of Congress via TheSustainableKitchen.com

You’ll be chopping up more things, so ensuring adequate preparation space that suits your needs and ideally allows you to work while seated as well as standing will be useful.

You may need or want additional cooktop burners or additional and innovative cooking sources like the marvelous new steam or combination steam/convection ovens. Steaming is one of the best possible ways to prepare food, locking in both nutrients and moisture, and these ovens make it so incredibly convenient that you wouldn’t believe it.

Miele Steam Oven

Miele Steam Oven

And because it’s healthier for both you and the environment, avoiding canned foods and learning to make your own fresh, more healthful meals from scratch, you’ll also be being much more green. True sustainable design doesn’t end with the cabinets and other finishes used; it translates through to how the space is used, how waste is removed, and much, much more.

So, if you’re designing a new kitchen, you’ll need to take these changing food preparation habits into account, and communicate your desires to your designer, so that the space can be optimized for food preparation patterns that are less common today than they used to be, and with which you yourself may not yet be as familiar with the requirements of and ways to optimize.

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