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What do you all think of vendors who want you to pay for their product catalogues and specification binders?

I can see charging the general public, who will likely only order one or two pieces in their entire lifetimes, but it’s foolish, in my opinion, to charge interior designers, since we are likely to use your line over and over again. I simply won’t pay for catalogues, no matter how much I like the line. There are zillions of excellent products out there; I can easily find something else.

Product catalogues are part of a company’s marketing materials, and thus, the production of them and costs of sending them out should be part of their marketing budget, one of the many costs of doing business that every company has that can’t be billed to anyone. The product lines with which I work are high end, so the manufacturers ought to be able to cover those expenses for product binders. It’s certainly fair game to ask for a resale number first, if they want, but for heaven’s sake, we designers need the product information handy if they want us to specify their goods, especially if they are not represented anywhere locally. They make money from us – if they give us the means to do buy from them and make it easy. I will never understand why some of these companies make it so hard for us to sell their stuff.

Needless to say, I’m not going to name company names here – but I’m looking for lines to replace these with who want my business enough to actually make it easy for me to give it to them.

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I just read a great article by Ted Mininni on the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog entitled “Selling Comfort During Tough Times” at http://www.mpdailyfix.com/2008/12/selling_comfort_during_tough_t.html. He spoke of marketing campaigns that are softening their messages to attempt to inspire hope, and to “…be able to connect home and values like safety, security, warmth and love at home”.

Arundel Arms Hotel, from Telegraph.co.uk

Arundel Arms Hotel, from Telegraph.co.uk

This obviously ties in closely with what we do as interior designers. As residential designers in particular, what we offer is to create environments that envelope our clients, and help them feel safe, secure, warm, and yes, at home – comfortable and snug as a bug in a rug, insulated from the travails around us everywhere else, if only for a few hours each day. Our homes are always our sanctuaries, but this is even more important in difficult times, when the rest of the world around us is in chaos. We all need a safe haven.

When we think of a “cozy” or “comfortable” home environment, that image often includes elements such as a crackling fire and soft lighting. In times of duress, like now, we also tend towards materials that envelope and comfort us, and create a nest-like feeling and sense of permanence and stability, such as mohair, wool, velvets, rich, dark woods, plump down-filled cushions on deep sofas and chairs, lots of pillows, and the like. Colors tend towards the dark and earthy – browns, deep reds, woody greens, etc., and often carry lyrical names such as “tomato” and “spruce”, which in turn further that sense of homeyness and literally help ground us.

Despite the economy, perhaps now more than ever is the time to invest in your home to whatever extent you are able, to create a safe haven that will help buffet you from the storms around us all, or to freshen up a tired design that will help inspire hope while still bringing that sense of comfort. When your environment is harmonious and supportive, fits your lifestyle, and reflects your personality, you will feel safer and happier, no matter what else is going on in the world. Reupholster your sofa, bring in a new piece of art, rearrange the furniture, repaint (even just one wall), install a new kitchen so you can better entertain at home, renovate the whole place from top to bottom – whatever. Candles are a great way to add light, atmosphere, and even scent at minimal expense, and also evoke a strong sense of comfort.

Buy the very best quality you can afford, things that you find both beautiful and useful, and revel every day in the simple pleasures of running your hands over luxuriant materials, snuggling up in a comfortable and inviting chair with a book beside the fire, thrilling to the sight of that beautiful painting you couldn’t wait to bring home and hang, savoring the taste and love of home-cooked food and the joys of being surrounded in your own home by people you care about, or even just home alone with your cat or dog. Make every day a vacation – and at much less expense – by filling your own home with the comforts and pampering delights you expect in the finest hotels.

Whatever you do, just do something to help make your home even more inviting and welcoming than it already is, to both you and your friends and family – and that will also help remind you that eventually, these times will pass – but your home and the pleasure you can take in it will endure.

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