Freedom of choice is technically a good thing, especially in the design and décor industry where we need the ability to choose our own styles so that our projects will be unique. If every decorator chose from the same few items chances are our clients would be able to do without us all together. The question I’m pondering is: When does that freedom of choice become bonding and restricting?
What am I talking about? Picture this scenario: Your client hires you to remodel his kitchen. He knows he wants white cabinetry but as to what door style, finish, material- no idea. So you come over with samples of raised panel, flat panel, wenge, European style, period style, bamboo, reclaimed wood and solid wood. Does he want stock cabinets or is he willing to spend more on custom? Does he prefer framed or frameless? The choices are exhausting, endless and in general a pain in the neck. Once in a while you’ll get a great client who can sort through the 100’s of different options and combination’s in an hour, make a decision and stick to it. But more often than not your client will get a headache and ask you to come back another day when he can think more clearly.
And the cabinets are just the starting point. Soon you will be making decisions about hardware, flooring, backsplash, appliances, paint, lighting and the list goes on. At the rate you and your client are proceeding it may take years for this kitchen to be completed and by that point it will already be out of style.
So we are back to the original question- is the choice thing going for us or not?
As a decorator it’s your responsibility to be on top of every new style, follow every trend, know what’s new in the industry and be fluent in it all. Spend time every week attending shows, reading forums, blogs and perusing the internet so that you stay current. Know the terminology, options, what works and what doesn’t. The key though, and this is very important, is to keep this information to yourself and not share it with your client.
Before beginning on any new project take the time to get to know your client. Know what’s important to him in his home, the styles he appreciates, in which areas he wants to spend more money, etc. In the long run this will save you tons of time and aggravation and make the experience so much more enjoyable for both of you. If you see that your client is more into the contemporary look you can skip the period style cabinets, ornate hardware and rich molding altogether. You will be able to give him “targeted” options which will help the elimination process and keep the decision making so much simpler.
Yes these choices are what keep our industry interesting and help each of us create our own personal niche, but keep in mind that you were hired you for a reason. I believe that we so over-complicate the decision process for our clients we terrify and confuse them. In a fascinating NY Times article titled “Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze” author Alena Tugend quotes research scientist Benjamin Sciebehenne as saying: “it is not clear that more choices give you more freedom. It could decrease our freedom if we spend so much time trying to make choices”. In conclusion: Simplify the choices for your client and the end result will be so much better.