May 13, 2014:

The Business of Being Creative

I remember talking with my best friend once about her artistic daughter and the possibility of her interning with me at some point. My best friend wanted her creative-minded child to see that being an artist or a creative didn't have to mean starving and that a business could be forged. I like the word forge - it implies sweaty and hard work and that's what it does take. I think that I've shown the glimmers of how this transpires in my world. Many just see (whether by choice or by their inability to see the hard work that goes in) all the pretty.  People often think that designers just sit in their office and make sample/mood boards that they then blog and instagram. Occasionally, I can stop and persuade people to look beyond that curtain and understand the thought process that goes into these selections.

Now let's get something straight - I am VERY much against the concept that is offered by many including my hostile mail man - the dreaded E-DESIGN.  To be clear, I'm very much bothered by this service being offered for a variety of reasons - of course I will elaborate. 

1) E-Design. If you are shopping online for someone or specifying online for someone this is not design. This is PERSONAL SHOPPING FOR INTERIORS. Interior design and decorating is very different than shopping. VERY. If you don't know the difference, perhaps you should do a little research - job shadow, go to school, work for someone who does it. You will quickly learn it's not about you and your taste/choices and about how someone lives. It's about creating a feeling. It's tricky to create this for someone whom you've never met or walked through their space. It's not that it can't be done but you need to be well versed in the former before you can serve it up on a computer and hit send.

2) What qualifies you to offer this service? What is your experience? Why should people pay you money for these services?  If you have trouble answering these questions or your answer is "I've done my own house, people say I have a good eye..."  Sigh. That's not enough of a reason.

3) If you are a trained designer and you are offering E-Design why are you discounting your design service exactly? Because you are working remotely? Not good - you've just pissed off your potential client base or you've sold yourself out and have to match your E-Design prices for your live clients. Either way, you will risk egg on your face. Discounting your services to get more work is NOT the way to build a design business. It's a great way to compromise your design principles and provide inferior service. Not something to build a career on.

4) I've seen people charge a pittance for these services and that just waters down people's expectations. Way to Ikea-ize your fees. People already think a dining chair shouldn't cost more than $200 and that a $300 dining chair is somehow fancy... economy of scale people. Think big picture. (No offence to Ikea - love shopping there but it's really skewed people's perceptions on what things should cost and even more importantly what they are willing to pay for something... less Disposable Design more INVESTMENTS)

5) You can still offer a remote design service at your regular price and it doesn't have to mean your client incurring travel expenses and the like to have you on site - but it also leaves the door open to this very possibility so... charge what you would charge your regular clients to perform a service but at a distance. Think out of the box. Get creative. There are lots of ways to make it happen in such away that you deliver a superior service and product and become an invaluable resource to your client.

6) These Design in a Box services. I think Windsor Smith does a great job of doing this but please understand that this service came about around the same time as the recession hit. Design Firms needed a way to keep cash flow going when people stopped their big $$$$ projects. Offering a flat fee design service on a room by room basis allowed design firms to stay afloat and kept clients in the pocket of working with a designer but on a scaled back more fiscally-minded basis. I've looked into her fees and she's charging four figures per room sometimes a bit more and more importantly, she specifies her own products. She isn't shopping in stores for people.... the money is going to funnel back to her firm if clients go ahead with any of the items. If not, they are able to go out and find things on their own that are similar to them but aren't what was specified - this is a VERY important detail which leads to...

7) E-Design that allows the client to go and shop it on their own leaves WAY TOO MUCH ROOM for interpretation. If you tell them where to buy it all - you've already undersold yourself and you're not even getting a commission from the stores. Hell there are more blogs out there with click thrus that get paid more than you are if you are engaging in this without compensation on the back end. But more importantly, once you hand this off to the client to interpret your NAME is at risk. If they say Meredith Heron designed this room for me and then went and found odds and sods that sort of look like what I specified for them in the design plan my name is still on it. Good GOD that is a risky proposition especially if you are trying to build a business.

8) When I charged $35/hr, $50/hr, $75/hr I had more referrals than I could keep up with. I wasn't charging enough. If you have more work than you know what to do with it - you aren't charging enough. If you keep doing E-design and are competing with bloggers who are offering the same service (many without any experience but their own home which doesn't count) you are going to get referral work to do more of the same. If you want to do whole houses, design kitchens and bathrooms (please have some sort of schooling or apprenticeship) then offering E-design will get in the way of that aspect of your business. I used to offer colour consultations. I kept getting referrals to do more colour consultations. People would happily pay my hourly fee for a few hours. It was a huge waste of my time. It rarely lead to more work. They saw me as a colour consultant.

9) Visual mood boards are pretty one dimensional even if you use a fancy 2-D board or some such thing. They lack soul. They are simply about putting stuff in a room. That is NOT design. Designers need to be able to develop a relationship with their client. Understand how they live in their home. What is functionally necessary for the space? How is the lighting in the room - and I mean exposure and outside elements that will factor in? Do you even know to ask about this? Do you know how to ask about it so that you get the responses you need to base your suggestions on even?  I've seen people specify the craziest of things that are SO NOT FUNCTIONAL in a space. I've seen scale and proportion MURDERED because of what someone spec'd in an E-Design board. Sure it looked fine on the board but when there is a football field between two sofas and the cocktail table can only fit four drinks on it - you've specified wrong wrong wrong.

10) If you don't value your services and appreciate your own worth, no one will do it for you. That's the honest truth. What is your time worth? If it takes you 10 hours to put an E-Design Board together including FLOOR PLANS (slaps forehead) and renderings (chokes on spit) and then source all the products for the space (providing a detailed list of where the person can give other people their money for - ::FAINTS::) AND THEN DOES THREE FREAKING OPTIONS FOR THE ROOM (rouses only to pass out again) and you charge $150.00 well then I just may have to get on a plane and show up at your door and slap you silly. I mean ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??!!!!!!!!!

So in short - E-Design really really really infuriates the hell out of me.

It should you too. Which leads me to this....

I think this sums it up perfectly. I regrammed it and retweeted it and then Kelly Rutherford sent me her love and I kinda died a bit. I LOVE HER. I have loved her since she was on the Soaps... 

May 13, 2014:

Can’t Get You OUTTA My HEAD!

I saw someone recently post that they hated the term "OBSESSED" used by bloggers and designers alike. This person felt that Obsessed implies a negative connotation. Not to this girl. It dramatically sums up things that I just can't get out of my head.

I'm a visual person so I often clip things that I see online and take screenshots of them so that I can stare longingly at them in my spare time. Okay not even in my spare time - in my "I really should be freaking working time" too....

I love being obsessed with things. This is how change comes about. This is the fuel that fires my engines.

So to that end here are a few of my latest Obsessions. They may or may not take turns being my computer screen saver.

Oh but before we get to that I wanted to share with you a little Intel on an upcoming event that you may want to participate in. I get a lot of people private messaging me or emailing me about my business coach. Coaching isn't for everyone and I usually try and qualify people before I share her information because it has to be a mutal fit. However, she has put together a rather fabulous Summit that I wanted to share with you in case you were interested in dipping your toe in that pool so to speak....

The Image 360° Telesummit and is now just over one week away!  This event is for interior designers and product makers and is a series of conversations about branding, visibility and business. This year's lineup includes:  Vicente Wolf on building a global luxury brand; Christina Poletto, Lifestyle Editor of Better Homes & Gardens with a step-by-step pitch guide; and Jhane Barnes on collaboration and the Property Brothers on building an entertainment brand, among others.  Registration is FREE but closes on the May 19th.  The full schedule is up at:  Image360.biz

My house is already dark and I tend toward wanting light and airy but then I see a room like this and I die. I'm not really a dark muddy green girl but this green on the walls in a lacquer no less, has enough blue to sing to me. I love it paired with this daybed in that mutable is it blue, is it grey, is it purple velvet...  I am FReAKING over the ideal of framing the wall with trim. I think I need to do this in my den. I really really do. Maybe I should say F*CK the wallpaper on the walls and just lacquer it. OH MY GOD THIS IS WHY I CAN NOT FINISH PROJECTS WITHOUT A PHOTOSHOOT BOOKED!!!!!

(I'm looking for the credit on this photo - 1stdibs shared it and I have asked them for credit info but they haven't answered as of yet - if you know please share so I can update it)

I have a new goal. THIS bag is it. Want. Must OWN. NEED.  #MAKEITRAIN #WHENIPUTMYMINDTOSOMETHING #THISISWHYIUSEACOACH #IWILLATTRACTTHISBAGINTOMYLIFE #ITWANTSMEMORETHANIWANTIT #OKAYITMAYNOTKNOWITWANTSMEBECAUSEITISABAGAFTERALL #BUTITDOES

I really can't stop thinking about this combo... Powder Room Chez Moi perhaps?

THIS. It may or may not be for my living room. Okay it is. I haven't figured it all out yet. I am working on it though... Something is missing and I can't quite name it. It will arrive. I am changing it up - the living room that is. Once people start taking pictures of it to use it as their advertising to promote their own business  (YES THIS HAPPENED) the room has been forever sullied. HA! I am just bored and I need more comfort in it and sophistication while we are at it. My Mr Hex rug is looking mighty fine there isn't he... handsome devil that he is.

May 08, 2014:

Hey Can You Tell Me What Colour You Used?

Seems pretty simple and easy right?

How hard can it be to share the colour you used on that wall, on that island, on those doors? Do a good turn, share and get someone's gratitude in return.

Except that choosing colours is one of the things I do to earn a living. You know, put food on the table, pay for the car I drive, pay for music lessons for my son not to mention put clothes on his back and food in his belly. I have staff that need to be paid and a landlord that doesn't take payment in the form of colour suggestions that I make so why should I share that colour choice with you exactly?

People on the internet get pretty upset when you refuse to share a paint colour with them. Houzz has made the average homeowner suddenly feel entitled to know what colour you used and they get irate when you don't share - trust me I know I've tangoed with several of them. A friend of mine was recently put upon to share the paint colours she used in her own home with a "Fan/Follower" from Pinterest. When she politely said that she wasn't taking on any design clients at this time, the person had the OVARIES to respond with - but can you still give me the colours? I mean the BLOODY NERVE.

I only share paint colours if a project has been published in a magazine or if I'm asked to share my favourite colour choices. Here's why: If a client pays me to select their colours I do so with painstaking care and thought as to what is going on in their home, their exposures, their lighting considerations and how this will all flow together with the rest of the house. They PAY me to do this. So giving the colours that they've paid for and the talent and the experience that goes along with it is insulting to them. It's essentially a breach of contract. It's entirely unprofessional. So it may seem like an easy thing to do but it's not and it potentially compromises the relationship I have with my clients.

So the next time you find yourself admiring a colour or a palette used by a designer consider offering to pay them for an hour of their time to review pictures of your space and put together a palette that is inspired by the one you fancy.

This vanity. It's not white, it's not entirely grey either. It was agonized over in concert with the stone selections we made. We tried out the colours in the room before we finalized. Then we had to factor in the fact that it would be made up into a lacquer which could alter how the colour will appear when sprayed.... It took probably a total of 2-3 hours to finalize when it was all said and done....

May 08, 2014:

New Website New Work (New To You)

We are so close to launching our new site I can practically taste it. It will mean a few updates around these parts including the blog! VERY excited about this. I am mostly excited to be featuring our new work. It's been over five years since we've added any new work to our site with the exception of I think one project.

I thought I would share a few of the pictures that will be new to the site...

This is our #Boswell project. We began it 8 years ago and finished it 6 years ago. I tell you this because it was clearly ahead of it's time. A classic beauty in the heart of Yorkville. They clients sold it 3 years ago for just shy of $2 Million dollars. They'd bought it for under a million only a few years before. DAYYYYUMMMM. Hiring a designer definitely adds value!

The entire house was renovated with the exception of the basement and the master ensuite. I designed a custom built in in the den - inspired by a $$$$ Ralph Lauren bookcase we saw and thought we could have custom made for cheaper. We succeeded. We wallpapered pretty much the entire house - what can I say I'm a wallpaper gal. It was a narrow Victorian and we used scale, contrast, all over tone on tone pattern and yes mirror to our advantage.... Ready??

We used concrete counters...  They are the only thing I would do differently about this space. I found the sign at an antique shop. It was a must have. It was sold with the house.

I still adore this piece.

May 06, 2014:

A Tale of Two Contractors

It's interesting to compare projects you are working on when they each involve different contractors. There are certain industry standards that you will expect to encounter but management and communication styles are always variable so when you are doing similar scopes it's interesting to compare.

We have two full gut remodels we've been working on now for over a year. One is a second storey addition with interior remodel and the other was a 3 Storey plus a basement dig out gut. The size of the houses differs and the budgets while different aren't entirely because the contractor on the 3 Storey is also the owner so his labour costs are a bit different and there isn't a 20% management fee that he's paying out.

The biggest difference between the two projects though - COMMUNICATION style. We talk to the 3 Storey contractor almost daily. He calls, texts, emails or we meet in person. It doesn't hurt that the project is within walking distance of our office. But weeks can go by without our visiting - in fact for a period of time that was probably months at least on my part - there just wasn't anything I could do there and watching concrete dry wasn't high on my level of excitement meter. But we still talked. The Addition project - not so much. The client acts as our point of contact despite our pleas for it to be the contractor. Now our client is very savvy but I still worry that we are playing a game of broken telephone. 

Both projects are about 3 months behind interestingly enough. The winter killed us all and major construction projects definitely suffered. The project with the good communicator has a small team of guys there and they are working daily. The other one - not so much. Our client is definitely hitting the wall with her frustration levels and I can't say that I blame her. However, this IS the worst time of any renovation project. Walls are painted with their first coat. Tile is installed. Lights are going in. You are so close you can taste it yet everything feels like it has ground to a halt. The major transformations aren't so major any more.

But it goes back to communication. Delays happen but jumping out in front of them is vital to the psychology of the project. If you know that bad news is coming - better to rip the bandaid off and deliver it as soon as you can. If you know that deadlines are looming and clients and designers need to firm up on decisions these need to be shared, then reminded, then followed up on until they are made. If you are collecting a management fee for any design project then your % is dependent on how well you manage all the parties involved.  It's the integral part to the service. Schedules not only need to be drawn up but they need to be regularly updated,  meetings held to review and changes made with good notice when possible. No one likes to feel like they are late to the party or missed the invite altogether. It makes getting through the tough times of the project all the harder.

So I'm very keen to see how they both end up timing wise. Which will be done first. I know which one I'm looking forward to sharing a bottle of wine with the contractor with.... the other one - well I've drunk many a bottle to cope with as it is. The good news is that despite all of the bad, the project will look amazing. I'm having drug-free labour flashbacks.

::Pours herself a glass of wine::

This is an electrician not a contractor. We had a bit of a bumpy start to our relationship but we resolved it when we realized we were both on the same end of the bad communication train... This chandy is gonna look soooo good.

MIGHTY FINE. 

I think the electrician is going to go back to hating me when he discovers what a bitch the glass installation for this fixture is. Oh and there are two of them.

Just waiting to be stained...

Just needs glass!

I really want the beams painted but the contractor doesn't want to pay for it. I don't blame him. Hopefully whomever buys the house hires me to decorate it and lets me paint them.

Kids' Room..  So there you have it - two projects, a lot of stories and wine!!!!