Designer vs. Salesman

There’s a question that’s been creeping into my mind more and more lately that I can’t seem to shake. In one sense, I love it. The fact that I’m allowing my brain to acknowledge that I may have some actual raw talent is refreshing to say the least. In another sense, I wonder if it runs completely counter to the design process I spent four years learning to eat, sleep, and breathe.

The question I’ve been wrestling with is this (as sent verbatim to my good friend, Lisa):
“I’m wondering if I take too much design direction from my clients for the sake of them feeling like I’ve understood their needs but instead I don’t wow them with some design initially that is just something I think looks good because I’m a designer”.

This thought has been birthed out of years spent riding the line of designer and salesman in my job as a kitchen and bath designer. The line is muddied with talk of “re-sale value” and “top design trends” and before I know it I’m letting my client’s fear of not selling their house 10 years from now be the reason I’m whole-heartedly following their pinterest board into the sunset. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m quite possibly the biggest believer in the programming part of the design process. Getting as much information from the client as possible in order to make the best design decision.. I eat that shit up. I literally live for that. The conflict arises when I allow the salesman to overtake the designer. I want the sale, and after 6 years worth of clients coming to me with long lists of things they’ve already decided they want, despite knowing if they will meet their needs, I’d rather happily nod and roll with it than risk losing the sale. I caved.

Here’s what I’m thinking; and this is for anyone, not just designers. If you’re an aesthetically aware person like I am, stop letting trends, re-sale value and what other people think stop you from designing what you know is going to look good and is going to suit your needs or the needs of your client. For the designers out there, what I’m proposing is not to completely hijack the programming part of the design process but rather to focus on it entirely and then ask your client to trust you. If you’ve done your job and collected extensive information, then this is where your gut should come in.


If you as the designer believe that something ballsy is what’s going to fit your client’s needs, despite it being “last season” or completely out of the box, you should absolutely go for it. At the end of the day, you are the designer and they’ve hired you for a reason. My goal is to start trusting that and be more daring with my designs because I know that some of the most inspiring designs are the ones least expected and against the grain.

If you’re a home owner/renter who’s not working with a designer and beginning to freak out as you’re reading this, don’t worry. Here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with trends, as long as the trend is something you actually like. Don’t completely overhaul your home with Edison bulb light fixtures if you don’t truly love a more rustic feel. That’s just silly! If there’s a trend that you’re liking, by all means, incorporate that faux-fur throw into your living room scheme. I know I am.

Stay tuned for tips on what to do when you’re sans-designer and still want to create a bomb space!


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