The Luxer


Friday, July 11, 2014

Elizabeth Street


Sep 26, 2013
Gwyneth Paltrow

How to Get Your Designer to Hate Your Guts

Two years ago I hired an interior designer for the first time to help me decorate our home in New York. I would have taken on the project myself, but I was living in California during the renovation so I really needed someone on the ground in New York to handle and supervise the renovations and design process. I found a designer who had really beautiful taste and was reasonably priced.  

But the process brought out the worst in me. I was a stress case, a nervous wreck, a control freak. I ended up micro-managing my interior designer to the point of no return. At the time, I felt justified in my behavior, and I still do to an extent, but now I better understand how difficult it must be for her to handle so many clients in a timely fashion. 

Even in retrospect, as annoying as I know I was, I probably could not have changed my behavior. I was living so far away from the project and all I cared about was getting the house done on time.  

We got things done, but I know that my actions were not well-received; in fact, they drove her crazy. It makes me laugh-slash-cringe when I think about it all today.  

Herewith, my five tips for getting your decorator to detest you:

1) I edited her contract. She gave me her very basic service contract. My corporate lawyer eyes were drooling. I pulled out my red pen. I even created defined terms. I was so excited. 

2) I offered to be her personal assistant for MY project. Literally. As I saw it, I was hiring her and then giving her the best assistant ever-- me! I told her, in person, that I was available to help in any way in order to move things along. I could make phone calls on her behalf to get price and availability information. I could look up things online, I could go to showrooms. I suppose this was my way of saying there should be no reason for delay on her part if I am here to help. And I suppose her silent raised eyebrow in response was her way of saying I was a crazy bitch. 

3) I channeled Miranda Priestly. I would send so many repeated email requests, particularly inquiring about prices, and it drove me crazy that I couldn't get an answer. Finally, I insisted on seeing a written budget of what I had bought so far. I still didn't get one, so I created one.  Then I asked her assistant to just check my list that I created and tell me if she agreed with it. I STILL didn't get a response. I couldn't take it anymore. I then sent my most strongly worded email and used phrases a la Miranda Priestley like, "I don't understand why it is so difficult price check a list that is already created." I also used the words "unacceptable"  and "ridiculous" several times.

4) I emailed my entire stream of design consciousness to her. I would email her links to furniture that I found online. I would send her photos of rooms that I liked. I would send her 30 separate emails showing 30 separate lamps I thought were pretty. I would ask any question that came to mind at the moment I thought about it. One day after a long week of constant emails on my part, I sent her what was truly intended to be a cute and sweet apologetic email, along the lines of:  "I am so sorry...yes, I know I can be crazy, I am just feeling so anxious about the project..."  She never responded. It was official, she hated me.

5) I tried to convince myself that my anal behavior was helpful. Once or twice a week I would email her a status list of everything in the house that we had left to pick out or price out. I truly thought it would help keep her focused and remind her about what needed to get done. Without fail she ignored every single one of these lists. I knew that ignoring me was the most professional thing she could do rather than telling me to buzz off.  

So how did it all end? I returned to New York in May after six months of renovations to a beautiful new home. A few small pieces were still being shipped and I was without window treatments, but my designer did a beautiful job. Everything that was there looked amazing. Despite my irritatingly over-the-top behavior, she stayed the course. 

I called her to tell her how happy we were. I corresponded with her assistant regarding the outstanding deliveries. But I never saw my designer face-to-face again. 

Looking for gorgeous furniture without the hassle of hiring a designer? Check out our guide to the best sofas in our slideshow above. 

By Kimberly Mulligan

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