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Friday, July 11, 2014

Elizabeth Street

HOW TO GET YOUR DESIGNER TO HATE YOUR GUTS

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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