The best decorators aren't mind-readers. To understand a client’s tastes, they need some essential information. As an interior designer, there might be instances with a client who has a clear-cut idea of what he or she wants for the design of a space but has a hard time articulating those ideas to you. In these times, learning how to decode what your client says and what they really want through a 5-step process can come to your rescue.
As a good designer, you almost have to think like a psychiatrist and try and get a better understand of your clients - what their personal needs are, what their lifestyle is like, what do they like and dislike, and how they like things to be around their home; essentially an insight into their personality.
When the designer and client know what to expect from each other from the onset, the results will be nothing short of spectacular and enjoyable. The failure to communicate effectively as well as efficiently is often the reason the client isn’t 100% satisfied with a finished project.
So, if your client is not 100% clear about how they want the project to take shape, here are 5 important questions to ask that can give you the answers you seek.
1. What do you love about this space?
This is crucial information. If they want to hire you as a professional to redecorate a space and make it more to their liking, start by asking what it is about that space that they like. Whether it's a piece of furniture, the ceiling design or the grand staircase that runs through the area, the answer to this question will tell you what your design’s focal point should be.
This too is a valid question and one further elaborates Point 1. Once your client can pinpoint what they dislike about the room, you know where to start suggesting changes. It could be the big artwork that dominates the wall, the old-fashioned carpeting on the floor or can very well be the rusty window frames that give the whole room a more dated look and feel. Please note: without these two questions to begin with, your approach could’ve gone really wrong. You could’ve advised the client to change the ceiling and keep the flooring simply because the client told you that the room has a dated, old-fashioned feel and needs to be spruced up. These two initial questions help you decode exactly what changes the client expects from you.
3. What is the room used for?
Imagine this - the client hired you to make an old family room look a touch modern and you went ahead and incorporated all the elements of contemporary design turning the space into a high-end living space worthy of featuring in an architectural magazine. It's only later that you find out that the family room is not for entertaining; it’s the space used to watch TV, finish homework and play with the dog! Had you inquired as to how the family plans to use the space and what activities will be conducted in that area, your design strategy to create a modern, trendy look would have changed, right?!
4. What colour schemes and texture palettes most appeal to you? (use visuals to help them elaborate)
A Pinterest or mood board can greatly help here. Ask your client to create a mood board for the kind of colours and textures they are imagining for the space. To illustrate – ‘brown and sky blue’ isn’t a clear cut indication of what your client really wants, if he or she isn’t a master at communicating what they're imagining when you ask this question. However, a Pinterest image of brown speckled tweed upholstery and sky blue floral printed wallpaper will make it clearer where and how the colours and patterns should be used.
5. Is there something specific you have envisioned for this space?
Many clients imagine an interior design that centres around a core object – it can be a piece of furniture, a stretch of gorgeous bay windows with a stunning view, or a piece of art. Even a chair, vase or a grand piano could be the source of inspiration. They may not have the piece with them, but would like that to nonetheless be the inspiration behind the design. It’s important to get clarity on this subject before you start.
Whether it’s a small project or a large one, an interior designer or decorator can create the exact result the client is looking for, but only when the designer is 100% clear of what is expected out of them, the design, and the overall ambience of the space without making costly mistakes in the process. So ask the right questions you need to in order to decode what your client really wants.