trade tales | Sep 3, 2021 |
Do you offer clients warranties?

Clients expect a certain level of customer service, but is it reasonable to expect interior designers to extend warranties on the pieces they source? We asked eight designers—Erica Burns, Kelly R. Collier-Clark, Julianne Hendrickson, Lauren Jacobsen, Lisa Kahn, Lilse McKenna, Juliana Oliveira and Sarah Trumbore—whether or not they offer their clients warranties.

Erica Burns
Erica BurnsStacy Zarin Goldberg

Handle with care
“Our contract includes manufacturer warranties on purchases, which are typically only a year, but we handle each situation on a case-by-case basis and cover repairs or replacements when we think it is necessary. One thing that can be difficult to determine is if it was, in fact, the manufacturer error or was the client not caring for the item appropriately. For the latter, we try to minimize some of these issues by issuing a care-and-use document with our proposals that outlines how our clients should take care of their furniture—do not clean wood with harsh products, do not use water on this fabric, and so on. We also like to explain before purchases that natural products can patina, but that is part of the beauty, not necessarily a defect. Fortunately, we have great relationships with workrooms and vendors, so if something ultimately does not hold up, we’ll take care of it for our clients, as it’s the right thing to do.” —Erica Burns, Erica Burns Interiors, Bethesda, Maryland

Lilse McKenna
Lilse McKennaVictor Harshbarger

Taking responsibility
“If an item comes with a warranty, we always send it along to the client. We purchase items from a huge number of vendors, and many items are custom made by small businesses that do not offer formal warranties. My clients know that if something is made improperly or is faulty, my vendors and I will fix it as quickly as possible without any additional cost to the client. We do everything we can to make the pieces we sell durable and long-lasting, including stain-treating fabrics, making furniture out of solid wood frames, and sealing painted finishes. We also give our clients cleaning and maintenance instructions as needed. That said, the homes we design are lived in and maintained by our clients, their families and their employees, so we all have to appreciate that normal wear and tear will happen—and that there is a chance someone will fail to follow the cleaning instructions!” —Lilse McKenna, Lilse McKenna Inc., New York

Kelly R. Collier-Clark
Kelly R. Collier-ClarkCourtesy of Kelly R. Collier-Clark

Keep it simple
“We do not offer any warranties on purchases. However, we do give our clients an opportunity to opt in or out of manufacturer extended warranties whenever applicable with retail merchandise. Vendors we have vetted for custom items and third-party trade work all stand behind their products and work independently. These practices have been satisfactory for our clients to date.” —Kelly R. Collier-Clark, Plot Twist Design, Philadelphia

Julianne Hendrickson
Julianne HendricksonCourtesy of Julianne Hendrickson

Exit strategy
“We offer our clients the same warranty offered to us by our vendors. Each vendor has a different process for warranty, so we keep these handy on our side for up to one year post–project completion. We also include a closing packet that provides our clients with the names of our trusted tradesmen for services such as upholstery cleaning, painting, handyman work and carpet cleaning services. If we have done any painting in a home, all of the paint and grout colors are provided to the client in a color chart.” —Julianne Hendrickson, Hendrickson Interiors, Tampa, Florida

Sarah Trumbore
Sarah TrumboreJared Kuzia

Refer to the contract
“I do not offer client warranties. I have in my contract that I suggest tradespeople in good faith. I am not responsible for the quality, construction or longevity of the product. I, of course, do my research and choose appropriate fabrics for high-traffic areas, and sensible finishes for tables depending on use, and that sort of thing. I have close longstanding relationships with all of my vendors, but ultimately, I am not doing the work myself. If the boundaries are clear, it makes everything run much smoother.” —Sarah Trumbore, ST Studio, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Juliana Oliveira
Juliana OliveiraCourtesy of Juliana Oliveira

Exceeding expectations
“We do provide our clients warranties based on our business philosophy of exceeding expectations. However, our firm currently doesn’t have a written warranty with a set time frame. After a project is completed, we touch base with each client within a couple of months to ensure they are satisfied with their space. This check-in is not only great to fortify our client relationships, but also to gain knowledge on the quality of furniture and vendors to leverage for future project planning. Also, if a vendor provides the warranty, we communicate that with the client and see through all necessary transactions to ensure it’s taken care of.” —Juliana Oliveira, Beyond Interior Design, Dallas

Lauren Jacobsen
Lauren JacobsenCourtesy of Lauren Jacobsen

Know your boundaries
“Our firm does not offer warranties, and we express that clearly in our contract. All warranties are at the discretion of the manufacturer. We include the warranty information on the invoice to the client before purchase. Our firm will work on behalf of our client with the manufacturer for any issues or defects; however, they must be reported before the warranty expires. In a few rare cases where custom furniture had an issue down the road, we facilitate a solution. After all, we are in a service business, and our clients trust us to take care of them. We separate from issues where a client has been using a product for a year and a half or more and suddenly there is a problem and they want us to be responsible. Yes, that happens, and no, wear and tear cannot be covered.” —Lauren Jacobsen, Lauren Jacobsen Interior Design, Scottsdale, Arizona

Lisa Kahn
Lisa KahnCourtesy of Lisa Kahn

Limited window
“We do not offer product warranties to our clients. We state in our contract that all warranties are offered by the vendors or manufacturers and we send requests for after-project issues directly to them. However, especially when we are installing a project and everything is still new, we take care of even the tiniest warranty issue to ensure the client is happy and well situated in their new home—but that period only lasts 30 to 45 days after an installation.” —Lisa Kahn, Lisa Kahn Designs, Naples, Florida

Homepage photo: A sitting room by Erica Burns | Photo by Studio HDP

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