The designer/client relationship is a delicate one. It’s a business arrangement, but you’re creating a home, an inherently personal task—lines are bound to get blurred. Those nebulous boundaries can result in some designers venturing beyond their usual job requirements. We asked four designers—Caleb Anderson, Dominique Calhoun, Rasheeda Gray and Saudah Saleem—how (or if) they set boundaries and the greatest lengths they’ve gone to for a client.
“I don’t like to set boundaries creatively, so why would I do that personally? Creating boundaries creates limits, and I like to be limitless in my creativity and addressing programmatic needs. I do anything within reason to satisfy client asks—after all, interior designers are in the customer service industry as much as the creative.
“On that note, I once cat-sat for six months for clients while their house was being renovated. I later found out the eternal cold I had been suffering from during that time was actually allergies. I grew fond of the cats, and to this day have never mentioned my allergy suffering to the clients.” —Caleb Anderson, Drake Anderson, New York
“The furthest I have ever gone for a client is getting on my knees and cleaning post-construction. No, that’s not in my job description, but because I have slight OCD, I will sometimes get the space cleaned rather than waiting on the cleaning team.” —Dominique Calhoun, Remix Living, Philadelphia
“Early on in my career, I worked with a client who took the concept of turn-key design service quite literally. As a busy, world-traveling professional, my client was very short on time. She’d composed a full list of her needs and favorite items and then granted me full creative control on the design. Her only request was that she wanted to be able to walk into her home and not have to purchase a single additional item.
Not only did I source and acquire both indoor and outdoor furnishings, I also shopped for her appliances, stocked the fridge, had the cable installed, put the toilet paper in the bathrooms and made sure her favorite soaps and hand towels were awaiting her. It was an exhausting project that really impacted the amount of time I was able to spend with my own family. It was through that experience that I realized the importance of setting boundaries and not saying yes to every request.” —Saudah Saleem, New York
Refer Them Out
“I don’t think I’ve ever been pushed to say to a client, ‘That’s not my job,’ but I have said to a client, ‘That’s not my area of expertise. Let me refer you to someone who can help.’ For example, I have had many clients ask if I could organize their closets. In response. I typically I refer them to a professional organizer. It is a way of saying no while still providing service to the client and building relationships with other business owners.” —Rasheeda Gray, Gray Space Interior Design, Philadelphia