trade tales | Apr 1, 2022 |
What’s the hardest thing to explain to clients?

Rarely do you get a client that understands everything about the design process—in fairness, there’s a lot to it. Here, we asked four designers—Elliott Barnes, Shelia Hail, Gabrielle Chambers and Ruth Campbell—what parts of their process they find themselves explaining most often.

What’s the hardest thing to explain to clients?
Elliott BarnesElodie Dupuis

Winding Road
“I give particular attention to explaining that the process of creating something exceptional is not always a straight line—that it is OK not to decide everything straight away. A ‘no’ yesterday can become a ‘yes’ tomorrow should the context change. I feel it’s necessary to go into detail about the exchanges that will take place throughout the process so that the collaborative aspect of the design is brought into the open.”

—Elliott Barnes, Elliott Barnes Interiors, Paris, France

What’s the hardest thing to explain to clients?
Shelia HailCourtesy of Olivia Hail Designs

Sticker shock
“The part I really have to explain is how my fee is separate from the purchased items, materials and contractor costs. Due to structure differences or sticker shock, I kindly clarify that the quote I provide at the beginning is for my time and the hours I will devote to the client’s project. It can be confusing, but the water needs to be crystal clear before we all jump in.”

—Shelia Hail, Olivia Hail Designs, Pearland, Texas

What’s the hardest thing to explain to clients?
Gabrielle ChambersCourtesy of Chambers Interior Design Studio

Show and Tell
“The vision aspect of the design seems to be the most important thing. I like to advise my clients that they are helping me create a space that speaks to their soul and that I’m just adding the finishing touches. Assuring the client with drawings, renderings and mood boards is my go-to—I always like to build good communication and trust with my clients.”

—Gabrielle Chambers, Chambers Interior Design Studio, New York

What’s the hardest thing to explain to clients?
Ruth CampbellCourtesy of Ruth Campbell

No Surprises
“One of the very first conversations I have with clients is one that requires the most explanation: billing and fee structure. When a client asks me to explain that part of the process, it usually isn’t a quick or easy conversation. Because every project is different, ranging from one-room makeovers to full scale start-to-completion home builds, my billing structure is not a one-size-fits-all system. I try to work with my clients to make the billing process easy and the fees transparent. No surprises. Once we get past the initial billing conversation, the rest of the process is much more enjoyable.”

—Ruth Campbell, Ruth Campbell Designs, Charleston, South Carolina

Homepage image: A living room designed by Elliott Barnes | Francis Amiand

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.