Being a home owner and having gone through my own renovation of our little Bucks County country house has made me a better designer...and more empathetic. I write this as I am sitting in my loft with the entire contents of my daughters', Mia and Saskia, room in my entry. My girls are in The Netherlands for two weeks with my parents, and, in the mean time, my husband and I have embarked on a room makeover for them. So while they are biking around the low country with my parents, we are in New York making this new room happen for them.
It was high time; the girls turn 8 and 10 this month and their room seems "kiddie." So, like with any other client, we scheduled a design consultation before they left. They wanted the entire room to be white. "How sophisticated," I thought. White being my favorite color, I knew we were on our way to a good working relationships. These clients were clearly savvy and knew what they wanted (a sure sign of good upbringing I think). So it's out with the playful pink and turquoise and in with the new clean bright white interiors. I'm sure I will add a bright pop of color somewhere just to put my stamp on it (it's called creative license and I think it's allowed if you yourself are paying for the renovation.)
In the meantime however, I am left to live with a mess in the loft and it's unsettling for me. It's a good lesson, however, because it teaches me empathy. If a client seems frustrated because their three-month renovation is running into its fifth month, I can look back on this and remember how uneasy I felt living in a loft that looks like it got hit by hurricane.
Not everyone feels the same way about this. I was recently chatting with a well-known interior designer friend of mine. I was telling him how renovating my own house has made me more a kinder, gentler, more understanding designer to my clients. He disagreed with me saying that our clients have so much more money than we do. They can move to a hotel while renovating and that money is not an issue for them. Mmm, home is home no matter how much money you have in the bank, and when it's a mess, frustration still sets in for all the same reasons. Don't you think?