Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Humble Thyself

One of the most valuable characteristics of any great designer is their humility.

What do you hear people saying about Nate Berkus all the time? "He is so HUMBLE" When you watch his show, do you not want to hang out with him?

What do you hear people saying about Vicente Wolfe all the time? "He is so HUMBLE" He is a master, yet he knows he can still learn. That is true humility.

Great designers are great "people persons". People want to work with them because of who they are and how comfortable they feel with them, just as much if not more, than their desire to work them because of their talents.

Statements like these that lack humility get under my skin: "You never want a family room that is consumed by a couch because everyone who comes over will think you are a couch potato. You don't want people to come over and think "does this girl ever get off the couch?!"

These designers give the rest of us a bad rap. They make comments that are insensitive and come off as very intimidating. I wouldn't blame people who hesitate to contact a designer for fear of humiliation and judgement.

Here is why letting insensitive and judgemental designers into your home is a not so smart idea:

First of all, designers have no business telling clients what their priorities are or what they should be. If a client's priority is watching tv, then so be it. What business is it of mine?

Second of all, I never put so much weight on the "thoughts of others". I care about the needs of my clients. Not the needs of imaginary people. I say "imaginary" because these "people" that we fear will be coming to our house to judge us, are usually imaginary people that are made up by our insecurities. If I were to play into these insecurities, I wouldn't be helping my client achieve a room that is the best for THEM.

It is unhealthy to worry so much about what others think of you. If you are a couch potato, who is anyone to say that is wrong? It is never a good idea to help a client feel bad about who they are and what they like to do.

If someone comes to your house, sees your couch, and makes a snap judgment about you, they don't deserve your company because they aren't willing to get to know the real you anyway. I mean, it's really simple.

Third of all, it's just plain rude. Just because you are believed to have exceptional taste, that doesn't mean it's ok to be rude. The end.

Fourth of all, as soon as you utter the words "you should never" or "that never looks good" you will be presented with an opportunity or situation where your statement will be debunked and you will have to eat your words.

The beautiful thing about design is that the options are endless and the doors are always open for a different interpretation. I would hate to have to eat my words.

NOW for some beautiful examples of rooms with exceptionally large couches, or rooms oriented specifically towards the television.

Most of these are by the fabulous Candice Olsen. Would you dare tell Candice that these are bad designs because of the couch size or orientation towards the tv?? I wouldn't!!! That girl is way buffer and taller than I am! They are beautiful rooms that function just as the clients wished. She is great because she listens, she doesn't judge the priorities of her clients, and she has a great personality. The perfect recipe for a design where everyone is happy in the end. Even the imaginary people are happy!!

What gets under your skin? This should be interesting!!



  1. I loved that first room!! What a great space to relax in! I agree with you about design. I don't like watching design shows and I hear them say that this look is out or that doesn't look good, or trash people and their ideas. I have seen great designs but they don't fit the people or their lifestyle at all but you can't tell the designers that! I am so glad that you listen to your clients, that means the world I think.

  2. Yeah, I always say you should never use "absolute" words in design...oh wait, I just said always and never...seriously, though. There is an exception to every "rule" in design and each person is different. What works for one may not work for another and vice versa. It is important to listen to your client's wants and needs, to uncover things they may not realize they need, and design accordingly without preconceived notions of how things are "supposed to be." We are designers after all, not sheep. People who are afraid to break "rules" and who follow what everyone else says and does in the field aren't designers in my book. If we were all afraid of doing things differently than others do, there would never be any progress in the world, no achievements, no new findings or break-throughs. I am a firm believer in learning your client and what their lifestyle is and forming and molding their spaces around them to be what they need and making them look beautiful at the same time. Stop trying to shove people in boxes! I say build the box around them so it's just perfect for each individual need. Great post, Kelle. You've got a good head on your shoulders, girl!

  3. Well said Kelle! I think that our clients are paying us for our educated knowledge of balance, rhythm, scale, proportion, pattern, etc. NOT to judge them on lifestyle. Soooo, are you going to tell us where that statement came from?

  4. I agree, definitely well said! i've never worked with a designer but I think if one said something like the couch thing to me I would just confront them!

  5. The designer who made the comments re: the size and orientation of a sofa was one who was quoted in the House Beautiful Dec/Jan 2010 issue. I hope it was a misquote because she looks like a really sweet girl.

  6. AMEN!!!!!! Kelle! What a great post!!!!

    I try my absolute hardest not to deal in 'absolutes'. In fact, this was hilarious: I used to write a design column in a local mag. I had my column on one page encouraging readers not to subscribe to ANY design dogma and to toss out all of these silly 'rules' (except scale. You can't argue with scale). I had even said "throw out the notion of 'every room needs a piece of {insert color}.'"

    On the very next page, there was an interview with another local designer where she used the terms "always" and "never" and "every room must have" I about killed myself laughing!

    Your outlook will take you far, Kelle. It really will. I know that other designer is laughing herself all the way to the bank while I'm sitting here peeling my potatoes, but I don't want my clients to operate out of fear, make fear based decisions or feel like I am this overseer and they are the tasteless peons. It will pay off one day :)




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