How to address a delicate difference in style with a client...
Holly Harris
March 14, 2014 in Design Dilemma
A client, from a conservative historic north east community will be spending several months a year in a contemporary high rise in Miami. Regionally, I think we'd all agree that there are significant differences in interior styles. While the client does want to feel 'at home' in Miami there are some ideas that have been put on the table that, as a designer, I can not embrace. How would you tactfully address this with a client?
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hayleydaniels
If you don't feel comfortable working with her taste, you should refer her to someone else. You can't do a good job for someone who wants things you aren't comfortable with, and she needs someone who will work to give her what she wants. Sometimes you have to realize the differences between you and whomever are too great to be able to have a working relationship.
1 Like   Thanked by Holly Harris    March 14, 2014 at 11:24AM
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hanna1984
Try taking the client to furnished condos or furniture stores to see what is trendy in Miami. I'm sure you've already shown the client your portfolio - so maybe a few visits to places that typify the Miamil lifestyle will expand the client's mindset. :)
1 Like   Thanked by Holly Harris    March 14, 2014 at 11:32AM
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PRO
Holly Harris Designs, LLC
Thank you for your feedback. The 'Difference' in style is more than furniture...I can work around that...it has more to do with stenciling a modern kitchen with vines and fruits. Texture and color will work as a backsplash but I'm having difficulty getting the client see past stensiling. I've pulled together some very interesting options to compliment the modern kitchen without making it look too stark or starrel...just can't get them past stencilong.
1 Like   March 14, 2014 at 11:46AM
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hanna1984
Oh my, stenciling vines and fruits. I see your predicament. There's a cultural disconnect here. The client needs to embrace the rich historic, artistic, musical and architectural differences that it means to live in a totally different part of the US. It's not just a difference of winter temperatures, it's a difference of cultural lifestyle. I think this is curable, but it's going to take some spicy Cuban food, a few walking trips to see local astisans and historic places. No drive by tours.
2 Likes   Thanked by Holly Harris    March 14, 2014 at 12:22PM
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Denita
Cuban, Portuguese, Colombian, Brazilian, Haitian, German, Argentinean ...etc. We have a whole world full of people here in S Fl, particularly Miami. :)
3 Likes   Thanked by Holly Harris    March 14, 2014 at 12:27PM
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PRO
Unique Surfaces
Holly I sure see your dilemma and we have been in that same situation one too many times. It is hard because we are there to give them what they want and sometimes what they want is not what we suggest as a professional. My advice to you is to advise her of your opinion, why it is you would advise against what she wants and what your suggestions are instead (keeping in mind what she wants) If she is still persisting on stenciling fruits on the walls well then you have to do what you have to do, even if that does mean referring her to someone else. The good news is it can always be changed, you can even consider doing a small sample on her wall to see if she will like it. Good luck and things will work out :)
4 Likes   Thanked by Holly Harris    March 14, 2014 at 12:37PM
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Denita
Is the client actually looking for modern? Doesn't sound like it. If she is actually looking for modern, it is very possible her definition of modern doesn't comport with your definition (or even the general definition). I have found that people use the same words to describe entirely different concepts; eg, 'open kitchen' - then when the client describes 'open' it is really a closed kitchen (BTDT). Getting into their head can be a challenge.

Stencils have some meaning to her. Maybe you can turn the 'stencil' into an abstract mosaic in glass/ceramic over the range (for example)....
2 Likes   Thanked by Holly Harris    March 14, 2014 at 12:41PM
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hanna1984
I can't imagine being able to immerse myself in such a diverse location in our own country and not taking advantage of it!!
3 Likes   Thanked by Holly Harris    March 14, 2014 at 12:45PM
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PRO
Cancork Floor Inc.
Does she own the Miami property? If so, she should have the final say. If this is a rental/long term lease...then put in a caveat that states she will pay for the retexturing of the wall the receives the stenciling with a MINIMUM payment due no matter what the final tab is to retexture and then repaint the wall. If she agrees and so too the owner of the property, then it should be done.

If she owns the condo, she has final say. I would invite the best painting contractors you have...perhaps someone who is very familiar with her culture view on design, and make sure the two of them get the best stencils money can buy. She will be over joyed that you "made it happen" and she will leave you alone once she is satisfied.

You don't need to add the work to your portfolio. Nor does the painter. This is about her comfort, her space, her joy, her life style point of view.

I'm not a designer but I am a customer sales/front line "wish maker" with a strong sense of helping the client achieve their "dream". If her dream is to have vines stenciled in...then help her achieve her dream - with the best and most expensive version you can come up with.

I respectfully take the client's point of view on this one, but I do see the "design" oopsa that this creates...I guess the 80's didn't die after all.
6 Likes   Thanked by Holly Harris    March 14, 2014 at 12:50PM
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Holly Harris
All great feedback...thank you. Cancork Floor Inc., I am so right there with you in terms of bringing her vision to reality and while it is sometimes difficult to do so, what makes a good designer is one who can translate the clients vision into something they will be truly happy with...and as we all know...this can sometimes mean compromising our own design intellect and personal style...perhaps even finding a creative way to go against the grain. This is what challenges us. The bottom line is that we listen to our clients, understand what their wants and needs are and translate them in such a way as to bring their vision to life. Thank you again, for all your fine feedback!
2 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 1:30PM
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dclostboy
Stencil bananas, coconuts and palms :)
4 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 1:37PM
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Denita
^^Reminds me a little bit of Carmen Miranda :)
1 Like   March 14, 2014 at 1:40PM
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PRO
Sustainable Dwellings
I would encourage her to embrace the diverse culture there... If she is not in touch, leave her for someone else to deal with *(a shark....)
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 1:42PM
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dreacorator
Cuban food "SPICY?" Please, sounds like more than just your client needs to broaden their exposure. Hanna, if you ever had spicy Cuban food, someone steered you wrong
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 1:50PM
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hanna1984
I have made many Cuban dishes and they're spicy. You mean they aren't spicy or they are REALLY spicy. I'm from Texas so I know SPICY!! :)
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 1:55PM
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Jean Worthy
Both you and your client need to think outside your comfort zone. You as the pro should lead the way. It sounds like you are thinking your Grandma's stenciling and your client is probably thinking that way too. Show her some abstract stenciling and new ways to use it. How about abstract vine and fruit stenciling on glass and using it as a back splash and don't just do the usual 4-6 inch stenciling, make the stencil the whole back splash.

Maybe convince her to do a mural or buy a large piece of art with fruit as the theme.

Get inspired. You can do this!
3 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 2:50PM
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hanna1984
Those are great, Jean!
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 2:55PM
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dreacorator
Yes, Texas has spicy food. Mexican food is indeed spicy. Cuban, however, is not. The difference between the two cuisines and cultures is even more varied than the barbecues of TX vs. other states. In a post about regional and cultural awareness, it doesn't serve anyone to be inaccurate.
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 3:05PM
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hanna1984
dreacorator, you have no right to make assumptions about my cultural awareness or any other aspect of my life. You know nothing of my heritage or experiences and to twist my words to make some sort of point about me is rude and uncalled for.
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 5:02PM
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hayleydaniels
I agree with Cancork. If the client owns the condo, find a way to have the stencils done, and in so doing, you will have gained a happy client who will brag about how wonderful you were to work with.

And keep in mind that just because this is outdated doesn't mean everyone hates it. I find good stenciling very pretty, and think it can really enhance a home. If your client is older, try to realize her tastes are set just as most peoples' are by the time they get into their 40s.
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 5:10PM
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dreacorator
Not trying to be rude Hannah, it's a common assumption that Cuban food, and Latin food in general, is "spicy."And that's unfortunate, because getting misinformation causes confusion and misinterpretation. I'm simply saying that Cuban food has spices, and has abundant flavor, but is not, at any point, spicy. Just like a client who misinterpreted what good Miami decor is - while she may enjoy it for her own reasons, theres a discomfort on a designers side to watch it happen. If you interpreted a recipe and made it spicy and enjoyed it, that's fine, but on my part, it makes me uncomfortable reading "spicy Cuban food."
If my words were harsh, I wasn't being careful, and for that I apologize, ... And for the record, even Gloria Estefans restaurant, Bongos or Larios in Miami, doesn't provide true Cuban cuisine.

For better or worse, our cities and their identities are evolving: NYC, Miami, Austin... While we embrace change, I feel, just as you did, it's just as important to understand where it all comes from.

Holly Harris, sorry to hijack your post ! As we all can see, I'm not the most diplomatic of creatures, so I'm not sure how being honest and retaining a client can go hand in hand in this instance. But it seems that others have given some good feedback. Good luck!
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 7:44PM
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hanna1984
dreacorator, remember my user name. Do not address me directly or indirectly again.
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 8:29PM
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dreacorator
Sounds like fun! I'll be thinking of you every time I eat Tex Mex.
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 8:46PM
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sarajustice
As a "client" what I would want from an interior decorator would be honesty. Maybe I am not the typical client. But I do not want someone tiptoeing around. This is why I hire a professional and not a friend. Tell her that that shit is ugly lol. Seriously be honest. Even if that means that it doesn't work out between you two. Better than having both sides ultimately unhappy and you having work out there that you aren't proud of.
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 8:48PM
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sarajustice
^ lady pls go somewhere and start drama. Houzz is really good about not having bored people trying to start drama behind a computer screen. Who cares if she thinks Cuban food is spicy or not.
2 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 8:53PM
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sarajustice
And you are being rude.
2 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 8:53PM
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Holly Harris
With all due respect, hhanna1984 and dreacorator, you have strained away from the topic and question posed. I welcome your constructive feedback as it relates to the topic being discussed but graciously request that you take your sidebar conversation to another format.
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 9:06PM
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soberg
Jean Worthy, brilliant proposal! Those beautiful images meld the warmth and appealing motifs of "traditional" stenciling with a modern sensibility. Holly, I'd love to see you open the client's eyes to some different approaches while still respecting her need for tradition and a cozy feel. The client may not have seen any examples of truly warm and appealing modern.
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 9:17PM
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dreacorator
The original post was about regional differences and design asthetics. Interpretation or misinterpretation of those differences and asthetics was my point. I was actually guilty of it myself! Travelling to Miami on various occasions I thought I would readily experience more Cuba, and it was hard to find. As Denita points out, it is so culturally broad( South Beach for ex.) As someone who when telling people I'm Cuban has actually heard in response " Cuba, what part of Mexico is that?" I unfortunately tend to care. And I also care when people interpret "Brooklyn" as a place where hipsters buy artisinal cheese and drink microbrews at 4 in the morn, but yes, life goes on. The world evolves.

I take houzz seriously, and take the advice I get on here seriously. Misinformation is misinformation and while one or more of you may not think it's a big deal, this is still a forum where people gain insight of one sort or another.
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 9:37PM
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dreacorator
Holly Harris, I agree with you. I've said my peace, and apologize to you personally again for feeling the need to sidebar. I hope you find a resolution to your design dilemma
0 Likes   March 14, 2014 at 9:40PM
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soberg
Back to the client with the condo, I continue to believe that the solution is some form of art that respects the client and honors her core desire for warmth, charm, and familiarity, while still allowing the designer to propose some new ways of looking and seeing that may delight the client beyond her current imagination. Let me tell you why....

I'm working with a designer on my house right now. Yes, I have a whole boatload of specific tastes and preferences. Many of them are rock solid and grounded in study of art, architecture and design, and it's all backed up by my engineering education and analytical, creative, homeloving and order-loving mind. And then some of those preferences are just out and out whacked, and there's a lot in the industry I simply don't know or have access to or experience in. I have asked for a designer's help to get a fresh, trustworthy eye and set of tastes to enhance and expand on my own.

The Miami condo client may never have truly seen or studied any form of art other than the most conventional stencil border. That doesn't mean she can't appreciate something new if it's selected carefully with her in mind AND if the designer walks her through it. Such things should at least be considered, and it requires a great deal of diplomacy. I feel that if the designer doesn't at least try, an opportunity for excellence has been lost.
2 Likes   March 15, 2014 at 9:34AM
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