How to Fall in Love. (for clients)

This is an exciting time! You are about to fall head over heels AND get what you want BUILT!!!

I'm giddy just thinking about it.   

Here's my easy, 'how to' guide to having a beautiful time of it;

5 Steps to Falling in Love With Your Architect or Designer.


Get clear on what you want. You will know you are ready to go out there and find that great designer when you are clear about these 3 things;

OVERALL BUDGET. What are you going to spend on the entire project? (Designers arrive at their fee based on a percentage of the overall project cost.)

SITE CONTEXT. Where it is, what size it is, it’s current status, why you want it changed, how you want it to feel, look, be, do, say, function, when you want it started and finished.

YOUR LEVEL OF COLLABORATION. How much of your time (actual hours a week) you can and want to give to the project. This manages commitment expectations right from the beginning. Yours and theirs.

Typed up and saved? Great, because you are a designer’s dream. No kidding. Hot hot hot.


Search them out online. Interior magazines, word of mouth, architectural journals. There are loads of ways. Check out Institute’s websites for member listings. Check credentials of any potentials. Note: You could take a chance on someone unproven, if you do, pay particular attention to the next stage’s advice on following your gut.)

When you come up with a list of design firms remember you still don’t need to commit or rush into anything. Take. Your. Time. You haven’t spent anything yet. This will save you much heartbreak if you don’t skip this next part.


Call them up and ask to visit some of their projects WITH them.

If it is a large firm, ask to tour the projects with the actual project designers.

WHY? You are looking for the answers to these two internal questions; Can you get along with them? Can you trust them? 

And WHEN you meet? Stay present. Stay tuned-into yourself.

WHAT does your gut say? Pay more attention to this, less to the ins and outs of square metres and cost differentials, etc. Note any technical questions to follow up on later. These are better answered in a formal email exchange anyway. You are here to feel things.

Also let go of any notion that has you trying to be anything you are not. If you don’t understand anything, say so. So if they are using jargon or design speak like ‘vista’ or ‘playing with textures’ ask them to explain what that means to them. (Insider tip; it means different things to different designers.) Another great thing to say is; “Say more” especially if they speak in statements and you don’t quite know how to keep the rapport going.

Ask how much things cost. Yep. Start talking money at that first meeting. Don’t worry about any mind stories around this. Let that go too. You are helping you both by starting right away. The designer may not know how much individual items cost exactly (on large projects the ordering of FF&E, Furnishings, Fittings and Electrical, is coordinated by the FF&E designer) but s/he should be able to give a summary of the project’s budget and where it was spent.

General impressions:

Does your designer come across as organised? Are they on time? Are they happy? Do they love their work? Are they open? Transparent? Authentic?

Now there may have been challenges on the project but if they are bitching about past clients? RED FLAG, and maybe even a RED CARD too. It is for me personally. Reflecting on what someone did, I often notice that they had actually given me some indication of that behaviour when I first met them.They may be going into their next client relationship with the energy of “this will probably suck too”. You don’t want that.

“The best of prophets of the future, IS the past.” Lord Byron.


You are already clear on what you want, so take that gold star brief of yours and go through all of it, line by line,  AT THEIR OFFICE.

This is so important.

You have seen their finished work. Now you will want to see the studio where all that came from. While there, ask to be shown around the whole office. Ask who the team members were on the project you just saw. This is so valuable as you will often get a grass roots take on the office, the calibre of design projects in house and how busy everyone is. Stay tuned into your gut.

You don’t need to give away anything further to anyone at this stage. Take note of anything that is great information/ bothering you/ anything you need time to digest. TAKE TIME TO DIGEST. Don’t rush into anything. Refine your brief. Get even clearer based on your findings. Research and/or go back to your favourites.

Send them each an RFP. (Request For Proposal) When you get the returned RFPs, review them side by side. Interview your shortlist.

Decide who is the clear winner.


Put a contract in place.

Your designer will do this. If they refuse, don’t use them. Protect yourself.

Here are the must-haves for a great design contract; Budget, Fee and fee scale, Timeline - what is getting done when? Change orders - project management.

Get legal advice and proceed with your eyes open and heart skipping. This is so exciting!!! Go forth and create!!!

Do these last things to keep your side of the bargain. Life will always give us all an opportunity to behave well and your love-in with your designer is no different.

Keep an open and honest and relationship.

Be kind, be calm, be firm and be clear in all communications.

Manage change well.

You will be asked to make decisions. Remember that your designer is a trained professional (rockstar) and is doing the best they can for you. You know you can trust them. They are terrific at problem solving, creativity is their joy. Allow them to push themselves and you to create something unique and wonderful.

There will be reality testing. An idea they had may not work. An idea you felt completely married to may need to be dropped.

Trust. Believe. Move though the process and together walk hand in hand towards the finished product.

Together you create and finish something that you both LOVE.

You write a gushing testimonial for their website.

They adore you and are totally inspired and uplifted by the experience. On their website (your permission being asked for and happily granted) you read “It was a complete honour to have been entrusted to create this private home for an incredibly generous client.”

You become life long professional friends (anything else is up to you).


Navigation: From here you dash on over to read how all you designers and architects can fall in truly madly deeply love with each and every one of your clients. Or you can head back home