I am often asked what I “do” as a designer. People think we are all imbued with fairy dust due to the magic of TV, where the designers pull a design out of thin air. They are mesmerized by unrealistic shows where the clients are not involved in the decision making process, so there is little or no “real” conflict or drama, except what the editors want them to see. So when I am asked, my current response is “I help people build a house without killing their spouse” and giggle and laugh. They usually give me some nervous/scared laughter because they know exactly what I mean. They have already dug that proverbial hole out back or lined up the dog house, ready for a new occupant.
Home design shows just make me mad, sad, and laugh all at the same time. Do I love to watch them anyway? Yes, they are my guilty pleasure and I have my favs. I know you are asking, Christi, why do they make you frustrated? Because, in reality, they are not reality!! Having been blessed to be a part of Extreme Home Makeover back in the Ty Pennington days, I got to see the “action” while waiting to deliver the custom window treatments we created for the home. And “move that bus” came first, not last! And, it was taped over and over again from different angles and directions. I was amazed, they really did build the house in 7 days, from start to finish, following a rigid plan that was already in place, way in advance with hundreds of professional volunteers.
Most of these shows make it look so easy because they all follow the same winning (money making) formula. Kinda like a movie: boy meets girl, they fall in love, something happens, they break up, then the stars align and the sun comes out and they see each other in a different light. get back together, marry, and live happily ever after with their 2.3 kids. In a design show, a couple meets a home, they fall in love with the idea of possibilities, the design magicians come along and show them a couple of ideas, decision is made, budget is set, then oh no out of nowhere a disaster strikes (because they have already demoed before they had a plan in place, who does that? NO ONE!!). There is stress and anxiety about one big change to the plan. Once they agree, they are booted out of the house for the rest of the show, til the big reveal. No more decisions to be made, sigh of relief…
FOLKS – this is not REALITY!! But to be honest, I love to watch them and point out all the “flaws” in the process,the “fluff” and sometimes very “poor design”. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I want to share with you the real deal.
TV shows don’t show you how hard decisions become, because they have teams of people sourcing and creating the “perfect” look. In reality, it is just you and your partner, trying to find that needle in the haystack because there are so many wonderful options out there to choose from. It is easy to become confused and overwhelmed. The rabbit hole of the internet allows those of us who like to research to search til the cows come home, and never decide on a darn thing. It is easy to become confused and overwhelmed.
Usually by the time I am called, I pull up to a house and look into the bleary eyes of my new clients to see the fog of analysis paralysis all over their face. Their body language looks like a pup after getting in trouble for chewing your favorite shoe: hunched shoulders, droopy ears, and the look of total defeat. Or, they are at the other end of the spectrum, two fighters bloodied up in the ring, with their cockles up and teeth barred ready for the eminent round two. And then there’s the referee, their builder. That is a whole other round of explosions just waiting to happen.
This is a long and difficult mountain to climb, with bumps and precarious pitfalls awaiting the unsuspecting driver. Would you take your new little sports car up that rocky road or would you choose another vehicle that was equipped for the trek? And wouldn’t you also want to have a map? Of course you would! You would not go on a trip without a plan and a map (unless you are a number 7 on the enneagram, then all bets are off). My clients are typically part way up the mountain when they realize they are off course,their GPS has lost satellite connection. and the map got wet from the drink that was spilled when they hit that last big bump. The pointing of fingers has already started and the “I told you so’s” are being thrown in all directions. Does any of this sound familiar?
People don’t usually call me when things are good, the sun is out and the grass is green. They call me when things have spun totally out of control like a tornado and they know their relationship is about to be tossed about into the great unknown.
I swoop in, with a big DM on my chest (Design Mediator or Design Master, take your pick), and help get them back on the road to success. That takes me back to the main question at hand, what do I do as a designer? You know when you are lost at the mall and you have to find the mall directory to find how to get to where you want to go? It says “you are here” with a big arrow. Those are my people, the ones with the big flashing neon “You Are Here” over their heads and the confused look on their faces. I love my people! I am helper by nature and these desperate people are in need of my help. In terms of building a house, I help people set up a plan, ie: a road map to success (completion) for their project.
I help them figure out where they are, where they want to go and the best route to get there in the easiest, least stressful way. They are usually lost and I help point them to where they are on the map. Where they are going is a new home or remodel, so I help them define what their destination looks like and what they will experience (their overall goals and vision of that project). I grab my trustee sharpie and highlighter and map out the route to get there, marking all the high points, as well as the perilous minefields of chaos associated with the building process (while also noting all the bathrooms, food courts and beer gardens along the way (because you know we must to stay hydrated and fueled for this long journey).
Most people will only build one house or remodel one time in their lives. You only have one shot at creating the home of your dreams, with virtually no experience, tons of information (and misinformation) to muddle through. Don’t you want a road map and some cool travel brochures of all the fun experiences you can have on your journey, rather than winging it and asking for directions from the really scary guy at the corner gas station? That is like asking the builder, the electrician, the plumber or your nosey neighbor (unless it is me) to choose the design elements for your home. Why would you want design advice from them?
Though I have added Cartographer to my list of credentials, I still know you can lead a horse to water but you still can’t make him drink. So what do I really do? I guide couples through the entire building process step by step so that they keep peace with their spouse while building a house. If you are curious to how I do that Press for Less Stress.