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Should interior designers bully clients into submission

I watched “The Great Interior Design Challenge” on BBC last night – I like most TV programmes that have a creative challenge edge to them, whether is cooking, gardening, pottery, or house rebuilds and revamps, and I happened to catch a bit of this series last week and was more than happy to see how the series was progressing this week.

It was more modernistic than the previous weeks and the two interior designers seemed to have some interesting ideas for their clients in Bristol who of course even though they weren’t paying the £2,000 revamp of their two rooms, the clients did have to live with them. Both the clients were middle aged and both the designers were younger than them by 20 years or more by the look of it. Both the clients had ideas of what they wanted in the room and of course what they didn’t want for the room, so when they  sat down with the designers they were both specific about not wanting one specific item in the room – a white chaise longue in the lounge of one which was white and impractical and backless which wasn’t ideal for more than one person to sit on and they had a small dog in the house so really impractical for keeping clean, and a freestanding screen in the bedroom of the other that had no purpose other than to hide things the client didn’t have. Neither clients wanted those items, and told the designers very clearly that they didn’t. Both designers went away to have a re-think regarding them.

But, and this was the thing that I felt was really out of place.

Whilst they were thinking about it, and trying to work around the problems, the two acclaimed judges told them that they should “own” their designs. And as the programme went on, they re-iterated that comment. So, basically, they were saying that “Ok, you’ve come up with a design you like, the clients aren’t happy with parts of them, so you should steam roller over what they want and do what you want, even though after this you’ll walk away from this after two days of working here, and they have to live with it, whether they like it or not”.

The designers had to decide whether they were going to please the judges, or the clients.

It seemed that the message was that you should bully more in being an interior designer and bombastically tell the client that they are wrong.

I felt that there should be a working relationship with the clients, and the judges should respect that, and surely that’s part of being a designer the ability to work around the clients brief.

If I’m given a commission to do, I sit down with my client and ask if they have any ideas of what they want, and if they specifically don’t like black in a painting I wouldn’t make them have black just because I like it, or make them have loads of orange in it if they hate orange and it makes them shudder. Surely, its a working arrangement, the clients requests against the artists ability to put the technical creativity together for them. I may consider my artistic ideas are better sometimes, through experience and technical know-how but not to the point of bulling a client. If they want pastel shades, they get pastel shades like this painting “Living Flame” that I did for the woman from California who hated black, brown, dark green and bright red.  If they want no greens or blues they get no greens and blues like this painting I did for David and Martyn, a gay couple from Bath who wanted their painting of themselves and their extended families and pets to be featured on this large oil painting for their Grade 1 listed home near the Royal Crescent in Bath, in plums, browns, creams, reds, black, white and silver, because those were the colours that matched their décor so those were the colours I used, even though half the painting was grass (and no green) and a third of it was sky (and no blue!).