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Who Is To Blame?

Who Pays For Design Mistakes?

Who Pays For Design Mistakes Openign Photo

When you hire an expert in any field you expect that things will be done the right way and that the mistakes that you would have made won’t happen. You are paying for the years of experience and knowledge that only a real expert can give you. So, what happens if they mess up? What happens if their mistake costs money? In the creative industry it’s a bit tricky because, by nature of what we do, we are creating something for the first time, every single time, and the amount of unknowns are huge. Unless you want something generic, then you run the risk of some fatalities due to experimentation. Houses are old and tricky, colors are subjective, and often no matter how much time went into the most perfect-to-scale renderings sometimes you get in the space and it feels off. As a designer, I’ve been on the mistake-r end of this but I was only inspired to write this post after being on the victim side – the client side of which I won’t elaborate on. I didn’t hire an interior designer of course, but it was a creative design of sorts. It gave me a really good perspective on who should be paying for these mistakes, and, furthermore, it gave me such a better perspective on how I can handle mistakes as a designer.

But not all mistakes are created equal. First off there are a few different kinds of mistakes:

1. The “You should have known better” mistake – otherwise known as a “functional” problem. These are the mistakes that any designer that bills more than $125 an hour should not be making without helping to cover the cost of rectifying,  in my opinion. This could be mistakes on function, measurements, or ordering/timing issues. We have made some of these in the past but don’t so much anymore because we triple check all of these things. Examples: buying sconces that don’t fit once you open the door, a sofa too big to get into the house, a sink not centered under the kitchen window, cabinets that open the wrong way and can’t fully open, a bathtub too wide to put toilet in properly to code, or a rug that is way too small for the room, etc. Don’t get me wrong, these mistakes still can happen but in my professional opinion everyone (designer and client) should put on their “reasonable” hat and come together to figure out the best way to cover the cost with the designer admitting the mistake and being willing to fix it. Maybe they will forego billing the hours it takes to fix the problem, and if it’s a piece of furniture that was a functional problem (not just stylistically) and can’t be returned, then I think the designer should help sell that item and order a new one. Apologies need to be made and motions to fix the mistake should happen quickly. It’s just like life, people, when ya mess up, ya fix it.

I’m sure I’ll get some backlash from other designers, but I’m really trying to put myself in the clients shoes. As a client of a landscaping project, if that designer had recommended, ordered, and delivered some trees that would not be able to live in the allocated place due to sun or soil reasons, then I would expect not to have to pay for those costs to return them even if I had said “Sure, I like them.” If they had been planted and they died then I would have been extremely bummed and would have held them accountable. That is why I, a person who doesn’t know anything about plants, hires them, expert in their field and don’t do it myself. It’s fine to be wrong, sure, and mistakes will always be made but when you recommend and buy something that doesn’t “work” due to oversight, then I think it’s your job to help cover the costs to fix. But not always …. keep reading.

I don’t have any personal examples of this from my design company and we racked our brain to think of one, but we couldn’t. We typically catch and fix before they’ve been installed, so we don’t take photos and very little time is wasted.

2. The “who’s fault is it?” mistake – This is the most fun one (opposite) as everyone is scrambling to figure out how it went wrong and is secretly praying that it wasn’t their fault. Usually these happen when there are subcontractors involved and there is some sort of communication issue or a subcontractor was less skilled.  A few examples –

My master bathroom tile:

Before Photos Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them Emily Henderson Light Blue Scallop Tile Bathtub

When it was first installed the tile and grout looked like that (above right). As the client (and designer) in this case, I hadn’t specified for the grout/tile line to not look stupid and wobbly, but I thought it was generally implied. The tiler was the real deal and did a seriously beautiful job, but then I saw that line and was like hey now, that’s not good. It was really distracting. I showed my contractor and, while he didn’t think that it looked as bad as I did, he understood that it should look better. Ultimately we had more tile so it was fine, and I believe the tiler came back and broke open the tiles, added that tiny line of tile, and I didn’t get charged for the labor. Now if we had to buy more tile for it, I think that I would have asked that they split the cost with me because while it wasn’t specified that this line not look like that, it also seems like a no brainer that they would. If I were a real stickler I’m sure I could have gotten them to pay for the broken/replaced tile but I’m not, so I didn’t. It felt reasonable to me to just fix it.

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them After Photo Emily Henderson Light Blue Scallop Tile Bathtub

My Master Bedroom Wallpaper:

When first installed, it looked great. I had a professional painter prep/skim coat the wall months before for wallpaper and a VERY professional wallpaperer install it. All was good.

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them Rose Gold Wallpaper After Photo

Until one day it started doing this:

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them Rose Gold Wallpaper

It looked like garbage. Again, this was for me and I was the client but had I been the designer, I have no idea what I would have done. So much money wasted:

Cost of custom wallpaper $1200

Installation: $500

Glue-ing/trying to fix – $300 (he gave me a deal because he felt bad)

Stripping/repainting – $800 (it took days since it had been glued).

So. THAT’S fun. The wallpaper installer said it wasn’t his application. He said it was either that the paper was too thick or the walls weren’t cured (they had been skim-coated and painted months before).  I called Astek (who made the paper) about the paper and they said that it wasn’t the papers fault, and I spoke to my painter and he said it definitely should have cured by then. The mystery factor is that at the time we didn’t have that good of AC (replaced now) and it was in a room that got hard afternoon light. So it could have been a heat issue. Regardless, if I had hired a designer, I would have been looking for someone to to help fix the problem. I’m not one that looks for fault, but yes, you’d also want to find out who did what wrong and how this could have been prevented. But, ultimately, since there was no way to find out why this happened, the cost would have fallen on the client.

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them Rose Gold Wallpaper 1

Next up is the built-in bench mishap from Sara Sugarman’s Nursery Makeover.

When we first proposed a bench, we feared it would be expensive but I knew it was the right thing to do. Ginny did some drawings and we received a quote from a dude that we had recently hired to do a cheaper project and he did a fine job. Since Sara lives in a rental she didn’t want to spend $1500 on a built-in (my estimate from a good cabinet dude). We told her she had two options if she wanted a built-in: hire a risky dude for $600 or the real deal for $1500. She chose the risky, less-experienced dude.

Before Photos Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them Girls Pink Nursery Bench

What he did was fine but not awesome (right photo). He wasn’t finished yet, but I could tell up close that it wasn’t up to par and Sara was pretty unsatisfied as well. Furthermore I thought that the design of the bench was going to be flush with the closet – so that it would be deeper. This was a mis-communication between Ginny and I, as she didn’t know that was my expectation and I didn’t catch it when I approved the drawing. Before our dude could spend more time on the bench, we told him to stop and that I’d pay him for the labor/materials up until that point which was $300. I wasn’t billing my time on this project anyway (it was a “for press and portfolio” only) and I was billing Ginny at a friends and family rate anyway so we didn’t feel bad about that. I believe we ended up splitting the $300 with Sara. Had I billed my time I would have not taken it off because I told her it was a risk and she went with it anyway. If I has said, “this guy is awesome, trust me!!” then I would have felt terrible and probably would have helped cover more of the cost.

Meanwhile she ended up hiring our expensive guy who charged $1500 but it’s pretty impeccable and the drawers function beautifully.

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them Girls Pink Nursery Bench 1 Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them Girls Pink Nursery Bench 2

3. Another kind of mistake is the “Trust me it will look good but it looks really bad” mistake.

I can’t believe I’m putting this on the internet. Remember the Captain America Sofa (below)? This was a sofa that we bought for The Fig House from the thrift store for $100. We (I) had the (not so) genius idea of upholstering it in outdoor fabric with outdoor foam to live mostly outdoors (we needed some pieces out there). I chose all the fabric for 14 pieces on one day and it was a shit show. I basically just tagged each piece with a swatch of fabric and a safety pin. This one was a huge piece and, without boring you with the details, I clearly messed up and upholstered it in a hideous fabric, or two. And then the skirt … dear god.

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them 2

It was kinda perfect for our circus themed party, but it was hideous for any other occassion ever. When we had all the furniture delivered we unwrapped this and my face went white followed quickly by a whelp, that sucks. Steve, the client looked at me with a “Henderson? Is this a joke?” look on his face and we all started laughing. I ended up taking the cost of the sofa, fabric, and upholstery off of the invoice – losing around $1200. He never approved this design (hell, I don’t think I even did) and everything that was wrong with it was my fault, so I felt the most reasonable thing to do is cover the costs and try to sell it.   Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them 3

I think the key here is “reasonable.” Also I couldn’t sell that thing for the life of me (shocking) and ended up donating it to a thrift store for a write off. I lost $1200 at least (I probably didn’t take in the cost of delivery/pickup, etc).

This next one happened very recently. We have a new client who moved into a house with these curtains already up. They wanted them to be gray but the size and fabric was fine, so they asked us to look into dying.

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them 4 copy

While we have dyed some things before, we had never for a client and not this much. This felt rather risky to Ginny which she vocalized, but they wanted to proceed. We found a place in Orange County that does this and all but guaranteed us that there would be no issues, but we didn’t get that guarantee in writing.

We took them down there and two weeks later picked them up and had them reinstalled:

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them 5

As you can see there was shrinkage – a lot. And the fabric, which we realized was actually really cheap, was permanently gauzy and wrinkly in a way that didn’t fit the style of the house and ruined the pleating. They were totally ruined. Now, thank god they hadn’t purchased them and that they came with the house, but they are still bummed. We are now working with them to replace the curtains, but since it was out of our control and we advised against, the risk was theirs to take. If we had to do it again, we would get in writing that there would absolutely be no shrinkage and have gotten a sample of one first – although if one got ruined then I’m not sure how we would have fixed that one as we wouldn’t have been able to match the fabric so well, etc. The client was bummed but is grateful that I’m wielding my blog power to help get them replaced at a deep discount (thank you, Decorview).

Next up? The tale of the “off” paint color.

When we were sampling colors for The Lorey’s living room, we fell in love with a particular paint color. They gave us a sample card with the paint on it and the client chose this one below. But after the room was painted, it looked like a different color – it looked super blue. At first, I cringed thinking that it was our fault. Colors are tricky and we knew that they didn’t want the room to go too blue, but the room looked blue. I thought that we hadn’t obsessed about it enough and that there were more undertones that were blue that we missed.

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them Wrong Paint Color

Then we put the sample against the wall and they are actually very different in tone – in other words, the sample was off. You can see it in the picture on the left – the sample is much warmer than the wall color its in front of. In a way it was the paint company’s fault, but obviously I couldn’t make them pay for the labor to fix it. Ultimately we took off a couple hours of design time (saving them around $350) and they paid the $350 to have it repainted (our painter gave them a good deal since he had JUST painted it). They are reasonable people, as our we, so we both chipped in to fix the mistake as neither of us were to blame.

One last one (as this just happened). We received a faucet for a kitchen install super damaged.

Design Mistakes Who Pays For Them After Photo Emily Henderson Faucet Rusted

Obviously not our fault, but there were ramifications. The plumber was booked to install the day it arrived, which meant that he couldn’t do his job. He ended up not charging us (thank god) because he is a lovely, reasonable person, but he was bummed. Then it took Ginny 1.5 hours to track down and order a new, undamaged faucet (the company was super non-responsive and we had to follow up like 10 times). This stuff just happens and when mistakes are made, often it takes time to fix them and if the mistake isn’t ours then we bill that time regardless. It’s a bummer for the client, but unless they want to rectify it themselves then we have to bill that time.

As you can see, every single mistake is different and the outcome is never that clear. What is clear to me is a few things:

1. When you hire artists, you get something unique and beautiful just for you – something they’ve never done before. Therefore, no matter how much experience they have, there will be tweaks, returns, and style disagreements. This can take some time, and if you are being billed hourly, then time is money. But hiring a generic designer that shops for everyone online and takes no risks gets you a generic home.

2. Functional mistakes should be admitted to and rectified with as little cost to the client as possible. This is why if you are a budding designer you should absolutely try to work for a larger designer first so you can make and watch mistakes before you are the one paying for them. These mistakes happen and they aren’t the end of the world, but it’s your job to admit to them and fix them (and then you certainly won’t make that mistake again).

3. Work extremely closely with your contractor or architect at all times. Show them every single spec for every door, faucet, and pedestal sink before you order them and then both of you check them in when they arrive immediately to make sure you didn’t accidentally get the left facing tub instead of the right and then cause weeks in delay. This is where you catch the problems that could turn into mistakes. Congruently bring in the homeowner as much as possible to get them to sign off on everything.

4. Leave a paper trail and get everything you can in writing. Especially if you are doing something that you haven’t done before, admit that and then ask and receive every answer via email. Don’t let your ego get in the way and then make a mistake because you wanted them to know you could handle it.

5. Be transparent. This is a general life rule of mine, but the more honest and transparent you are the fewer bad positions you’ll be in in life.

6. Be reasonable and use common sense – for BOTH parties. I know that legally there might be times when you don’t have to cover a cost and legally times when you do, but like I said, designing a house is extremely nuanced be fluid and flexible throughout the whole process.

When you hire someone, you should expect a level of professionalism, but you should not expect perfection. Mistakes will be made. Sometimes your instincts are wrong, or your eye is off and you maybe got overly excited about that custom mural of Biff from Back To The Future in your client’s den and maybe it should come down.

I’ve never had bad clients that have ok’d something then changed their mind and expected me to cover the cost of it, but I have heard of this happening. Many designers have the clients pay for everything directly or they have them sign a contract per purchase – so if you are a designer and are worried about that, then that is a good option for you. Also get insurance, on the bad chance that something huge has to be torn out that is deemed to be your fault, it’s always good to have insurance to cover that.

Ok, fellow designers, now its your turn. Do you agree with me? Do you think I’m dead wrong? I know there are some horror stories from clients and even more advice and potentially differing opinions from designers, and I’d honestly love to hear them. I’m not saying this is THE LAW, nor am I saying that we as designers should just roll over, take it, and lose money. A lot of it also depends on how much you value your relationships with your clients and if word of mouth is important to your business.

And if you have been on the client side and worked with a designer who has made mistakes let me know. How did they deal with it and did you feel that it was fair?

Weigh in, folks….

*Liked this post? Well here are some design mistakes you can avoid: My Biggest Design Regrets – and What You Can Learn From Them, Design Mistake: Anything “Antiqued” or “Faux Old”, Design Mistake: Painting a Small or Dark Room White, Design Mistake: The Generic Sofa, Design Mistake: The “Too Small Rug”.

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  1. Oh boy. We are dealing with some major problems with a floor right now, and trying to get the distributer/manufacturer to pay for new material. It’s a terrible process, and one that is making the clients crazy. Now that it’s been inspected, I’m hoping the installer will agree to just tear it out and replace it, then worry about the cost later. In this situation, the material was suggested by the installer, so the client and the designer (us) are not really on the hook. HOWEVER- we are not charging for our time to fix this, and that really adds up.

    Smaller issues- like needing to replace a shower arm, or move some outlets we just take care of. We’ll work it out with the builder, maybe we cover the whole cost or we share it. Either way, small things that just got missed are usually not something the client needs to pay for. There is always something on a job- a new house is so complex you can’t do everything 100% perfectly the first time around.

    Part of what we get paid to do is absorb these hassles for a client- prevent and fix issues. Sometimes they pay for it, but not with their own time and worry. If I go to a client with a problem, I like to have a solution in hand for them to approve.

    Another aspect is your relationship with the builder and subs. I make it known that I would rather have 10 questions about one item than no questions and have it be wrong. And if they think something is odd or off- speak up! It’s possible they don’t see the “vision” but I’m also human so I like that there are people who have my back.

    1. Oh good. That sounds very similar. I was so worried that designers would be like ‘you are nuts and making us all look like pushovers’ so i’m glad to know that its a similar situation. And yes to subs and contractors questioning you. I remind them of that all the time. Their input is EXTREMELY important.

  2. I love this post, Emily! Thank you for being so honest and for being willing to tackle something relatively controversial.

    I am currently a client — not on a big scale, but am ordering a custom sofa, and am interacting with an interior designer through whom the purchase has to be made. It’s the first time I’ve splurged on anything for our home, so it’s a big deal for me. I was asking a lot of questions because the showroom didn’t have examples of several things I wanted to see (nothing that was double top stitched, for example). The whole world of furniture and upholstery language is all new to me too, so aside from finding things on Google (which wasn’t always the easiest, because sewing terms vary so much), I had no way of “seeing” what I was getting. I am not expecting every detail to be perfect, but I thought it was reasonable to ask questions like: what is the difference between box cushions and pleated corner cushions… which will make the back cushions look more like this ___? (with an attached photo). Anyway, when I was nearing the finish line (we’re talking a week of emails back and forth), the interior designer dropped me. I found out from the supplier that they had been burned by a client in the past, and because I was asking a lot of questions, they were nervous I was going to do the same thing to them. So, instead of giving me the option of paying up front, or signing off that I understood that all custom furniture is a unique piece (which I would have been totally happy to do) they just sent a rude email saying they couldn’t work with me. To be honest, it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I’m a people pleaser by nature, and was really pushing myself to ask the questions (pumping myself up in advance with, “You are spending a lot of money on this! you do have every right to ask ____! It’s not your fault that they haven’t taken any photos of their California roll arms! You can do this!”)

    Anyway, all to say, I wish I’d been working with someone like you. Even if you had felt like I was a risky client, if you had been honest and explained your concerns, we could have had a conversation that would have let you see that I wasn’t going to back out on the sale on you — was asking questions up front to avoid any surprises… but even if I had been unhappy with something, even if it was totally their fault in the end, the way I’m wired, I would never have refused to pay.

    So, thanks for telling the design world what’s what. I love the guideline… “reasonable” and “honest.” Thanks!

    1. Oh man. You should absolutely get a drawing or maybe thats not part of their fee but they should have a drawing fee for things like this. And we would NEVER drop a client because they were high maintenance especially if work was already put in – and you don’t sound high maintenance at all! I’m so sorry. That sounds humiliating. If you lived in LA we would be happy to do drawings, give many reference photos and get you your perfect sofa. xx

      1. Thanks! And, if I am ever in LA, or otherwise think I can pull it off, you will most definitely be my first choice!

  3. I can’t believe your contractor thought the tile job was acceptable, it totally wasn’t. Some things just shouldn’t need explicit instructions. The tile guy knew he took a short cut. I am left just shaking my head and wondering why you even had to have either of those discussions.

    Regarding the wallpaper, I’m a little baffled about why a professional wallpaper installer wouldn’t know about what materials will stand up to heat. Seems like if anyone on earth should be an expert in wallpaper, it should be one who installs it for a living. I live in the South and don’t think that one should always assume that a room in a warm client will always, always have air conditioning running.

    I am doing an extensive exterior restoration of a historic house and some of the wood siding on the dormers was replaced. I kept looking at it and looking at it, hoping it was my imagination that the profile of the siding did not match the rest of the house. When I finally brought it to the attention of my contractor, telling them that I thought the carpenter had used German lap instead of bevelled siding, they had an “OHMYGOD SHE’S RIGHT” moment and promptly told the sub to replace at no cost to either of us. It should go without saying that the siding should match, and he had to have realized that the material he was using was different than that what he used to patch in on other sections of the house. I see that as pretty analogous to your tile installer.

    1. *warm climate (not client)

  4. This was a very interesting post…glad you delved into some details on this issue! I agree with you billing your time for dealing with correcting mistakes that others have made, because that’s just what has to be done (I’m a lawyer, so I very much get the whole “billing for everything you do” process). However, even though I’m a layperson in the design world, I have to disagree with you saying that, when the mistake was a “you should have known better” mistake (like mis-measuring, etc.), the designer and client should “come together to figure out the best way to cover the cost,” or the designer should maybe just not charge for the time spent correcting the problem, or “help cover the costs,” or “help to sell” a couch and buy a new one…maybe I’m misunderstanding, but shouldn’t the designer pay ALL costs (or all extra costs) under those circumstances? Not just “help” to cover costs? I agree that, under your other scenarios, there is a middle ground where both the client and the designer should chip in to correct the issue. But, if it’s one of those “you should have known better” mistakes, why shouldn’t the designer cover the cost 100% instead of “helping to cover” the cost? Just my two cents as someone who would be on the client side…

    1. Yes. I think I’m just afraid of saying it because I don’t want to get a huge designer backlash as if i’m setting some sort of standard, but YES I think they/we should cover all costs. I’ll edit to reflect that. I think any costs that incurred due to our ‘should have known better’ mistakes should be covered. 🙂

    2. I’m an attorney too. My thought when reading this is that I think I write off more time than designers do!

  5. This was such a helpful post! (especially since I’m a recent grad from design school) You don’t typically come across this kind of information on blogs or just generally in the internet. Thank you for being so open and honest.

    1. Oh good. I know I wish I had read this 7 years ago instead of wondering what ‘real designers’ do during these situations. Good luck!

  6. I had a somewhat similar situation when ordering furniture for my work office renovation. I was responsible for managing the remodeling of an 8,000 sq foot office. I worked with architects, construction, carpet, electrical, HVAC, etc.. subcontractors. For our office furniture, I chose the color pallet, fabric, desk tops, drawer configurations, lights and plug accessories, etc… The furniture alone costs about $250K. Well on installation day, I saw a couple set of file drawers being delivered that had different drawer fronts then what I had selected. They looked awful. I wanted to cry. Turns out that when I was overseas for a couple of months, my boss decided that he wanted additional drawer cabinets and choose something different. We verified that they did delivered exactly what was ordered, but their in-house designer never verified that the color combo chosen wouldn’t have worked and that they didn’t inform me as the lead POC for the project of this add-on. My sales guy was there during the installation and he knew I was upset. He said, “I can’t have someone who hates my furniture.” They called the president of the factory on a Saturday and place a rush order for new drawer front replacements at no additional charge. I was so happy when the replacements arrived a few weeks later.

  7. I am an aspiring designer. I have gutted and remodeled three homes (my own) and it seems as this is my passion, it would make sense to try and give this a whirl and I can’t wait BUT- bigger designers in Mpls do not take self taught folk like me on as inters. Not totally cool for me and really their loss. The mistakes you have pointed out are figureoutable, yet terrifying for a new designer. You are charmingly transparent and I am sure this helps when mistakes are made. Otherwise, you can do no wrong. Love your work. Have you thought about teaching an online course for designers that can’t get an intern position?

  8. I just finished an extensive remodel- I was basically the designer but had an “experienced” project manager to over see construction, installation, subcontractors … In two bathrooms we ordered quite pricey wood look porcelain tile from Italy (the kind made by computer algorithms and no two tiles are the same) I was getting daily photo updates from the job site and was horrified to see that they laid these tiles in a subway tile method instead of a more organic wood floor.. I told the builder and PM that it was unacceptable- sent them links to many pictures and blogs that showed how this is an industry unacceptable method of installation- and they (finally) agreed and removed the tile- were able to salvage some- and they replaced the rest- before it was reinstalled I worked with them on a tile laying plan and signed off on it.. Oh but it doesn’t stop there. The priciest tile I bought was a marble mosaic for my shower- it was installed beautifully but when I moved in- the shower didn’t drain! So they had to rip it all out and re-grade the slope. Again. I am
    Sure I paid the PM time to manage the job, but I saw no costs for their errors! I got lucky with my team, but it’s always tense..

    1. Did the elevations of the wall show the tile lay out?

    2. Yeah, I have to say, if the drawings didn’t show the tile layout, how was the contractor to know how you wanted them? There is no ‘industry standard’ to tile layout- you can do whatever you want with them. I’m glad it worked out for you but please don’t blame the contractor too much- they can’t read minds!

  9. “5. Be transparent. This is a general life rule of mine, but the more honest and transparent you are the fewer bad positions you’ll be in in life.”

    Words to live by. I would hire you AND be your friend.

  10. Emily! What a great post to inform on this process. I’m launching my design business this summer but am specifically going to focus on helping clients through the building process of non-custom homes. You know, when you have 5 hours at the design center to pick out every single thing that will go in your brand new house and sign a form saying if you change your mind you will pay through the nose. I’m also starting design services that really consists of advice, a rendering, and personal shopping service. I call it design for the masses. I think the best overall thing to take away from this is communication. Communicate everything to everyone and try to track the communication in writing as much as possible. After all, everyone likes to know what’s really going on. Thanks for the great advice!

    Nancy

  11. Honestly, I am bummed when there is anything other than a before and after renovation on your site. It’s like always hoping you’ll find the prize in your favorite cereal. You still love the cereal, but with each bowl you cross your fingers it will be fave cereal + prize. I always read on, and on this one, my expectations were low, but you had me at Captain America sofa. Holy crap. So funny. So bad.

    Long story short, even in a potentially boring (to me) post about doing things wrong, you still can do no wrong.

    1. AH, thanks. I read your first comment and was all ‘oh no!’ but glad I kept reading. xx

  12. I work for a small general contractor/design-builder in Boston and I can say from experience that all 6 of your points at the bottom of the post are TOTALLY ACCURATE AND YOU SHOULD DO ALL OF THEM. I can’t even tell you how many times we have gotten burned from somebody changing their mind and we didn’t have it in writing so now EVERYTHING we do is via email so we have the written confirmation. We triple check everything and look at all the products as they come in to make sure they are what we ordered and not damaged. It seems like just good business practice to me since we have been following this procedure for so long, but I’m sure there are many people out there who wouldn’t even think to take such precautions because its easy to think that everyone in the world is as nice/reasonable as you. I’m sorry to say that is not the case.

    1. Yes, everything in writing! We just renovated our kitchen and powder room and the KD/general contractor was terrible about answering e-mails and kept wanting to talk about things on the phone. I finally figured out that if I texted him he would text back and then at least things would be in writing.

    2. Great comment, quick question if you don’t mind, do you charge an hourly rate to go on site and check deliveries?

  13. Emily – first of all, great post. I have been wanting to ask you a question so bad, that is unrelated to this awesome post but I see that you are responding to comments so here it is – why in styled open shelving photos are the plates and bowls ALWAYS round and never square? I have been dying to know this for so long.

    1. HA. I think that there are just better round bowls/plates on the market than square ones. I like some, but they go either Japanese (which can be fun) or catering (which isn’t). So thats why 🙂

  14. I’m in the middle of a seemingly endless bathroom reno. I knew it was ambitious so I didn’t balk at our quote of 70k, However our job has been terribly mishandled, and what was quoted at 8-10 weeks has turned into almost 6 MONTHS. There were some small mistakes that turned into bigger deals since our home is on a concrete pad. So every plumbing mistake (and there were several, including the zero-entry shower not sloping enough for drainage) required having to demo more concrete. They are currently cutting the shower glass surround for a third time due to mistakes. I’m an “all’s well that ends well” kind of gal, and have tried to remain cheerful/reasonable throughout the process but at what point does an egregious mismanagement of a project and delay in completion warrant some type of discount? My contractor called me yesterday to inform me that the third whack at the shower glass should be installed on June 1 and he also joked that he couldn’t believe he’s been working on our job since Christmas. I know that he’s embarrassed at how our project has unfolded but he hasn’t mentioned any type of discount and I haven’t either but I’d love to know your thoughts.

    1. Were the ‘mistakes’ due to an error by them (I guess thats the definition of a mistake) or something unknown, like the concrete pad? I think when things snowball out of an error then asking for a discount is reasonable, but if they are problems due to the structure of your house then you just have to take it. That sounds like a disaster and isn’t it just shocking how much a bathroom can be??? Good luck. It will be over someday and you’ll have your fantasy bathroom. xx

  15. Great post! It’s so interesting seeing this side of what you guys do, and what other designers do 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  16. This all seems totally reasonable! Great post. The one that I would take issue with is the wallpaper. If I was the client I would have been tiiiiicked off and probably gone ‘to the mattresses’ instead of eating ~$3000 on wallpaper that buckled. If a designer recommended the custom wallpaper and it started to come off like that I think the blame lies there. As I client, my thinking would be that I’m paying you (and your team and thus contractors hired, etc) to think of how things could go wrong and make choices that mitigate against those risks. Just my two cents. You seem more than fair, but that’s the trickiest of them all to me.

    1. I know. It’s tricky but in all my experience with wallpaper (probably 40 + rooms now) I have never encountered this. I personally think it was a combination – heat + thicker paper than usual + the fact that the walls weren’t just drywall and paint and there was a layer of plaster that had been sanded in between. The third thing was the only thing that was known but that would never have cracked a wallpaper before. So while I’m so glad I was the client, I still feel like as the ‘designer’ i’m not the blame on this one. 🙂

  17. Love love love this post Emily! As an exterior designer (I am the outside version of you! 🙂 ) details get even more tricky since dimensions (without an expensive surveyor) aren’t perfect, plant material can be finicky (to a degree, Im not talking putting a full shade plant in the hot sun), and even the hard materials (concrete, wood, etc) morph and change with temperatures and sun exposure. I make sure I’m on the job site for all installs- it used to be an ‘extra’ on my pricing structure but I recently started including it in the price – because you just cannot always dig the hole where the plan shows the plant. But even then, its OUTSIDE. You cant just dust it and vacuum it. It takes maintenance and the weather makes stuff….happen. Some stuff is my fault and YES honesty and working together with trustworthy craftsman and contractors is so key. So glad I saw this today – made my day! Thank you! Going to take this list and post it on my wall 🙂

  18. I have worked with 2 different designers and both times I’ve noticed that they will give me suggestions on fixtures or materials, but if I ask them for direct advise on which to purchase, they avoid giving a straight answer and want me to make the final decision. I assumed this was to keep the ultimate responsibility on the client, rather than the designer.
    Also, would love to see more posts on installation details like your tile example above. For those of us with limited experience in renovations, knowing these kind of details up front to instruct the contractors would be so helpful.

  19. Great perspective, Emily! As a DIYer, I’m curious about your design process and perspective on returning items? I tend to think it’s ok to purchase and return options that don’t work (it’s part of the process, right?), but I’ve had people shame me for doing so. What’s your take? This probably falls into the “reasonable” category, but it’d be great to get a designer’s point of view on what is reasonable.

    1. My take is that if you are using just for a shoot try to buy/keep 30% of the order. Overall we do SOOO much purchasing with major big box stores that i feel no guilt. I think if its for an actual install just overbuy, play then return. Be respectful with packaging and be nice to the people doing the return (and again try really hard to keep some) but it all works out over time and ultimately we as consumers spend money.

  20. I hired a per-hour designer once and am hesitant to again because of the experience. One of the things that happened is she gave me two off-white paint recommendations. I picked the one I liked better and painted the entire floor of the house in it over a weekend. She came to see it and said, “You were supposed to pick up a quart of each and paint swatches then call me back. It’s too pink.” I felt like I wasn’t paying someone by the hour to suggest I paint swatches. I thought she knew either of those colors would work. Plus she spent a ton of time in idle chat and gossip, which she considered billable. So now I make my own design mistakes. lol.

  21. Emily-
    Thank you for a terrific post. This is just what I needed today! I’m a designer with my own studio (no formal training, but 5 years into it and have figured all this out on the fly). I believe “the customer is always right” model is the best, as I figure my reputation is worth more than anything else I’ve got, but it’s been (super!) painful at times. It is SO reassuring to hear that you and others suffer the same angst, and to know that you also always strive to make it right for clients (sometimes I think I’m a sucker for all the costs I end up eating). The monetary pain of mistakes can be very rough, but what really keeps me up at night is the human element – emotions and drama – so I try to minimize that by being respectful, responsible, proactive, honest, and by showing up with a solution, and to offer to cover MORE than my fair share. (This prevents clients from digging in their heels and sets the tone for everyone to cooperate, so it’s often also a smart move.) I think it’s helpful to recognize that, on an annual basis, 2-5% of revenue will be eaten up with mistakes – what other businesses write off as “loss/breakage/theft.” It feels less personal and less painful when I look at it with a long view as a recurring cost of doing business! In the end, happy clients are what we all strive for because that means lots of future business. thank you again for your honesty and good humor. Reading your blog lightens my spirit and my day. Gracias Amiga!

    1. I enjoyed your comment! I’m not a designer but I imagine the heartache/drama would affect me the most as well. You have a great outlook, and I hope it serves your business well!

      1. Thanks Erin. It’s not always fun to be the fall guy, but it is what feels right in my heart and I can sleep well at night! Thanks for the encouragement!

  22. What a great article Emily!! I like how you have handled these mistakes professionally and fairly. I agree being transparent is always the best way to be and helps a lot if a mistake happens! Thanks for all the great tips!

  23. Fabulous post. Wish all contractors, not just designers were as fair, honest and transparent as you. Our experience with a well-regarded and experienced interior designer was so awful, I would be afraid to ever try it again. She typically does “high-end” jobs, but was recommended by a contractor we were considering, and we were honest with her from the very beginning about our budget for a master bedroom renovation, which included some construction, as well as decor. She was a lovely and extremely talented person. Her designs were spectacular. Unfortunately, in our experience, she has no concept of cost. We discussed budget in our initial meetings and, in fact, increased it by about 50% to reach the figure she suggested we would need. We also continued to ask, during the process, if her suggestions, which substantially increased the construction, would respect the budget, and she always assured us that yes, they would. My first clue should have been when she suggested a gorgeous silk rug from NIBA, which, when I priced it, turned out to be 25% of the total budget. Yeah, no. When her design was completed, 3 general contractors bid the job, and it was over twice the agreed-upon budget in every quote. Now this is just for the construction, NOT the pretty pillows, bedding, furniture, lights, etc. The designer seemed unable to make any changes resulting in significant decreases, chipping away with minimal changes resulting in meeting after meeting with her recommended contractor who had to re-quote over and over. At one meeting, I opined it was like trying to take down a redwood tree with a nail file. We never even got close to our original budget, and the contractor moved on in disgust. After a year plus, so did we, having lost our entire fixed fee payment to her design firm, which was thousands of dollars, and all that time, for which we had nothing to show but lovely plans for a design we could not afford to build. She knew how upset we were, but offered no recompense. That is, UNTIL 2 years later, I posted a review, saying almost exactly what I’ve said here, on a heavily-trafficked design site we all know. Not because I expected anything, but just to give a heads up to anyone who was considering using her and didn’t have unlimited funds. All of a sudden, after nothing for all that time, she contacted us and offered a refund of her design fee, if I would contact the site and ask to have the review taken down. That seemed fair to me, so we proceeded to do that. I understand that she and her firm spent hours on our project, but the fact that nothing came of it wasn’t our fault. Just disappointed that it took the specter of bad press before she felt she should do anything about it.

    1. So, basically, she bought your review. Not actually fair.

    2. I normally don’t comment but this comment hits a nerve. I’m a designer and own my own firm. I do middle to high end clients but get calls all the time from “said site” for clients who’s budgets do not align with my fees nor typical client. That being said occasionally I do take a few clients with them understanding I don’t do “budget” designs. I make it clear while I do take their budget into consideration when my name is on the design I’m not going to “cheap out” on the design plans, I’m going to do my job and design the best plan for the space. That and the accounts for furnishings and rugs I do carry price points reflect that of my typical client. It’s both ur designers fault for not making that clear to u as a client BUT also your job as the client to research who you hire. If their typical job is over 150k and your budget is 40k and u decide to hire them anyways, than a decent amount of the fault lies on u. The firm is responsible for not making that clear to you but in no way should they have to eat all their costs for design plans you couldn’t afford when you knowingly hired a designer who takes on projects that far exceed your budget. Leaving a negative review on a public site 2 YEARS LATER to “warn others” is so disrespectful. If you were u that unhappy I’m sure the firm would have reached an agreement with u on the fees u paid. They deserved to be compensated for their time spent it’s not their fault you hired someone who’s designs you couldn’t afford. Do your research hire who you can afford and pay talent for their time and don’t think it’s your responsibility to “warn” anyone on public reviews and tarnish the reputation of a small business.

      1. I agree with both sides. Sometimes a client comes to you because they love your previous work, which was a high-end budget. They want that look however do not have the budget. It makes it difficult to achieve that look on a tighter budget. A good designer should be able to offer options in a lower price bracket to suit the client, otherwise communicate that they would not be able to continue work. Tricky one!

      2. Hi, I’m asking this because I am genuinely curious (this entire post/comments fascinates me, as I work in a very cut-and-dried field): If a designer generally doesn’t work with a budget less than 100k, why would that designer agree to work with someone who says their budget is 40k? It seems like the designer should decline the job. Wouldn’t that solve the problem?

      3. Jenny, as a professional tip: when you write a long response but refuse to spell out the word “you”, it looks very unprofessional and is difficult to respect. Frankly, I believe that if the designer believes they cannot achieve a design they would be satisfied with at close to the customer’s budget, they should refuse the project. An owner should always include a contingency, as there are always unforeseen issues on any job, but an architect or designer should not specify items that they know to be far out of the customer’s budget. Upping the budget by 50% should have more than accommodated any overages on a budget that had been properly designed to. On the other hand, upping the budget by 50% may have sent the wrong message about the flexibility of the budget. Personally, I believe that a good designer shoud be able to work to a variety of budgets because what they bring to the table is a good eye, experience, and creativity, not simply expensive products. I’ve seen it while working with architects on a pro-bono design f a hospital in Africa. This is why I completely disagree with the comment that if one can simply purchase nice enough products one can end up with a good result. It’s not the fact that a rug is brand new and made of silk that makes it good for the space, it’s the aesthetics. It’s fine if you don’t want to work on lower budget projects or with lower end products, but you should be 100% up front with your clients about it, and decline the ones who simply won’t be able to ever afford the kind of design you will create. To do otherwise is to create only a design fantasy, which is a waste of their money and your time.

      4. I don’t agree with your summation of this woman’s experience with a designer. Put simply, if you want a satisfied client and cannot deliver a design that completes the project for the amount the client has budgeted, then you should decline the job. If you take it, knowing there will be restrictions that aren’t typical for you and for whatever reason can’t compromise the choices you make on a lower price scale, you should not only expect, but deserve, that client’s negative reviews! The client you referred to in your post did everything she was supposed to do. She conferred with the designer before hiring her and let her know her expectations beforehand. They supposedly reached an agreement and the designer didn’t abide by it…that is in no way the client’s fault.

        1. My post above was directed to Jenny…I should have specified that!

    3. I’m very surprised that this comment was viewed negatively. I understand that design is challenging regardless of price point, but if I had an unlimited budget, I think I have a decent enough sense of style that I could probably design something myself that would satisfy me (though I’m sure it would not be as good as one that was professionally done). However, if budget is an issue, hiring a designer could help in creating a design that would give the best bang for my buck. If the commenter gave the designer her budget, and the designer continuously affirmed that her design would respect the budget, it seems completely reasonable to give that designer a negative review. I don’t understand why the timing of her review makes a difference. As someone who does prioritize budget, it would be important for me to know that this is a designer who has a great sense of style but may not come up with a plan that is achievable.

    4. I think the designer should have referred you to someone who would have been a better fit for your budget. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t this is a good fit”. But I do think waiting 2 years to post negative feedback seems unreasonable. The fact is, she did do quality design work for you that deserves to be compensated. As a client, you could have said, “I don’t think we’re on the same page on this project, we should break the contract and come up with a fair fee for the work you’ve done”.

    5. I agree the designer should have turned the work down but we don’t know the designers side. From Sue’s post it sounds like she hired a “high end” designer (knowingly) and upped her original budget but then when the plans came back higher than she could afford she was unhappy, calling her experience awful. Then 2 years later she leaves a public negative review. Sue is the kind of client designers hope we NEVER come across. She basically got design plans for FREE from the designer. It’s not our jobs as designers to do beautiful work on a cheap budget, its our jobs to do beautiful work, and sometimes that comes in at a higher budget than originally planned. Almost all renovations go over budget. I’m assuming Sue left something out of her story because no designer would take a client knowing they had to stick to a strict low budget, because how is their money to be made for their firm. Sue I hope you don’t hire another designer after your experience, it’s better for the designer that way.

      1. Wow. Are you sure you aren’t the designer in this scenario??

      2. You are a cautionary tale of the perils of hiring a “professional” in this industry.

        When a client gives you their budget, that is the budget. If it is not possible for that design to be completed within, or close to, that amount, it is incumbent upon the designer to tell the potential client. It is not the client’s job to know how much it is going to cost—that is why they are hiring an expert.

        Just because you lack the ability to design for a larger range of price points does not mean that this client is wrong.

        You claim that this client is the type no designer wants, but I would argue that you are the type of designer no client would want.

        1. I was responding to Jenny in my reply above. Not the OP.

  24. Emily! Kudos to this post! I love the transparency and honesty you’re aiming for these days.

    I know that in Cali there isn’t much rain to contend with, but did the Captain America sofa stand up to the elements in it’s short little life? I’m thinking of doing a similar concept for my covered patio furniture. ?

  25. My husband and I are both engineers, so by profession, we are sticklers for plans and details. While I agree with most of your points, we’ve found the best thing for the client is to be as explicit as possible. We recently had an addition added to our house and being the worry-warts we are, we listed out every single detail we could think of before any papers were signed. From dimensions to lights and outlet placement to what type of skylights, everything. It gave us the reassurance that if anything went wrong, it must have deviated from the plan therefore the contractor was liable. And believe me, things went wrong all the time. With big projects involving big money, being a pessimist is the only way to stay sane.

    1. Construction is never perfect. No professional likes to be nickel and dimed, especially b/c there is no guarantee what’s behind walls etc. I’m surprised that the contractor continued with a contract like that. I would have ran the other way!

      1. I sort of thought that contractors appreciated more details? That way they have clear instructions on what to do?

        1. Yes. I’m an architect, and BY FAR the smoothest projects are the ones that have a complete set of plans that are bid and stuck to. Yes, unforeseen conditions exist, but there are clauses in the standard AIA owner-contractor contract that set out who’s responsible for what. That’s why those contracts exist, hint hint 🙂

          Owners often think it’s cheaper to go with a really basic drawing set just to get the permit and then ‘work the details out with the contractor.’ For every one project for which this method ends up being cheaper and easier (usually when the client is knowledgeable about design and construction) there are 20 that end up disasters.

          1. Katherine, thanks for your feedback. I love the confirmation from the other side of things.

            AZRN, when I said additional, it was an external structure, not attached to the main house. The only potential unknowns from the get-go were due to the land it was on. Things like the slight slope of the hill the structure would occupy. However, as someone who has no experience with gradients and how that affects construction, I absolutely expect that to be in the scope of the knowledge of the person I’m hiring. The contractor would have been well within their rights to bring someone in before we signed any papers to investigate any issues they felt uncomfortable accepting the burden of.

            As I grow older, I try to live more and more by the mantra that communication is always good. If a contract was so offended and sensitive by a diagram detailing where the overhead lights were to be hung and where the outlets were to be located, you’re right, they should have ran. I wouldn’t want to work with them either.

  26. As an aspiring and amateur designer, this is really helpful and interesting to read! It really is applicable to other industries as well too, such as web design. I had a situation when my blog was being designed (not by the current designer of it), where she was doing a few updates I’d paid for and decided to install an updated template at the same time, without telling me – which caused me to lose Disqus and all of my comments. From years worth of blogging. It was a shock and though in the scheme of things it doesn’t actually matter, it did kind of matter to me! I spent a LOT of time googling to find a solution, talking to Disqus customer service, etc, until I found a solution which was then VERY time consuming to implement. Luckily I was able to get all of the comments back (albeit with sort of messed up formatting on a lot of old ones) but the designer barely even apologized, and certainly didn’t offer to fix it herself (as I felt she should have) or offer me any money back for her mistake (which resulted from a lack of communication). It just goes to show that going the extra mile to fix a mistake for a client really makes a difference (and NOT doing that makes a big negative impact). So as you said, if you care about word of mouth, these are extremely important things to keep in mind when it comes to any kind of design project.

    1. And when someone asks for a referral for web design, she won’t get your vote. That’s all you can do at this point. But yes, very frustrating!

  27. As an Architect, I LOVED this article. I think your points were fantastic and honest. Sure there are times when as designers we could be hardnosed and refuse to pay for a mess up that is ‘technically’ not our fault, but that never leads to a happy client (nor a repeat client). I think your article gives potential clients a great view of the MULTITUDES of items/details that designers juggle to make a great projects LOOK easy.

  28. I love this post! I have mostly chosen things myself because I love to do it and feel confident in my choices. I have had some custom pieces made and in those instances I relied on the pros and was very satisfied. What you have explained seems very fair to me for both client and designer. As you said transparency is best for everyone. Thank you.

  29. We’re dealing with this right now, too, with our brand new driveway of our brand new house. It was poured last November in a rush by the builder (my personal view is that it should have been done a month earlier when they were done using large machinery at the build) and some workers obviously walked on it before it was fully cured – leaving muddy boot prints all over the approach from the street. We were told to wait until spring so they could clean/powerwash it, so we did. Well it looks just awful and so far isn’t right. While I don’t want to be picky since I know it’s just cement, it is our brand new house and I think I should be able to have a driveway WITHOUT boot prints in it, right? 🙂 So hopefully they will replace it – which will be a major pain of course, but since we’re living here now we can watch and be sure no one walks on it. Ugh.

  30. At the end of last year, I hired my friend, an interior designer who recently went out on her own (side note: NEVER hire a friend for anything) to assist with a few discrete projects around my house. While at my house, she made a few suggestions for improving our dining room, including adding wallpaper to one wall, which I loved. She provided samples and my husband and I picked out a neutral/blue toned grasscloth. I directly paid the designer for the wallpaper (which was expensive) plus the cost of the installer (who my friend had referred/arranged) plus shipping for the wallpaper. I think it was close to $2K when all was said and done (and it was not a large wall). As the installer was finishing, I noticed droplets on one panel. He said they were water and would dry. They did not. They weren’t HIDEOUS but they were noticeable and I wanted it to be perfect given the spend and the aesthetics. There were some awkward emails exchanged, largely because there was virtually ZERO excess wallpaper and there was a minimum order from the wallpaper company so ordering enough to replace the one panel was going to cost several hundred dollars (and be much more paper than was necessary). The installer wanted the chance to come out and try to “make it right” before ordering replacement paper. I came home as he was finishing up and saw he had taken an oil crayon kit and was basically coloring over the water spots. Um, yeah, I’m not spending $2K on a wall to have it “fixed” with crayons (which of course rubbed right off as soon as you touched them…AND didn’t look much better). My friend/the designer agreed that she and the installer would come to an arrangement to cover the replacement paper but I got the sense she wasn’t pleased and would have preferred my being willing to pitch in–something I never offered. Not sure if this falls into your “should have known better” but I feel like had I arranged the wallpaper install and they messed up, I would have insisted they bear the costs to fix it; here, I relied on my designer’s contacts (and paid her to arrange the whole thing) so really didn’t feel like I need to have any role in correcting things. Side note: I think she wrote off at least some of her time associated with the fixing, but am not totally sure.

  31. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d be into reading about mistakes – but my god is it reassuring! Luckily I don’t have major, major examples to provide, but I do break into a minor sweat every time I tell a client “that sofa is totally going to fit through your impossibly tiny front door.”

    I spec’d a grey paint shade for a client and the green undertones came through too loudly. I felt horrible, as she asked if I knew that was going to happen. You’re totally right, mini mistakes happen all the time and each situation is almost always unique. It’s a little nerve wracking to, at times, to be seen as someone who is incapable of making an error. While it shouldn’t happen to every single client, it happens. It’s nice to have that known! Say it loud, sista!

  32. This was such an interesting post. I’m a graphic designer, but many of your experiences could easily transfer to other industries, including mine. (This would also be a great conference session topic.)

  33. Great post Emily. My husband is a builder (what you’d call a contractor) and it’s completely depressing how people expect perfection in custom building jobs – we are not pumping out project houses that are all the same, we are doing bespoke renovations of which every single one is unique. We find a lot of customers are not at all reasonable when it comes to mistakes and costs. The laws around building are pretty strict here and my husband is currently fixing a leaking planter box that he originally built over 8 years ago. At the time, he told the architect that he didn’t think it would be a good idea as planter boxes are notorious for leaking. Yep, it leaked. He had to go back and fix it, for free. Then again. And now for the fourth time. To fix something that he advised against in the first place. He has advised the client to remove it, but they refuse and say the fault it his. Like he gets his fun from visiting this house every two years and doing free work. And where is the architect, the original designer, in all this? Nowhere to be seen. It’s soul destroying stuff.
    Thank you for your honesty and your request for people (on both sides) to be reasonable. Cheers from Australia.

  34. This was such a great post! My husband and I thought we were nearing the end of our kitchen remodel then our new counters arrived and everything has come to a halt. We had been working with a local kitchen design store who only works with one stone fabricator. We chose our stone, edge finish (standard eased edge) at the design store and the fabricator came out to make the template of our counters. It’s a large space, we have a wrap-around counter plus an island so we needed to purchase 3 slabs to accommodate all surfaces. So, when our counters arrived I was totally shocked to see the correct eased edge, but then every single corner is round! Not like, a softened square corner, but full on round. Like they cut off 3 inches of the tip of each corner and rounded it out. I was so unhappy, and furious! My husband agrees that it’s not what we wanted (or thought we were getting as no one ever communicated to us that we needed to chose the style of the corners too) but he thinks we should just get used to it. I put my foot down. So, the owner of the stone company is coming to our house tomorrow to see what the issue is. I’m under the assumption they should do everything they can to fix them, or absorb to cost to re-do and replace them.

    1. I agree with you Lisa! They should ask you. Just because you didn’t specify doesn’t mean they just do what they want. Complain to your kitchen contractor.

    2. What a nightmare! Was this curve communicated in drawings? If no drawings were provided, ask why?

    3. They should absolutely fix the issue at 100% their cost. If you didn’t specify rounded corners when the template was being made, there should not be rounded corners. Rounded corners is a style that is not assumed, it’s something that they typically ask if you want or not. It’s extremely uncomfortable to have that conversation but stand your ground, it’s an aesthetic choice that you didn’t make and it’s something you’ll regret seeing every day for many reasons. I’m an interior designer who recently had the opposite problem. My client and I spent an hour with the template maker on site discussing the exact radius on specific corners to be rounded in a tight kitchen, which were all precisely drawn and noted by the template maker. Then the counters were delivered with no rounded corners. The installers insisted rounded corners were not specified on the template and I had to debate it with them and their manager for 15 minutes until they finally actually looked at the template again and admitted the mistake. They fixed it at their cost, though not exactly because all of those precise measurements that this particular client wanted weren’t used.

  35. This post answers so many questions for me. Some of the issues have me scratching my head about the contractors though. Why didn’t your tile guy do that from the beginning?? Shouldn’t the dyeing company should have informed you up front of the shrinkage? I feel like some issues could be avoided if people just did their jobs. I understand mistakes are made, but somethings are avoidable.

  36. OMG….THIS is why I love you!!!! You are so honest, so much more so than you need to be or that may even be good for you. But that’s why you are so awesome! This is a super generous commentary on how, no mater how hard we try, s#@% happens and I really appreciate seeing through your experienced eyes just whose mess it is and who has the ownership to clean it up.

  37. Such an interesting and informative post Emily! Thank you for being so candid, it’s what really sets your blog apart.

    I imagine it must be very difficult to be held liable for jobs completed by contractors and subcontractors if you aren’t directly providing the service. Is there another layer to this? Like if the wallpaper was for a client not yourself, would you as the designer be able to hold the installer liable for the issue and offer the client a recompense from what you work out with the installer?

    I paid to have wallpaper removed and walls prepped for paint because all of the stripper I could buy wasn’t budging it. Unexpectedly the wallpaper had somehow become one with the paint underneath, and after an entire day of hard labor the remover was only able to get the paper off, but he left the walls in a shambles. I understood this wasn’t the norm, so I repaired and prepped the walls myself, but he discounted his price for not completing the project. Gotta be flexible when it comes to homes!

  38. Great post! There’s a little typo though. It should be “as are we” not “as our we” in the sentence “They are reasonable people, as our we, so we both chipped in to fix the mistake…”

  39. It’s so true about failure being the best teacher. Excellent post! I read it twice.

  40. i love this post. i worked for designers, architects and contractors before building my own design-build company in san francisco 8 years ago so i’ve seen every side of the “who pays for mistakes” issue. since we do all architecture, interior design and construction in-house, we pay for all mistakes unless it’s clearly a client issue. this requires us to be very organized and systematic since we ultimately are responsible. my experience is the more people involved, the more “mistakes” there are. all it takes is someone’s assistant to approve something without knowing what they are doing and boom, you could end up with a pretty major mistake. with less people to blame, people tend to be more careful. we recently partnered with an interior designer on a project and they always expected us to handle mistakes even if it was their issue. i see that often where it’s all too easy for the designer to blame the contractor. i wish more designers had the same values you do and i love that you wrote this post. thanks emily!

    1. This is such a timely article for our family. We chose our contractor for our New Orleans historic home renovation because of their awesome carpentry skills. They built beautiful pieces with reclaimed wood (barn doors, shelves, vanities and medicine cabinets) that turned out were covered in lead based paint. We moved out of our dream home because our 1 year old tested for elevated lead levels and we have been meeting with specialists to determine the best strategy to make our home safe for our baby. It seems to me that I shouldn’t have had to specify, “don’t build furniture using toxic, illegal materials,” and follow Federal EPA RRP rules, but we are hoping our contractor will do the right thing.

  41. A few years ago I had picked out some great barstools for a client’s kitchen. They were perfect! They were inexpensive enough to reupholster in a gorgeous velvet that matched her new drapery, add nailhead and then cut them down to be the height she wanted (totaling up to 1K each)….

    I had measured (a few times) the dimensions of her existing bar stools and the new ones, because she wanted them to be the same size. What I DIDN’T account for was that the new ones had a slight lip to them that took away about an inch of the inside seat width.

    And my client was too big for them.

    It was SO embarrassing and I was inwardly panicking because I hated that she had waited so long for custom bar stools that she couldn’t use!! She was a wonderful client and super gracious and said that she “should’ve known to always try out furniture before she buys it” and we ended up trying to resale them in our shop. I think they were sent to a consignment shop after that.

    Lesson learned- make sure you account for the INSIDE measurements of a piece of furniture as well as the overall!

  42. Great post! Curious to know your thoughts on the extent of the responsibility of the interior designer when it comes to the work of the subs. For example, if you (as the designer) bring in a wallpaper hanger who does a sloppy job, should the client hold you responsible for the work of that sub? And what about if the client just doesn’t like the work they signed off on? Who pays there?

    1. I thought I’d chime in if that’s ok. I find that if drawings and 3D views of the space are provided with materials boards, etc, there is a minimal chance the client wo t like the finished product. Because they have been already able to visualize it…

  43. Thank you so much for this post! I am a designer in LA and, frankly, I’m just glad to see that other designers make mistakes too! Sometimes I feel like people think we have magic powers and can use them to effortlessly create a beautiful room. But it’s hard; it’s really hard to get it just right. There are constantly fires to put out. (Like the contractor picked up the wrong order and installed the incorrect flooring in most of the house. Shoot me now.) Some people also think it’s fun to go “shopping” with other people’s money, but it’s pretty darn stressful. Luckily, my clients have always been happy in the end and that’s the best feeling.

    1. Such a great comment! Totally agree. Like when the client already has a rug that’s too small, and expect you to wave their magic wand to make it bigger because they don’t want to spend more money on a new one! Ha ha. And wouldn’t it be nice if our job was just ‘shopping!’

  44. I work for a general contractor in the commercial/multi family realm and we abide by the same rules. We never make a client pay for our mistakes, and often we end up paying for the interior designer’s and architect’s and engineer’s mistakes as well. We recently absorbed a $20K change order when the interior designer called out the wrong paint sheen on her finish schedule. But not all GCs are like the company I work for. And not all projects have the budget to absorb mistakes. So yes, make your mistakes in school or while working for a big firm if you can, and learn from them every time. And, be nice to your GC 🙂

  45. Dear Emily, this has been sooo useful! Thank you thank you thank you!

  46. Thank you, Emily, for this very insightful article! It is great to hear from someone with your experience how you handle this often delicate topic. I started my own interior design company last year and we have had some projects where things did not go as planned. As we are still a young company, money is always an issue and paying for mistakes – whoever caused them – can have an almost devastating effects. I would like to give two examples of issues we had and would love to hear your (and your readers’) comments:

    1) Client provides visual inspiration which is rather generic. Designer takes some of these inspirations and turns it into a unique design, which is less generic. First, the client is excited. Then, after showing the designs around and getting second opinions, the client wants to go back to their more generic ideas. This means a lot of changes, and as we charge by the hour, we wanted the client to pay for the time spent on changes. However, the client refused – arguing their initial inspirations were very different from the designer’s proposal and that the design should have been different in the first place.
    We do have a clause in our contracts stating that changes may cause additional charges – but still, how do you react to this? If the client simply refuses to pay… do you really go ahead and sue them? Or would you try to make them happy, hoping they will pay eventually?

    2) Designer proposes a design with dark walls. Client likes the idea but voices their concern that they are afraid it might turn out too dark. Designer says it will be fine once everything (i.e. furniture and rugs) are in place, as this will balance out the dark walls. The painter is hired by the client, but instructed by the designer. He starts painting the first room with the dark color. The client sees the room (with no furniture or rugs in it) and feels it’s too dark. The client decides they would like to go for one dark accent wall, keeping the other walls of the rooms white. The designer recommends against it from a design perspective, but the client decides to go ahead and asks the painter to re-paint three dark walls to white. The client then refuses to pay the cost of the painter, asking the designer to pay for it, as they feel it was the designer’s “mistake” painting the walls dark (and the client not liking it). How would you react to this? Is there a good middle way of saying… we start painting two walls and then we see how you like it? Or do you ask the client to sign that they want to go ahead with your color scheme, and if they end up not liking it, they followed your ideas on their own risk and have to pay for re-painting it? I feel it is similar to the built-in bench example, but then also very different, as colors are usually so subjective.

    Would love to hear some opinions about these two cases! (They are both “solved” now by the way, and I am happy to tell how we reacted, if anyone’s interested – though I have to admit I am not sure our solutions were the best, that’s why I brought it up…).
    Overall I do agree that the client should come first, but sometimes as a young company it is hard to bear the financial consequences… and to be honest, not letting your ego come in the way 😉

    1. That sounds like a nightmare. Your first client wanted to pay you to tell her that she had created a wonderful mood board. Time waster! I would try to stick to my guns, and take the time to describe why your design would work etc.
      The second example is so tricky. I would show her many examples of the kind of dark room you were talking about and create a colored 3D drawing or rendering to show exactly how amazing your design is. Otherwise they can’t visualize it and freak out! Yes please let us know what happened!

      1. Thank you, Lauren, for your comment! The first one was a nightmare indeed… we tried to explain our ideas but the client wasn’t reasonable. As you say, the client was pretty happy with their designs, what they would have needed was a project manager of some kind rather than a designer… in the end the client paid parts of our fee, but not all. For this one I am still not sure if we weren’t being too nice, but we decided to focus on new projects rather than slowing ourselves down trying to figure out this mess.
        You are absolutely right about the visualisation part, I think this would have come in very handy. We will keep that in mind for future projects where we recommend painting the walls dark. In this case the client and the designer ended up splitting the cost of the painter, which was painful for the designer but personally I think it was the right move – as you say, there could have been improvements in terms of visualisation and communication. That is a very big part of the job after all…

    2. The first one seems pretty clear in your contract. You have an hourly rate, you are billing for the time. I generally take a 50% deposit to cover myself. I learned that one the hard way….

      1. Thanks, Christine, for your reply. You are right about the deposit, we need to be more strict about this and should probably increase it to 50% (currently still 30%).

    3. I actually had a client who wanted a dark wall – a black one. I think because it was a big trend and she was seeing it on pinterest. I love black walls (but I agree with you, I wouldn’t do just one dark accent wall) With this project though, black wasn’t going to flow with the rest of the home and I expressed to the client that I didn’t think it was the right move. But I said, your the client, try it if you want. She did it independently – her dime for labor + materials – and emailed me two days later saying it was a mistake and we painted over it.

      I always give clients a ton of visuals, so when they sign off, I am pretty comfortable ordering work and making purchases. I would’ve asked your “dark wall” client to reserve judgement until the room’s initial agreed upon vision was complete. I also cannot tell you how many times a client didn’t like something at first and then it ends up being a favorite thing. Change can be a process. However, if your client was still unhappy with the final result, I could see splitting the cost to make changes, but I wouldn’t have felt obligated to pay for her unilateral decision to veer off plan midway.

      I’ve definitely had to talk clients off the ledge and back to the design plan – remember, that plan they loved and signed off on. I’ve had clients say the room doesn’t feel layered and finished – well, that is because it isn’t! Because they didn’t want the job to be managed that way. It’s like trying a recipe with half the ingredients and then saying it was a failure. I can usually convince clients to stick to the plan and, luckily, I usually hear “You were right.” Thank God!!!

      1. Thank you Jill for sharing your experience! Preparing more visuals would definitely have been helpful and I will make sure to keep that in mind for future projects with “big” changes such as dark walls. I also liked what you said about reminding clients about the initial design plan… so important, but when you are in the middle of it, it’s so easy to lose sight… but that’s why they client hired a professional in the first place.

  47. Great post!!!
    May be putting this in my future contracts 😀
    “1. When you hire artists, you get something unique and beautiful just for you – something they’ve never done before. Therefore, no matter how much experience they have, there will be tweaks, returns, and style disagreements. This can take some time, and if you are being billed hourly, then time is money. But hiring a generic designer that shops for everyone online and takes no risks gets you a generic home.”

  48. Emily you are my hero! Loved this post! So honest… I’m addicted to your blog!

  49. Loved this post. Really good practical advice. Actually I love all your posts.

  50. Emily, your amazing in your work and your willingness to be open about the realities of your business. This post and the comments are so helpful. I’ve had years of experience in graphic design, and recently started doing some interior design/project management after doing my own renovation projects. In all of that work, I really hate the blame game when mistakes happen. As long as everyone is doing their best, we just work to solve the problem and try to split the costs – client pays for materials, designer and contractors accept a reduced rate for the rework. On the other hand, a client who changes his mind pays for his changes, and that’s always established up front.

    What I’ve encountered from some contractors and trades is they bill by the hour and constantly underestimate how long the project will take by A LOT. Sometimes double or triple the estimate. This kind of behavior seems to be routine in some industries. In the design services business world, if you tell someone 40 hours, you’d better finish it in 40 hours or let the client know as soon as you can how much more time/cost they might incur. It’s unethical to run up charges without telling the client in advance, but what do you do when it happens?

  51. Yes to all of this! I’ve worked as a designer for almost 13 years and thankfully haven’t had any major mishaps yet. The scope of my projects is generally much smaller than yours (I don’t do construction), but there’s a lot of furniture. Furniture that looks small in the showroom but looks gigantic in the space. Or furniture that can’t quite make the turns into a room. I had to eat disassembly cost once (about $300), but it was the right thing to do.

    If you work in the service industry, you’re nothing without your reputation. People don’t like to hand money over to someone they can’t trust. And I don’t want to work with a client with whom I’m not comfortable. If the customer seems unreasonable from the first conversation, don’t take them on. Intuition, whether it’s the “this one is a nut” or “damn, I think this is my fault” is worth listening to!

    http://www.christineschwalm.com

  52. My sister in law recently bought a new house and is making some changes before she moves in. She texted me a picture the other day of two floors next to each other and asked “Do these look the same to you?” They definitely weren’t, one was much more orange toned than the other. The orange one was what had been installed at her new house, and the other floor was the sample she had picked. The supplier refused to pay, since the orangey one actually was supposedly the same as the sample (ID number-wise). I think they gave her some version of “the sample must have been bleached by the sun, buyer beware.” My sister is just going to pay because she blames herself for not being there to approve the material before they installed it. I think she should have fought it more- what do you think?

  53. Emily, I think this is one of the best posts you’ve ever published. It’s so informative and interesting without “naming names” or being gossipy. And I cannot BELIEVE the shrinkage on those curtains! Holy cow! Can’t wait to go back and read all the comments.

  54. Loved this post! I am a civil engineer and have my own civil construction company. Our work feels much more clear cut than in the creative industry…there is a scope of work, we price for that scope, we build it. Our contracts are usually very onerous with a lot of risk on us and often our clients try and sneak extra work in and pretend that it is in scope. I spend a lot of time on contract management, getting variations agreed in writing etc. and there is a real art to disagreeing with a client and still keeping on their good side!

    Anyway, I find it super interesting to read about the business side of your work, its similar to my world in some ways, but there are plenty of things that I am curious about. I always love a post that lifts the curtain and gives us a peek behind the scenes.

  55. I LOVE this post!! We had granite countertops installed a year ago in our kitchen and my husband was working from home to ‘supervise’ the install. When I got home, I ran to look at the counters and I immediately saw a WHITE seam down the center of the counter next to the sink. It looked like somebody used white shower caulking and I almost died!! I showed my husband and he of course hadn’t noticed. Once I cooled down and my husband promised he would call and yell at people on my behalf, I went to open the utensil drawer and it wouldn’t open because it was hitting the lip of the counters!! They literally installed the counters with a lip that hung over beyond where my drawers were. IDIOTS!! Anyway, they came out and fixed everything and I have yet to trust anyone with any work in my home unless I am standing there watching their every move. It really is hard to get things done perfectly when you can’t do them yourself.

  56. While I’m not an interior designer, I’m a graphic designer with a product-based business, your post hit home all-the-same. We ship about 1500 personalized handmade products out per year, and with numbers like that, there are bound to be issues that crop up periodically (the post office marking the package as delivered when it hasn’t been, a product arriving broken, the customers making a typo in their instructions to us and not requesting a proof, the list goes on). Originally, not wanting to be walked all over, we held our customers responsible (unless the typo was on our end) and would offer a discount on a re-order. Needless to say, some of those customers didn’t love that approach.

    It wasn’t until we ordered some large custom canvases for our home that were stolen from our front porch that we got a change of perspective. The canvas company replaced $400 worth of canvases on-the-house, no hassle.

    Now, if the typo is on our end (it’s rare, but it happens maybe once a year) the product is completely covered by us. If the typo is on the customer – we give them a coupon for 50% off to re-order the same product, it covers our materials and a little extra. If the issue is with the post office (product arrived broken or didn’t arrive) we ask that they reach out to their local post office (in the case of missing packages) and then if that comes up unsuccessful – then we ask for the customer to meet us partway, we’ll pay for the replacement if they pay for the shipping. Since our products are personalized, we don’t accept returns or offer full refunds. Offering these solutions has made for win/win problem solving – we don’t lose money and our customers get the product they were hoping for. Every once in a blue moon, someone won’t take us up on our suggested solution, but in those cases the customer just seems to disappear. Those are usually the people who were trying to get a free product by demanding a refund for a made-up reason.

    If you feel like it’s a fair solution as a business owner, and you’d be happy with the solution that was presented to you as the client/customer, then it’s the right way to go.

  57. We remodeled our kitchen several years ago and I wanted white quartz countertops. The designer knew I wanted white. I carried around a white sample in my bag for a month. Every single other material decision I made revolved around a white counter.

    When they were delivered? They were tan. I knew they were wrong before the truck even came to a stop in the driveway. TAN. TAN COUNTERTOPS. I immediately called the designer, who was horrified and said, “it’s my fault, I wrote down the color number wrong, we will fix that at no charge.”

    The owner of the company, however, said absolutely not. They would order white, and I’d be without a functioning kitchen for 3 more weeks, and they would take the tan quartz off my hands…..but they would pay for nothing. I’d have to buy two countertops, one of which I’d forfeit (for him to sell to some other customer, no doubt), OR I could just deal.

    I couldn’t afford to buy two counters. I dealt.

    I’ve bought another house since then (which also needs a new kitchen), and I will NEVER, not under any circumstances, hire that company again. Not only that, but a lot of my friends have fixers and I’ve spread the story far and wide. That guy lost a lot more than he would have if he had just made it right.

    Eight years later and I’m still aggravated about it.

  58. Hi Emily!

    Great post, I’ve been wondering about the same thing! I’m a designer, and a while ago I had a little problem with a client’s bathroom, and we went through the “Who’s to blame” part, with her saying it was all my studio’s fault. I have been wondering all the time if it is our fault or who’s is it, and some advice or and outsider’s view could help make things a bit clearer.

    Me and a coworker went with a client to a tile and ceramics store so that she could choose (with our help) and buy new tiles for her bathroom. We gave the salesman (supposedly working at the store he’s expert) the measurements of the wall that we were redoing and he calculated the amount of tile boxes needed. Fast forward a few weeks, we got the tiles, the contractor we had hired to install the tiles started installing them, and halfway through the job we realized that the weren’t going to be enough tiles for the wall. The client went back to the store to buy more tiles, and they were out of the tiles we needed and new ones weren’t arriving for a few weeks. The client decided to buy a new type of tiles, get the contractor to strip the wall of the ones he had just installed, and install the new ones. The contractor was at the client’s home during most of the day working, and me and a coworker would go check in on him at different times. The client asked the contractor (while we weren’t there) how much of the new tile she would need (without telling/asking us), and he told her a certain amount. She went ahead and bought that supposed amount, got it delivered, and while the contractor was installing it he told us it wasn’t going to be enough again to cover the wall. We told her more as needed and she said she had bought what the contractor had told her, but when we asked the contractor, he said he hadn’t told her that amount, but he had told her to give the salesman at the store the measurements of the wall and the total tiles they already had, so that the salesman could calculate the amount missing. We have worked many times with the contractor before and we believe him, and the client said she had written the amount he told her on a piece of cardboard, and we asked her to please see this cardboard so we could “show it” to the contractor, but she said someone had thrown it away so we never could figure out who was right. Anyways, me and my coworker ended up paying for the extra tile boxes needed to finish this project (not feeling sure about having to pay for it), but the client still insists that everything is our fault and we should cover all the expenses (all the new tiles needed, labour for having to take out the newly installed first type of tiles and install the second type of tile). This client has given us so much trouble and delays on other things we were redoing in her house, and it has made us feel that she is trying to get someone else to blame and pay for her mistakes or mistakes that none of us made.

    What do you think?
    Sorry for the long rambling, but we don’t know what is right in this situation and are not comfortable with what has happened. I also apologize if I’m not very clear, english is not my first language 🙂 .

  59. I have a dilemma with an interior designer.
    I paid an interior designer to help me decorate my great room in my condo. She recommended a dining table base from one manufacturer with a granite top from a local stone fabricator I ordered the base and the granite on her recommendation.
    The dining table base was delivered and when the stone top was installed it was determined the base was not stable enough to hold the stone. My designer then recommended other bases, but they are much more expensive and out of my price range. Now I have a stone top and no base. Who should pay for the stone?

  60. I just recently hired a designer for complete redo of 2 rooms. We just received the settee and bench custom upholstered in the same fabric. They are to sit opposite each other as the main seating in the living room. And they look horrible together. The bench has a 20 inch high seat and is massive looking. The settee is diminutive with a 17 inch seat. These were recommended to go together by the designer and I followed her recommendations but the furniture is custom and “not returnable” and of course we were looking at pictures she brought of the furniture because there were no actual samples to look at in person. The whole reason we are hiring a designer is to avoid mistakes with these major purchases. Should the designer be responsible for the costs of correcting this mistake?

  61. IN YOUR BLOG POST, YOU SAY, “Then we put the sample against the wall and they are actually very different in tone – in other words, the sample was off. You can see it in the picture on the left – the sample is much warmer than the wall color its in front of. In a way it was the paint company’s fault, but obviously I couldn’t make them pay for the labor to fix it.”

    This happened to me and I went back to Ben Moore’s store and they sent out someone from the store (my local store has about 5 stores owned by the same family) who works in commercial sales to see if my room looked “minty green” rather than gray.

    He confirmed that it did and BM covered the cost to have the room re-painted. I wasn’t the only customer who complained and this prompted BM to have their paint mixing machine checked. It turned out the machine was having trouble dropping enough “red” drops.

    The samples were TOTALLY off from the paint color mixed. I’ve also learned that the actual paint chip colors can be printed “off” and this comes from my local BM store.

    I’ve learned that BM’s Aura line is the one that is the least reliable when it comes to grays. The second highest line — Regal — is the reliable one and that is the line and formula that ALL paint sample pots are made from in one location and then shipped to stores for sale for $5.

    The moral of the story, when you get paint from BM or any place, bring your sample board with you and do a color check BEFORE you leave the store to ensure it is the exact color you matched to your room at home.

  62. I hired an interor designer for a kitcen, laundry, mudroom renovation. Loved many of her ideas and she is paid by the hour. However significant mistajes have been made i.e., cabinet measurment, ordering incorrect lighting, wrong cabinets delivered. Most frustating is her disorganized bookkeeping. Double billing, products not itemized on invoice etc. We asked the designer to itemize what she is charging us instead of a $15,000 invoice for design fee and misc items. There were so many errors and over charges. She finally sent new invoice, we paid the bill. I have now just received a $1,500 invoice for her bookkeeping. These fees include correcting her mistakes on cabinets, bookkeeping error, and returning fixtures she order that were incorrect. We’ve spent $155,000 on this kitchen and even the GC if fed up with her errors. Her mistakes have delayed the renovation.The designer will never admit she is wrong. Blames me, GC, electrician. She and feels we should pay the time she spent on correcting her invoices. Is this standard practice?

  63. I hired an interor designer for a kitchen, laundry, mudroom renovation. Loved many of her ideas and she is paid by the hour. However significant mistakes have been made i.e., cabinet measurment, ordering incorrect lighting, wrong cabinets delivered. Most frustating is her disorganized bookkeeping. Double billing, products not itemized on invoice etc. We asked the designer to itemize what she is charging us instead of a $15,000 invoice for design fee and misc items. There were so many errors and over charges. She finally sent new invoice, we paid the bill. I have now just received a $1,500 invoice for her bookkeeping. These fees include correcting her mistakes on cabinets, bookkeeping error, and returning fixtures she order that were incorrect. We’ve spent $155,000 on this kitchen and even the GC is fed up with her errors. Her mistakes have delayed the renovation.The designer will never admit she is wrong. Blames me, GC, electrician. She feels we should pay the time she spent on correcting her invoices. Is this standard practice? I am frustrated at her lack of transparency in bookkeeping. can you offer me advice. I have eaten some of the coats due to her mistakes just so I do not get billed for contacting her.

  64. Hi
    I ordered a custom sofa from the showroom, wanting only changes in length and sofa return.
    Because of a miscommunication the depth was changed from 36″to 30″. I wanted 30″ deep cushions ( minimum) and this got translated into 30″ overall.
    There was little to none guidance, questioning / clarification by the salesperson, verbally or when writing up the order.
    When shortening the depth of a sofa it also changes the poprtions of the back cushions to the overall size.
    They weren’t adjusted and now that limited seating space is even more affected.
    There is only 15″ of seating space on this sofa now. It is impossible to use a throw pillow, which the couch in the showroom had, and by the way I bought one there that day in anticipation of my use of this sofa.
    Also the two bolsters on the return ends were not adjusted so they stick out by 3 inches!
    Looking back I think this mistake in measurement would have been caught if there was a conversation, or if the salesperson knew what is affected when you make a change in a sofa like this.

    Isn’t this the part where you rely on someone to know more about the product than you do? And what’s involved with making changes?

    This made a huge change in form and function, not what I wanted.
    It is now a “sit up straight” sofa for a small person, not comfortable for my taller friends , not comfortable for me to lay down on.
    Unfortunately there is an email where I signed off on this, with the incorrect measurements.
    The email is one I started re cushion layout and it morphed into overall dimensions.
    I realize I did not catch it and that’s my fault, but
    I would like the company to own their part in their funky ordering process and take this sofa back.
    I would like it to be replaced with the one I want.
    Am I being unreasonable?
    6500.00 is a lot to spend and not be satisfied…
    Thanks

  65. Thank you for this article , it’s been very helpful to me. I have a situation where I started a project for a client and they provided their own contractors for me to oversee the work even though I told them I have my own contractors that I usually work with but these guys had already started the work when I came onboard. Unfortunately I did not insist on working with my own teams and Now that the project is almost done the contractor laying the tiles didn’t do the slope in the walk-in showers correctly and the water runs out of the shower. My question is, am I liable for the expense of redoing this work (material and labor) as this was not a contractor I brought in the project?
    Thank you

    1. I am sure you have already come to an agreement or conclusion to your project, however the contractor is at fault here and in no way shape or form should you suffer the final burden of this situation. Being a Builder and also a laborer, I have been in the shoes of the contractor, installer and in a sense a designer. I am not licensed to be a designer so I don’t offer this advice from a designer position. That said, I will speak from the contractors responsibility. A contractor is hired for a few reasons but most importantly for CODE compliant work and also his team and knowledge. I have seen this go both ways. Due to the fact that you were using a sub contracted general or one hired by the homeowner under your contract. The issue here is whether or not your paying the general or the homeowner. This would determine the steps for which one would take to solve the problem. Often times the general if not designer is in charge would suffer the consequences temporarily. If and only if his own w-2 employee made the mistake than it would fall directly on his company. However, if the contractor or designer hired out a sub contracted installer than still that designer or general would have to handle the issue and then file a charge back to the sub contractor. Usually, the unfortunate circumstance and usually only if the installer is not willing to accept the responsibility. I am unsure of the exact legal terms here and this coming from my own experiences. Regardless, the installer or sub for the tile portion of this scope should and is the responsible party for executing providing general liability coverage before starting work. Always something I recommend doing. The general rule here is that by law at least in my state the sub-contractor legally should have he right to fix his mistake so long as you or the client is comfortable with having that individual fix their work. In the event that they are not compliant or willing to do this than another can be hired to re peat the entire process. The contacted designer or general would be responsible for the immediate out of pocket cost no matter what it costs and the entire amount plus some I believe would then be legally charged back to the original sub contractor. hope this was helpful.

  66. I have to say. I also enjoyed reading this. However, knowing first hand after both being in the same situation but from an employer point of view as well as a installer view. I find the first portion of this post to be 100% the tile mechanics fault. I have made this mistake, my father has made this mistake and his father as well. I realize the work was not charged for this fix, but the issue for me is the final product. I cannot see the top of this shower but I am to assume it does not end absolutely perfect either. I could surely understand if the pattern was concave and this mistake landed on the ceiling. Equally as concerning for any client or designer expecting a high end finish. My question to you would be this first….. Do you as a professional designer higher the tile installer or company because you don’t have time to do it or because you expect their services to be equally as perfect as your design. See perfect work in this business as you know is both not easy and very difficult to find. A great tile installer should equally understand the difference between quality service as well as a quality finished product. In my opinion two separate categories. I very much appreciate the fact that you as a designer took or is willing to take some of this responsibility however, it is the TILER that made this mistake happen. I suppose we should just start tiling from the ceiling if mistakes like this are made than why not! I myself build it all and first became a professional following my family footsteps in hard surfaces first. When this stuff happens, It sucks and I agree that the fix on your situation was a great one, but in the end being a tile DUDE first, I must say this is a dissapointment I would have pinned on myself or my team. In the future for anyone reading here that is a tile DUDE or designer. Punctual communication is most and foremost important. TILE DUDE should have gotten signed off approval on his layout period. IF the designer happened to be that GOOD, meaning the pattern of this sheet tile, assuming it is sheet tile (mesh backing) or even if individual pieces, should have been cut to start with half or better to avoid any large filling, grouting or lines other than a scribe line for the tub if the plumbers didnt set the tub correctly or if a remodel. My guess is that this tile guy was either made an honest mistake or they made their own decision to try and make the ceiling line a better finish.

  67. While we have dyed some things before, we had never for a client and not this much. This felt rather risky to Ginny which she vocalized, but they wanted to proceed. We found a place in Orange County that does this and all but guaranteed us that there would be no issues, but we didn’t get that guarantee in writing