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Unleash the Power of Your Interior Designer

There is nothing like the moment a project is complete, and we can “hand the keys” over to our client. For us, the process is typically over a year or longer from our first visit, to the waitlist, to navigating the design phase to finally finishing construction. We’ve built quite a history of shared experiences with our clients by the time the final walk-through is complete and the last payment is made. If we’ve done our job well, we can say that we gave our client exactly what they wanted and executed their vision with excellence.

Exactly What They Want

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the benchmark of giving our clients “exactly what they want.” I don’t think it’s a wrong metric, but I’ve discovered that what our clients want is driven in part by how they utilize their interior designer. Here are three ways I see our clients perceive and utilize our services:

  1. Disrupter: In this role, clients ask us to push boundaries and bring fresh, innovative ideas to the table. This means introducing new concepts, materials, or layouts that clients may not have considered on their own. It requires a huge amount of trust and willingness to embrace change by the client. It also requires us to be exceptional listeners and creatives. This is still a highly collaborative process, but it gives the designer the greatest opportunity to freely interpret the client’s needs and provide a highly elevated and innovative solution.
  2. Validator: As a validator, we provide reassurance and confidence to clients by validating their ideas and preferences. This client usually has a pretty strong idea of the look or function (or both) they desire but needs help filling in the gaps and pulling it all together. They will often have multiple Pinterest boards they’ve curated over time that show elements of what they want. Our job is to listen attentively and be a trusted partner. We affirm their choices but challenge them when we see issues. We then take their choices and preferences and merge them into a cohesive design that reflects their personal needs and style.
  3. Order Taker: In this role, we fulfill the client’s specific requests and preferences, acting as a facilitator to bring their vision to life. This client has a highly specific vision and wants it executed with precision. We listen carefully to the client’s instructions and requirements, translating them into an actionable design and specification. There is little creativity involved but the result is truly personal.

None of these ways to use an interior designer are necessarily wrong but what I see many clients do is underutilize the power of the interior design services they are paying for. It’s akin to having a world-class chef in your kitchen but insisting on cooking your meals using only basic ingredients and recipes you’re familiar with. While you might still create something decent, you’re missing out on the opportunity to experience culinary delights beyond your imagination. Or it’s like owning a sports car but never driving it out of your neighborhood. You’re not fully experiencing the thrill and exhilaration the vehicle can provide.

Barriers to Unleashing

The first design meetings are so exciting with endless possibilities. Almost all of our clients start out wanting us to be the disrupter. But as we listen, collaborate, and refine the design to meet our client’s preferences, we can end up with a freshened-up version of what they already have. How did we go from Disrupter to Order Taker?

Here are two barriers I think prevent some clients from fully unleashing the power they have access to in their interior designer:

Muscle Memory

Allowing an interior designer to rethink how a space functions often requires clients to let go of their “muscle memory”— the ingrained habits and routines that dictate how they interact with their environment. Breaking old habits to embrace new possibilities can be both liberating and challenging. Letting go of muscle memory involves a willingness to explore alternative ways of using a space. It requires clients to be open-minded and willing to adapt to change for the sake of improvement. This can be difficult, especially in task-oriented spaces like kitchens. It is important to have open and honest conversations about this with your designer.


Hey, let’s face it, you are asking a stranger to mess with your personal space. But trust is the cornerstone of successful collaboration between a client and an interior designer.

Trust allows clients to confidently share their vision, needs, and concerns with their designer. By establishing open communication and transparent dialogue, clients know that their designer will listen attentively and respect their input.

Trust empowers clients to relinquish some control and embrace the expertise of their designer. It enables them to step out of their comfort zones, knowing that their designer has their best interests at heart and will guide them toward solutions that they may not have considered otherwise.

When clients trust their designer’s judgment and expertise, they are more likely to be receptive to suggestions and recommendations, leading to a more harmonious and effective design process. Remember, we are on the same team!

Unleash Your Interior Designer and Buckle Up!

I think the most successful projects are when the vision is shared, when it’s exactly what you (the client) and I (the designer) want. That’s a challenge to me because it reminds me of the responsibilities both parties have in the process. We, as designers, need to be exceptional listeners, challengers, collaborators, vision casters, and creatives. You, as a client, are encouraged to unleash the full capabilities of your designer. When both parties do their part, BUCKLE UP! The results can be breathtaking!

Ready to start? Let’s go!

author avatar
Jeff Owner/Principal
Jeff Kaper is the owner/principal of Spectrum Design Group LLC. For over 30 years, he has helped his clients navigate the tension of form, function, budget, and disruption to create uniquely personal, enduring spaces to do life. He is a raving fan of the intrinsic joy good design brings to our daily lives. He also finds joy leading the SDG family and its story still being written.

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