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Setting The Record Straight About The Collaborative Designer Client Relationship

You will hear this a lot in the design community - designers who state on their websites and in their communications with their clients that it is a collaborative relationship when it comes to managing an interior design project. But what does this statement really mean?

Well, for different design firms the collaboration process means different things.

Casa Vilora Interiors Studio
Casa Vilora Interiors Studio. Photographed By Colleen Scott

At Casa Vilora Interiors, we believe in a collaborative relationship with our clients. We want when we finish your design work, it looks like you, and not like us. It should represent the solutions to the challenges you brought to us. It should represent your ideal version of luxury. It should be a haven for your lifestyle and family life to flourish. It should be your style.

But, unlike some design firms, it does not mean that we will bombard you with a ton of options and leave the decision making completely up to you. It certainly does not mean that we overwhelm you with all the details. And it definitely does not mean that we leave you to manage all the things that can go wrong during the design process on your own

We believe that you hired us as the professional design firm to bring not just our expertise, creativity and talent, but also to bring our resources, experience, problem-solving skills, and yes, our empathy.

We understand that this not what you do. It is what we do. You have busy lives, you have family obligations, you have careers, and you don't have time and the design resources at your fingertips. That is why you reached out to us; to simplify the process for you and help you make your vision a reality.

Sometimes you may not even have a vision of what you want. It may very well be that you have a strong realization of what you don't want. You know you no longer want to live in a home that does not bring you joy, and you know that you want a change, but not exactly sure what that change should be. That is where our design firm shines. We are very much tuned into not just what our clients tell us they want, but even what they don't know that they want.

Veronica Solomon | Casa Vilora Interiors
Veronica Solomon | Casa Vilora Interiors. Photographed By Colleen Scott

So what does collaborating with our clients mean?

It starts from the very first conversation we have with you. We take the time to listen to your needs, your challenges, your dreams, desires, goals. But we also take the time to look for the cues and the clues of what you may not be able to express. Sometimes the things that you don't say, but based on our experience we know would make sense for you. We really listen with empathy and try to see things from your perspective.

We want to understand how you live now in your home, and how you would love your home to serve your needs going forward. Maybe you'd love to entertain more, or be able to cook more regularly, or have great sleepovers for your kids, or a place where you can home school them, or maybe you'd love to bring home your great grandmother's piano. We want to know all those things, and we help you make the impossible possible.

Living Room Project In Progress. iPhone Photography

Take for example this living room above. It is still a work in progress and not yet professionally photographed. We are missing the other bench for the round table by the window.

Our client expressed to us that they did not like the fact that this room was the dining room on the original floor plan. The room is the first space you walk into from the front door. They had originally purchased the large 72" dining room table with 8 chairs for this space and never liked it in this room. When we met initially, the table and chairs were actually in the family room and they had turned this room into a casual sitting room.

The client wanted something that was seemingly impossible - to keep the large table and chairs that they had invested quite a bit of money into, but they did not want it in this room as the designated dining room space. They wanted this space to be a sitting room for when they had friends and family over, which was very typical for them.

The solution - create a combination sitting and dining room in this small area without making it look like a dining room. This room is not a very large room. The idea of carving out two rooms from one space seemed impossible, but we decided to give it a try. We created a floor plan and tapped into our vast resources for just the right pieces that would have great presence in this high volume ceiling space, but would not take up a large foot print. There was really no other room for the 72" table in the home, but we respected the fact that our client wanted to keep it.

This room is also proof that contrary to what people might think, you don't need a ton of empty space in a room. You really need about 18" between the seating and the coffee table, and have good traffic flow, with more than one entries into the room. We also knew that the back of the sofa had to be the first thing you see as you walk into the room for this plan to work, so we chose a sofa that had a great detail on the back and sides to make it more of a design feature.

There are situations where a room calls for intimate gatherings and tight seating arrangements. This room is one of those rooms that is meant for intimate gatherings and meaningful conversations. The large table by the window can act as dining in a pinch - we used the 8 chairs in the breakfast room that they use everyday, and brought in 2 banquettes, and an ottoman. We can now seat 5 people at the table, plus about 6 others throughout the room

Is this solution right for everyone? No! But it was perfect for these clients, and that is what collaborating was all about here. Our clients did not have to lift a finger other than to approve the detailed plan that we presented to them, which was a direct solution to their challenge

Below is another solution for the same clients' desire for additional seating. We built a custom banquette in an area that would have otherwise been wasted space, while bringing some drama to the space

This is how we collaborate - we bring our vast resources, expertise, problem-solving skills and execution to answer the needs of our clients. We bring solutions that make sense for each client.

Built In Banquette Casa Vilora Interiors. iPhone Photography

One of the most important questions we will ask you from the very beginning is how you prefer to work with us. Do you prefer a hands on approach, where you are actively involved in every decision. Or do you just need help making some decisions upfront and leave the rest to us. Or do you prefer just some design help and you can manage and execute your design plan on your own. That is a great start in knowing how we will collaborate.

Most of our clients prefer to let us handle it all for them, and we find that is where our strength as a design firm lies. We are flexible and want to bring good design to everyone - but in our experience, we find that the process goes much smoother when clients allow us to do what we do.

Veronica Solomon, Principal of Casa Vilora Interiors Katy TX 77494
Veronica Solomon | Casa Vilora Interiors | Photographed By Colleen Scott

How does that process work?

Once we get to know your needs and desires, we set to work creating a design plan for you. The design plan is presented to you at a presentation meeting a few weeks after the initial design consultation in your home

The presentation meeting is a very important part of the collaborative process. It is the result of the combination of your vision, dreams and goals, with our grand vision, ideas, talent and expertise. It means that we bring our PLAN A - which is years of accumulating resources, expertise, experience, relationships, connections and we bring that to the table. We know how to filter out all the options that exist and bring what fits your needs, style, budget, while exposing you to solutions and ideas that you would have never thought of in a million years.

We do not bombard you with options at this meeting, because we know that options will overwhelm you, and an overwhelmed mind does not make great decisions. This is why it is very important to use to understand your needs, and find that amazing solution to your needs. In most cases when designers bring you several options, it means that they may not be sure themselves, and they are leaving the choice up to you. They are throwing the ball back into your court. I will say that in some cases, it is helpful and makes sense to show another option - maybe an idea is so different and unique, or may cost a bit more than what the budget allows, so a backup option might be necessary, but otherwise I think presenting our clients with one solid PLAN A is the best way to collaborate.

You get to see that one ideal version of your home finished. We present all of it all at once so you will see the big picture and can visualize what it will look like finished. You will see floor plans, elevations, fabric samples, finish samples, trim samples, paint color palettes, and in some cases 3D renderings. Of course, you have the opportunity to approve or not. We want you to tell us at this meeting what you may not be super excited about, or what you flat out don't like. Of course, we will ask what it is you don't like about whatever it is, and that can open up a discussion. Sometimes, it is something that absolutely can be changed and would not affect the design plan, and other times, we will ask you to think about it or reconsider because it is the perfect solution for what you need.

We believe in our design solutions to this extent. It goes far beyond just trying to finish out your space with space-fillers. It is more about providing the best solution.

Here's an example -

Millwork Elevation

Our wonderful client here has very high ceilings and big bare walls that makes this living room feel overwhelming. The room itself does not have a large footprint, so furniture placement alone would not solve the issue. We had to address the issue of the big empty walls. My client wanted to stick to a conservative budget because the home really isn't their forever home and investing too much may not make financial sense for them

Creating a wall of classic millwork is the solution. No artwork would compensate for those large walls - plus hanging several artwork that high would not be ideal. Fortunately, our client is totally on board with this idea, and I am sure she will be pleased with the results once we get started very soon. The planned millwork will include a built-in media center with storage for toys, and the panel molding details above will bring the room within visual scale.

This is the perfect collaboration with our client. Although the millwork meant spending a bit more than the budget allowed, and it is an item they can't take with them when they decide to sell a few years from now, it will create the look and feel they can live with and enjoy now, and will make their home a bit more marketable later. Our role here was to provide expert advice and visualization so that our client could make the best decision. We didn't send her to go hunt down ideas on Houzz and Pinterest, we didn't just settle for throwing some artwork on the wall and hope for the best, we provided her with our PLAN A. We brought in an expert finish carpenter to help plan for success for the execution of our design.

Master Bedroom With Bold Floral Wallpaper On Accent Wall
Master Bedroom Designed By Veronica Solomon, Casa Vilora Interiors. Photographed By Colleen Scott

If you have a design project planned, my best advice is to really think about how you prefer to collaborate with a designer and be clear about that upfront. Really ask yourself if you want to be presented with tons of options before you make a decision, or you want to work with a firm who will listen and bring you their PLAN A that will be YOUR ideal solution, and perfect combination of your vision and theirs. A solution that will bring beauty, function and comfort to your home.

Collaborating should not mean doing anything you are not comfortable with, have no knowledge of or have no time to do. Unless the endless pinning on Pinterest, and the idea boards hunting on Houzz bring you immense joy, you should not be asked to do it. At the end of the day, you hire an interior designer for their expertise, their ability to interpret your style and needs, their innate sense of what a space needs, and the creation and execution of the design plan that is perfect for you.

Be sure to check out our flexible design services, and book a consultation and let's get to collaborating.

Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!


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