Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Help Me Help You: The Ideas File

Last week I met with a new client to discuss some initial concepts for their kitchen project. As the meeting progressed I could see in one of the client’s eyes that she was beginning to feel like there were too many choices, that there was no possible way they were ever going to get through all of this.

A couple days after the meeting she sent me an email:

Thanks for spending time with us today Arne! It really is quite an overwhelming process. 

I replied:

I could sense you were feeling a bit overwhelmed. It’s true, there are many steps to this process … but that’s what I’m here for, to walk you through them. Get started on your “Ideas” file and I’ll check in with you in a week or so. 

It’s true. There ARE a lot of decisions to make. But isn’t that why you come to someone who has been there before and knows how to handle a wide variety of situations? Like an athlete or a musician, a design professional has the experience that allows them to walk you through your project and help you make all the decisions you need to make.

Of course the experience is only going to be as successful as the client allows it to be. There’s nothing as frustrating as meeting with a customer that has no idea what it is they want to accomplish. They have it in their head that the kitchen need’s re-doing, and that’s as far as they get. If the client isn’t  prepared, initial meetings with any designer will be frustrating and quite frankly a waste of everyone’s time.

In other words: "Help Me Help You."

There are many things you can do to prepare for meeting with a kitchen designer, and in this series of posts (filed under “Help Me”) I’ll discuss the things I ask my clients to prepare before our first meeting. 

First up: The Ideas File

I encourage each of my clients to start collecting photographs from magazines, snapshots they have of homes they’ve seen, swatches, etc … anything that indicates their aesthetic preference, and put them into a file. I also suggest they keep some Post-It notes with them to help indicate what exactly they liked about the picture. That note is going to help refresh your memory when you go through the file a week later to purge some of the ideas that don’t resonate with you after some reflection.

There’s no hard and fast rule as to how large or how organized the file should be. Many clients really take their collections to heart, organizing them in 3-ring binders, indexed by category … someone even did a PowerPoint presentation. A bit over the top? Perhaps. But the important thing was they brought a lot of information to the table, and the process of sorting through all the decisions became much easier for all of us.

If the Ideas File seems like too much work, then I'm more than happy to make the decisions for you, provided you agree to live with them. As you can imagine, this situation rarely occurs. Too bad, because I’m really dying to do a kitchen in Whitecaps blue!


Nick @ Cupboards said...

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one really encouraging an "idea file"!

Typically when I am explaining the file to a new client that has already expressed some feelings of dread in the process, I reassure them by saying that it's okay for me to be overwhelmed... the client should feel free to throw at me all the things they like and then we'll sort it out in to a working plan. It sets a feeling of ease right at the beginning and allows our clients to know that we are genuinely interested in working with and for them and they'll get exactly what they're looking for.

Love the idea file!

roberta said...

Arne you hit it right on the nail. Homeowners get really excited by watching those 30 minute TV renovations - then panic when they start understanding the reality of the job. There are a lot of decisions to make and planning to do to get a kitchen they'll love and the convenience (and resale value) they want - on the budget they planned for. That's why they need a professional to guide + help them.

The best guidance a kitchen design professional can give is to create their "idea file" first. It helps the homeowner and the professional to see a pattern in their thinking and to define which are the most important features for them. And it can cut down on time and money over runs.

Thanks Arne! Once again you've reminded us about a simple idea that makes the entire process easier and more successful.

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