4 designers share how they handle change requests

A designer’s time is precious and when it has gone back and forth, especially after the finalization of a design, the exchanges risk becoming tedious or even downright contentious. It can be frustrating to hear that a customer wants to substitute something after the fact, but the reality is that replacement requests are inevitably part of the process. Here we ask four industry professionals—Irene Roque, Matthew Boland, Samantha Arak and Maria Viola-Kuttruff– how they navigate this conversation.

Irene RoqueCourtesy of Alo + Hane Design

Cost-benefit
“It often depends on the budget. To me, it comes down to explaining to the client the cost of what they are asking for — it will delay the process, and it will cost more. If they are okay with that, then we can move forward. But I like to make them aware that this will put a stop to the project, especially depending on the scale of the request. Sometimes I find that if a client asks for a change, it’s because he didn’t quite understand what I wanted for him. [from the outset]. That’s a part of communicating with customers that I also have to look into, it’s not entirely their fault! —Irene Roque, Alo + Hane Design, San Francisco

4 designers share how they handle change requests

Matthew BolandCourtesy of MMB Studio

Handle with Care
“I always treat a customer’s replacement request with compassion and care, which requires one-on-one dialogue, trust and respect. The first thing is to get to the bottom of the request: is it because the customer needs to replace a worn item? [from a past project]? If so, we always look at what will be better aesthetically and functionally. Or did I install something new, and they haven’t had enough time to adapt to the change yet? Sometimes the new can be uncomfortable, and I always support the emotional side of what we do. Is it possible to adjust rather than replace? Sometimes all it takes is a slight adjustment. —Matthew Boland, MMB Studio, Scottsdale, Arizona

4 designers share how they handle change requests

Samantha ArakCourtesy of Samantha Carey Interiors

honesty hour

“Replacement requests are thankfully rare as we have sourced to a level of quality such that materials and workmanship meet or exceed expectations. That said, I’ve definitely seen substandard items arrive that either went through quality control too quickly or were damaged in transit. Typically, this is something I would communicate to a client and then work to fix. In the event that a customer is disappointed with a selection or the scale seems different to them, additional styling or accessories may be required to fit everything together. Or potentially, we could move said room to another room. A change of preference is not something I would agree to – and it is spelled out in my contract. But I’ll always work to find a way to finesse [the situation] So, in the end, customers are more than happy with their space and the rooms they have invested in. —Samantha Arak, Samantha Carey Interiors, Boston

4 designers share how they handle change requests

Maria Viola-KuttruffCourtesy of Viola Interior Design

Be up to it
“Most of our customers understand that as a designer, I will initiate a replacement if I don’t feel an item meets my expectations and what our company offers in luxury design and of bespoke products. If something needs to be fully replaced, we first ensure that the request (either from us or from the customer) is justified. Is the part damaged? Was it manufactured correctly? according to our written specifications? The answers drive our actions. Ultimately, our goal is to find a solution for the customer, which usually means working closely with the manufacturer or supplier to expedite the replacement.” —Maria Viola-Kuttruff, Viola Interior Design, Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Homepage Image: A New England Dining Room Designed by Samantha Arak | Tamara Flanagan

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