4 Strange Situations We’ve Seen During Design Consultations

When you’ve been designing and renovating homes as long as we have, you see some things. There are the usual surprises that come with older homes, like dated features, crazy color use (not in the good way), water damage or mold behind walls or under tubs. But I bet you’ve heard of those before.

When I say “craziest situations,” I don’t mean what we found inside the home. I mean the consultation itself! Today I’m sharing...

  • What is a design consultation and who is it for?
  • 4 strange situations we’ve seen & what we learned from them
  • 5 tips for making the most of your design consultation

Bring your sense of humor, and let’s dive in…

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What is a design consultation and who is it for?

Design consultations are the first step in any project we begin with a client. The main goal is to walk through your home with you, take a look at what you love and don’t love in the space, and get some ideas for how you want your home to look, feel, and function.  

This meeting is also your opportunity to get acquainted with our design firm and how we work. At this point, we probably know if we’re a good fit for each other, but it never hurts to spend some one-on-one time together to make it official, right? Especially with such a high-investment project. 

We’ll also let you enjoy the very therapeutic (in my opinion) exercise of airing all of your grievances with your home. You will feel lighter getting these grievances off your chest, and we can always share some ideas related to solving them, even if we’re not addressing that space in particular. 

In summary (for those of you skimming this post):

  • 1-on-1 walk-through of your home with one of our Joy Street designers
  • Chance for us to get to know you, your style, and your lifestyle
  • Chance for you to get to know us and how we work
  • Launch point for your design project and/or renovation
  • Get our expert advice on your home, even on spaces we might not be addressing

Okay, now that you know why we were in our clients’ homes, here are the craziest encounters we’ve had. Some have been one-time things. Some have been recurring. Some are likely to happen again. But since you’re reading this, they’re probably not likely to happen with you... ;)

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4 Strange Situations We’ve Seen During Design Consultations

1. Aggressive dogs & other derailing distractions

We’ve been to several consultations over the last decade where there is a dog (or dogs) that are barking and visibly aggressive...not just when we were walking up the driveway, but for the entire consultation. Picture standing in the living room with your new clients, large dogs snarling at you through the sliding glass doors. Uncomfortable, right? Now, I don’t mind most dogs and I have one myself (hey, Coco), but it made us wonder if our team would feel comfortable working on that property for months to come. In addition to the dogs taking over our time together.

Screaming kids are another distraction I’ve seen derail a consultation. Again, I understand. Kids should have a say in their home, and especially in their rooms. (Here’s how we designed my daughter Zoe’s room in our Oakland home.) However, children who are too young to sit through a several hours’ long consultation can end up becoming the focus of the meeting, instead of you and your home. We’re definitely not concerned about our safety in this scenario (haha), but it’s simply a missed opportunity. Same goes for ringing, beeping, or vibrating cell phones.

A Better Way: A design consultation is for you. It’s our way of making sure we understand your goals, your style, and your lifestyle. This is the ONLY way we can create a home that supports your everyday life and brings you feelings of belonging and joy each day. Without this initial meeting, we’re just shooting in the dark, and we all know...that’s not how you hit the target.

So, we strongly urge you to clear your calendar, remove any distractions, and give your full attention to this time together. You may only see the final results in our portfolio, but THIS, the design consultation, is where the magic happens.

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During our design consultation, we discovered that our Trestle Glen client is an avid at-home baker! This kitchen has everything she needs (and then some), along with color that inspires her.

2. The wildly overbearing friend

This one has only happened once, thankfully, but it was so uncomfortable that it will stick with me forever. Our client invited their friend to join us for the consultation...and they ended up taking over the entire thing! We had to actively ignore the friend (super awkward, let me tell you) and focus on the client whose home we were there to address. 

I can understand the desire to want a second opinion, but please believe me when I say that anyone who is not going to be living in the home should not have a say in what it looks and feels like. That’s 100% up to you, and our process (honed over 10 years) is designed to ensure that we create a home that feels authentic to you and functions for your family. Beware of outside opinions!

A Better Way: If you rely heavily on outside opinions—your mother-in-law, your neighbor, your friend with the knack for decorating—you’re very unlikely to get the home that will really feel good to you. We highly suggest turning a blind eye (and ear) to anyone who wants to have an opinion about your home, and please don’t invite them to the design consultation. This meeting should only include the decision-makers or other family members who live in the home. That’s how we create results you love.

joy street design atlanta living room aquarium built-in bookshelf design consultation
This family loves the life and movement their aquarium adds to their family room—so we gave it a front-row seat!

3. The on-again-off-again spouse

We’ve often shown up to design consultations where both decision-makers were present (usually a husband and wife), but only one was invested in the process. Meanwhile, the other was largely uninvolved and would say things like, “Whatever you want is fine, honey.” Seems harmless and well-meaning, right? Plus, who doesn’t want that kind of blank-check freedom to design their home? 

Well, fast-forward several months into the project—or worse, into the construction and furniture delivery stages—and suddenly the spouse has an opinion, and it’s not the one anyone hopes to hear. They don’t like the design. Deep breaths... 

Yes, this really has happened, and it’s difficult for everyone involved. BUT, it could have been avoided with more involvement in those early stages. And believe me, now we know better. We can spot this situation from a mile away. Uninvolved spouse lingering on the outskirts of the consultation? They are getting our warm and adamant invitation to the party!

A Better Way: Make sure that all decision-makers are present at your consultation. If you have a spouse, bring them, even if they say “whatever you want is fine.” Help them see how important it is that they love their home, too. If time is an issue, assure them that our process is focused on short but spending quality time together at the outset so that we can represent both of your interests as we carry out the design.

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Although the above situation didn’t happen with this incredible family in Piedmont, this husband-wife duo (and parents of FIVE kids) agreed on a stunning spa bathroom just for them. It’s everything they imagined...and more.

4. A consultation with no house…or no clients!

This situation has happened several times, and while it’s a little crazy, we actually love it. Sometimes, our clients hire us to design or renovate a home they haven’t moved into yet, or even built. In these cases, our design consultations will sometimes consist of looking at plans for the home, or asking the realtor to let us into the vacant property and holding our consultation over Zoom. (Yes, Covid taught us it can be done.)

A Better Way: There isn’t one! If you ask me, this approach seems strange, but it’s actually pretty smart. I’ve lived through multiple renovations myself, I can tell you that having half your home as a construction zone (with a temporary kitchen set up in the garage) is not easy. Designing your home before you move in means that you get to start living your life right away. So why not??

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Purchasing an older home? Imagine moving into this luxurious bathroom instead, from our 1920s Tudor Transformation.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Consultation

1. Determine Your Goals: Consider what you love and don’t love about your home. What are your goals for the space? How do you want it to feel? And function? It’s best to give yourself a week or more to answer these questions as you go through your daily routine.

2. Decide What Stays: Organize and prioritize your non-negotiables and what you could let go of. If you know that you will not part with the piece passed down from your grandmother, tell us. We’ll find ways to incorporate those pieces or features into the design.

3. Gather Ideas: Start gathering ideas and inspiration that speak to you. Use our portfolio. Browse Pinterest. Pick up a design magazine and clip photos old school style. Then, think about what you like most about the images you’ve saved. Is it a certain color or material? How it makes you feel? It’s also helpful to tell us what you don’t like about them. 

4. Be Open-Minded: The best consultations are a meeting of the minds. We may share some ideas with you that you’ve never even considered, and we will help you edit your ideas into a more cohesive whole. Trust our experience, open your mind, and let us collaborate to create a home that is incredible.

5. Decide Your Budget: Be prepared to discuss your ideal overall investment in the project. We’ll help you understand how far this investment can take you, how we suggest allocating it to various aspects of the project (skilled labor vs. materials vs. furnishings), and more.

Have a question about our design consultation? Looking to start your own home adventure? Reach out to us here and let’s create a home that feels like living. 

— Kelly

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