Musings of a frustrated designer

Instead of saving lives I chose to save homes and marriages. Although not as respected as becoming a doctor, being a designer has given me my fair share of deserving street cred. Had you asked me 12 years ago when I graduated from design school what that meant, I guarantee you my answer would be entirely different than it turned out to be. I had no idea when I left campus on that fateful day that instead of being surrounded in pretty fabrics and paint all day, I instead would have business management in my future with violence, frauds and theives…OK, so that may be a stretch in the truth, but only now, four interns, two assistants, and a full fledge design business later  am I realizing that in order to run a successful firm, you have to have your head on straight, and be prepared for the worst. Turns out I am cut out to work with violence, frauds and thieves only mine come in the disguise of trucking companies and vendors. And don’t put it past me to get violent, with a serious take no prisoners attitude of GSD (get shit done), just because I’m a designer (A.K.A mythical, magical creature of make-beleive)


Every job that I have worked on has taught me something new and design is no different. It is an ever evolving business, filled with creativity, magic and chaos. To transform a space from ordinary to extraordinary makes my heart skip a beat. To see a clients excitement over a room they could never imagine is purely captivating and joyous. But in order to get to that point we need to back up. We need to rewind to the beginning because in order to get to that magic, we need to go deep into the bellows of the furniture business.

Working with a designer opens you up to lines of accessories, custom trades and furniture that you may otherwise not have access to. We have the ability to take your home to the next level of “wow!” What most homeowners don’t know is that they have a lot of talent of their own. Everyone we work with dictates how the project will unfold. They all have unbeleivable vision and untapped creativity. We act merely as a guidance counselor to edit, direct, and help you make the best design decisions to achieve the best result. But in order to make that happen we must work with trucking companies, trades and vendors. So what does that mean exactly?

1) Vendors

AB HOME Interiors

Every designer has a plethora of vendors, and trades they use to get a job done. Vendors are merely the suppliers we get our products from. Whether they supply us with a product of furniture, or an accessory, we rely heavily on these unique sources to provide us with one-of-a-kind product. Some are vendors we use on a regular basis and some are used only once for a special job application. In either instance, designers play a key role in getting a vendors products seen, and showcasing it in a way that is creative and unique.

Unfortunately, not all vendors see the importance that designers play in showcasing their products. At the end of their day it is about the dollars they earn, and we become a thorn in their side when issues arise. Due to the nature of this aspect of the business I choose my vendors very carefully. If I spec a product for a client they know that I have given that product my seal of approval. Most of my vendors are ones I have used for 10 years and every once in a blue moon something is bound to happen. But due to my relationships, those vendors bend over backwards to accommodate my clients and make sure the product and client are taken care of immediately.

So remember when you are working with your designer,  it takes a lot of orchestration and project management (that most clients never see) to coordinate all the little pieces to your room. Their design fee may seem high, but be mindful that your designer is your biggest cheerleader and they are handling all the minute details so you don’t have to. That salesman at the furniture store will never take care of you like your designer does, and the designers relationships with their vendors are what save you from endless hassles when issues arise.

2) Lead times


Once you have signed off on the plan your designer has presented you, the furniture from the vendors is ordered. After each order is placed, the vendor acknowledgment is received  within a week. It basically acknowledges that they have your order and they provide a preliminary lead time, or expected time of delivery. Depending on the vendor, a lead time can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. This is where things start getting harry on our end and we start working overtime in the office.

Based on the general lead times that we receive we try to determine an install date. Rarely do we get this right. Why? Because our vendors get shifty. The chair frame that was in stock last week when we called….no longer available. Aliens fell from the sky, tipped the mexican boat and the frames got wet in Marshmallows. huh? Long story short, pick a new chair. Then we pick a new chair, and find out the mill in Italy got bombed with meatballs, the mermaids went on strike and now the turtles have no shoes. huh? Long story short, pick a new fabric.

Now this doesn’t go on with all the vendors, nor all the items you order. But crazier things have been known to happen and I don’t put anything past the person on the other side of the telephone line…..I have heard it ALL!!! It’s our job to manage, orchestrate and swim through the bullshit so we get your product on our dock in a timely manner or estimated lead time.

3) Trucking companies

Trucking companies

After we dig through the meatballs and marshmallows and the items are complete, it is time for them to ship. We are three quarters of the way done, however, nothing makes me twitch more than the trucking companies. . When an item is oversized and a company like UPS cannot ship it, it is considered freight. (Just another term for oversized shipping thats also heavy.) This is where all hell breaks loose. Trucking companies pick up the items from the vendors and transport it to the designer. However, that truck that has your item or items also has 45 other items going to 45 other locations. So what does that mean? Well that means the truck driver now has your item in his hands for the next 10-15 days, and if he’s having a very bad day in the hot sun, a very cold day in -2 degrees, or your not there to collect at 6:30 in the morning ( despite setting an 11am-3pm delivery window with him) let’s just say your items can be 10-15 days in the hands of hell.

As designers it is our job to act as managers and buffers for the job and to our client but when the trucking companies provide constant false information (that we give to our clients) we begin to look like incompetent idiot’s. This is the part of the job I hate. Relaying information to a client only to find out  it wasn’t correct in the first place, drives me crazy! We do everything we can at my firm to buffer the bullshit, but we can’t always win. It can be a very helpless feeling knowing you are doing everything possible to expedite something only to have their shortcomings fall onto the designer’s responsibility to the client. Oh how I loathe trucking companies. And there is nothing we can do about it. Nothing. If your item is in California and shipping to Tennessee, it’s bound to have damage. And this is partly the vendors fault. Most items are not crated properly, so that 10-15 days of hell takes it’s toll on a poorly packaged product. With the millions of dollars spent each year on furnishings I still cannot comprehend why furniture shipping has not been prepped for the hell that trucking companies put it through.

All freight is generally priced in addition to the cost of the item you purchase. So when you see parentheses in the pottery barn catalog next to the sofa you are about to order ($150) that means the $1899 sofa will have an additional freight charge of $150 to get it to you.

4) Trades


Trades are the lifeline to a designers creativity. They are the ones that make it all happen. We come up with a crazy idea, or concept and their skill and ability turns our pipe dream into reality. Most of them think designers are crazy, and may even cringe when we arrive at the job, but we challenge their capacity to build, craft, paint, upholster, cut, form, assemble, develop and install our master piece. Without them our designs would never make it out of the concept stage. But like all the pieces to the overall puzzle, trades can be difficult. Don’t ever pay a trade before a job is complete. And if your job is in or around a holiday, be conscious of the fact that you may not have work being done in a timely manner. As one trade said to me after the 4th of July holiday a few years ago, “I’m so sorry Miss Amanda, I know I was suppose to be there Tuesday, but my 4th ran into my fifth and here it is the 7th, you understand, right?”. Um, what? That doesn’t even make sense! So yes, you may cringe when the designer shows up, but running and scheduling a job of trades makes a circus look easy. And keep in mind that if one trade falls short, the next ten trades can’t start their job. So if your drywall installer is scheduled for Friday but the electrician fails to show up on Monday, guess what? No drywall.

AB HOME Studios

Interior design is a beautiful thing. It transforms lives. I have seen it time and time again. When a person lives in a home that is not attractive, disorganized and beat up, the homeowner feels the same way. But give them a beautiful home, and surround them with comfort, color and simple luxuries and the entire atmosphere uplifts their mood. Think about how you feel when you leave your home and the bed is messed up, dirty dishes are in the sink, piles of laundry are on the floor and you loathe that 1960’s kitchen you have. That energy you put out effects your mood and reflects on your day to the world. Rewind yourself into a home with beautiful linens on a freshly made bed, a beautiful crisp, clean kitchen, an organized laundry room, and a living space that makes you sing. How do you think you would feel each day when you left and came home to that house? Purty darn good!

Yes, Interior design is a beautiful thing. But there is no pixie dust, or magic wands. There are no magical elves or leprechauns (that HGTV seems to possess) to put it all together . And there are no glamorous yet thunderous Tony Sopranos in our back pocket to threaten and exterminate unscrupulous trades, and trucking companies. ( although I wish there was!) There are only interior designers,  mystical, creative, creatures; the thing legends are made of. As I said here in this post,

AB HOME Studios

“It takes great talent, consideration, and organization to do what we do, and it is a business. Our time is valuable, and our ideas are our enterprise. We do what we do because we love it, and the creativity keeps us alive. But remember that the intellectual property that we hold is not just for good merit. What exactly is it that we do, you ask? We are entrepreneurial tycoons, organizing and dealing our trades, multi-tasking design ninjas, that hustle on your behalf to twist, tweak and skillfully accomplish with absolute expertise ~ design magic! So that when you start your day, and end your day, there is a smile on your face because your home makes you genuinely happy!”

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Images: found, flickr, one love, luxurious life, ditte isager