Why I Don't Usually Take Clients Shopping
First of all, I hate shopping. That's the honest truth. Before kids, my husband and I would occasionally hit up the stores because he needed a new pair of pants. I would stand outside the dressing room tapping my foot, feeling overheated and under-trend. Each time he walked out to analyze how the pants looked (and he'll kill me if he reads this post), all I could think was, "it's fine, let's go". I tried to be supportive and really look critically at his clothes, but we definitely have reversed stereotypical roles when it comes to shopping.
The fact that I hate shopping has no negative impact on my business... because believe it or not, there is not a lot of shopping involved in interior design.
I pre-shop for my clients. I get a look established and a vision in mind. When I head out to the tile shop, I know EXACTLY what I'm looking for. I get there and may see one or two items that could also work, so I'll grab those samples along with the ones that feel like they fit my mold, and make a beeline for the door. I call the granite yards ahead and tell them what I'm looking for, so they can have it pulled. I select a few and let them know when I'll be back with my client. Next up, plumbing. I have those selections made for the most part before stepping into the showroom. I now have samples of suggested floor tiles, counters, backsplash, and fixtures are pre-selected.
Once I have all possible samples in-hand, I arrange the "shopping trip" with my client.
The trip starts with my bringing all possible samples into the home. Usually, we don't even have to head out from there. As much as I would love to bring a toilet, sink faucet, or refrigerator to the house, that isn't going to happen. So, this is where I take the client with me or meet them in the showroom. We look at the item if it is in stock. If not, we look at finishes and like items. This takes all the meandering, guesswork and overwhelm out of shopping for product, and it saves my client in design fees... because whether we are beelining for the door or wandering and taking it all in, the clock doesn't stop. I feel strongly about using my client's time efficiently.
Shopping for furnishings is another ball of wax, though and something I honestly do not often do.
My clients tend to be construction clients. That does not mean that I do not have the proper training, skill, and understanding to design with custom furnishings. I do not shop retail (though I have, and there are exceptions to this rule). I suggest using the store designers for this. I can absolutely put together a concept to take to the stores and use as a shopping guide. Now, this is going to sound designer snooty, but I promise, it's not coming from a snooty mindset.... I do not shop retail because I honestly feel that if a client has the money to spend for me to meander around retail stores, that money could be better spent on custom designer goods that will 1- last longer and 2- be entirely unique, tailored to their space.
Shopping for custom goods is a very different experience than shopping retail. We don't walk into a showroom, point and the rep whisks it out and loads it up in our car... despite what we may see on television. Shopping for custom goods is something I would almost like to do a video on to show the experience because it is so very different than even shopping for the custom product in a store.
A designer walks into a showroom with a product in mind.
I typically do not set foot in a showroom until I have found one or more potential items from either the manufacturer's website or per recommendation of a local rep. I know the dimensions I am working with, and a good idea of fabrics and finishes that I am looking for. I already have a very good idea of what I am looking for, and the look has been pre-approved by my client through sketches and/or photography.
Of course, many people like to sit in a chair or sofa before purchasing, and with custom goods, it is important that the client feel comfortable because custom cannot be returned. Once the order is placed, there is no going back. This is when I will take the client into the showroom with me. I will have called my showroom rep ahead of time. If the piece itself is not available (this is the norm), we will find an item that sits similarly.
The focus of shopping with a designer is to... stay focused. It is easy to get distracted by all the products on the showroom floor, but they are not there to peruse... they are there to serve as examples. So... in we go, out we go!