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The Art of Graceful Mistakes

April 24, 2013


At first glance, there does not appear to be anything graceful in mistakes.  They are usually accompanied by chagrin and embarrassment, particularly when a mistake results in a client’s disappointment.  I have learned two things in my twenty-five plus years as an interior designer:  the first is that mistakes happen, and the second is that it is how you respond to them that matters.

Recently I had a situation where a beautiful custom entertainment cabinet had been made for a client.  It took weeks for its completion, and then when delivery was only hours away–disaster.  The movers responsible for its delivery dropped it.  The specially installed lift inside was irreparably damaged, and the custom-building process had to begin all over again.  That was a hard call to make to the client, who had been eagerly anticipating its arrival, but there was nothing else I could do.

I made the call, explained the situation and how I was going to address it, and she accepted my apologies on behalf of the delivery team.  We began the process again, with patience and understanding on both sides:  her’s toward me and my design firm, and me toward the mover and his delivery crew.  Mistakes happen.

Another time clients were in the midst of renovating a home and redesigning the living room for a wonderful celebration:  the Bar Mitzvah of their eldest son.  Everything arrived on schedule, without mishap, including two custom-made chairs.  Except that the fabric that was supposed to cover the chairs had never been applied. 

Several phone calls were rapidly made, the chairs were returned to the manufacturer who pulled out all the stops to recover them in the fabric we had so carefully chosen, and they were delivered–again–in time for the family event.  No amount of yelling, hair pulling or finger pointing could have resolved the situation, but a quick assessment of the problem, and a pleasant but firm request for it’s resolution resulted in everything being made right before the big day.

Hiring a designer involves selecting someone whose vision speaks to you, whose personality blends easily with yours; and, whose credentials and reputation show them to be at the top of their industry.  But remember that mistakes do happen, and a graceful response makes the difference between a design project you love, and a design project you never want to repeat again.

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