Tell Clients What They Don’t Know

This is a real-life design/build example of what goes on in the fast-paced world in which we live and work. The story is real but the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Mrs. and Mr. Jones are eighth grade English teachers with two beautiful twin daughters who live in a coastal New England town. As English teachers, they made a commitment to teach America’s children and accepted they would not be living in the lap of luxury.

The Joneses love to cook and entertain for their friends and family, especially during the summer and holiday seasons. But their 8-ft. by 13-ft. kitchen has its limitations and issues. To name a few, there is one wall cabinet, no dishwasher, a 30-in. by 60-in. table with four chairs and a hall-like corridor dividing the space in two. Yikes!

As we made our way out of the kitchen and into the living room to discuss their design needs and goals, Mrs. Jones explained in great detail how she envisioned her new kitchen. Mr. Jones was being a supportive husband and added a few more items to the wish list. Mrs. Jones agreed only to add one more additional item, as if to say to Mr. Jones, “Stop there or I will continue to add more things to the list.” He stopped.

As the designer on the project, I heard what they were saying, but did not entirely agree how they were laying out the space. Their idea was to stay within the existing structure which made their project long and narrow, and they desperately needed width. Mrs. Jones noticed my body language during her explanation of the project and asked me why I looked so concerned about her idea. I gently told her I was not convinced that making their existing small space longer would solve their problem. She asked me for my idea. I told her that if we added on to the rear of the house, removed the internal hall space and separated the eating and kitchen space at the same time, it might be a possible solution. She looked at me, paused for a second or two and asked, “Is that possible? Can we do that with our budget?” I told her I would look into it with the contractor and provide them with the best possible solution.

Two weeks later, the contractor and I were ready to present to the Joneses. Mr. Jones retrieved a folding card table from the basement because there was no room at the kitchen table. We asked the Joneses if we could use their living room wall to project the 3-D images of their new kitchen addition. Mrs. Jones was sitting next to me on the couch with Mr. Jones while the contractor was sitting on the recliner.

Before the images were displayed, I gave Mr. and Mrs. Jones their individual laser pointers to use during the meeting. Mr. Jones looked at his new kitchen and because he liked what he saw he became emotionally involved, which is why in his excitement he lost his grip and the laser pointer flew across the room like the space shuttle circling the earth’s atmosphere.

Mrs. Jones also became emotionally involved looking at her new kitchen and moved from a sitting position to a comfortable reclining position to get a better look at the wall. I have been presenting design to homeowners for the past 20 years, and I have never presented a kitchen design to a woman lying down next to me, by the way.

Finding a project that exceeds your client’s expectations, and creating an environment that is comfortable and relaxing can yield very positive results. Homeowners can lead you to what they want, but it is up to the design/builder to explore possibilities that can be engineered to exceed the client’s expectations.