Asking The Dumb Question

Undoubtedly, it’s within the third or fourth meeting with my clients that I find myself having to explain my statement: “I’m really not thick-headed.” And it is generally after they give me that look. You know the one.  That facial expression where they appear to be dumbfounded that I would have to ask seemingly ridiculous questions or have them clarify a seemingly obvious answer.

It might go something like this: “Of course I don't want a door into my master bathroom!” or “Do you really have clients who want to see their kitchen from their front door?” They say it with disgust that suggests a lapse in trust that their new architect would even be entertaining this conversation.

While yes, although we’re all human, breathe the same air and have need for shelter, that shelter can take many shapes. Not only shape and size, but also include every manner of configuration and amenity. More recognizable are cultural and religious differences but I am referring to much more subtle differences here.

I’ve found some outstanding differences over the years. Some of the most controversial seem to recur:

  • Door on a water closet (or not)
  • Television placed over a fireplace (rather than adjacent to)
  • Hardwood flooring in a bathroom (versus tile or stone)
  • Kitchen sink on a bar island (or against a wall)
  • Walking into a kitchen from near the front door 
  • Tub or shower (or both)
  • A shared bath vanity sink (or separate sinks)
  • A double garage door (versus two single doors)

While these may seem to be a no-brainer for some homeowners, they can be preposterous to others. 

As design professionals we are obligated to ask The Dumb Question. Unfortunately, it places us momentarily in a position of potentially losing face with our clients. Thus the following explanation that might begin with, "I'm really not thick-headed." By the end of this devil's-advocate monologue, they return their full trust and respect to their design professional.

We must thoughtfully and respectfully question our clients' wishes, goals and desires for their abodes. This may require a quick education with a graphic list of pros and cons, or lengthy discussions over the course of designing and building their homes. Regardless the format or time span to accomplish this important task, we should never assume to know what they want. You are aware of the adage about making assumptions, aren't you?