This time I want to dedicate some time to the pure aesthetics of a project, to what revolves around its character, to the meeting point between client and professional. Among the doubts of those who in fact have to start work, a restyling, a renovation, there are some such as:
- Will the architect choose for me or will they impose their own choices? What if I don’t like what they propose to me?
- what if I already have ideas? Do they go against the idea of being followed by an architect?
- how to understand which of the solutions is best for me?
- do i have to choose a style? And if so, which one?
((PS. if you are interested in these topics, if you would like to understand more about how I develop a project and how I relate to a client, you can read the following article or watch the webinar I prepared for Cosentino and Edicom – only Italian sorry – at this link))
I answer thus:
- [premise: every professional is different from the other]
- how I approach the client
- what matters in the decision-making process
- do you already have precise ideas?
- the style
- when you disagree
- conclusion with practical examples
[premise: every professional is different from the other]
It applies to all professions in the world, and therefore also applies to ours. You could receive millions of different answers to the questions above: the relationship with the client, with ideas and with aesthetics is completely subjective. All professionals follows their own personal method which is the result of their own background culture, work and life experiences, one’s sensitivity, as well as character.
What you are reading is therefore my point of view, my “philosophy” and work ethic . To understand how another professional would behave, I suggest you read up on their personal website (what do they write in their presentation?), What third parties say about them (who has worked with them, who has been a client) etc. If there are other questions that are not answered among what you find freely available, ask the person concerned, it never hurts, indeed.
how I approach the client
I have met many colleagues over the years and I would not know how to find two who approached the client in the same way. We pass from the extreme of those who peremptorily tend to affirm their ideas in a decisive way, refusing compromises that distort their project, to the opposite extreme of those who let every proposal pass without acting as a filter in order to streamline the process.
Personally, I think I am somewhere in between. I have the aesthetics of the project very much at heart and architecture for me is also a passion and an ethical question, but at the same time I believe that a dialogue with the client is essential and that his contribution gives depth and greater richness to the design vision – especially in the private residential sector. This means that no project is alike, and that it reflects not only my way of working, but also the life, the aesthetics of the client.
what matters in the decision making process
It doesn’t matter that the client already has a precise idea, or that they don’t have any. What matters most in the whole process is that the customers know what they prefer when faced with alternatives. Also meditating on the different solutions, taking the needed time (I always recommend it!), but knowing themselves well in a decisive way and what they like most.
I’ve had clients who decided by just touching the renders with their eyes (I’m always surprised when it happens, I didn’t even need to explain!); and customers who liked everything but continued not to make up their minds and asked for many variations, sometimes feeling a sense of bewilderment. A bit like when you have to buy a dress: there are those who can decide at the first glance, and those who go around all the shops on the street trying the most different things and without making up their minds.
The solution to get out of this last circle of hell is simple:
- communicate through photographic examples what you like. It is not up to you to find the common denominator among all the images, to find the keystone, etc. – it would constitute a distorted filter. Carefully choose what suits you, the architect will bring out his considerations.
- communicate your functional / practical needs. You don’t have to find the solution, but communicate what you need, clearly, without neglecting anything. Example: “I need a closet space” and don’t “divide the kitchen in two to have a second space”. In the second case, you do not understand what you need and there may be better solutions than the one identified by you and which you had not considered. Or “I love having the makeup well exposed in a single drawer”, it seems unimportant information, in reality, this element affects the design of bathroom furniture: at least one low and long drawer must be guaranteed to allow displaying – and not stacking – many small containers.
- think about the proposals received and imagine yourself within those spaces. As I always say, take your time to decide. Ask yourself: do I like it, am I excited about having a space like this? Does it suit me or is it diametrically the opposite? Are there any choices I am giving up that I would regret? And communicate your concerns.
- let yourself be guided a little and don’t be afraid to change your habits. You really get used to everything, even more if the new arrangement is more logical than the one you have been used to for a lifetime. Don’t worry in that case: each new movement will be easier, more linear and immediate. Do you think you are daring? Maybe initially it can be scary, but when you like something a lot, it doesn’t matter if it is unusual, you will always love what you like, regardless of your friends have it or not.
do you already have precise ideas?
It happens that clients come to me with a plan already sketched by them, thinking that this could simplify my work or speed up the design process. Certainly determined customers – see above – make everything leaner and guarantee a better result, but from the sketch to a good design definition, there is a lot to do.
There are architects who take the requests for good and go ahead on that basis. In my opinion, the correct procedure is: analyze the solution proposed by the customers, understand the reasons that led to those definitions and check if there are better solutions that guarantee to respond to all requests. This is why I communicated that it does not matter whether or not you have solutions at hand: the good architect will go further, will try to understand your needs and will define his own solution to the problem.
In any case, any exchange is always useful; often some ideas or intuitions of the customers have given that extra touch to the whole project!
The labels are comfortable, there is no doubt. In fact, many customers begin to describe to me what they like in this way: Scandinavian, shabby chic, industrial, etc. When it happens, I try to abstract the request and make it fit their personality and my way of seeing.
But the choice to use a precise style would presuppose the use of stylistic elements, shapes and combinations of pre-packaged colors-materials. This would mean:
- deprive yourself of the opportunity to dare, to experiment
- make your environment impersonal (we are much more than a trendy style!)
- make everything aesthetically much cheaper, no matter how much you spent (the mind quickly recalls that style furniture seen in the flyer of the large hypermarket)
- no less important, chasing a “fake” aesthetic, built by someone else for us
So: as long as it comes to describing, communicating, understanding each other… the use of styles is welcome. Do you have iconic pieces? Vintage family furniture? Great, let’s use them! But if the style becomes a specific design request, I don’t really agree on this. It is better to find your own way, without any rule.
It is understandable that each of us has a different aesthetic approach, a style that is recognizable by third parties. But, as for artists who do not like to label themselves and who always try to renew themselves in order to remain authentic, the rule of do not follow a style is valid for everyone: just think about what you like, in order to not create something false and forced.
when you disagree
It can happen, and not so rarely, that you don’t agree with what the architect proposes. You have to evaluate why, on a case-by-case basis, and you have to be good at both sides at arguing and making your point of view understood.
If, in my opinion, the requested modification has a significant weight in the aesthetics, functionality, general principle of the project, I tend to argue a lot about it. I can also seem a little insistent, but it is right to fully understand what we are getting into, and, without many turns, that I disagree. It happens that elements that may appear insignificant today will have a weight in the long term and it is right that I warn you. You don’t restructure every day!
If the requested change is minor, essentially it seems right to respect the will of the customer. As a first remark, of course, I make it clear why I had acted differently. If despite the explanations, you are determined to proceed differently, I adapt to your decisions.
conclusion with practical examples
I think I’ve said it all. To make my thoughts even clearer, I can give some practical examples from various construction sites. So I greet you, thank you for reading up to this point and I leave you to these little stories:
- customers and photographic examples: a customer told me that he loved the industrial style, and wanted the design of a black kitchen. I asked her to send me photographic examples of what she likes – about her apartment in general. Most of the references were cream and beige. In the first two kitchen proposals, however, I followed her instructions, but in a third proposal, I re-proposed the aesthetics I saw in her references. She obviously appreciated the latter much more: she had never realized that she preferred light environments, although black in the kitchen fascinated her!
- customers and precise ideas: in the BVM project the request was to open the kitchen onto the open space, through a double door, and to redo the kitchen cabinet. During the site visit, I verified that their intuition was right, but I noticed that the apartment lacked wardrobes – especially for the guests. I then used their idea and implemented it: instead of the double door I gave more light by opening the entire wall with a double glass door; and I demolished the second wall to realize a big furniture that divided the kitchen from the entrance, but gave back large storage space, included a wardrobe for the guests. They find it very comfortable!
- disagree and solve it: a client of mine found beautiful pieces of marble to use for the bathroom tops. In the main bathroom, he wanted to use an on-top washbasin. In my proposal, I instead included an under-top washbasin and there was a long debate about it: it’s not that I don’t like on-top washbasin or I wanted to impose my own taste, but the space was configured in such a way that you have to access from the side, and basin would almost completely hide the marble top. The opposite happens by leaving it exposed and installing an undermount sink, enhancing it. The customer understood why I did not support the proposal and we installed a basin sink in the second bathroom.
- not to agree and communicate it: in a hallway there were 5 rows of existing glass blocks, positioned high up, which indirectly illuminated the space. The heating engineer requested a false ceiling, eliminating 4 of the 5 rows of glass blocks. There was therefore only one row left, and their presence still involved ordering an oversized door different from the others in the corridor. I suggested that the last remaining row should be completely removed, as there is no great impact and impact on an aesthetic level, nor of light, indeed causing irregularities (neither the glass block was recalled from other parts). Even if the owners did not agree, I did everything possible to make understand the final disharmonious effect.