One of my most popular packages is my two hour design consult. Many designers turn their noses up at consults. They much prefer to design rooms where they can get fabulous “after” images for their portfolio. I on the other hand, love to do design consults. Sometimes I feel like design consults are my super power. I swoop in, solve all my client’s design problems and leave as the hero who made everything better. It is seriously the best feeling!

I love knowing I have truly given value and improved my client’s home and ultimately their happiness.
It wasn’t always like this. When I first started out I would show up to a client’s home for a design consult and just wing it. More than a couple times I struggled to solve a complex design problem on the spot.

I remember one time early in my design career when I was met at the door by a client holding a clip board. She had prepared five or six pages of questions pertaining to her design challenges.I barely got my coat off before she started firing questions at me as if I were a magic eight ball. She was on to the next question before I even had time to give thought and answer to her first question!

Fast forward a few years and experience along with processes has totally changed how I conduct my design consults. The secrete is doing a little prep work ahead of the consult on my cell phone. Today I will share with you what has worked for me and what seems to bring the most value to my clients.

After a design consult is booked, I ask my client to send me cell phone photos of the room(s) they need help with. I also ask for a list of questions they would like to address during the consult.

This accomplishes two things.

First, I can determine if the client is unrealistic about what can be accomplished in two hours. Second, I can give some thought to the room(s) before hand. I’m not saying I spend hours studying their home before I arrive. However, I do like to let their more challenging questions percolate in my mind after I see the photos. So how does my cell phone come into play?

1. I access colors and undertones by looking at the client’s cell phone photos 

A while back, I had a consult with a wonderful young couple who had just purchased their first home. It was a small condo and they were planning to DIY the updates but were struggling with colors and finishes. They were starting by painting the kitchen cabinets white. They told me they were not fans of the speckled granite counter tops but it wasn’t in the budget to replace them.

The wife sent me a photo of the kitchen along with a close up of the granite. She also sent a photo of the back splash tile they were considering. For the sake of her privacy I will not share her kitchen photo but this is her granite counter top.

gold and black speckled granite

Below is the tumbled travertine back splash she was considering.

pinky beige tumbled travertine

See the problem here? By simply looking at her photos on my cell phone I immediately saw the clashing undertones. My client’s granite is gold and black and she was about to choose a pinky beige tumbled travertine. Had she gone forward with this combo she would have been very unhappy. Seeing the photos ahead of the design consult allowed me to grab a sample of a better back splash choice.

Now that I have moved and no longer keep design samples on hand, I would instead book mark a few suitable choices online. Being prepared makes a much better impression then sitting in the client’s kitchen scrolling though Home Depot’s website looking for a back splash tile.

2. I can look at the cell photos to access design problems.

Maybe it was because I was a professional photographer for so long but I find it easier to spot problems in a room by looking at a photo. Design elements that don’t work jump out at me. A photo shows everything, so if a room is off balance or the scale is wrong, or the colors clash I see it immediately.

By looking at the photo I know ahead of the consult what the design problem is. I can give some thought to the best solution and arrive prepared with any tools that I might want to bring. There may be catalogs or a specific piece of hardware that I would like to show the client. Perhaps I want to pin a few inspiration ideas for the room from Pinterest. It’s really not a whole lot of work to being prepared makes a big difference in the outcome of the consult.

3. I use my cell phone during the consult.

Besides relying my cell phone before the design consult, I also use it during the consult. Last week I had a consult where the client wanted help with placing art work. The home is very large and had recently undergone a major renovation. My client is an avid collector and owns a lot of large scale art. My job was to help her decide where each piece should go among the dozen or so different rooms.

Rather than dragging around 20-30 pieces of art which were stored in the basement, I took a photo with my iphone of each piece. We then went room by room and I scrolled through the photos until we hit on something that would work. It made the process so easy. We then checked for size and made note of where which piece would go.

During another consult I used my iphone to photographed a large rug in my client’s attic. We then went around her house with the rug photo on my screen to help visualize which room the rug might look the best. Having the photo front and center is much easier than moving the rug around that’s for sure!

So those are my tips for using the cell phone to rock the design consult. I’d love to hear from my designer friends. I know everyone works differently and maybe it’s just me that likes to know what the rooms look like ahead of time. How about you? Do you ask for photos before the consult?




Linda Holt | Interior Designer & iPhone Coach

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