James Swan: A Letter to an Interior Design Client

February 18, 2014

As your project nears completion, I’m reflecting on the thirty-plus months we’ve shared creating your ideal home. We—you, your spouse, your children, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and all thirteen pre- and post-pubescent cousins…plus the architect, general contractor, and landscape architect—have together grown excited, exhausted, despondent, teary-eyed, exhilarated, wiser, older, and certainly more respectful as this project has unfolded.

Looking west as the walls go up. Photos courtesy of James Swan

Thank you for gathering a team of professionals to articulate your dream, and especially high marks to you for allowing us to do our jobs. Hiring a designer or architect and then plunging ahead with your own ideas would be rather like hiring a surgeon and then snatching the knife from her hands—blood isn’t shed and lives aren’t lost (typically) in my profession, but great messes have been known to occur.

This is not to say that you were ever a pushover. Sticking to your guns on matters close to your heart, or your family’s, was never a problem. To be completely honest I still have doubts about some of the art we ended up hanging, but I trust you when you say that “family pieces” trump “investment pieces” in your book. (I will mention, however, that we may end up swapping out a few paintings when the house is photographed; there’s a good chance that not all magazine editors will appreciate your grandmother’s paintings on velvet as much as you do.)

I commend you for your thoroughness. At times, I will admit, I believed your process might be slowing down the pace of work. But, looking back on the choices you have made, it’s clear you’ve not second-guessed yourself (or me). You really did seriously study all those stone, tile, wood, paint, fabric, carpet, lighting, and trim samples we sent home with you. And the end result of your diligence will show beautifully in your soon-to-be-completed home.

Approved living room story board

Living room concept rendering…also approved

A special thanks, too, for your timeliness in paying your bills. While it’s the least fun part of any project (clients all agree on this), it is how my staff and I put food on our tables, not to mention remain in good standing with vendors and suppliers.

With well over 1,000 items conceived and executed on your behalf, just for the furnishings and fixtures of your home, it’s safe to say there will be a mistake or two that pops up between now and your first night in residence. I hope you won’t be too shocked to learn that your designer is only human. I gave up trying to walk on water years ago (*wink*). Please know that these issues, when they occur, will be resolved quietly and efficiently—and as often as possible, well before you notice their existence. In fact, I promise that no issue will be brought to your attention without an associated solution, either already in place or all set to be initiated.

The living room begins to take shape

And now, one final point of appreciation. Your willingness to bundle up the family and head out of town during installation week shows how invested you are in the success of your interior designer and his work on your behalf. Commenting on a painting while it’s still half-blank could do an injustice to any artist and his work. In much the same way, our work is not complete until every detail is in place. For you to fret over our work-in-progress would cause you unnecessary worry, do us a similar injustice, and—most important—rob you of the wonder of experiencing your home, pristine and complete, for the first time.

My office’s scouting shot of the living room during installation

By the way, please remember to let my office know which style of wooden hanger you prefer for the master closets; we’d like to place that order on Monday.

With my best regards,
Your Interior Designer

—James Swan

James Swan has worked across the United States for clients who have included captains of industry, movie studio heads, and investment bankers. He was recognized with the VOX/Out Designer of the Year award, and has been featured in House & Garden, House Beautiful, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, and the Miami Herald. Boston is now his personal and professional home.