Who is the real client of the mountain house…
The ‘I Design, You Decide’ series is about to head into high-speed mode as the major decisions need to get made in order to get all the materials here in time. So as we go forward I know that a lot of you are wondering – Who is the real client of this house? Who am I designing this for? Is it just for ‘content’ or is it for our family? How much of Brian’s needs and wants are being met? And most importantly Was this a good idea?
Here’s how it originally went down; we were finishing up our current house and running out of content. We sold our first house so desperate for a non-client project that I could fully document here, I started looking for houses in “up and coming neighborhoods in LA”. As many of you know, LA’s market is insane so $400 – $500k basically gets you a 900 square foot run-down apartment. As I was showing Brian these properties and suggesting that this was our next big project, he understandably was bummed. I think he was like ‘Wait, you are going to drain our savings and give a year if not more of your life into a property that our family will never actually enjoy?’ He agreed that I needed a new project for content, but he suggested looking outside of LA for a weekend house so our family can escape.
Little did he know that I just suckered him into letting us look for a mountain house (which he has always wanted, but typically I have to convince Brian for years of things before he lets his fear take a back seat to the excitement.)
But there was a caveat – In order for me to really dedicate the time/energy/effort and money into this project, I HAD to have the freedom to design and create something totally different, and yes for “content” (and to feed my creativity). Financially the only way we could justify it was to make it part of my “job”. He agreed. ‘Of course. That makes sense. yea, yea, yea, I get it – whatever is best for the blog and your business will be great for us, I’m sure.’
And then we found his dream mountain house and for the first few months he said, ‘do we even need to renovate?’ and I immediately countered LISTEN, MISTER, WE HAD A DEAL! I’ts not that I was dying to renovate, either – its so much work and money, it meant that we wouldn’t be able to escape up there for at least 6-8 months. But that was the whole point, and I was so excited to get started.
You know the rest of the story (see here), I showed him the new style that I wanted to try – ‘Contemporary, Minimalist Scandinavian Chalet – and he told me that it was his ‘worst nightmare’. All of a sudden he wanted in on the design process. And yet, as all of you know who have tried designing with a male person, he didn’t have any ideas himself. Just ‘not that’.
I know so many of you can relate, and how I got him to actually communicate what he wanted brought me back to my style diagnostic days in SFAS and it was actually really fun, but that’s another conversation.
Around the same time, I realized that this was our opportunity to engage you guys and bring you into this process and frankly to do something in digital marketing that has never been done before. Essentially I felt that the success of the blog bought this house, and therefore I wanted to give YOU some power in the design and if I was going to use my time, sweat, money and energy designing our dream cabin for our family, I better also be marketing it and growing the business. It wasn’t going to be a quiet job. I was planning on DOCUMENTING THE HECK out of this project and taking all of you along for the ride.
He couldn’t help but agree that ‘I Design, You Decide’ would be great for business and incredibly fun for me. So he agreed to it… but was nervous.
In case you are feeling sorry for Brian Henderson right now, I’d like to tell you that if there is one person in the world who you should NOT feel sorry for, it’s him. And he knows it. We laugh about it all the time. When we read your comments where you side with him, or you feel sorry for him because you think I’m steam-rolling him, he laughs OUT LOUD and yes, rubs it in my face a bit when he ‘wins’ (fireplace, pebble tile), but then he’s like, ‘OK I should probably write about the process, and defend you so they know how much say I am being given and how much you are considering my opinion.’
YES. PLEASE TELL THEM HOW NICE I AM.
So he wrote something to you:
“Dear readers, My beautiful, stunning wife, Emily, could not be more considerate of my needs (in general) and has taken my style prerogative and functional requests without an argument. Despite you having ultimate control she is only giving you design plans that she has done basically for me. Her generosity astounds me. Her grace is beyond measure. Her intellect impresses me daily… she can charm a room, is amazing at karaoke, has beautiful feet and bakes a mean meat stew. I especially love how the shape and shade of her eyebrows changes on the daily. I am the luckiest man on the planet.”
*Unfortunately Brian was actually unavailable for comment. And the above statement was written for him in his absence.
I don’t agree with all that he “wrote” (the feet, eyebrow and ‘baked stew’ thing are questionable) but the struth is that he is the real client. At this point, I am showing him 15 versions of each design plan before I show you the final 2. He has already vetted them and my goal is that he is just as happy with both design plans (and he loves both master bathroom designs). I’m not just saying that – I promise you that Brian Henderson is being considered first and foremost here. It is more work, but I think it’s going to produce a better house and sure, a happier family 🙂
If you are wondering about ME – and what I want for this house? First off, thanks for caring. But I’ll say this – there is no one more able to adapt, stylistically than I can. I’m truly style polyamorous and I let the architecture of the house kinda tell me what direction it should go, then I consider the functional needs and then I put my usual ‘happy’ spin on it. I just love designing and am happy to do ANY style. Truly.
I was SO excited to do a ‘contemporary minimal chalet’, but honestly am just as happy designing a rustic cabin – and ultimately we fell in the middle. Brian is happy and I’m totally happy. I have my dream job, Brian gets his dream cabin – we are all good here 🙂 And I would never put anything in this house that I didn’t really want. Ultimately, not that we need to talk about our marriage here, we communicate really well and are pretty great at compromise. Does that mean we haven’t had heated “debates” about putting wall-to-wall carpet in the living room? We have… more on that later 🙂
I know some of you wanted me to go full ‘Scandinavian Chalet’ and you might feel bummed that you technically ‘Won’, and yet kinda lost because I shifted to make my husband happier. But you didn’t lose, I promise. Yes, it’s slightly more ‘cabin’y than originally planned and no, not as ‘Contemporary or Scandy’ as I had predicted, but ultimately he was right.
When ‘Modern’ won, and he was bummed I was like ‘WAIT. WHAT? YOU SAID YOU LIKED BOTH!!!’ And he said, ‘I do. I like the house you are designing… I just don’t think it’s THIS house. I don’t think it’s OUR house.’
UGH. He was absolutely right. I was forcing a style into a location, with a young family that just wasn’t right for it or us.
So yes I shifted more towards the middle (and since the vote was so close I didn’t feel bad) but it’s still going to be more modern, I promise. There won’t be oars over the bed or plaques above the sink.
So that covers how I’m making my first client (Brian) happy before I make my other client (you) happy, too. And I’m happy just having this ridiculous opportunity at all.
Lastly, I also have to make my partners happy – those brands whose product I love and will be featured in this house. Our first major partner for this house is Kohler. More to come (I’m so excited) but essentially we are creating content for them in a variety of ways in our now 5 bathrooms, so I have to make sure that their beautiful product looks amazing in the design (and photogenic, to boot). While designing I also have to think – will that faucet pop off the tile enough? Where should we put the shower head to get the best angle/shot of it? Will a super modern toilet look good on a pebble floor? I’m also trying to showcase a variety of their product while making the house cohesive. It does bring more pressure on me to make it look amazing, but that is a creative push that I absolutely invite.
I can safely say that in the last few years (since we’ve been successful enough to turn down opportunities that weren’t the right fit) we love all the brands we work with and they really let us do our thing. They are smart enough to say ‘Here’s our product, we trust you, go have fun and make it amazing’.
Lastly, I do have to think about press and social media. Meaning that I have to do something with more of a story or an editorial bent – which again pushes me in a really great way. It’s like prepping for a huge party at your house – it forces you to look at it and make some improvements that you put off or jooge up some areas that are kinda boring. And then afterward you are like ‘This looks so much better, I’m so glad I had a reason to do that”.
When millions of people are going to stare at your work, yes, you want to be proud of it. You don’t want it to be boring. You want it to be interesting and not part of the ‘inspiration circle’ that dominates design in the digital world. You think outside the box (pebble tile, wood-inspired tile, tumbled stone, wall to wall carpet …. you scared yet???) and you really try to do things you haven’t done before (while of course sticking in the EHD color palette and I’m sorry if you are sick of blue – but it makes our family happy:)).
That’s all to say that perhaps designing without a normal residential client may not be ‘easier’ as I originally had predicted, but it sure is more fun because “my clients” – Brian, my kids, you, and my partners are pushing me to be more creative and hopefully make this house really beautiful, functional, different, comfortable, stunning, editorial, photogenic, press-worthy and yet timeless….
Is it a lot of pressure, work, and stress? Sure. But it’s not running a country or open heart surgery. It’s still just a house. It’s this is just a blog. My mistakes won’t put us into war, and no wrong choice will kill anyone. I know how lucky I am to have my dream job, with an amazing team to help and the most supportive (and at times opinionated) husband championing for me.
So hopefully that answers your question as to who is the ultimate client… It’s kinda all of us (but mostly Brian :))
And boy is it fun. This summer can’t come fast enough. So stay tuned and keep coming back because we have so much good content in the works……. (check the to see what we are working on right now). xx