When I thought I’d made a mistake with my client …

Are you scared to get a second opinion on your design?

What mistake did I think I’d made with my client? And what did it actually show me you need to know about working with your designer? Watch here …

Are you being made to feel like you’re a thorn in your designer’s side? 

An interesting thing happened to me recently in my work with a client, and I thought I’d made a mistake by helping them out. However, what instead transpired was the realisation that something else was wrong … and frankly, I have had enough of it.

This blog is a video, just shot in my office, without much prep at all … because I really wanted to share this story, and invite your thoughts on it too.

In my experience, this happens far too frequently in this industry, and in the process, the homeowner gets left behind.

Precisely when the homeowner should be queen (or king) … and the designer, simply their professional facilitator and guide.

I am very used to collaborating in my design work … to inviting feedback, ideas and input from others (clients and professionals alike). I explain how and why in this video. It has, in my opinion, always been one of the most beneficial factors in achieving the best outcome for the project. Because no one person, designer or otherwise, has all the answers.

I may annoy my design colleagues with my opinions on this, and you may disagree with me. However, I think this is an important conversation to have, and my intention with Undercover Architect IS to disrupt this industry. So here we go … (the 5 minute mark is where I share where things went pear-shaped).

This is what the client had to say about their Reno Rescue package …

I have to compliment you again on this service – the consideration you have given to how we live now and our needs for the future – your service, expertise and commitment – it is outstanding!

I engaged you to seek your expertise and ideas based on our brief before our designer started the concept plans.

Having headed down the wrong path design wise with a draftsman I now appreciate how critical it is to get the design right from the beginning – to ensure a wonderful result and to avoid disappointment and expense if things don’t work well when they are translated from the plans to the reno.

The most valuable things we have gained from our Reno Rescue are amazing plans, drawn to scale, with careful consideration of our ideas and the brief I provided.

The fact that you took them time to request and read the completed questionnaire told me you were serious about helping us get the design right and reach our goals.

The Vimeo was incredible – “walking through” the plans with you whilst listening to you describe why you design things in a certain way or what options are available in regards to certain design features was incredibly useful and whilst listening to you, I could gain a greater understanding of why things are done a certain way so it all made so much more sense!

Having Option A and B upper and lower floor was also incredibly useful as we ended up with two full sets of plans.

Amelia offers 1:1 package services through her boutique design agency, Design by Amelia Lee. You can learn more about the Reno Rescue here.

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  • July 21, 2015, 11:45 am  Reply

    I’ve worked in many arenas with different cultures and have seen the effects of collaboration and also the effects of people not interested in collaborating.
    Ultimately, i feel it relates back to fear as to why people are not prepared to join hands and work together towards a common goal….the other designer in this case may have felt that another expert may have undermined his expertise and made him feel inadequate. He may have had this experience previously and so naturally wanted to avoid his own pain by pulling out of the arrangement.

    Whatever the case, he could have handled it very differently to ensure everyone’s needs were still met and no one was left feeling like they’d been dumped by an ego-centric designer.

    Not one of us can claim to be the holder of all information – sometimes we are too close to things and it takes another party (even someone from a totally different discipline) to open up a different dialogue or direction to really take the project to the next level.

    • July 26, 2015, 5:26 pm

      Hi Alastair, thank you for your comment.
      I love your thoughts on opening up a different dialogue or direction to uplevel a project. This is my experience of how collaboration benefits a project (and client). It ultimately puts all the focus on the client and project, and not the individuals involved in bringing their different expertise to the discussion (and feeling the need to ‘make their mark’). And collaboration between disciplines (like landscape design and building design) certainly expand the result overall – Amelia, UA

  • Geordie (satisfied UA client)
    July 21, 2015, 1:30 pm  Reply

    I agree 100% with you Amelia. We found our ‘forever’ home and only plan on doing one renovation so we want to get it right. We did ‘click’ with our designer and we have a fabulous builder. However, to me, information is everything. You don’t know what you don’t know! Also, sometime when you are so immersed in the design process, you can miss things. The process we went through with you was so invaluable and between all those consulted, we are so happy with what we will end up with.
    We are the king & queen and this is our castle. Keep disrupting the industry Amelia. You’re doing a fantastic job.
    PS I agree that your client was ‘saved’ from wasting another 12months and lots of $$$

    • July 26, 2015, 5:28 pm

      Hi Geordie
      That helicopter view from someone who’s not intimately involved in the project can be so helpful in questioning decisions made along the way – which is exactly why I offer the UA Design Audit service. Thank you so much for your support and endorsement. I’m so glad you appreciate the benefit of information to empower you in getting it right in your beautiful home renovation – Amelia, UA

  • Michelle newton
    July 21, 2015, 9:34 pm  Reply

    Thank you. I have really enjoyed listening to your investment narrative. It really brings into question the areas in my house I would like to change. Why do I want change? What’s best for my investment? How can I achieve it with best value for money?

    • July 26, 2015, 5:31 pm

      Hi Michelle
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and I love that you’re thinking along these lines. It’s such a great way to think about any change to your home – and also determining your big-picture goals overall too. Often homeowners get caught up in the complex details of creating their renovation or new home, and lose sight of the simplicity of their original goals – which are usually about being more comfortable, relaxed, and enjoying your home. Bang for buck – invest in the things that make a difference in how you live everyday, and save money on the things that don’t – Amelia, UA

  • July 23, 2015, 5:29 pm  Reply

    Spot on Amelia! At the end of the day, it is the clients house – they are the ones that have to live in it for ever and a day.
    It is bad enough when their own decisions don’t quite work out and they see this daily (ask me, I know…) without having to live with someone else’s decisions (draftsperson, design, architect, even builder) that don’t work for you.
    Many owner builders don’t work with designers or architects for this very reason – they usually come to the table with all their own ideas about what THEY want to build, and then find they are talked down to or ignored.
    Keep on disrupting… 😉

    • July 26, 2015, 5:33 pm

      Hi Lynda
      Thanks so much for your comment.Your insight into the owner-builder market is very worthwhile, and I love being about to provide useful information to your amazing community through your great magazine, The Owner Builder Magazine. Here’s to both of us empowering our communities through great information, education and advice – Amelia, UA

  • November 30, 2015, 1:22 am  Reply

    Thank YOu Amilia, for saying so directly. I feel the same when i come ACROSS precious designers.

    I have found that allowing tHe client to be king or queen really pushes us as architects and tHe results are always better then if it were CONCEIVED in tHe DESIGNERS own bubble.

    • Amelia
      November 30, 2015, 9:14 pm

      Hi David
      Thank you for your kind comment. It’s great to find a like-minded colleague who upholds the client’s desires, needs and aspirations as key in creating great work for them. Here’s to helping lots more homeowners get great results for their projects,
      – Amelia, UA

  • Donna CONDON
    December 2, 2015, 5:01 pm  Reply



    • Amelia
      December 5, 2015, 8:06 pm

      Thank you, Donna, for your kind feedback on this post. It was challenging to speak about this, but it felt really necessary to help homeowners understand how their design professional can and should work with them, and who should be the priority in the relationship!
      I really appreciate your comments.
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Lyn Ahlefeldt
    January 13, 2016, 1:36 pm  Reply

    Disruption can be a very positive process. For example, the elitism of architecture as previously practiced and perceived, cut its professionals off from a lot of very useful small-scale bread and butter work. I think there is a huge, unmet need from consumers who do not aspire to or cannot afford large- scale renovations but would still greatly benefit from architectural input.

    • Amelia
      January 13, 2016, 9:27 pm

      Woot woot Lyn … most definitely. Hopefully Undercover Architect is meeting some of that need. Thank you for ‘getting it’ and for your comment. It’s members of the UA Community like you, who understand the difference that design makes, and who seek out the advice and info you need to bring it into your home. I’m so glad you’ve landed here.
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Lyn Ahlefeldt
    January 13, 2016, 1:54 pm  Reply

    I think that there is a huge unmet consumer need for small-scale input from architectural designers because the public perception and expectation is that such services are very expensive and only possible for large scale renovation projects Especially in these days of huge public interest in renovation and awareness that good design can actually save money and improve health and well-being.

    • Amelia
      January 13, 2016, 9:14 pm

      Oh Lyn – your comment is music to my ears. It’s the very reason that Undercover Architect exists – so EVERYONE can get access to the knowledge they need to make their home great. And design makes the difference! Here’s to spreading the word, and helping homeowners everywhere … tell your friends! Everyone can have great design – and yes, it can save money and will improve health and well-being. Thank you,
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Rachel Prince
    May 28, 2016, 3:48 pm  Reply

    Hi Amelia. This is just brilliant!!! It is absolutely music to my ears and I can’t thank you enough for putting this out so a big thank you from me. I also think the industry needs some disruption and you have put it perfectly.

    • Amelia
      May 29, 2016, 2:41 pm

      Hi Rachel
      Thank you for your kind feedback – I’m so glad you found it helpful. Here’s to continued disruption and helping homeowners have a voice!
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Natt kiLlips
    July 31, 2016, 9:46 pm  Reply

    Amelia, I can’t say that we have yet had much experience in the Reno process, nor with other architects, designers or draft persons. But our experience with you, on the Reno Rescue for our home, has set the bar for how we expect to be treated from here on in. Your passion, integrity and professionalism is inspiring, and I truly hope there are more out there like you, as we continue. Stay strong!

    • Amelia
      August 1, 2016, 10:39 am

      Hi Natt!
      Thank you for such lovely feedback about working with me. I’m so glad that it has set the bar for you, and here’s to you being empowered to demand the calibre of help your project deserves!
      – Amelia, UA x

  • John Hewish
    August 11, 2016, 3:08 pm  Reply

    Hi Amelia
    I am impressed with your stand on what is a major problem in this industry. I am a builder with over 40 years experience. The problems and waste of the clients money and time is astonishing. Designers, Architect and builder need to work together to achieve the best result for the client. And no one should be above the client as its there money that keeps the industry afloat.
    John Hewish

    • Amelia
      August 11, 2016, 10:12 pm

      Hi John,
      Thank you for your comment, and your kind feedback. It is certainly a problem that is systemic to our industry. Hopefully, with our own businesses as examples, we can help homeowners understand they can demand better, and move the industry forward in a more client-focussed direction.
      – Amelia, UA

  • Nadine Neilson
    July 1, 2017, 6:23 pm  Reply

    Hi Amelia,
    Interesting take, I am an interior designer and would love to collaborate with architects and builders – I am not the architect or builder so we all need to bring our expertise and work together. I have run into a few architects that are quite condescending because my clients and I prefer pretty houses with traditional detailing, it is a shame.

    • Amelia
      July 3, 2017, 1:34 pm

      Hi Nadine,
      Thanks for your comment. I think the best results come from team collaborations and have worked closely with Interior Designers on many projects. It is disappointing that you’ve had that experience with some architects, and also a good sign that they’re not likeminded team members! They could be more respectful though – aesthetics are ultimately very subjective.
      – Amelia, UA x

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