It is one thing for specialists in the same trades venue to cross-consult where all concerned have the skills, licenses, certifications and experience to functionalize the product of their consultation. It is quite another matter when an amateur takes raw ideas and tries to do it alone by the seat of their pants. When the big OOPS! occurs, who takes the fall? “Well, the consultant said...” just doesn’t cut it!
A very important part of consulting with a client is clarifying responsibility. Most professional consultants are meticulous about fully explaining how their consultation services apply to a given project construct. If that does not happen at the front end of your association, make sure you ask questions.
Definitions of “consultation” vary from simply a talk or a meeting, to “an exchange of opinions with an expert.” Just as the definitions have shades of meaning, individuals have personal impressions of what the term – and the activity – consists of.
In our context of interior design and clients with a project vision, consultation has rather precise parameters, and clearly defined limitations. Your design team must be straightforward about what degrees of responsibility are attached to their input when their role is limited to consultation, and does not include oversight.
When a client’s purpose for seeking consultation is to get ideas and opinions that they intend to implement on their own, it must be understood that raw ideas and concepts do not constitute the “how to” which must be appropriately executed for the desired end results.
A Consulting Designer cannot take responsibility for how you or third parties choose to functionalize the speculations, ideas or opinions shared in consultation. Unless an inexperienced client has also secured the appropriate follow-through services for implementation, one can easily see where problems may arise.
A well-constructed design plan ordinarily presents prospective clients with a variety of services deemed essential for the proper delivery of the project. When consultation is a part of the scope offered, it is usually understood that the same team will do the oversight and follow-through.
An excellent juncture for design consultation services might be the point at which you are thinking about a project and have many questions about how to proceed. Your professional designer can help you work through the variety of considerations that arise, including the many conditions, compliances and costs to expect.
Through preliminary consultation your designer is very willing to speculate with you concerning your ideas and their feasibility – and will caution you about jumping into unfamiliar territory without guidance and appropriately skilled services.
Don’t be afraid of consultation services; just be clear about what is offered, what it does not include and how to use it wisely. The investment you make in this crucial aspect of your planning process is a good one.
Robert Boccabella, B.F.A., Certified Interior Designer
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Collaboration & Writing: Ms. Zoe Tummillo