OMG! My Interior Designer Fired Me! What Did I Do Wrong?

Dear Laurel,

OMG! My interior designer fired me! I thought everything was going quite well. We were making progress. And then after I questioned her last night in an email about the floor plan, she wrote back and told me that it wasn’t working out and was returning my design fee. All she could say as to why was, “We’re not a good fit.”

What could have happened?

thank you,





my old living room in Goldens Bridge with young Peaches circa 2002



Dear D and C,

First of all, I am so sorry that you had this experience, but just know that she’s doing you a favor.

Second, you’re damned lucky that she’s returning your design fee.

Third. Okay, you’re not going to like this part, but the “we’re not a good fit” most likely means that she was finding you to be a royal pain in the arse.

Oh? You don’t think so? No, of course not. I’m sure that you’re a very nice person. I know… you’ve never done this before and had no idea that you could be causing your designer any grief.

That’s perfectly understandable and no one can fault you for that. However, if I may, I would like to write for you and anyone else who’s interested a list of Do’s and especially Don’ts that I’m hoping will be helpful for both clients and interior designers alike.

The Laurel Home Primer on Interior Design Client Etiquette and Behavior

{so that you don’t get your ass fired}


Ya know when people are always saying this?


“Well, don’t take it so hard… after all, it’s not personal.”


Sorry, but that’s crap. It IS personal. Designing, decorating, going into people’s homes and private spaces is exceedingly personal. And for it to work, there needs to be a comfortable partnership BOTH ways. This should be and usually is a very fun process, however, there are still some caveats.

A List of Do’s Before You Hire Your Interior Designer


  • Take stock of any furnishings you’d like to incorporate, if any
  • Sit down with yourself and any other involved parties and make a list of what it is that you need and want. In other words. What do you need to be able to have happen in your home?
  • Set for yourself a realistic budget. If you don’t know what that is, then get online and research furnishings/colors, etc. that you like
  • You don’t know what you like? That’s a problem. You need to convey what you like to your interior designer. So you will have some homework to do. Get on sites like Pinterest to find your style. Make boards with rooms/colors, that you like. After a while, you will begin to see patterns.
  • Get online and research your potential interior designer. Do you like her work? If not, then move on. The designer’s portfolio is a very good indication of what she might do for you. Some designers have a very specific look and some have a more varied look.


Most designers/decorators, however, will have an over-all style. You need to like it. The reason for this is that you may begin working with them and then realize that you’re clashing all of the time. It won’t work.


  • Call up the interior designers whose work that you like and find out how they work and if this is possibly a job they might take on.

Great! You found someone and you love her work. You spoke for 20 minutes on the phone and she sounds soooo nice! And then you booked an appointment for a two-hour consult. And then, you liked her so much that you decided to hire her to furnish three of your rooms, the living room, dining room and office/den.

  • You need to set a realistic budget For Your Interior Designer.


I know, I know… you do not want to give her an exact number because then she’s going to spend every penny of it! Yes, she might, but here’s why she very much NEEDS to know how much you have to spend on the project.

  • We need to know this number because that will give us a good idea of the products that will fit WITHIN that number. Otherwise, it’s a big guessing game. Guessing doesn’t make for a good design collaboration. How are you going to feel when she shows you a sofa and two chairs that cost $20,000.00 when that is your budget for the entire room?
  • Clear, Honest, Respectful Communication From Both the Client and Designer is Crucial.

Here Are Some Behaviors Which Could Get You Fired By Your Interior Designer.


  • You are questioning everything she is suggesting. Not just one or two things, but nearly everything.

It sounds like you have trust issues. If you don’t trust your designer’s expertise and judgment, then she’s not the right one for you. It’s also possible that no designer will ever be right for you. It can happen. Working with an interior designer is not right for everyone.

However, if you did your homework upfront, as said earlier, you will be working with someone who gets YOU and vice versa.


In addition, it’s crucial to find out if he/she’s the type of interior designer who takes over or one who collaborates.


More annoying behaviors that clients should be mindful of:


  • You are emailing her long-winded emails with tons and tons of questions and sending them at 11:00 PM.


This one alone, will not get you fired and good communication is vital. Email is a great way to communicate especially when there are details that may be difficult to remember. Plus, there’s a written record.


chinoiserie-pillow mixing fabric patterns small geometric with Chinoiserie floral

a vignette from a little living room refresh we did a few years ago

However, in general, emails are better for quick questions or something that needs to be written out.


If it’s longer than that, most of the time, I feel that it’s easier, quicker and ultimately less fraught with the possibility for miscommunication if there can be a back and forth conversation– on the phone.

  • You really are not liking what she’s showing you.


There is a disconnect somewhere, however, again, if you chose a designer whose work you love, this should not be happening. A great designer WANTS you to be happy. When I was taking on clients, if I showed them something and they didn’t like it, out it went.


The best designers LISTEN TO THEIR CLIENTS. And observe EVERYTHING.


  • You have unrealistic expectations. For example: You want your husband’s office to also be the family room, your office and a guest bedroom. And you want it with built-in cabinetry. It is only 13×14 and your budget is 10k.Well, that is probably not going to happen.


Now, if you really, really want to make her flip her grits, here’s what you do:


Give her some crazy-assed challenge like that, and then when she returns in a week, half-bald with two great options that give you everything on your wish list…


TELL HER THEN, that you really can make do, after-all without half of the things she was pulling her hair out to make work.


  • You are resistant to change.


You’re both 48 years old with two teen-aged kids. The designer walks in to find that you’re still living like you’re just out of college.


Are you really ready to part with your bohemian, hand-me-down lifestyle? This is going to be a big change for some clients and they need to be ready for it in body, mind and soul.

Are there outside influences that the designer doesn’t know about that are exerting control over the design decisions?


  • Somewhere, lurking in the (eye) shadows haha is a…






And, not the sweet, minding-her-own business kind of M-I-L. She’s a royal WITCH. ;]


This is reminding me of some clients I had several years ago; it’s quite a story, if you missed it the first time.


I know how difficult it can be to set boundaries with meddlesome family members, but you must.


You have hired an interior designer and you are the designer’s clients. Your mother(s) are not our clients unless they signed our letter of agreement. This is your home. Your things. Mom has her home. Her things. We are working for you. Not your parents, aunts, uncles, friends, children…

It is fine to get their opinion, just please remember who you hired. Nothing is more grating than to hear… “Well, so and so says that…” It’s not that we don’t respect others’ opinions. It’s that it sounds confrontational and like you don’t trust. Please don’t do that.


  • Your marriage is on the rocks and you’re bickering all the time. [in front of your interior designer]


Sorry. Decorating your home will not fix a bad marriage.


If anything, it’ll make it even worse. And yes, I’ve had clients have knock down drag out screaming match with one another in my presence. (I wonder what happens when I’m not there?)


  • Your two teenagers fight all the time as to where they are going to sit watching TV and therefore, you need a humongous sectional that is not going to work in your room because of the flow of the room.


Fine. Let them kill each other.


But, please do not expect your decorator to design around dysfunctional family situations. Besides, if they’re teenagers, they are going to be out of your hair in a nano-second.

  • Take a random phone call during your meeting with your interior designer and let her hang for 15-20 minutes while you discuss who’s going to pick up the tablecloths for the book fair.

no comment.*

  • You arrive for your meeting and one hour into it, hubby decides to make an appearance and then the designer has to start all over again with the presentation.

*see above.

  • After working with her for a time, you finally tell the interior designer who’s been spending umpteen hours putting everything together for you, that your aunt, sister, mother, girl friend can “get it for you wholesale.”


I’m a firm believer in karma.


  • you don’t pay her on time.

Failure to pay on time can result in the client not receiving their merchandise. No store in the world will let that furniture into your home until it’s paid for in full.

Oh, I’ve done it; not intentionally, but two times I can recall, the final piece got delivered unbeknownst to me before I had sent the final bill. And of course, I sent it pronto and the client decided that she wasn’t going to pay me what was still owing.

Yuck, some people really do suck. Fortunately, for me, those instances were rare.


This next one kinda blows my mind because that is not how I was raised. I wouldn’t fire someone for not doing it, but it usually goes hand-in-hand with other undesirable behaviors.


  • It is 85 degrees outside and you don’t have air-conditioning or haven’t turned it on. Your designer is there for two hours. For God’s sake, please offer her a glass of something to drink!

And Finally. Here’s the very best way to get rid of your interior designer.


  • start shopping either online or in stores and email her at 11:00 pm about all of the fabulous stuff you found on CLEARANCE at…




NO! You hired us to put the room together for you. Unless it’s in your agreement that you the client are doing ALL of the shopping and we are only there to guide you on an hourly or flat fee basis, then fine. Otherwise, no.

I think that pretty much covers it.


If not, please feel free to chime in. And yes, I know! There are some piggy interior designers out there. Not the vast majority, by any means, but one does need to be cautious.


Here’s where you can read about the interior designer from hell.

AND, the interior designer who’s probably ripping off her client.


Both of these posts also give other ideas for both designers and clients on how best to work together.

Fortunately, I do believe that most interior designers are hardworking and honest. We tend to be people pleasers.

However, in the 20 years that I took on clients, I had to fire a handful of clients and let me tell you each time, it was like a giant weight had been removed.


Dazed and Confused. Believe her when she says that you’re not a good fit.


If she thinks so, you’re not. And she’s doing you a favor. (and herself). Plus, it might not all be you. It might be partly her. However, she’s not going to tell you why you got the ax because you are most likely going to get defensive and it’s only going to make it all worse.



PS: If you have a friend or acquaintance that’s a designer and you wish to keep that friendship going, please do not say something like: “Here, let me treat you to a cup of coffee so I can pick your brain.”


Even if your designer friend is well-off, it’s phenomenally rude and disrespectful to suggest that they help you for pennies instead of the hefty design fee they deserve. And yet, it happens all of the time.


Being a good interior designer takes years of dedicated study AND experience.  There really are no short-cuts.


In addition, it is a stressful, exhausting business. Just pretend that your interior design friend is a doctor or lawyer. Would you offer your doctor friend a cup of coffee as compensation for “picking their brain!” Right?


And, if you’re a designer, don’t you dare EVER work for free!


(unless it’s for charity.) I promise, that it will come back to bite you in the tuchas! You may reduce your fees for family and friends, but please never work for free.

And no free consultations either! Again, does your doctor give you a freebie consult? No, he does not.

Even if he accidentally kills you.


You might also enjoy the following posts, if you’ve missed them:


How to know if your interior decorator is ripping you off

The Interior decorator from hell

What happens when your client is an abusive sociopath?


Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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