Everyone Has An Opinion: How Too Much Advice Can Be Bad For Design

A Smartstyle work in progress: This colourful hallway design is full of life and perfectly compliments my client's personality. 

Whether you’re planning a wedding, having a baby or decorating your home, one thing is always true: Everyone has an opinion. And they’re happy to share it! I wanted to use this post to talk about how a chorus of seemingly well-intentioned voices isn’t always helpful when it comes to pulling together an interior design that is truly right for you. 

Time and time again, I’ve seen clients who are filled with delight and enthusiasm for the design plans we’ve created, come back to me after a Sunday lunch with family feeling tearful and unsure about the design decisions we’ve made together. Sometimes they’ll even have a small sketch put together by an Aunty Flo who “has a bit of an eye for this sort of thing” which they’ll uncertainly pass to me. It’s always difficult to see a client second-guess their dream designs at the behest of others, so I implore clients to ignore unhelpful advice from friends and family– no matter how well-intentioned it may be. But sometimes that’s harder said than done, so here are a few tips for keeping a level-head when sharing your design project with others.

This bold fabric (left) isn't right for everyone, but it was the crowning glory in this client's room and they absolutely loved it! (Photo by Paul Winch Furness.) I used bold fabrics and colourful art in a recent design project in Battle, East Sussex (right) to brilliantly bring a client's vision to life. (Photo by Daniela Exley.)

Choose When and How To Talk About Your Design Project

Renovating your home or giving your space a brand new look is exciting, and you’ll likely want to gush about your plans with your friends and family. But when you get out the project plans and fabric swatches, be sure to ask yourself if you’re sharing your plans because you're seeking approval, or are looking for additional advice from these people. How you tell others about your plans will make a big difference in how they receive the information and respond.

I recently spoke to a prospective client about this issue and compared it to the experiences I had when I was pregnant with my eldest son. While pregnant, my husband and I happily informed everyone that we were having a boy, but when we had settled on a name, we kept it to ourselves. But everyone has an opinion and before we knew it, we were inundated with potential names that we should give our son. We were told which names were off limits because so-and-so once met a person named insert-name-of-villainess-person-here and we couldn't possibly name our son that because they were an idiot. We were also given names of long-lost relatives to bequeath to our son though we didn’t even know who the relatives were. All these names were very personal to the people sharing them– but not personal to us. Once our baby arrived, we announced his name and it was fait accompli. Though some people possibly questioned our decision, it was still our decision and we know that we chose what was best for us and our son. 

If you want people to buy into your excitement for your design plans, confidently present them as if the decisions are already made. By being confident in your vision, others will be more likely to support your project and share your joy. Sure, they may have done things differently if it was their project, but it’s not, it’s yours. If they do offer some advice, think it over and decide if it’s really right for you. If it’s not, then put it aside and don’t give it much head space. 

Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many opinions can result in a confused and muddled design. If you’re unsure about an element of your design plans and are genuinely looking for sound advice, don't take a survey of everyone you know. Instead, think carefully about who you ask and go to a trusted friend or family member who has a similar design ethos to you and who you absolutely trust to steer you right. By choosing someone who understands your taste and needs, you’ll be sure to receive advice that is thoughtful and likely to result in a happy solution. 

The bold floor in this bathroom (left) may not be to everyone's taste, but our client didn't let the advice of others influence their confident design choice. (Photo by Allen Stone.) This colourful wallpaper in the Naylor Accountancy office (right) caused some design debate before it went up, but once it was installed everyone saw the vision and loved it! (Photo by Chris Taylor.) 

Listen to the Language Others Use When Advising You

Whether they’re close friends or total strangers, there are always people who can’t help but give their point of view on something. I once had an expensive dark blue glass backsplash delivered and the man fitting it spent the entire time telling me how he would’ve gone with white instead. Another one of his clients had just fitted a white backsplash in their home and he said it looked AMAZING. If I had taken this man’s advice to heart, it would have been gutting as even if he had been right (which he wasn’t, BTW!), there was nothing I could’ve done about it at that point. Of course, this man didn’t know the balance that had gone into the whole design and was simply giving his opinion on a single element. It’s important to remember in times like this that it's really not worth listening to someone’s advice if it comes down to something as personal as their own preference for white over blue. 

When you come across those who give advice like this, just take a moment to listen to the language they use when they share their sage nuggets of wisdom. “If I were you, I would…” Yep, there it is! They have put themselves in your shoes and told you what they would do in the situation. But they've failed to walk a mile in those shoes! People who make these comments fail to consider the entire process you’ve been through to make the design decisions you've carefully considered. Keep this in mind when you hear this kind of advice and then take a deep breath, smile, and know in your heart that you have a better understanding of the project than they do. The choices you’ve made are right for you. So what if they think the colour purple is only appropriate to use if you’re Prince! Your home is your own personal Paisley Park and you’re going to play in it, not them.  

An interior design board for a bold kitchen design - Interior Design by Smartstyle Interiors in Tunbridge Wells Kent.JPG

Listen to Your Heart

Home renovations are stressful and the bigger the project, the longer the process. Sometimes it can leave you feeling tense and emotionally fraught and your confidence in the design choices you've made can be knocked by a bit of unsolicited advice. Amid all this, listen to your heart. Taste is so personal to each of us, and only you can understand what makes you happy. You know your own taste, rhythms and needs, so only you know what practical elements need to be incorporated into your home’s design. 

When working with a new client, I take an extensive design brief to truly understand the client’s taste and needs before we begin to pull together the look and feel of the space. If you begin the design process dreaming of a dark grey shaker kitchen with an American-style fridge, then keep this in mind throughout the design process. Don’t give up on this dream if, say, Brian comes ‘round and thinks you should have a red kitchen with an under-counter fridge freezer. When you hold true to what your heart desires, you can tell Brian to do that to his own home and that you already can’t wait to come over and see it when it’s done! Remember, another design decision isn’t necessarily better or worse than your own, it’s just different. What may be the perfect kitchen for Brian could be a disaster for yourself. Only you can know what’s right for you. 

So as you start sharing your exciting renovation plans with others and the advice starts flooding in, remember that you’re the captain of this ship and only helpful friends need come aboard. 


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