KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Aug 23 2011

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Stick to good design (but cover yourself when it’s not)

A potential client walks in the door with a bunch of magazines in her arms. As her budget is more modest, one of her requests is to have “the refrigerator look like it’s a built-in refrigerator” because she doesn’t want to actually pay for the built-in refrigerator. She wants you to tightly frame in the refrigerator with cabinets. You agree and the work commences.

Except for one problem: Standard refrigerators shouldn’t be built-in. They need air circulation. In the fine print, there’s always something that reads roughly along the lines of “there must be ‘X’ inches of clearance on sides and top.”

If you’re not experienced and you miss this detail, the refrigerator may have a new shortened life. Eventually it’ll come around to: “You’re the designer/contractor and should have known better. Fix it.” If you’re an experienced designer, you catch it, let the client know and re-design with the added clearance—if she lets you.

Trying to achieve design ideas that clients are bringing through our doors can be challenging. In some cases, the less the client’s budget and/or materials match the images, the harder some push to achieve the same look.

So, even though you might know that framing in the refrigerator violates the recommended specifications or the room is too small to fit an island or a myriad of other frustrating details, but the client insists on it, what do you do? How do you educate them while still staying true to design principles?

Here’s what most long-term designers do: Write a disclaimer. Write or stamp it on all designs and paperwork and have the pen ready for the client to sign off: “The designer has recommended against designing the refrigerator as shown. By signing this disclaimer, Client A understands and accepts that she is overriding the recommended specifications and is solely responsible for any future operational problems that may arise.” Or something similar.

Words can be brushed off, but a printed disclaimer will accomplish one of two actions—it’ll absolve you from future problems, or make the client reconsider. Of the two, I prefer the latter; there’s less chance of unhappiness for everyone down the road.

Until next time,


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Inspiration, Kitchen Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.