Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I know most of you who read this are looking for fun design inspiration, and don't really want to hear about what I feel or think on a daily basis. :) But I have to say that running a store and being a designer is very frustrating sometimes. I cannot put my feelings into words as eloquently as Thomas O'Brien (designer and store owner extraordinaire), so I beg all of you who happen upon this blog to please go HERE and read this letter. It expresses exactly how sad and frustrating it is to try to share something creative with people in this age of technology and discounts, and internet consumerism. Love him!


Glamour Drops said...

Well I hate to disagree, but I actually want to know what you think on a daily basis! Not just pretty pictures. Off to read the piece of wisdom....

Anonymous said...

It was such an interesting read. I have nothing but utmost respect for Thomas O'Brien as a designer, however, as a client, I could not disagree more with his point of view. Basically, I think the whole concept of "to the trade" is archaic and should die, designers should be compensated for their creative ideas, but the sourcing should be left to the client if he or she is so inclined. I think the process where the designer has an interest in ordering from a source that gives him the biggest discount as opposed to scouting a wide range of sources is unfair to the client. I understand Thomas with his own store and his own line of furniture is unwilling to look at other sources, but then he shouldn't be upset his client will be doing this work for him and not always choosing what he is offering... It is like a doctor who prescribes a medicine and then gets upset you go online to order it. A crude comparison, but gets my point across.

I enjoy reading your blog and I hope I'm not upsetting you with this response, but I thought it'd be interesting for you and your readers to read another point of view, though perhaps not as eloquently commnunicated.

Elizabeth said...

No one's opinion ever upsets me - we all see things differently! I love to hear from you guys.

I think the point he was trying to make and the frustration I also feel sometimes, is that we are often not allowed to create a cohesive and creative design. If a client rejects five items you propose, then they should not want your design, as it seems they are not on the same page with you creatively. Some people just enjoy shopping with someone and it takes away all of your creativity when they just want you to keep presenting them hundreds of options. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best price you can get, but when people use us showrooms as places to see and try things and then look for them high and low somewhere else, they will quickly put stores and showrooms out of business. Then there will be no customer service, no recourse when things are damaged, and no way to see and try things in person anymore. He was not insulting a bargain shopper, he was saying that technology has taken away the personalization and creativity of the designer. The doctor doesn't care where you buy the medicine (to use your metaphor), because you paid him for his opinion and bought what he recommended. You are not going to go to medical school simply so you can be your own doctor and not pay a professional.

Many people today want the caché of saying they hired a designer, but they look online and shop so much they think they know better and argue with the designer instead of letting him/her do their job. My favorite metaphor is this: no one likes the taste of each dry ingredient in a cake: raw egg, flour, etc. but if you will just let me bake the cake you will like the finished product. Unfortunately people do not respect professions that use creativity as much as things such as dentistry, plumbing, etc. because everyone thinks they are creative and can do it themselves. And everyone CAN do it themselves if they want to badly enough. That is not what he was talking about, and that is not my frustration. It is about the people who come to you who claim that they CANNOT do it alone and to want your services and then don't allow you to do it to the best of your ability.

But I see your point. I hope you can see ours... :) Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read! Definitely agree with much of what he had to say. I've seen your amazing portfolio, but I don't think I realized you had a store of your own too! You rock, woman! A true inspiration! Where are you based out of ?


Elizabeth said...

I run a furniture/design showroom on Magazine Street in New Orleans, LA! Definitely stop in if you are ever in New Orleans - it is called Interior Designs, Inc.

Lonely Wife Project said...

I'm clearly not a designer, but don't you sometimes feel like you're compromising your style when helping create a space? I think that's where the "If a client rejects five items you propose, then they should not want your design," comes into play. Good conversation Elizabeth!

Elizabeth said...

It is supposed to be a compromise, and be a reflection of the home owner, not me, Sabs - but at the same time you would hope that they have sought you out so that you can do something different and creative and that they can see the big picture and make a decision based on a complete design, and not pick apart each element until it is no longer your design, but just a piecemeal thing that you are not proud of. I know it seems like random bitching, but that is the ups and downs of a creative job! Least we are not in a cubby being yelled at by a boss. There are tradeoffs in every career, I guess...

katherine @ Antweak said...


I have so many things to say here. Love the post, and love the open discussion -- one worth having. Interesting to see the point of view from client and designer.

I think the point you are making is twofold:

1. We are in a day and age where designers may need to charge more for their time and ideas. In this marketplace, where consumers can source items on their own, your ideas (and your time) have become the 'product,' -- especially if you want to remain a viable business. In other words, the products you buy may no longer be the commodity, but the 'idea' has just increased in value.

In the same token, I can see from the consumer point of view that they want to find the best price they can on what they want to buy. That's only natural.

The problem is really one for the ages....the case as in always: creativity and artistry is generally undervalued in society. (unless you're one of the lucky few famous, well-marketed, or post-humously famous artists/designers (it happens)). I'm not saying cultures and society don't value art/creativity, but that cumulatively other professions (law, medicine, finance) are at a greater value (by society standards).

2. The other point you make is partly what all businesses struggle with in the 'wal-mart' age of retail.

Privately owned businesses have a hard time competing with the Wal-Marts of retail. In this case it is the internet (for design sourcing) versus stores like your own, which provide the consultation, guarantee and personal service that you don't get from a nameless, faceless web pages.

Summary (1 & 2 combined) is that consumers will always gravitiate to the bottom line best price.. that paired with the fact that on the generally artistic professionals are the less lucrative...boooo :(

I think I'm rambling now...prob. have more to say, but I'll end there for now.