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Capturing the Spirit of Design With Melinda Slater

How important is this collaboration with your client?

First, I think it’s important to define what collaboration is and isn’t, at least to me. It seems that all too often collaboration is viewed negatively in our industry, and I think that’s unfortunate. Maybe there’s a fear among designers that if we collaborate with our clients, our creativity will be stifled by the client’s lack of design knowledge. I don’t agree with that. After all, the main reason a client should hire a designer is for his/her expertise. As I see it, collaboration is not about hiring a designer to ‘OK’ a clients’ ideas, it’s working with a designer to express your ideas visually and beautifully and in a way that makes sense for the space and for the client.

I see my role in the collaborative process as learning about my clients needs/wants and then translating that into a design. Yes, it is a little part pushing and prodding because we are the expert and I think we’re hired in part for our point of view. And it’s a little part listening and respecting, because it is, after all, the place where your clients live and therefore must represent them, not the designer.

And beyond collaboration with the client is collaboration with the contractor and subs/vendors on a project. It truly is a team effort and we all have to work together for the client to give them the final results they want and expect. I learned early on that clear communication is the best path to a positive outcome. There will always be problems that occur on every project and it’s how you tackle those problems that bring the desired results.

Do you find many clients surprised by the process and how you welcome their engagement?

I think that so many clients are new to the idea of hiring a designer that they don’t know what the process is or should be. So what I have noticed is that so many of my clients are surprised by how fun this process is. And while it’s true that the number of decisions that need to be made is astonishingly large, they see how helpful it is to have hired me to help them navigate the process, to keep it from being overwhelming, and also, to provide some design education in the process. Hiring a designer really takes away the burden and stress and allows for a more enjoyable process and outcome.

As you create their story and get to know them along the design process, do you find that the discovery evolves? Or do you find it does not change much?

That’s a great question. I definitely think that the discovery evolves. And it comes about, I think, through collaboration. Behind that stands education…about the why behind my design selections and also, behind my solutions to design situations that arise. Instead of me saying, “No, that won’t work,” what they see and understand is ‘why’ it won’t work. I think that helps ease their fears and concerns about having a designer who’s there to take over their house and a designer who’s there to discover who they are and weave that into their house; the first way has a tendency to lead to a sour project ending, whereas the second –the real discovery and evolution—leads to a project with a happy ending.

You were awarded a “Best Customer Service” by Houzz. How did you find out about your win and what does this mean to you?

I was awarded Houzz Best Customer Service by receiving positive reviews from my clients based on the work that I did for them and the overall outcome of their project. The reviews as I see it are less about a review of me personally, and more about how my creative work helped them solve their pain points that existed in their house and how we arrived at the overall end result.

In addition to my Best Customer Service from Houzz is my 2016 Top 20 Interior Designers in Seattle from Freshome.com. This really delighted me as I know there are a lot of great designers in our area and being a great designer is partially about the end result in the design, but it’s also about your behind the scenes communication and project management that gives you that accolade.

Business is booming and you are expanding your portfolio , what projects are excited to tackle and explore?

I’m currently working on the design of a 6-unit townhome project in downtown Bothell (Opening Spring 2018), which is in an up and coming neighborhood north of Seattle/Bellevue. It’s the largest project I’ve worked on so far and it’s exciting to see construction beginning. I have developed a great relationship with the construction company, Moon Construction, a family-owned company, and they’ve really put their trust into my skills. They’ve allowed me to explore and “play” with different layouts and finishes to create a one-of-a-kind project for them.

Beyond that, I really love the puzzle of interior design and how to come up with unique and better solutions to a design problem. To me it’s about putting the specific pieces together for my clients. It’s space planning and I love the challenge and joy of it… taking an awkwardly laid out home and creating more cohesive, workable, livable and enjoyable layout. Or taking an empty commercial space and creating something out of nothing. I’m looking forward to future collaborations with architects and contractors where I get to stretch and hone this passion of mine.

What is on your target list when visiting High Point this year? Anything specific you are hoping to come across?

While it’s always fun getting the chance to see some up and coming trends, I’m really excited to see more lighting and accessories. Lighting is a really difficult thing because it’s hard to get an idea of scale or light output just by looking on the internet, and local lighting stores are few and far between and can only carry a small fraction of what exists. Additionally, I’m looking forward to seeing area rugs and fabric; you can never appreciate the color, texture, quality or feel of a piece through your computer. Hands on is a must for me!

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