I have wanted to throw this out here for a while and would be
interested your comments.
For some time we have been working with customers who seem to think
crown is like power windows when buying a new car. That is they treat it
like an upgrade you implement throughout a project irregardless of other
design considerations. In kitchens, baths, bedrooms, common areas,
closets, (well not closets :) ), places where it "works" and also where
What brought me to post this is that yet again, we have a customer who
from the onset insisted on crown throughout the project irregardless of
our repeated cautionary nudging that it really doesnt "work" in all
areas of every project from a design standpoint and would likely detract
from some spaces.
This customer, and many we work with, thinks of crown as a status
symbol. Now, as the project is approaching completion, the customer is
clearly seeing that the crown actually _doesnt_ work in every area. Of
course the crown (oak) is all on-site, stained, and two coated (we final
coat up). The owner has of course spent the money on it and its
non-refundable and they are not expecting it to be. It is however one of
those "I told you so" moments, though customer relations keep me from
rubbing that in hehe. On this one, the tough part is that where the
crown doesnt work is in a very critical and visible common area where a
massive open space is shared between a den/tv room, common hall,
breakfast nook, and a kitchen, with views on to a bedroom. There are 60+
foot views in this space where you see all of the spaces in the same
line of sight when the bedroom door is open. The crown is installed in
2/3's of the space and the homeowner, now seeing that the crown actually
detracts from the space, wants to omit it from only one area of the
space (the last to be crowned as the remaining spaces are already
crowned, caulked, and painted).
We repeatedly brought the clean lines of the space to the forefront and
suggested that the crown would disrupt these lines completely and
undoubtedly change the total feel of the space adding a bit of visual
chaos. Cutting it up in effect. Now that it has, there is to be a
further devolution by omiting crown from only a part of the space
sacrificing continuity. Its all hard to explain without being in the space.
Gladly, this is not a tense situation as the customer is pretty easy
going. I am more thinking of this from a design standpoint and further
how to better go about giving guidance to customers who hold on so
tightly to bad design decisions. Of course there are some you just can
help but there is always room for refinement.
I have a theory on the crown based on our location. Trussed roof's are
very common yet absolutely no one builds with concern for uplift. The
way they hide subsequent problems is to leave the wall/ceiling (drywall)
joint unfinished covering it with some form of trim. This can be
anything from baseboard, to cove, to casing, to a 1x2. Having trim at
the ceiling/wall has just become the norm. Sadly, on this job, a simple
piece of beaded trim or a nice elegant picture moulding painted the wall
color rather than stained/urethaned crown would have looked fine, and in
fact very good.
I am wondering what all of your experience is with customers wanting to
implement crown throughout whether its a space that is appreciated or
depreciated by it? I am on the same page that if they want to pay for
it, and like it, fine. This leads me to wonder, would this customer be
questioning how it looks had I not said anything?
Another personal take on it is that so many of the home improvement
shows and home centers showcase crown moulding as a way to "spice up" a
space that people no longer look at it as an good treatment for some
spaces but not for others. They instead look at it as a sign of higher
quality or status even though it may detract and infact greatly disrupts
You're talking as if the client should appreciate design, but he doesn't get
it. Welcome to the business. He's probably building the house to prove to
his dad that he's better than his older brother who's always been dad's
I used to do nothing but really high end custom housing, and a wise little
scotish cabinet-maker-turned-general-contractor once told me, while I was
trying to argue an obvious design point with a block-headed rich lady, "It's
not about whether it's good or bad....it's about what her friends will say
when she throws open the door for the first time." I immediately realized
that he understood that client better than I ever would, and that's why he
was making more money than I was.
What really cracks me up, on the topic of cornices, is when I see a
contemporary plan in a building with 'traditional' looking elevations. I
immedately start thinking about the reflected ceiling plan. Almost no one,
even the people who profess to like the stuff, understands that traditional
work is a language built on heirarchy and grammar and syntax. They think its
all about mouldings. Get used to it. It's not going to change.
No welcome needed. We have been doing this for 20 years (not that thats
a long time), and posting to this group for perhaps 10, this isnt a new
revelation. It was just something that has been bouncing around in my
head in different contexts for years. I dont have any delusions that the
average consumer will somehow miraculously become enlightened or even
has the capacity. It is a moreso a general question in perspective and I
was moreso wondering how others deal with the issues of trying to
explain in the initial phases of a project, to a somewhat receptive
customer, that going at it they way they are they are not going to come
out with the end result they think they will. This is all an exercise in
trying to head off wasted time and effort in a project. A very loose
Wow, what a revelation. And "he" is most often a "she". I have stated
for perhaps 15 years now that people who want a white picket fence
outside there home dont even know _why_ they actually want that fence in
the first place or why it even needs to be white. It is likely because
of what it symbolizes to passers by (strangers) or has something to do
with the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they see a house with a
similar fence in Better Homes and Gardens. The picture shows a house
which intimates the occupants of said house have a happy home life with
a puppy and two kids frolicking in the back yard, the wife wears a pair
of crisply pressed khaki's, white espodriles, and tailored white button
front shirt from the gap that never seems to get dirty no matter how
tirelessly she works all day in the manicured flower beds. The space
behind her fridge and washing machine is of course utterly spotless and
free of dust. Lord knows, because the picket fence is white, they must
be clean, conscientious people.
I am not concerned about making money and I have never argued with a
customer. I learned early on that you will never win an argument with a
customer so entering into on is a mistake. Six years ago, at 34, I
retired from the home building business and moved to a patch of
semi-remote land. This is not to say I retired with a multi-million
dollar portfolio and a private helicopter but I could shut the business
down tomorrow and not have a pubic hair fall out over it. Now I only
take on juicy, interesting, jobs that allow for a bit of creativity and
outside the box building. We are at a point where when a customer calls
us in on a project we are interviewing them to decide if we are going to
take them on as a customer. Not the other way around.
That said, I am also not interested in the "hey, what do you care, as
long as the check clears build whatever they want" type business. Those
are not our customers. In the past five years I have turned down work
repeatedly from customers who have more money than they know what to do
with and could care less about the price but were clearly wanting to do
work that I am just not interested in doing though I could have taken it
and built my IRA a bit bigger.
I wasnt really talking of change perse. What I was more thinking of is
comment on when you have a really good customer who is somewhat pliable
(not block-headed as you say) but is a tad misguided (sounds
condescending). I its no news to many in the trade that a large
percentage of the whole process can be psyche.
You misspelled psycho. =:O
People don't like to be convinced of things - particularly when you
have to point out the error of their previous way of thinking.
Talk to the woman - convince her and she'll convince the husband (or
he'll simply cave in whether he's convinced or not ;)
I'd use a clothing analogy in a half-joking manner.
Something along the lines of:
"I bet you have an absolutely _gorgeous_ evening dress that you
reserve for those really special occasions, right? I know my wife
does. She doesn't wear it out all of the time, even if we're going to
the some fancy party or the best place in town. She likes to keep it
special. You know how it is - you wear something too much and even if
it's your favorite outfit in the world, it becomes...well, a bit too
_familiar_, if you know what I mean. Crown molding is like that.
Many times it makes more sense to spend the same amount of money on a
smaller area and _really_ go first class! That keeps it special.
But, whatever you want is fine with me. I know whatever you decide
you'll make the _right_ decision for _your_ house."
If she makes even a little smile while you're talking about the dress,
giver her an, "Aha! See? You _do_ have a dress like that and you're
probably wondering about when you'll wear it next!" and laugh. Then
Now, she's laughing, you've called to mind fancy parties and smart
clothes, you've given her permission to change her mind without
feeling pressured _and_ taken yourself out of the decision making
Can you tell I've done this before? ;)
Your hypothetical conversation sounds like 90 percent of the contract
negotiations we have. Being a master of manipulation is a necessary evil
in this trade. These meetings of course span several visits with the
customer coming back on the following meeting with a "new idea" which is
just a reformation of what you suggested (again arrogant but I would say
implanted) in the last meeting.
This is why I often joke that this profession is a breakdown of home
builder/designer, marriage councilor, psychiatrist, and cop/jailor. The
percentages of each vary from job to job but they are all prevalent in
Steering the customer into making the right decision (for them) is a
major part of it. I guess I was just thinking it would be interesting to
open up a thread about the finer points of the negotiations that go into
managing a job and its subsequent outcome. It ties into some of my other
posts about my sole intention being to see the customer twice or three
times as happy with the outcome of a project than they ever thought they
Getting to that point a little easier was the point of the post. I
would really be interested in hearing some detailed accounts of some of
the projects others have made it through where the customer was bouncing
off the walls with glee at the end.
We pride ourselves on a rough count of greater than 98 percent
satisfaction yet we (I mostly) am constantly grabbing for that last 2
Well find a map or reread a couple times, syntax, and grammar, aint all
there is in the world. I communicate with invaluable suppliers on a
daily basis who dont even know what the word syntax means much less that
it exists. That said they have valuable data that I suck up like a hoover.
Do a google, most of my posts are train of thought and I dont often
spell check so you'll find lots of typos and grammar errors.
Perhaps, for us 98 percent of the high end work we do (which is close to
100 percent of our business) is orchestrated by the woman of the house.
Most men are horrendously bad designers in general and even worse in
their own home. They have equally bad communication and negotiation
skills with their wives which means they are usually unable to come to a
mutual decision. That is a simple fact. Mind you I said "most".
Men are filled with bias that pales in comparison to that of a woman and
are about as pliable as grade 60 steel plate especially when dealing
with another man who can build and execute something they are incapable
of even drawing on a dinner napkin.
The best advice we give to the husbands in the initial stages is to get
out of the way while they still can and just go make money. That tact
will result in a happier outcome, more sex, and more golf.
I win arguments with customers on a daily, and sometimes multi-daily,
basis. Its just that they never reach the definition of argument in
either parties eyes. I start steering them in a better direction WAY
before the exchange reaches the "argument" state. Many "wins" simply go
unrequited as I just say "wow, great idea, well good thats decided,
thats the direction we will go". After that, my wife and I look at each
other, grin, wink, and get back to work.
When we pull off most jobs we leave invited to childrens birthday
parties, weddings, barbecues, anniversaries, and the like. Not that we
always attend, but thats the way we aim to keep it.
That said, we still struggle at times which is why I initially started
this thread. I am fully aware that it will never go away, but as I
stated earlier, there is always room for improvement and its always
interesting to hear others experiences.
Of course there is no universal remote. Thats why I was asking about
"what others experiences were". I have no hopes for a single phrase or
tact that will send my customers to the corner assuming the fetal
position with their checkbooks signed and open.
I was thinking of a dialogue pertaining to customer relations and
project management rather than perpetually answering questions about
joist cantilevers and stacking lintels.
A few threads about what we all do for a living may be interesting? No?
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