Adrienne Hart: Exceeding Expectations

AdrienneDesign clients often complain about not being heard, but not with Adrienne Hart. The Arizona-based designer puts her clients ideas and expectations as top priority.

Thanks for joining us, Adrienne! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.

I grew up in a house full of do-it-yourselfers. My dad was always adding on to the house or changing things and my mom was all about changing wallpaper, paint and furniture around. I remember shingling the roof of our storage shed when I was 10- my dad was terrified of heights, so he would stand and direct from below. My design career didn’t start until eleven years ago when I broke from my operations background to go to design school. Best decision I’ve ever made!!!

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet for the feel of their personality?

It depends on if I’m charging for the initial consultation or if it’s just to get a sense of the client and scope of work. If I’m charging, I gather all of the information as to why I’m there and then give as much design advice as I can in two hours. More often, it’s a meet and greet and in that case what I’m really looking for… bottom line… is how well they can communicate what they really want. Not specifically if they know the right terms or can articulate what they actually want down to details (that’s my job), but their willingness to share their needs and desires. The more I understand what the expectations are, the happier everyone involved will be. If I see a sense of willingness, then I can do all the heavy lifting and get the information I need to do an excellent job for them. PS. I’ve never used a checklist as most discussions are fluid and trying to keep to a format usually restricts the amount of information. I do take copious amounts of notes.

Your job is filled with challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Do you have a method to work through those problems? 

One of the biggest challenges in design, in my opinion, is making sure that the picture in my head matches the picture in their head and it can all be translated to a trades person to execute to match. We all use words in different ways and background and upbringing could change the connotation of an adjective and before you know it, we’re speaking two different languages. To combat that, after much discussion and preparation, I provide very detailed specifications and drawings that are reviewed in person until everyone is on the same page. It should never be a surprise what something is going to look like or what it’s going to cost…. Unless, of course, that’s what the client wanted and that can be a lot of fun too!

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

There is a disproportionate expectation on how long things should take and how much they cost, because of these design shows. On occasion, I have to have conversations about the production crew and the months of preparation before the days of the show and how the network picks up the cost of all of that. Many times, a show will be brought up in context to explain what their goal is- will they “love it or leave it”. Or it may provide a glimmer into their aesthetic- “I love everything Candice Olsen does.” Or perhaps an admiration for repurposing. One of the best things about design shows is that it gets people thinking about things they would have never considered and to me, that’s the fun part- exploring the new and unknown.

From the outside it seems like Arizona is about incorporating Southwest designs with strong Native American and Mexican-inspired themes! Describe how you incorporate those into your designs. 

Many of my clients are part-time residents and want to appreciate our desert climate. I like to do that in a less literal way by capitalizing on our earthy color palette and adding touches of accessories and art that nod to our history. It’s so much easier to appreciate something special when it’s done sparingly, rather than bathing in a sea of howling coyotes and chili peppers!

Do you have a project you are most proud to have designed. What did it look like before? After?

I am always proud when my client is happy, so that’s a tough one. And I have many strong before and after photos. I can think of two very challenging and complicated specific elements in two different houses that I was elated at the result.

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less? 

All hard surface floors need rugs! For acoustics, for lushness, to unite furniture settings, to bring all the colors in a space together, to add pattern, to tone down pattern, to set the whole tone of a room… I could go on. Most homes that I work in have tile floors, so there are rugs everywhere. Other than a carpeted floor, I can’t think of any place I would be less likely to use a rug.

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable? 

Wool. Anything that starts with “poly”.

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price? 

I find that there are clients who have an appreciation for how a rug is made and how long it take and the rest who just want to add some color or warmth under their toes. Knowing this before you go out shopping saves everyone time and money. Almost all rug prices are negotiable… the tag is rarely the actual price you can take it home for.


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