Photo: Rich McMullin
To create the best designs for her clients, Bridget McMullin keeps to their budget and works to find them the best value and experience possible.
Thanks for joining us, Bridget! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business. 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 to feel out their personality?
We start all of clients out with a two-hour consultation which we do bill for. Design is about ideas- and by charging for our time, we are able to very open about our vision of the client’s space. By giving them very concrete and focused answers at our initial meeting, we can help a client whose budget is $1000 or a client whose budget is $100,000. I may focus the client with a small budget towards online options, “bang for the buck” ideas, and we give them a focused to do list by the time we leave. A client with a larger budget is a bit different experience because we are focusing in on their vision, budget limitations- or as I call it “want versus need” analysis. In either case, we customize our initial consultations to fit the client’s goals. Our clients are also given some homework prior to our consultation including a request of the budget, which, for us, is the number one deciding factor on what direction we take with a client. “You wouldn’t shop for a Mercedes when all you can afford is a Volkswagen” is what I tell every client at our first meeting. Design can come at any price and being upfront about what you are willing to spend allows us to be honest about what we can give you and what products we will introduce to your project.
Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space? Do you have a method to work through those problems?
I think the hardest obstacle to overcome is the industry is the clients expectations of what we “do”. HGTV has made our job look easy, cheap, and fast. Clients have a hard time understanding how long it takes to do what we do and we are constantly trying to educate our clients of the value we bring to the project.
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?
As you can see from my above answer, I am not a fan of the television shows even though I have done a few myself. Candice Olsen and Sarah Richardson probably have the most realistic version of what we do- though it is still a version. In our initial homework questionnaire we do ask clients what their favorite design shows are- we find this helps us understand their vision of us as designers. A client who loves “Design on a Dime” has a very different view of design than a client who watches Candice Olsen.
From the outside it seems like the Philadelphia area focuses on incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of history into your designs.
I have to convince my clients not to be bound by their houses! Restoration is an expensive process, so I usually focus my clients who want to be “true” to their spaces to focus on updated details that still nod to the period of their home without sacrificing their comfort, their personal design sensibility, and their wallets. We won an award for an IDA Award (Philadelphia Interior Design Award) for a project in 2011, it was a 1920′s house with at 1950′s addition with a 1970′s kitchen remodel. We helped the clients take this unthought-of space and make it flow with existing 1920′s architecture. It was fresh, up to date, and felt like it had always been there- which is the key to a great interior remodel.
Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed? What did it look like before? After?
I am proud of all of our projects. Our designers are very talented and I believe our best work is always yet to come because each day we get better at what we do.
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?
I love a good area rug- especially the fresh geometric patterns and the ikat’s that are coming into vogue again. So rarely do I use a wall-to-wall carpet, I always try to work in an area rug.
Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?
It’s not that I find ones more durable than another, but I think a client should understand what they are buying. Price does matter when it comes to area rugs.
When I bought my home 8 years ago, like most clients, I had very little money to finish furnishing after I did all the necessary renovations. I fell in love with a Home Goods carpet and decided to purchase. I think I paid $400 for it. It rotted- literally rotted. I was vacuuming one day and I noticed a mark. When I went to pick at it the rug, it fell apart. Had I waited a few more months and saved my money, I would have been able to afford a much more substantial rug. I knew better when I bought the rug but I wanted it NOW! (A trap of our immediate gratification society, I know). I have a gorgeous oriental in my back porch, a gift from a client who downsized their home. The rug is 20 years old and still is as perfect as the day it was bought. Lesson- you get what you pay for when it comes to area rugs. Afford the best you can, and if you can afford that one- save a few more months and spend a bit more extra. I understand that everyone has their limitations but remember, a good rug will always be your best friend.
Roving nomads used their hand knotted rugs to as the floors of their dessert tents for centuries. Unless you are spending a fortune on a all silk rug, remember that paupers and kings have “lived” on their rugs for centuries- your kid is not going to kill your rug!
We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price?
If you are going for look- flat weaves or kilms are usually a great price point and can give you a lot of bang for your buck. Another trick we use for larger rooms with tight budgets is to bind a broadloom. Our clients get the durability of a Stain Master (or other technology) but the feeling of an area rug.
Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers
Don’t forget to clean your rugs! We live in a throw away society, so I always try to educate my clients remembering to get their rugs (and upholstery) cleaned on a regular basis. Yes, it is not cheap- but it is more affordable than replacing your carpet in five years. I have my area rugs cleaned around every 18 months to 2 years. It cuts down on allergens such as dust mites and keeps my rugs in tip top shape.