Service of Architects & Designers

January 13th, 2014

Categories: Architects, Experts, Interior Designers

I have interviewed and admired the work of countless architects and interior designers over years, think that good ones are essential and can save their clients tons of money as well as produce great looking, functional spaces.

There are instances, however, where a client either ignored, or didn’t hire, either one.

Street Smart

We’ve been through a wintery/icy period in New York City which puts the buildings with inappropriate sidewalks on my blacklist. I wrote about this recently. What architect worth his/her salt would specify stone, cement or a shiny finish for a northern climate, in a walking city, where surfaces become an ice rink in sleet or snow?

When selecting the sidewalk in front of a building does anyone pay attention to trees, like the Gingko, that shed fruit that stain? Light colors only highlight the blotches. Add foot traffic that discolors and marks the ground and one wonders. Without constant attention to keep it clean, the new sidewalk looks worse than the original one in short order.

Good Intentions

I was in a hospital recovery room and saw wall art on the ceiling. What a good idea for a patient prone on a gurney, reentering consciousness, to see a pretty floral scene above.

Trouble was that the series of ceiling paintings weren’t over the gurneys; they were in the halls above the aisles.  One explanation: That the room had been used for something else and in reconfiguring the space, the ceiling art landed in limbo.

In another instance, the air vent in the patient’s room was over one of the beds. Brrr. There was plenty of room for a vent in the entry hall.

Great Improvement

In new construction, finally, there are plenty of ladies’ rooms in movie theatres and concert halls.

Please share examples of brilliant, uninspired or dangerous interior design or architectural feats.

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9 Responses to “Service of Architects & Designers”

  1. Deirdre Said:

    Jeanne: Loved this blog. I have two bugaboos when it comes to office building design. The first is that no matter how beautiful the design, within 6 months a super or building manager will stick a printout on the door or wall. Usually, it’s actually pertinent information, and it’s in response to being asked the same question over and over by building visitors. It seems to me that since this happens all the time, architects should build messaging into their designs instead of letting ‘Lucy’ in the office use 240 pt Comic Sans on blue printer paper.

    The other is the ubiquitous Please Use Other Door signs. Why? Why can’t people use both doors? Are they saving one for a rainy day? Are they counting visitors by using one door? (The answer to that is ‘no.’) Really, it should be the NYC motto: Welcome to New York. Please Use Other Door.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I am laughing because YOU ARE RIGHT!

    I love the NYC “other door” welcome motto. In our office it mostly happens if you leave late-ish at night…I wonder if some of the doors cause wind to blow on the door/guard staff. It can’t be to control the advancing hoards as there aren’t any.

    Maybe the porter has spent hours cleaning the brass and doesn’t want folks mucking it up before the owner arrives in the morning? No…the owner doesn’t work here.

    I should stop all this guessing and ask!

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    I designed a bathroom from scratch and had a grand old time doing it. I’m not interested in having someone dictate what should or should not be in my home. The money presumably saved from hiring a designer, would be spent paying that person. I prefer old houses, but for whatever reason, have some faith in architects. As scientists, they seem more prone to stick to facts than to fancy, and would be easier to work with.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I learned eons ago when I lived in a country that at the time didn’t have much, if any, ready made clothing, that I have zero vision in this regard. I have to try on clothing. Have a dressmaker sew it for me from a photo and 8 times out of 8, it looks crummy/lackluster.

    Similarly, when I represented a wallpaper company, the manufacturer introduced a stunning collection. I had just bought a house and thought that I’d cover certain rooms in its wonderful coordinating patterns and borders. I still remember them. Got the sample book to the house and not a single wallpaper looked right. I loved the colors and patterns…they were simply awful in the light and had nothing to do with the spirit of the house.

    I could have continued on and on and on like that until I found the right sample book, or I could hire an interior designer to save me a heck of a lot of time and achieve a look that I’d be thrilled with.

    You are fortunate that you have the vision I lack.

  5. Simon Carr Said:

    Some years ago, an architect and I both served as witnesses in a construction litigation case. During the eternally long time it took to prepare for trial, we became friends and lunched often.

    I probably annoyed him but one of my pet questions to him was, “Why don’t we have craftsmen today who can build buildings as beautiful as the great medieval cathedrals?.”

    Eventually, he gave me the abrupt but honest answer, “Money. We can do it but people aren’t willing to pay what it will cost to do it.”

    I agree entirely about the importance of good design and thoughtful planning, but ultimately it’s the budget that will decide how a building is designed and built. An architect must be competitive, and ultimately means produce the best structure, flawed as it may be, he can for the right price.

  6. Edward Baecher Said:

    We did a construction project in Central America, found a below average price architect and saved about ten thousand dollars. I’ll eat my hat if we had less than a hundred thousand in poor planning and mistakes.

    “The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a
    lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well
    to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will
    have enough to pay for something better.”
    John Ruskin

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Who doesn’t have to work within a budget, especially today, so I disagree with your architect. Just because you have a tight budget doesn’t mean that the person installing molding can’t miter the corners properly.

    Especially because a landlord or co-op or condo board are budget-conscious, they should have maintenance in mind. Selecting a light colored sidewalk that spotlights every mark that must, in turn, be frequently scrubbed doesn’t make sense. It’s the job of the architect/designer to counsel the client.

    I fell in love with a maroon colored sisal rug I saw as I toured a designer showcase house with a friend–a talented interior designer. I thought it would be stunning in the house I mentioned in a previous comment and a reasonably priced solution for the living and sitting rooms. She pointed out that dyed sisal would last only a year because the sun would bleach parts of it and at night, the big blocks of sun-bleached sections would look horrible. Similarly, for the same price, an architect could advise his/her client about the repercussions of selecting the light apricot-colored sidewalk–maybe toss in that advice for free.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree with you that the lowest bidder may not always be the best choice although there are exceptions and the opposite isn’t true–just because you pay a lot you don’t necessarily have a great business partner.

    Time enters here: I find it pays to interview three bidders at least, hear what each has to say–I learn something from every interview. Depending on the job, it is critical to ask to speak with the vendor’s last three clients/customers. This way they don’t select their cousin, best friend or only happy client and the random recommendations you get tend to be more valid.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Finally spoke with a very smart night door person/guard at my office building about your grump re. Please Use Other Door signs. I’d asked another doorman earlier and his answer didn’t seem as apt as this one:

    He explained that he has insisted on doing this after hours ever since 9/11–for security reasons. He can control that one door with a buzzer under his desk. It’s also handy when he’s alone at night and needs to step away–he can lock and efficiently unlock one door when he returns.

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