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Kathryn M. Ireland

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Chemistry & Clients

Posted: 06/23/11 10:32 AM ET

I can't believe we are halfway through the season! I love watching my fellow cast members at work and play. They are all talented, wonderful, hilarious people who I now I consider family.

Life is all about chemistry. Watching Martyn and Mary with their clients makes me realize how important chemistry is in a design relationship. I am beginning to realize my client is going to be more difficult as she seems to be resisting my ideas instead of embracing them. But often this is a corner you just have to turn. Winning the respect of any collaborator is part of the process. The first meeting is often not indicative of what's to come. My initial enthusiasm for Shannon hit a speed bump in Episode Three when she reprimanded me, "You're an hour and a half late..." Well, the client is always right so there's no point arguing but in, in fact, I was only half an hour late and what did I miss? Watching trucks being unloaded?

We all bump up against people with very strong opinions in our working lives. Mary's client Jill had some initial input but Mary (who must have a degree in psychology) reveals very calmly and simply that she knows her client will eventually come around to her point of view. How very true that is. As a MDD, you have to let certain clients feel that an idea originated with them because they want their own creativity to come through. But very often the decorator becomes the fall guy, especially when there is a husband and budget involved. Jill was initially non-committal and not crazy about Mary's color story for her office but ultimately she is able to let go of her ambivalence and trust Mary to do her job. And what a job!

Martyn, on the other hand, is working with a lifelong friend (they've known each other since teenage years!) which as we know can come with its own baggage, but Tamara Mellon is one smart girl with a mind of her own, a shoe empire she created from the ground up (pun intended), and most importantly, trusts and loves Martyn's taste. It's tremendously gratifying to serve a client who is willing to benefit from your wisdom. I always do my best work when a client trusts me. I feel free to be creative and am inspired to give 150% instead of butting heads, which can become time-consuming, exhausting, and a buzz-kill.

When Shannon visited my showroom, she fell in love with certain fabrics from my line and the other lines I represent. But she had also given me a very specific and intractable timetable for moving into the beach house. Bearing that in mind, I had to be practical and edit out the fabrics that I couldn't deliver before the deadline in the formal presentation. But Shannon was miffed at the exclusion of fabrics she had loved (but that had an eight week lead time) and felt compelled to issue another reprimand. This is not promoting an atmosphere of creative collaboration. I wish she would allow the work to come together organically and trust me to deliver a fantastic beach house. Doing second homes is my forte. It's how I got my start. The first six years of my career, in fact, were spent designing interiors in the Hamptons. What I've learned is that the primary residence is where a client uses up all of their grandiose ideas -- formal living and dining rooms and the agony of where to display the family silver, etc. -- but the second home is where the client will typically let their hair down and have fun. I've discovered that the second home is always the house the client really wants to live in. Which is why I love working on second homes.

With all the pressure of the producing fantastic boards for the presentation to Shannon, I forgot that the ashes of my beloved Jack Russell, Greta, had been delivered from the vet's office in an urn (not unlike ones I have in the kitchen). With getting the boys to school and loading the beach presentation in the car, I totally forgot that a very unassuming clay pot containing Greta's ashes had been left on the kitchen counter. Well, Jacqueline is not known for her attention to detail so on the way to the meeting I suddenly realized that Jacqueline would, in her Jacqueline way, dive into this pot, think the ashes were some new Herbs de Provence or gravel for an aquarium or... an ashtray! I jammed back to the house to prevent Jacqueline from inadvertently turning some nutty location into an unseemly final resting place for my beloved dog.

Thank god the cameras missed my entry into Ross's birthday party. I wore my lovely Calypso crocheted dress (white not a color I often wear) with a pair of Louboutin heels. Heels from Hell. These are truly shoes that can only handle getting in and out of a chauffeured car. Going to the beach in heels is never my style but hey, it's Ross's birthday and I wanted to look like I'd really made an effort. I literally fell up the front doorstep and landed on my face. Though I've always wanted a reason for a nose job, this wasn't a contender. The venue for Ross's party is the perfect hostess house to me -- a great deck, ocean view, unpretentious décor, and an atmosphere that conveyed someone really enjoyed living there. Anyway, Jeffrey had adorably learned how to make an onion tart (from Suzanne Goin no less) so he could present Ross with his own creation. I can tell you first hand that the tart was a triumph!

Nathan and Mary should just be done with it and go into business together; they are the best couple and so entertaining to watch on and off screen. Mary, you may have to come to the Kathryn Ireland finishing school, you can not let an assistant be so opinionated. And, yes, please let's come up with "MDD Bootcamp" at my house in France. You know the left hand has to be able to hold a glass of rose at all times... what the right hand does is another matter!

 

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