What they neglect to teach you in design school is that part of creating any well-appointed home is creating a well-stocked home. With increasingly demanding careers and family responsibilities, clients hiring an interior designer look to this professional not only for a visually beautiful and well-functioning environment, but also an environment where every practical need is anticipated, cared for and provided. In training associates fresh out of design school, though they are well versed in conceptual planning, building codes, construction methods, drafting, furnishing layouts and decorating schemes, I always remind them that the job is not complete until the right-wattage light bulb is screwed or plugged into place, the desired soap is placed in the soap dish and instructions for laundering the sheets are plainly spelled out.
The reason I ask associates to embrace this final “stocking list” as their last and most important task is that the finished design work can be thoroughly diminished by this lack of forethought.I have seen an expensive and sensitively toned Donald Kaufman paint job turn acrid with the use of a compact fluorescent lamp bulb. I have also witnessed a custom, mixed museum-grade white turn leaden prison-house gray with the wrong Kelvin degree LED bulb. I have seen pristine, sleek bathrooms destroyed by super-sized Pepto-pink soap pumps and I have experienced the well-used and cracked soap bar lying wounded on a gleaming granite countertop with no dish to contain its sores. Crestfallen, I have observed shrunken embroidery on a client’s once crisp fine Italian sheets that had been so haphazardly washed, harshly dried and bleached, wrinkled and shrunken that I swore they had been used to make war, not love.
And for all these seemingly small omissions, intrusions and mishandlings, I had only myself to blame. So along with my associates, we created the final “stocking list” without which most of our handiwork would not shine for long.
Designer Kate Reid lists a few important starting points. “First we provide the correct-wattage light bulbs for the correct lamps and fixtures, placing extra bulbs into appropriately labeled baskets in a convenient storage spot in that room. We provide an appropriate vacuum for the carpet and area rugs, taking care not to use rug beaters for linen, silk and cotton flat weaves. We purchase good mops, providing Swiffers for wood and stone floors, and we leave instructions on the care of wood floors, specifically to never use Murphy’s oil soap. We have found that purchasing our recommended cleaners, including stainless steel cleaners, wine stain remover (Wine Away for red wine stain remover), furniture polish, laundry soap and stone sealers is the best insurance that the interior design intent will stay as fresh as on the original installation day.”
In bathrooms, along with the Charmin and appropriate attractive waste receptacles, I make sure we provide trays that contain the hand soaps, covered tissue boxes, decorative soap dishes and toothbrush holders. We find that Kiehl’s and Jo Malone products are handsomely packaged and are universally acceptable. For second-home guest baths, we supply one of the drawers with extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, disposable razors, mouthwash, shaving cream, floss, aspirin, Advil, ear swabs and cotton balls. It saves the guest from panicking and having to run out to find a drugstore at midnight and for the host, it ensures an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
Kate always purchases a kitchen tool box for her clients, complete with every tool—within reason—to handle minor household emergencies and repairs such as a good knife block complete with a good pair of kitchen scissors, and a first aid kit with over-the-counter medicines and antihistamines for an unexpected allergic reaction or bee sting. And in anticipation of your guests bringing you flowers, she suggests supplying a good pair of Felco pruners to cut those stems down to fit any vase you have, quickly setting your bouquet out in appreciation of your guest’s thoughtful gift.
Most interior designers cook and if they don’t, at least they definitely appreciate the finest design and function of good cookware. Stunning toasters, waffle makers and blenders can be found in the sleekest minimal designs or retro nostalgia—fit for any décor (although I have yet to find a beautiful food processor!). As important as accessories are to your designer vision, choosing these appliances is well worth it. Kate suggests you leave a binder for the client filled with all the appliance instructions and warranties.
Add to the “stocking list” the “laundry list.” Most clients ask for the freshly ironed sleeping experience of the fine boutique hotels they have visited on their vacations, and, generally, these higher-thread-count, richly embroidered Italian, Belgian and French linens require specific care and handling. Specialty soaps, which harbor no harsh chemicals, are recommended. Washing fine linens in lukewarm water, tumbling dry in a low-heat dryer and removing them while just slightly damp is best and easiest for crisp ironing. A Miele mangle press saves you from ironing (and yes, to mangle a body part is derived from fingers being caught while guiding linens through sheet-pressing rollers—called a mangle). Most interior designers who sell fine linens will instruct the client on the products and the process to achieve the freshly starched look without using starch and without the inherent stiffness, because starch ultimately ruins both sheeting and towels. Your designer might ultimately recommend a good dry cleaner for your linens, but care must be taken, as many are sloppy, use harsh chemicals (yielding a chemical scent) and literally mangle your sheets, shrinking the embroidery and pressing in wrinkles. Despite the seemingly arduous care, the eight-hour nightly experience is worth the effort and fine linens are worth the expense. And as your bed is most likely the largest object in your home, attentiveness to its upkeep is important.
Our “stocking list,” that list of maintenance items and care instructions that follow the design and installation of our clients’ homes, has become a major element in the overall service we feel a design firm must provide to complete the job, and without which, the design product withers on the vine in a very short time. Schools are not teaching this phase of the interior design process, nor do they need to, but young designers must be taught this by their mentors so that they will remember to provide this extra step of service for their clients, and their beautiful sleek designs do not disintegrate before their eyes. A form of “lifestyle design coaching,” the “stocking list” is a designer’s final tool, and endeavors to provide the successful completion and endurance of a magnificent creation: the well-designed home.