The relationship with the private collector is always simpler than that between the interior designer as client and the dealer. A very obvious reason- the dealer’s stock has to, effectively, be sold twice- once to the interior designer, and then resold by the interior designer to their client. Mind you, this can always be simplified by the client themselves shopping with the interior designer. In our experience, this actually happens with refreshing frequency, and decisions are often reached on the spot.
Still, the interior designer is the vector for decision making, and the relationships we regularly establish with collectors occur with designers with a disappointing infrequency. In fact, we often feel like interlopers, as, perhaps we are, and, consequently, when we have designers and their clients in our galleries, we never, and I mean never, get between them. We try very hard to let the designers do their work, and speak only when spoken to. The scar on my lower lip testifies to how often I’ve nearly bit it through in an effort to keep quiet.
Mind you, we’ve got some truly great designer clients. Elissa Cullman has been one of our favorites since we first worked together several years ago. Ellie’s firm is a rarity these days, as she uses period pieces exclusively. Her work is distinctive and bold, and not suffused with effects that diminish the statement made by each of the fine pieces she uses. With all that, Ellie’s work, like the lady herself, always has embedded in it a sense of fun. Not surprising, Ellie’s clients are at the very highest end of the market, with Ellie spending considerable time educating the client about what to expect to pay for the best quality. Still and all, with all of Ellie’s clients, they want to make certain that what they’re buying represents value for money. I can’t speak for any other dealer, but in terms of Chappell & McCullar, Ellie has never inquired about anything in our inventory she hasn’t subsequently placed. Good quality and value for money.
As we’ve written about in earlier blogs, we are careful about our pricing, but not everything in our stock is in everybody’s budget. Frankly, in any initial conversation with a designer, when they inquire about a certain type of item, we always ask about their client’s budget. When the designer responds with some kind of non-answer like ‘Money is no object,’ what they really mean to say is ‘I haven’t had the guts to discuss money with my client, and want you, Mr. Antiques Dealer, to be the bad guy.’ This requires a bit of searching the memory but odds on, we have never had a sale to any designer that told us money is no object. We are here to tell you, money is always an object.
The ‘money is no object’ designer budget more broadly indicates that the designer really doesn’t know their client. Just because a client has a lot of money, what we have to sell has to, within the breadth of someone’s experience, represent value for money. The best interior designers know what their client finds valuable. This is said with complete value neutrality- red walls and chintz fabric may represent a better use of funds than the purchase of a piece of Georgian furniture.
Poor old Joe Nye is doubtless becoming tired of our using him as exemplar gratis, but, in terms of knowing his clients’ minds, Joe is nearly unerring. As well as preparing budgets, Joe also provides his clients ‘good-better-best’ choices when it comes to materials, including antiques. Joe frequently engages us to expand this kind of discussion, and involving us to explain to his clients how pricing relates to quality.