My most difficult customer

10 Jun, 15

National chair of the KBSA Tina Riley admits she’s been her own worst client

I have just had the pleasure of dealing with one our most indecisive, difficult, demanding clients that in 36 years of doing this job I have ever had. Easy, I hear you all shouting, don’t deal with them. However, I am very ashamed to admit that this difficult client was in fact me! I like to think that I am good at my chosen profession and with the vast majority of my clients I can easily design their room and create a harmonious colour scheme of suitable accessories without blinking an eye. So how can it be so hard to do it for yourself?

Resisting the ex

The hardest thing was to resist the temptation to, once again, use an ex-display kitchen or indeed any ex-display appliances that just happen to be around. Although, in fairness this was not even my decision but my co- workers who refused to let me. But where to begin on the layout? As a designer I wanted the wow factor but on a practical level I knew exactly what the problems had been on my previous kitchen. I was eager to go open-plan and cope with the perennial headache of losing a whole wall of cabinet storage, as well as the issue of not enough worktop, inadequate drawer space, and where oh where have the multitude of kitchen gadgets appeared from; do I really need a chocolate fountain, can I live without my blender, mixer, healthy grill, pressure cooker, slow cooker, toaster, kettle? These are the standard detritus that usually sits all over my worktops. I must have re-drawn the layout 20 times before eventually deciding on the best one which still involved blocking off an existing window in the kitchen in order to get a bank of tall housings in.

Fit don’t forget

Then the fun began as we, (like all other retailers), are so busy I could not justify taking my installers off existing jobs to do mine. So, I was planning on dropping in mine whenever we had a few spare hours. I decided to take out the old kitchen so in preparation. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Things were going swimmingly until the builder didn’t arrive on the Monday morning to take out the supporting wall in preparation to fit an RSJ. His excuse that he was in hospital, was to be fair reasonable although quite inconvenient. Again more sleeve rolling up and driving around my village to find another builder to help us fit the steel as I have never done this before! First fix electrics went smoothly and all was going well until the day the plasterer turned up, at which point Severn Trent decided to turn our water off in the street. It’s very hard to mix plaster with no water. Luckily we had the foresight to use the water butt in the garden. It helps to be green!

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Colourful language

I had decided on an Ivory gloss handleless door with contrasting wood effect wall cabinets, flooring was easy as had to match the floor in the adjacent room. But worktops, pah!I must have driven my poor fabricator to distraction; too dark, too light, not enough pattern, too much pattern. What felt like two million samples later I finally sourced one which then had to be finally chosen from a 6 inch square sample. But by this stage over 4 weeks of washing-up in the bathroom sink upstairs was really taking its toll! Cue last week when finally my fantastic new kitchen was finished – it looks fantastic!

Lessons now learned

So to the most important lessons it has taught me even after all this time in the industry, do not under estimate or make light of the disruption building works make to your everyday life. Do not show clients millions of choices as this just makes everyone’s life more difficult. But in truth, the real lesson I learnt, which surprised me, is the feeling of happiness walking into my new kitchen can bring. I can only liken it to that first day on holiday where you throw back the curtains to see the stunning blue sky and sparkle of turquoise sea glinting in the distance.That feeling is now what I get every time I walk into my new room, and that my friends is primarily why we do this job. If I have ever made my clients feel like that, then it has all been worthwhile!