Designers Share Their Most Challenging Client Requests

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Design, Interior designers, Business

Illustration by Sr.García

Designers know that client requests can range from the mundane to the outrageous. While each project invariably presents its own set of demands, here we’ve asked designers to share their most challenging or unexpected client requests and how they executed (or, in some cases, politely mitigated) the lofty idea.

Kulapat Yantrasast, wHY Architecture

Kulapat Yantrasast tackled CalArts’ Steve’s Café with a mandate to design a space that didn’t feel “designed.”

“We regularly collaborate with artists on museums and gallery projects, but the opportunity to create a new cafeteria for CalArts opened a whole new set of challenges. The goal was to design a space which didn’t seem ‘designed’ for a group of the most critical artists, alums, and art students who said that, whatever we designed, they’d hate and hack it anyway. Turns out that the café, which is now named Steve’s Café after former president Steven Lavine, is one of the most popular areas on campus and serves as a place where students and staff can relax, swap ideas, and connect on equal terms.”

Michelle Nussbaumer, Michelle Nussbaumer Design

A Michelle Nussbaumer project incorporated a 20-foot taxidermied alligator.Stephen Karlisch

“We’re based in Texas, so we’re unfortunately sometimes asked to hang dead animals on the wall. I literally had a client call me from the marshes of Louisiana and said that he had killed an alligator that was 20 feet long. He wanted to know how I would fit it into his decor. His idea was to have it swimming over an 18th-century Georgian buffet in the dining room, but I talked him into putting it in his loft.

I was also asked to do an Indian Lake Palace hotel all on stilts, and I was going to be responsible to find the engineer that could make sure the rooms stayed dry during the monsoon season. And I had a client that requested a moat, but that’s another story.”

Laurie Blumenfeld-Russo, Laurie Blumenfeld Design

A roof deck in Brooklyn by Laurie Blumenfeld Russo posed a number of design challenges. Laurie Blumenfeld Design

“My most challenging project was building an extensive outdoor living space with garden and outdoor kitchen complete with appliances, electricity, water…all on the roof of a 200-year-old Brooklyn brownstone!”

William Cullum, Jayne Design Studio

A plastic representation of the Roman god Janus makes an appearance in one of William Cullum’s projects. Jayne Design Studio

“Our client purchased a house decorated by David Easton, and one of her only mandates was that we had to keep a rather whimsical secret door completely intact. The jib door has a [Roman god] Janus herm—made of plastic!—decorated to resemble porphyry rock mounted on top.

This hidden door conceals a really tight staircase just beyond and is the termination of an enfilade of rooms. Janus makes a good impression, and certainly makes you laugh after you realize he’s plastic.”

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