Sorry, but have to chuckle here! 🙂 If you think your decorator sends you a lot of paperwork, all I can say is be aware that what you receive is only about 1/3 of what he/she gets in the design office “in” box!

Despite the continuing march of the digital age, paper still proliferates in design offices in the form of catalogs, brochures, mailers, personal notes from vendors and constant (minute-to-minute) offers for new products and materials. The designer (or decorator) has to boil all this information down, keeping the relevant and jettisoning the undesirable.

The next step in distilling the “fine wine of design” is to isolate and present individual elements to the appropriate client/project. When that doesn’t satisfy, the designer/decorator goes out into the field and takes pictures or tear sheets from the various vendors. Out of those choices She/he narrows it down to between 1 and 3 selections for the client to review.

Once the client makes a selection, the real fun begins. The designer/decorator contacts the vendor and requests a formal quote for that item. This can run to several pages that covers -in part- the terms and conditions of the sale, how long the quote is good for (usually 30 days), how much the item costs, any up-charges for optional finishes, leather vs. fabric and/or white glove delivery service and the like.

The designer/decorator then reduces these points down to “the basics” for the client in a “Proposal.” In addition to the nuts and bolts details, the designer/decorator may have their own conditions or recommendations to add. For example, if the item is not recommended by the designer (due to poor construction, long lead time or is inappropriate for the design) and the client insists on making the purchase, the designer/decorator may include a clause that states they did not select the item and, in fact, they specifically recommended against the item, thereby excusing the designer/decorator from any responsibility for damage, delay or personal disappointment.  Another example would be to confirm that YOU, the client, saw and approved fabrics or items of merchandise previous to this communication.

And here’s where the signing comes in…

Designers and decorators want you to pause, at this moment of greatest desicion, and understand that what you’re about to sign confirms a “custom” order (where fabric is cut or furniture is built to choices YOU’VE made); an order that will be 100% non-refundable; that you are aware of where your money is going; that you confirm you’ve seen the particular item and that you approve it wholeheartedly and without reservation.

This is a serious commitment.

Often a photograph of the item is included so you can visually confirm the purchase. Sometimes the designer/decorator will have you sign that as well. And sometimes even the back of a piece of fabric or the back of a carpet sample.


Our memory can sometimes convince itself of something we’ve seen…a color…a pattern…a cabinetry finish and that this memory is true. We get caught up in the excitement.  When the item arrives, we’re sure it’s wrong because we “remember” it as being darker, shinier, furrier, more contemporary or more antique.

So the purpose of having you sign these various documents (or sample items) is multi-fold: it provides and protects YOU with visual clues so that there are no mistakes; it insures that you get EXACTLY what you want….whether or not you remember between the time of purchase and the time of delivery; and it gives you something to compare to when the item arrives, should there be a question.

Multiply this process by 10, 30 or 100 items over the course of a project…and yes…you may find yourself under a Tsunami of paper. Just remember, these documents are there to insure that you are charged for, and that you receive specifically what you’ve asked for. They call it “specification” for a reason!

Happy shopping!!

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