Friday, September 18, 2009

Another Toaster

Eventually all my clients hear the toaster story.

One of the challenges of the interior design business is finding the balance between spouses.
Folks are emotional about their homes. When the emotion is attached to a custom built house costing hundreds of thousands of dollars,or several millions, it can get tricky. For some the house is an investment. For others it is the dream they have been working toward for a lifetime. Often the husband and wife don't have the same dream so the project is the compromise house. Oy!

When it is the compromise house rather than the dream house, the process from beginning to end is a lot tougher. Each partner tries to bring to the table the greatest number of components of their dream house to the compromise house. They are not always polite in their negotiations.
Often one of the spouses will try to entice my recommendations to their side of the table. I always explain my obligation is to the project, not to any one individual. I often am forced to mention there are enough choices in design to reach a decision with which all parties can live happily ever after. Sometimes I am forced to remind a client the spouse counts too. Oy!

If you are a blessed designer, you can navigate this issue without incident. Sometimes you are embroiled in the divisions of the marriage and not just the divisions of decision making. Oy!

This week I have received an e-mail from a spouse asking the following:
" is my spouse asking you to make recommendations outside our joint parameters?"

I currently have clients building a two comma here but who live half way to California.
He has an e-mail address, she has an e-mail address. They e-mail me separately asking for a nod for their favored choice over the spouses favored choice because they have ,
"agreed to agree on my recommendations".

In many cases, when we are all gathered for a meeting eventually an issue will crop up that makes me say, " Another toaster" under my breath. Sometimes I am not as under as I think I am so I am heard and then questioned. I have learned over the years to share this event in a way which illustrates the need for wives and husbands to not just hear each other but actually give thought and consideration to what the other is saying. Oy!

A decade or so ago our toaster died. Fine with me, I don't use a toaster as I like my toast, well, oven toasted. Blowfish prefers his warmed bread to pop out of a countertop appliance. Not a toaster oven. Fine, it is easy enough for us both to indulge in our preferences. So, since I do not use a toaster I did not immediately know the toaster was deceased. One morning when we were breakfasting at the same time Blowfish inquired if I was going to do something about replacing the toaster. I mentioned I don't use a toaster so he should just pick up one he liked, my only request was about color. I had no desire to have a school bus yellow toaster in our Kitchen.

When the weekend rolled around Blowfish invited me to go to a store to take a look at the toaster of his dreams. What!?!?!? He wants me to go look at a toaster? But I smiled sweetly and journeyed forth with him to look at the dream. Oy!

When we arrived in the appropriate aisle of the store Blowfish quickened his step and stopped in front of the toasters and grinned big. I looked where he was looking and saw an impressive line up of toasters. Blowfish was getting antsy so I asked,
"Which one did we come to see?"
Right off he was offended and waved in a general direction and said,
I looked again, trying hard to decipher the ONE.
"Show me," I requested.

The dream toaster was this ginormous appliance that I loathed on site. It was huge, I mean it looked like it could serve the masses on an aircraft carrier. Seriously it had 8 adjustable width slots, about a hundred different settings and it looked like it was designed by some techno loving sculpture school reject.
" Is this a joke? You don't really mean this thing do you?",
A whole new level of puff was achieved that instant. Oy!

I mentioned I understood he was in need of a new toaster and I was all in favor of us seeing to that need but one toaster man does not need ... Pointless. Eventually I made a recommendation to Blowfish about another toaster, which would not take up too much counter space and would make great toast. He was not happy so he turned salesman on me and tried mightly to get me to like the toaster of his dreams. Finally I said,
" Blowfish if you really want this giant, ugly, $400 toaster then get it. It will take up far too much counter space so we will have to store it in the cupboard and just put it out when you want to use it."

"That is not how I want to do things", replied Blowfish.

"What was the point of bringing me down here to get my opinion if your only purpose is to overide that opinion?"

We left without buying a toaster of any description.


About a week later I came back from an out of state project only to discover the Blowfish dream toaster squatting in my Kitchen. I just thought it was huge on the store shelf. It looked like it had grown even bigger sitting on my counter. And uglier. While I was recovering from the shock Blowfish arrived in the kitchen all smiles and said, " See, it looks great in here! You have to admit Fishy, this time I was right and you just need to listen to me more often."

I had a tremendous urge to swat that monster to the floor and kick the scribble out of it.
I reminded myself I had said to bring it home if that was what he really wanted. I reminded myself Blowfish was standing in front of me looking proud and happy, maybe even in love with that thing on the counter. I reminded myself it was just a damn toaster. A damn big toaster.
So I summoned a smile and said,

"How's the toast?"


Aunty Belle said...


Blowfish jes' wanted a toaster he could drive to an from work.

Fer me an' Uncle, a his an hers garage would be the ticket--mebbe the Pond needs his an hers kitchens.

fishy said...

Mebbe you is right! Seriously I think that damn toaster is bigger than Mermaids first tricycle. Our Kitchen status here at the Pond is also complicated by the fact one of us is right handed and the other ain't. Oy!

About those buggy barns .... I have had clients who required his and her garages on opposite sides of the house. One even had a shower, closet and stacked washer/dryer in his buggy barn so he and his hunting clothes did not set foot into her house.

One day I need to write a book about all the funny requests and compromises necessary in this business. Oy!

Jenny said...

I love your tag at the end, too. GREAT story and I applaud you for allowing the toaster, because I think I may have "accidently" swatted that thing to the floor the moment he was gone from the room. Mr. Boxer and I also battled over a toaster I bought years ago for the beach house. I won, it stayed, but I wish I had let him pick out the "right" one because nearly 10 years later he still complains about it.

And you know what? He's right, it's a terrible toaster, but it looks GREAT (toasts terribly) and I'm not going to ever tell him he's right. :-)

(P.S. The biggest fights of our marriage were during our remodel)

Pam said...

A classic case of picking your battles. If he loves it and makes him happy, then that makes you happy, I'm sure. I wish you would come help my hubby with his newly established "Man Cave". It needs help that doesn't come from me!

fishy said...

I won't tell!
I am not surprised to see you state the remodel @ your place was stressful to the relationship. It is especially difficult when you live on the construction site too. I have developed over the years an arsenal of techniques to assist couples thru this process. One is a funny version of the toaster story to ease the tensions while I affirm a couples ability to work through a challenge with grace. Sometimes I have to sort of stare them down and say, " This is a $9,000.00 decision, I think your best option is to ...." Somehow when you quantify the divide in a monetary format it smacks their attention off the personal and onto the design issue. Oy!

AWESOME decision on your part to stay away from the man cave project. Is it going to be Sooner World? My only recommendation would be to mention the "Less is more" principal. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with admiring the environment of a great Ralph Lauren Men's Shop while out with Hubby and casually mentioning how much you would enjoy him having a similar vibe.

Buzz Kill said...

The Mrs and I have had the Toaster Battle too. We had a 2-slice toaster that wasn't geting it done on Sunday mornings when I was cooking for 4 of us. Sometimes more if the boy had buddies (AKA the locusts) sleep over. I complained and she told me to go get a new one. So I went to the local Khol's and got a nice, stainless steel, 4-slice with a bunch of settings (like defrost, 10browning levels, etc). Her one complaint at the time was the size (it was easily twice the size as the old one). We rearranged the counter top and all is well - sort of. Years later she read an article on "vampire electricity" and started unplugging the toaster when we weren't using it - losing my program settings everytime. I've learned to live with it.
The point here (I think) is that there is always room for compromise.
Your problem with customers is a little different because you're not in the relationship and have to remain a neutral party. I think all you can do is remind each party of that and not cave in. Easier said than done I'm sure.

chickory said...

LOL! what a great story. ive got a tip for ya fishy. im reasonably sure that V will never come here so i can tell this story.

when our house was burglarized? i was the first on the scene. after the police left i realized there was a silver lining to this sad event. i threw out all the toasters. grherhahaha

and i did smile.

one of the things thrown out was a leather cowboy hat in some kind of hideous cross between maroon and red georgia clay. he talks about it all the time

"if i ever catch anybody wearing that hat im gonna...."

as if! is there another moron on the planet that would don that travesty of dead cow hide.

i just look out the window and maintain a neutral face.

fishy said...

Send me your address, I assure you I can provide THE toaster of sufficient scope to handle the locusts!
What is "Vampire Electricity"?

Chickory, damn girl you made me spray tea all over my screen!
I LOVE your silver lining "tip". Now I am giggling my way thru various scenarios of how to organize the great toaster theft at the Pond.

Seriously Mr. Chickory wasn't suspicious that his favorite hat and the toaster(s) were targeted?
I have visions of you staring out the window with a smile. Maybe I need to practice that.

I am finding the commonality of the toaster wars at the Pond and with the Boxer, Buzz and K9 families a stitch. Who knew something as ordinary as a toaster would be the genesis of all this conflict?

chickory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chickory said...

yes. somewhere some dirty burglar is making toast with a burn hole in the center of the bread with V's beloved and unevenly toasting malfunctioning toaster. damn thing also littered crumbs all over the counter. oh fishy. i have been so so bad. you wouldnt believe all the crap those burglars took! ;-)
hee hee

(at least i didnt beat the toaster down with a baseball bat like i did with the beep beep beeping smoke detector whose battery was dying -that V had somehow fixed it where i could not get the cover off and replace the battery.)

that was me above btw. there were too many typos even for me to let stand.

Doom said...

Wow. About several things. First it is good to know, by all the questioning of whether a spouse is finagling your bias, that my paranoia is not singular. Second, after reading this tale, I am amazed at women. Though one wife is very naughty (rightly?). Anyway. Both the read and the comments have been quite a joy.

Yeah, I am taking notes just in case some woman sees me as a deer in the road and runs me over like a hick in a pickup with a marriage license.

fishy said...

Doom ... paranoia? Why?

Doom said...

Paranoia? Oh, because the spouses did not trust each other. And they were sort of seeing if you were favoring the other. That is about as serious as my paranoia gets too. But without a spouse, currently, it is difficult to compare notes other than when I see someone write them. Like, well, you.

fishy said...

I absolutely do find trust is becoming less prevalent in relationships of all types. It isn't just between spouses, we no longer trust newspapers, or school boards, politicians at every level, banks, ministers, even police and firemen.

Sadly, I do find there is a bit of
" I had to do what I had to do"
mantra of justification for the sneaky behaviors generated by an inability to resolve the genesis of their issues on trust.

On the other hand, Blowfish's horrid toaster is still here at the Pond. Although, I do admit I have wished more than once I had swatted the thing to the floor and kicked the scribble out of it!

Buzz Kill said...

Vampire Electricity is also known as vampire power. Basically its power consumed by electronics that are not in use, like my toaster, coffee pot, computer etc. Here's a more detailed explanation:

The Mrs thinks this is why our electric bill is so high. Not the boy leaving his computer, Xbox and TV on 24/7.

Jenny said...

bwahahahahahahah to Chickory.