Thursday, July 18, 2019

Get ready for it....Interior design for MEN

It's safe to say that men WANT an attractive home, like all people do, but often don't know how to attain it.  They can be out of their element when shopping for things that are non-essential, like accent furniture and decor.  Common questions include:  Where do I go for help?  Is it bad that I don't know what I want?  What is popular right now?  Can I have something that both looks good AND is comfortable?  Can I have a professionally decorated home without a lot of chintzy accessories?  What is feasible within my budget?

Most bachelors, I have observed, have little to no interest in exploring the millions of home decor options, and are too busy to visit stores, debate over selections, and handle deliveries.  Most work full time, and many commute to their job, even further limiting their free time to focus on more important things, like sleeping, socializing, and let's face it, the occasional binge on Netflix.

Another pretty universal characteristic I've observed in bachelors is the desire to get their home improvement project completed quickly and easily.  They like to set requirements, and delegate authority.  It's an approach that is contradictory to most clients I encounter, but in my opinion the most efficient way to do business, with consistent high quality results.

This is why I've created a new division to Judy Olson Interiors, called Caves by JOI.  Caves caters to the working man--the full time professional who doesn't have the time or desire to shop, but wants their bachelor pad fully finished, from top to bottom. 

The Caves advantage is our our full service business strategy.  We evaluate your personal style, listen to your requirements, create a plan, research products, make final selections, coordinate orders and deliveries, as well as arrange assembly of furniture, hanging of artwork, etc.  The homeowner has no research to do, no selections to approve, no vendors to call, no deliveries to receive, no issues to resolve.  We do it all, start to finish!

If you're a bachelor, and want to perfect the interior of your home, Caves is the easy solution.  Check out our website, or call for a free phone consultation to discuss the options for your project.

Or reach us via email.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Realities of Remodeling--Know your ABC's

I get several inquiries a year from homeowners eager to start (or finish) their remodel project, looking to me for advice and connections.  They often come to me with the impression that hiring or consulting with a designer will make their remodel project easier, and possibly less expensive.  That can be true in some sense, but the truth is that remodels are stressful and expensive.  There is no way around that.  You will be stressed, and you will spend way more money than you are comfortable with.  What does help is the ability to anticipate the problems you can and will face.  I’ve assembled an ABC list of tips and general rules of remodeling, for the first or second time remodel enthusiast.

A.  Apples to Apples-
            The first stage in remodeling is getting quotes, right?  Wrong!  Without a detailed floor plan and specifications, your chance of getting accurate quotes from various sources is minimal at best.  If budget is at all a concern, make sure you have a well-drawn floor plan, with specifications on cabinets, measurements, material types, fixture types, fixture locations, etc. before you start getting estimates.  This will help you get an apples-to-apples comparison.  This is where a designer may come in handy in the early stages.  They can help you solidify your plans, and save you time and confusion later on.  If there is one price that differs significantly from the others, make sure you clarify with that contractor/source the specifics of the design.  It is possible they may not have accounted for some details that others have.  This can also be an indication of their attention to detail, and you may want to rule them out entirely.

B.  Budget-
            Whatever you think the budget should be, it’s a safe bet your end expenditures will be double if not triple that amount—or more.  Don’t fight it.  Just be prepared. If going over budget will mean financial ruin for your family, do not begin a remodel. 

C.  Contractors-
            The bottom line is there is no perfect contractor.  Contractors today are overbooked, charging higher rates, are often late, can often no-show, and will make mistakes.  Like any normal person.  The best you can hope for is someone who shows up regularly, and completes the job in a reasonable amount of time.  All the research in the world will not give you the “perfect” experience. 

D.  Demolition-
            Do not demo until you have all materials and fixtures (or close to all) in hand.  The biggest issue homeowners face in remodels is having part of their home (usually high traffic zones) in ruins for longer than necessary.  This is most often due to delays on cabinetry.  If your cabinet maker estimates 4 weeks completion, plan for 6-8 weeks.  If you want to minimize the amount of time your home is uninhabitable, hold off on demo until you have your new cabinets sitting in the garage.  Also, ask your contractor in advance to tarp the floors and partition off doorways.  Dust will be abundant and is very difficult to control.  If you or your family have respiratory issues, it is best to schedule an extended vacation starting from demolition to countertop installation.  (a 1 to 2 month period)

E.  Estimates-
            If you are comparing the cost of different contractors or products, bear in mind the that the initial estimate will not be accurate, probably not even close to accurate.  If you have three estimates, and they are all within a couple grand of each other, you can probably expect them to come out about the same in the end, once you dot the I’s and cross the T’s.

F.  Friends & Family
            Don’t do business with friends and family, particularly if you want the job done in a timely manner.  Contractors (active) who agree to projects for family/friends usually will fit them in while they are working on other projects, which means regular no-shows, regular tardiness, and in the end, chaos and stress on your relationship.  Even if the price is lower, the stress may overwhelm you.  If you are paying less, the priority will be on the other higher paying customers.

G.  Guests
            Do not expect your contractors to work around your entertaining guests.  It is an interruption to the pace of the project.  If you tell your contractor they can’t come on a certain day, expect that they will switch to another project, and you may not see any workers again for a week.  If your kitchen or other high traffic part of your home is under construction, and you must have guests, put them up in a hotel instead, or better yet, don’t have guests.  Don’t schedule guests until your remodel is complete.

H.  Holidays
            Contractors are totally slammed the closer it gets to the holidays.  They are under intense pressure to complete all their projects, which means there is a higher rate of mistakes, quality issues, and delays.  No matter what, don’t start your remodel any less than five months before you expect to entertain family/friends.  No matter what the contractor says, remodels (done properly) will take no less than four months to complete.

I.  Initiative
            Don’t wait for your contractor to ask you what your paint or tile selection is.  Choose finishes as far in advance as you can.  Most of the time, the contractor will not ask for this information until they have scheduled the installer, which often gives the homeowner a week’s notice at best.  This means that they will be in a rush, more likely to make a mistake, and will probably not get what they want.  Quality materials typically take at least two weeks to deliver, and paint color some people can take months to select.  If you're in a time crunch, call a designer and follow their instructions to the letter.  But if you take initiative, make all your selections far in advance, this may not be an issue at all.

J.  January
            January tends to be a slower month for contractors.  They’re finishing up their holiday jobs, and eager to sign new projects.  This can mean more reasonable pricing and not having to get on a waiting list.  If possible, have your designer create plans in November and December (which are usually slower months), and get pricing by January.

K.  Keep tabs
            If there is one task that homeowners can assist with during a remodel, it is keeping tabs on the condition of items as they are delivered by the vendors.  Appliances, for instance, can take a long time to replace if they arrive damaged, and contractors don't usually inspect the items until install day, which can invite considerable delays.  Cabinets ordered from big box stores (Home Depot and the like) will be delivered in packaging, in which case you need to inspect them promptly.  Custom cabinet makers are more desirable because they tend to be better quality, and are able to perform touch-ups themselves, rather than go through a grueling claims process.  If something arrives in a box, open the box as soon as you get it (or pay your contractor to inspect it and remind them as things arrive).  Odds are at least one item will arrive damaged beyond repair.  Plan for it.

L.  Leaving the door open
            Contractors will leave the door/s open.  It is very typical and not something to fuss over.  They are going in and out constantly and it is troublesome to open and close the door--especially with filthy hands, or when carrying extremely heavy objects like cabinets, appliances, or marble slabs.  Let them do their job and stay out of the way.  This is one really good reason to remodel in the early springtime, when temperature is mild and your heating/cooling bill won't skyrocket.  If you have pets, you need to be prepared to keep them confined, or have them stay with a family member.  Your contractor is not responsible for your pet.

M.  Marriage
            Remodels can have a devastating impact on a marriage.  Couples can disagree on layout, priorities, colors, budget…everything.  One thing that can help is hiring a designer that will listen to both of your wishes and ideas, and develop a plan that blends the two in the most efficient manner possible.  When there is a neutral and non-biased party working on behalf of both partners, they will feel that their opinions are being respected and fully considered during the design process.  This can lighten the load of marital strain during the planning/design phase.

N.  Noise
            There will be NOISE.  A lot of noise.  Some stages are noisier than others, and some contractors are noisier than others.  If you have a team of workers, they may converse, laugh, whistle, shout, and you pretty much should just let them do their thing.  If there are individuals working, they may choose to play music, or they may be perfectly quiet.  It varies.  But one thing is certain.  There will be noise during a large portion of your project.  If you work from home, or are retired and spend a lot of time at home, just be prepared.  And if you like to sleep in, get used to being woken up early.

O.  Overanalyzing
            One thing that can cause unnecessary stress in a remodel is overanalyzing.  If you are an engineer, are generally indecisive, or cannot visualize, save yourself the time and hire a professional designer or interior architect.  They are accustomed to visualization, problem solving, focusing on the big picture, and weighing the pros and cons of all decisions to ensure a pleasing outcome.

P.  Potty
            Contractors, like all human beings, need access to a toilet at least once during the work day.  You need to be prepared to provide that necessity.  If you don’t want contractors using your personal bathroom/s, you can rent a porta-potty unit.  If you don’t want to take on that expense, make sure your toilet tissue is stocked and easily accessible, have a plunger handy, and if possible, provide disposable hand towels.  Most contractors are men, and sometimes, the seat will be left up.  If any of this will drive you nuts, just get the porta-potty.

Q.  Quality
            You get what you pay for.  With contractors and with products.  With products, like cabinetry and flooring, if you shop around enough, or have the right connections, sometimes you can find great bargains.  With contractors, if you cheap out, you will get poor quality service and installation.  Always.  If quality is a concern, call a designer.  They will have access to high quality resources and can make solid recommendations.

R.  Respect
            Contractors and sales reps are people too, and deserve respect.  You will find that if you treat these people kindly and with respect, you will get better service.  General tips:
1.     Don’t try to negotiate on price. If you don’t like the price, go somewhere else.
2.     Be pleasant.  Say please and thank you.
3.     Be patient.  Delays are normal and not always in their control.
4.     Be grateful.  Good contractors are hard to come by. If they do a good job on something, let them know you appreciate their hard work.

S.  Space planning
            Most people have no concept of space—what is possible within their space, or how something will appear in practice, rather than on paper.  Consult with a designer or interior architect when designing your new space.  They will guide you on proper clearances and efficient layout.  This should be one of the very first steps in a remodel.

T.  Time management
            Here is the biggest reality check of all.  No matter how good of a planner you are, no matter how many doctorates you have, you cannot always control the timing of your project.  The key to efficient timing is in drawing formal plans that can be referenced by all parties throughout the project, selecting and ordering all materials and fixtures in advance, and being totally flexible on when contractors are allowed to come and go.  One thing that homeowners seem to constantly fall prey to is completion time estimates from contractors.  The contractor will be estimating the time it takes to do the actual labor on demolition, new walls, texturing, taping, painting, flooring, and fixture installations.  What they don't factor in is the design process, the finish selection process, the 2-4 months it takes to get custom cabinets built and delivered, the damaged range hood that had to be re-ordered, or the tile that was miscalculated and is now backordered.  There are a million things that can and do add on to that "three to five weeks".  Plan for 4-8 months, or more, depending on the size of your project and whether you are pulling permits.

U.  Under-promise Over-deliver
            In the research phase, when interviewing contractors and specialists, you will find that some will be more positive, with the “should be no problem” approach, and some will be more reserved, with the “well we might run into this issue” approach.  While the “no problem” guy might be more enjoyable to listen to, chances are he will come across the same issues that the other guy anticipated, and your price will skyrocket after the fact, rather than be factored in beforehand.  The guys that bring potential issues up at the estimate stage are the ones with more experience, the ones you probably want working on your home.  They are the “Under-promise Over-deliver” policy workers that will be straight with you, and handle things safely and properly.

V.  Visualization
            The biggest hurdle homeowners face when selecting their materials and layout is the inability to visualize.  Before you get estimates or do anything else, find a good designer and have them create a plan for you, complete with 3D renderings in color, to help you visualize what your finished space should look like.  Have them select proposed finishes and fixtures for you that all flow together.  It can save months of stress and hundreds of miles on your car, and may be the difference between a mediocre result and a phenomenal one.

W.  Writing
            Get it in writing.  With any contractors you hire, you must have a written contract.  It should specify the scope of work, the approximate lead time, the price, and the payment terms.

X.  Xenophobia
            Like it or not, a remodel will mean strangers in your home, around your family and valuables.  There is no way around it.  The guy that comes out to give you a quote will not usually be the one doing the work, and the guy/s doing the work will not always speak English.  It is your responsibility to vet your contractor, ask if he has employees, or if he hires random workers.  If it’s a less expensive contractor, it is almost always the latter, no matter what they claim.  If you want to be able to speak with anyone who is working in your home at any given time, be sure to address this in advance with the foreman, and expect to pay a premium for English speaking workers (or whatever language you speak).  Also, in order to keep your project moving, you will need to issue at least one house key to the contractor.  Expect contractors to show up early, or late.  Make peace with having strangers in your home before you begin a remodel.  If theft is your concern, lock your valuables in a safe.

Y.  “You said…”
            If having someone contradict themselves bothers you to the point where you need to schedule an extra session that week, you may want to rethink your plan to remodel.  Remodels are a constant stream of issues, often resulting in contradictions regarding pricing, timing, and selections.  There will be chaos.  The best way to handle it is to hire an all-inclusive higher end construction firm that covers all the bases.  The more money you spend on labor, the more detail oriented you can usually expect them to be, the fewer surprises and issues you will be burdened with (not because they don't exist, but because they will mostly be kept behind closed doors).  Alternately you can hire a designer to perform project management duties.  But be warned, schedules will change, items will be backordered/discontinued, pricing will vary, no matter what.  If your mental stability is dependent on absolute consistency, don’t remodel.  Call a realtor or make peace with what you have.

Z.  Zeroing In
            When you focus too closely on one thing, or focus too closely on each individual thing, a remodel can be a nightmare.  The key is to have a firm foundation.  To start with, develop a strong overall design plan.  Professional interior designers can help with this—they can develop a layout and guidelines to keep you on track throughout your project.  Second, vet any contractors you are considering.  Ask for references, check Yelp reviews, use the NextDoor app.   Once you’ve found your qualified contractor or specialist, trust them.  Let them do their job.  Don’t micro-manage or interrupt them unless you sense that something is seriously wrong (like you ordered white cabinets and they show up in navy blue).  If you feel like there is a problem with how things are being done, call your project manager.  Do not associate directly with workers (unless the worker is the manager).  Call the manager or foreman.  Document what is to be done specifically in advance, so you don’t have to worry later.  Let them finish their work before you criticize.  And if there are mistakes, then at least you can point to the paperwork/drawings, and they will redo it.  Make sure you have a primary point of contact that you can rely on, such as a designer or project manager.  If you are an engineer (or highly critical), either manage your own subs, or hire a high end building firm, delegate complete authority, and take a two month vacation while they complete the work.


In conclusion, your first step should always be to call a qualified designer.  They can help you prioritize, formulate a design layout and theme, and give you some general recommendations on where to go for what.  And remember, if you hire a project manager, it will only be worth the investment if you let them do their job.  Listen to them, and give them the freedom to make your project a success. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Behind The Scenes- A day in the life of this designer.

Hello all.  It’s been a while since I did a blog article.  Things have been busy.  And yesterday I got to thinking of how I’m not busy in the ways many people might expect.  My tasks on a daily basis would surprise many, as they are often so mundane and random that it doesn’t make any sense how they would fit in with my supposed job description.

I strive every day to make my clients' homes beautiful, but in my opinion, the real job is to reduce my clients' stress.  A beautifully designed home is all well and good, but how does one really get there?  What is the actual process—what do I actually do to make things come together properly, and with little bother to the customer?

I can think of a million things that would surprise the heck out of people, but as mentioned, they are usually boring and random, and might make readers fall asleep if I go on about it for too long.  So I decided to compose a short story that features real examples of actual tasks I have done, for real customers who shall remain nameless and totally unaware.  These events have all occurred behind the scenes.  They are the essence of the world of Judy Olson.

So sit back, read, and prepare to be completely unexcited by my fun career. 

*There is a little light profanity thrown in, for the sake of realism.  My apologies in advance.


My alarm clock blared at an hour that was far too early for my night-owl lifestyle to tolerate.  My husband works the late shift, and somehow, after nine years of marriage, we still can’t bring ourselves to eat dinner separately from one another. 

We eat, usually around 9:30pm, 9:00 if he makes it home a bit early and I’ve somehow gotten around to making dinner for us while doing my final rounds of emails for the day.  We eat, chat, watch one of the few addicting shows, or a Warriors game, and then unwind, getting to sleep around 1:30am, on average.

I don’t know about you, but five hours is not nearly enough sleep for me.  I need around ten to be satisfied, but honestly, I could sleep for twelve without issue, if my screwy back was in the mood, and probably even if it wasn’t.

I allowed myself one snooze, and then grudgingly dragged myself out of my warm, soft, ever so enticing at 6:30am bed.  Winter was the worst time of year to do remodels in my opinion.  It still looked like it was midnight outside, and it messed with my head.

After a rushed shower, a rushed blow-dry, and throwing my hair up in a lazy day pony tail, I threw on some lazy day clothes, did a quick check on my emails, popped my meds in my jeans pocket, grabbed my half finished bottled water from the day before, and my typical luggage, and headed out.

I sighed as I emerged from the house only to observe my car, encrusted with ice.

Really?  Ice?

Thankfully my newish car had a heating system that actually worked, and I blasted the defroster as I sat there shivering, waiting.  I didn’t have an ice scraper, cuz this is frikkin California, and who carries an ice scraper?  Whatever. 

I blew into my hands to heat them before pulling my phone from my purse and opening the Pandora app.  Remodel season always meant a thorough workout for my phone, especially the Pandora app. 

I’d cut caffeine from my diet entirely when it started interfering with the effectiveness of my migraine medication, so high energy music was the best way to wake me up and keep me alert on the road at 7:15 in the morning.  Ugh.

The upside to leaving the house this early was that the school traffic hadn’t yet begun.  School traffic was annoying.

Still waiting on the dang defroster, I scrolled on my phone to find my favorite rock station.  Rock was the only way.  It woke me up, boosted my energy, and got my mood on track for the day.

“Yes!” I bounced on my seat as Pandora auto-selected “Shoot to Thrill” by AC/DC.  I turned the volume up to twenty three, and looked at the clock. 

Shoot.  7:30am.  There was no way I was making it to Orinda on time in rush-hour traffic.  I was officially late.  I got out my phone and texted Omar, letting him know I was running about 15 minutes behind. 

Running my wipers to expedite things, I waited for a response from Omar.  Nothing.  Oh well, he was likely on the road, and I didn’t want him getting in an accident just to reply.  I would see him there.

The windows were still a bit cloudy, but I shifted into gear.  My butt was freezing, as the seat warmer of my new car apparently did not work, and the manufacturer had issued a recall with a notice that they didn’t have the parts necessary to fix the problem.  What the hell?

I zipped out of my neighborhood as quickly as I could in an attempt to beat the school traffic.  I barely made it.  The freeway was tedious, as usual, and after easily fifty minutes in traffic, I took the exit and made my way up the nerve-wracking hills of Orinda. 

How people lived up in these hills was beyond me.  Yes, it was gorgeous, but damn was it scary to drive.  Especially when a school bus or a garbage truck came around the corner.  I praised God for my new car, with new brakes, and an engine with some gusto to battle the ridiculous incline.

At long last, I pulled into my client’s drive, observing no truck.  Had Omar come and left?  Had he not arrived yet?  What the heck?

I dialed the owner of the construction company.

“Ron, hey, uh, was Omar coming today?  He was supposed to arrive at 8:00am.  I just got here.  I texted him I was running late, but no answer.  Do you know where he is?”

“Should be on his way, if he’s not there,” Ron replied.  “Let me call him and check, and I’ll call you back.”



Sit.  Wait.  Sit.  Wait.  Screw around on my phone as best I can with the weak signal in the hills.

Phone rings.

“Hey Ron, what’s up?”

“Yeah, so Omar is on his way, he says he’s about fifteen, twenty minutes out.”

“Okay great,” I breathe a sigh of relief.  “I’ll just hang here until he arrives.  Thanks, bye.”

Sit.  Wait.  Sit.  Wait.  Count the minutes.

Fifteen minutes.  Twenty minutes.  Thirty minutes.  Forty minutes. 

Fifty minutes??  Jeez what was the hold up?

I tried not to get ticked off.  I had run late this morning, and was hardly in a position to judge.  But really?  No text?  No call?  No nothing?  What the heck happened to fifteen to twenty minutes?

I’d hardly known contractors to be reliable.  It was quite the opposite in my experience.  But still.  It irked me.  Every time.

I’d broken my neck trying to get here, and this jackass didn’t think anything of making me wait.  What had happened to common decency?

Relax, maybe he was in an accident. 

God, I hoped not.  Somehow though, I knew it was not an accident.  These guys were just rude.  Thank goodness the client was on vacation, touring Europe right now.  They’d have been pissed if the contractor had made them wait this long.

I’d encouraged the Roses to take an extended vacation during the execution phase of their remodel.  It was so messy and loud that it was truly in the client’s best interest to be away.  So long as they had a project manager, like me.  They would come home to a beautifully remodeled kitchen, no muss no fuss.

But that stuck lucky me with the task of commuting an hour every day to Orinda to let the contractors into, and out of, the house.  The Roses, while wonderful clients, were simply not comfortable issuing a key to anyone other than me.  And I’d agreed. 

Why did I agree?  This was insanity.  But people pleaser that I am, I agreed.  And I wouldn’t go back on it.

It will be worth it though, I told myself.  The kitchen will be truly gorgeous.  It will be worth it to see the smiles on my clients’ faces.

Frowning at the digital clock in my car, I counted now a full hour Omar was late.  I was just about to pick up and call Ron again, when I heard the familiar screech of brakes, in dire need of repair.

In my rear view, I saw Omar’s dusty white truck pull up.


“Good morning Omar!” I greeted as sweetly as I could, as I exited my car.

“Hey good morning,” he replied softly.  “Sorry I’m late, it was traffic…”

“No worries,” I smiled.  “I’ll get the door.”

Jogging up to the front door, I entered and de-activated the alarm system.

Checking my phone, I grimaced.  It was almost ten a.m. and I had to be in Walnut Creek in less than half an hour to receive a delivery for the Ericksons.

“Okay Omar, I gotta run.  Be back at five,” I waved as I ran to my car.

He nodded as he carried his plaster caked ladder into the house.

Ordinarily, I would floor it to my customer’s home, in an effort to beat the delivery team.  They wouldn’t sit around and wait if no one was there, and my clients were at work. 

My time window for the delivery was between 10:30 and 1:30.  Normally I preferred that they arrive on the earlier side, so I could better manage my time, but on days like this, with the snowball effect of lateness, I was praying for the opposite circumstance.  I wouldn’t get as much done overall, but I hated being late.  My client was counting on me!

It was odd that I hated being late, but was borderline chronic in my tardiness.  I’d heard that creative people tend to run late.  I wanted to believe that, since it sounded almost like a good thing, but found it difficult to pinpoint how that claim could be legitimized.  I was just a late person.  Late was bad.

Somehow though, I made it in record time.


No sooner had I parked in the driveway, when the unlabeled delivery truck pulled up.  I crinkled my nose in distaste.

My delivery company was definitely contracting out.

I detested when companies contracted out, especially when, as usual, the service people I encountered were less than adequate.

As expected, two grungy looking guys exited the truck, one of them trudging up to me with a clipboard.

He looked bored, tired, and unconcerned with whether I was impressed by his service.

But I smiled cheerily and greeted them both.

“Hello miss, uh, we have a delivery of uhh,” he checked his clipboard, “A sofa, two end tables, two chairs, a rug, and ahh, two lamps?”

Was he asking me, or telling me?

“Yes, that’s correct,” I smiled.  “I’ll show you where they go.”

I led the delivery guy, whatever his name was, to the front door.  Sifting through my ever more bulky keychain, I found the right client’s key, and let us in.

Quickly, I showed him to the formal living room, and explained where the items were to be placed.

He nodded with annoying indifference, and went back to the truck to help his co-worker.

Rolling my eyes, I ran to the kitchen to find a broom.  There was stray dust on the floor and I didn’t want the new furniture to just be set on top of it.

But in the kitchen I found no broom. 

Shoot!  Why didn’t I bring my broom?

I scurried to the garage in which, thank goodness, was a broom.  I shook it out a bit before bringing it inside.

To my chagrin, when I entered the living room, the workers had already set the sofa in place.

Wincing, I asked if they would please move it out of the way so I could sweep the dust from behind it. 

They looked at each other first, clearly both annoyed, but silently acquiesced.  Unfortunately, they did so by dragging the sofa across the Brazilian cherry floors.

I winced again, praying that they didn’t leave marks.  It was my ass if they left marks on these expensive hardwood floors.  Quickly as I could, I swept up the area, and asked them to please lift the sofa and put it back in place.

Looking at each other again, they bent and lifted the sofa from each end, placing it where I requested.

Without a word, they both retreated to the truck to pull the remainder of the pieces.

I shrugged in annoyance, and then stared in horror as I observed the prophetic streaks across the gorgeous cherry floors.

Shoot!  Shoot!  Shoot!

This day was not going well at all.

What the heck do I do?

I waited for the delivery dudes to return, my mind racing with options, solutions.  My nerves were hijacking my efforts.

Quickly I swept the rest of the area, so as to not encounter the same issue with the chairs or tables.

I was panting with effort by the time the guys came in rather expeditiously with the two chairs hoisted over their shoulders.

They were set in place, followed by the end tables, and two boxes that contained the lamps.  The men were preparing to lay out the area rug when I brought the floor damage to their attention.

“Umm, guys, it looks like you left some streaks on the hardwood when you moved the sofa.  See?” I gestured to the gruesome black marks.

They looked, and maintained an expression of indifference, but I saw a flicker of nervousness.

“Those were there before.”

“Umm, no, I don’t think so,” I responded, growing agitated.

“Yes, they were there before.”

“I really don’t think they were,” I insisted.  “See, how they are located where you dragged the sofa?”

I knew they were playing me, but I had to make my case.

The guy that spoke looked increasingly annoyed, and decided to stick to his guns.

“Look,” I said coolly, “Apparently we disagree on this.  What’s your name?  I can take it up with the manager.”

Not waiting for an answer, I proceeded to take photos with my phone of the streaks.

“If you look around the house, you can see other marks,” the guy argued. 

He strode around the space, in the entry, in the dining room, looking at different areas, and pointing out old scuff marks and small scratches, having nothing to do with my current predicament.

I felt my face redden in anger when he turned and started taking pictures with his own phone of the other marks throughout the space, none of which were black.

“Okay, look, just leave the rug rolled up there, and unpack those lamps, and we’ll call it a day,” I glared.

“You want us to unbox the lamps?”

“Yes!  That is part of the services you offer.  That is what I am paying for.”

“It’s not included.  We don’t do that.”

At this point, I was fuming.

“Fine, give me the name of your manager.  I’ll sign off on the delivery, and you can be on your way.”

With a huff, the driver went to retrieve his clipboard, followed by his assistant, who still had not uttered a word.

I was livid. 

When the driver returned with the delivery acknowledgement, I confirmed his name, and made some dissatisfied notes on the paper, taking a snapshot with my phone before signing it and giving it to him.  Giving me a final annoyed look, he issued my copy, and stalked back to his truck.

First thing I did when I went inside was call his manager.  Voicemail.  Oy.

When it comes to filing complaints, you don’t want to sound so irate that they are afraid to call you back.  And you don’t want to sound so blasé that they put you at the bottom of their call-back list.  And, most importantly, you never wait for them to call you back.

Once I’d left the message I immediately called my primary delivery company, the one that had contracted out to these bozos.  Voicemail.

Not acceptable.

I disconnected, and called a few more times before someone finally picked up.

“Nash Deliveries, this is Stacey.”

She sounded stressed.  I could relate.

“Hi Stacey, Judy Olson.  I just received my delivery, and need to speak with a manager immediately.”

“Oh dear, is there a problem?”

“Yes, unfortunately.  Long story short, the delivery guys left streaks on my client’s hardwood floors, from dragging the sofa across it instead of lifting.”

“Oh dear, I’m so sorry to hear that!”

Finally, someone who gave a damn.

“I’ll have to notify Steve and have him call you.”

“Yes, please, it’s very urgent.  Do you need me to send you photos of the damage?  I need this resolved today.”

“Oh, yes please, if you could email those photos to me, it would help.”

“I’m on it.  I’ll have those photos to you in five minutes Stacey.  Please have Steve call me immediately.”

“I’ll tell him right now.”

“Thanks a million Stacey!  Bye.”


Okay, step one.  Email photos. 


Step two, find someone to take care of these damn streaks. 

The delivery company sure as heck wouldn’t.  But perhaps they would offer some sort of compensation for my time, expense, and inconvenience.

Yeah right.

Where to start?  I was a designer, not a housecleaner! 

Call Matt. 

Matt is my handyman.  He’s not a house cleaner, but he seems to be able to do pretty much anything.  He is one of the very few resources I have that I can always count on.

“Matt! Hey, it’s Judy.  Look, I’m in a situation and I need a favor.  The delivery guys left some streaks on my client’s hardwood floors dragging a sofa across it.  Can you come by and have a look?”

“Aww man, I’m booked solid today Judy.  It would be next to impossible to make it out there.  And even if I could, it wouldn’t be til seven or eight pm.”

“Shoot, well, I guess thanks anyway,” I mumbled, disheartened.  “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Good luck!”

“Thanks Matt, bye.”



My favorite cabinet maker Dean.  He knew about wood.  If he didn’t have a solution, who would?

“Dean!  Hey, I am in a pickle right now…”

Spiel repeated.

“Aww that sucks Judy, shoot.  Well, it could be as simple as a little elbow grease.  Try a mild cleaner and water, and see if it will come off with a gentle rub.  You don’t want to make the problem worse by abrading their floors.  Try that, and maybe some mineral oil to renew the luster if needed.”

Elbow grease.  Perfect.

“Okay, I’ll try that.  Thanks Dean!”

No time like the present to learn about repairing hardwood floors I guess. 

It wasn’t the first time I’d had to put on my handyman hat, and as I grudgingly observed the unopened lamp boxes, I was all the more discouraged. 

Unpacking and assembling lamps I could do, but it was tedious time-consuming work, and my day had already been turned upside down.

I checked my phone.  Nearly noon.  Oy.  My day was disappearing quick.

My stomach rumbled in reminder that yet again, I had skipped breakfast in favor of that extra fifteen minutes of sleep.  But there was nothing I could do about it right now.  The job came first.

All the stress was wearing on my brain, and I checked my phone to see if I had any other appointments today.

Shoot!  I had a 2:00pm consultation in Pleasanton.  I knew there was no way I could deal with service recovery like this, and get to Pleasanton for a consultation, and back, and then back to Orinda to lock up after Omar.  There was no way.

I just prayed when I called the customer they would understand.

I called.

“Hi Mary!  Look, I’m so so sorry, but I had a few issues come up today and I won’t be able to make it to our appointment.  Can we reschedule for sometime next week?”

“Oh, I forgot about that, I’m so sorry.  I must have not put it in my calendar.  Umm, why don’t I give you a call next week and we can talk then?”

I frowned. 

She forgot?  What if I had driven down there and no one was home?  That would have been a complete waste of my time.

“Okay that sounds good Mary.  Just give me a call when you’re ready,” I replied, more concerned with returning to the grueling task at hand than being irritated at the lady.  It had ultimately been a blessing in disguise.

“Thanks and sorry again!” Mary ended the call.

Okay, time to break out the laptop and scour YouTube.

Thirty minutes later, I had four potential solutions to the floor streak issue.  I just needed to get to the store and hope they had the items I needed.

The Ericksons had a gorgeous property, but it came at the price of being relatively isolated from civilization.  Or so it seemed today.  It would take me twenty minutes to get to the store, and probably twenty minutes at the store, and twenty to get back. 

Maybe I could grab a quick bite while I was in that area?  Okay good, a way to multi task and keep my energy up.  Satisfied, I locked up and dashed for my car.


I’d been to three different stores and shelled out easily fifty bucks before I had everything in hand I would need—in theory.  It was still a coin toss whether any of these solutions would actually work.  I just prayed that one would.

It was nearing 2:30 when I pulled up the driveway of the Ericksons, the wrapper from my burger now crumpled in the paper bag on the floor of my passenger side.  My car was usually a mess.  Samples, catalogs, files, random crap, almost always a crumpled to-go bag, and easily four empty water bottles at any given time.

Messiness was supposed to be another creative person trait. 

I hastily grabbed the bags of items, and let myself in once again.

An hour and a half later, I had managed to scrub and polish away the evidence of the careless deliverymen.

Stop blaming others.  You hired them, you are responsible.


Sighing, I considered the two lamp boxes. 

Just do it already.  Get it over with.

I’d neglected to bring scissors or a box cutter with me today, so I improvised and used my car key to open the boxes.  It worked, but took a bit more elbow grease than usual.

Before I knew it there were Styrofoam bits all over the place.  And of course the heat kicked on again, the air from the vent causing them to blow all over the place.

Of course.  Of course.

I shook my head and looked up at the ceiling, reviewing the day’s events in my head.  And it dawned on me that no one had called.  Steve was supposed to call me right away, and never had.  Typical.

Brushing off the lamps, I was about to put them in their places on the end tables when I discovered that the two were entirely different colors.  They were obviously the same model lamp, and the packages had been identical, but they were different colors. 

The stone on one was brown, consistent with the photo in the catalog, while the stone on the other was more of a green tone.  The shade on one was more beigey, while the shade on the other was more taupey. 

They were not acceptable.  Jeez.

I grimaced as I pulled my laptop out to look up the name and contact info of my sales rep.  Finding it, I called, and surprise surprise, voicemail. 

“Hey Jerry, I just received the two lamps I ordered and they are different colors.  I need to send them back, and I don’t want to deal with any fees.  Please call me asap.”

Of course, having no faith in anyone calling me back, I dialed the manufacturer customer service.

“TJR Lighting Group, this is Diane.”

“Hi Diane, I just received my two lamps, order number 285777, and they are totally different colors.  I think they are dramatic enough in difference to be considered defective and I need to send them back.”

“Okay let’s have a look at your order…looks like you got the Harriet lamps.  Now the Harriet lamp is made out of granite, which is a natural material and subject to variation.  And if the lamp shades were made at different times, which they probably were, they can also be subject to variation due to the different dye lots.”

“Yes, I appreciate that, but this is a more dramatic difference than usual.  I can send you pictures.”

“Very well, just send them to customer service, and someone should be in touch within five business days.”

“Fine,” was my brief response.  At this point in the day, I was in no mood to argue.  The lady was correct.  Natural stone was subject to variation, as was fabric.  These were technically legitimate arguments.

But it sucked.

I hung up, depressed that I would likely eat the cost of these expensive lamps and have them in my garage for the next year until someone actually needed them, and of course I could likely only sell off one at a time, since they didn’t match.

This was easily eight hundred dollars out of pocket.  But the customer was not at fault.  The manufacturer was.

And guess who selected that manufacturer?  It’s on you.


I looked at my phone.  Nearly 4:00pm.  Shoot!

Looking defeated at the slew of Styrofoam bits that were now littered in vain around the entryway of my client’s home, I groaned before going in search of a vacuum.  I knew from experience that sweeping up Styrofoam bits was an exercise in futility.  I looked in the garage, where I’d found the broom, and thankfully it was there. 

Quickly as possible, I vacuumed up all the bits I could find, and dutifully took the canister outside to empty into the garbage can.

I felt water start to sprinkle on my cheeks.  It was raining.  And chilly.

Despite the cold temperature today, I was sweating like a pig.  It had been a laborious day to say the least, and it wasn’t nearly finished.

Knowing I needed to get back to Orinda, I ran inside and proceeded to lug the oversized area rug into the living room and roll it out.

I had just gotten it positioned how I wanted it when I felt a twinge in my back.

Shoot.  This was not good.

I stood, and assessed the pain.  I recognized it.  It was the pain that meant my back had officially had enough for the day, and needed ice.  And Advil.

I had no Advil.  And I had no ice.  And I had no time.

Taking a discerning look around, I saw the vacuum still sitting out, and carefully kneeled down to wrap the cord before lugging it even more carefully back to the garage.

I was about to leave when I remembered the boxes and the darn lamps.

It was delicate work getting the boxes repacked without generating another flurry of Styrofoam, but I managed it.

Now time to lift the bulky boxes with granite lamps inside and load them into your far too compact vehicle.

My back screamed at me, but I had no choice.

It was 4:45 before I pulled out of the Ericksons’ drive and floored it back to Orinda. 

Floored it as best I could that is, during rush hour traffic in the rain.  Californians couldn’t handle rain, or so it seemed on days like this with at least four major accidents throughout the Tri Valley.

In my haste to get back on the road, I’d neglected to turn on my Pandora, and I figured with all the stupid delays today, perhaps it would be better to multi task with some phone calls.

I started with Terry.

“Hey Terry, it’s Judy.  Say, I’ve been waiting on that coffee table for Erickson for a while now.  Can I get a status please?  Okay, just let me know tomorrow.  Thanks.”


“Hey Joe, it’s Judy.  I think we’ll be wrapping up the electrical soon, drywall next week.  Are we still on to install cabinets last week of January?  What?  You don’t have shop drawings?  I sent you the initial drawings two months ago.  Why would you schedule an installation before you even did shop drawings?  So we’re talking at least two weeks delay I take it?  Okay, well, can you send them tomorrow?  Okay.  Bye.”



“Hey Claire, I need your help with something.  I have a light fixture that only takes G9 bulbs and I need something with a 3000k temperature that puts out a lot of light, preferably LED.  Can you take a look and recommend something?  I’m really pressed for time, and I need bulbs the end of this week.  Okay, I’ll call you tomorrow, or if possible I’ll just come into the store.  Will you be there?  Cool.  Okay thanks!”


“Hey Larry, did those memo samples ever get ordered?  I thought you ordered them for me, but it’s been a month, and I haven’t received anything yet.  Are you sure they got ordered?  Yes, please double check on that, and let me know asap kay?”

My back continued to scream as I pulled into the Rose’s driveway.  Omar hadn’t departed thank God.  I usually liked to do a walk through with him before he left for the day, and it was getting dark quick.

Another downside to winter remodels, darkness influenced how late one could work…at least when a space was fully gutted and had no artificial lighting to speak of.  And sadly that was the case today.

Omar had a portable light set up, but it was still a very difficult environment in which to work.

“Hey Omar!  Sorry I’m late getting back.  Traffic…”

“No problem, hey I have a question.  I was looking at your plans, and the lighting layout you have won’t work.”


“Why not?” I asked, frowning in dread.

“Because the beams are running through here,” Omar pointed at the gutted ceiling.  “You say you wanted this thirty inches out, but the beam is there.”

Unfortunately lighting plans were usually a coin toss.  I had to be prepared to make adjustments on the fly.

“Hmm,” I muttered in quiet debate.  “Okay, umm, let me see.”

I took the plans from him and held them up to the portable light.  Glancing between the ceiling and the plans, I himmed and hawed over it before making a decision.

“Okay, can we start them at thirty six inches out and stagger them?  Like this,” I explained as I drew revisions with the dull pencil from the bottom of my purse.

He looked at my revision, and glanced back and forth at the ceiling before decreeing that yes, it would work.

It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best I could do.  The results would be stunning still, even if it wasn’t the original plan exactly.

“Okay Judy, I’ll see you tomorrow.  Eight a.m. yes?”

“Yes, and please, if you’re running late, call me and let me know.  It’s okay if you’re late, I just need to be kept in the loop.”

As he packed up and got in his truck, I did a walk through and made sure everything was in order.  Toilet still operational, lights turned off, faucet not dripping, heat turned off.

Then the construction zone walk through…

Omar had completed the framing as expected, and started the rough electrical.  I grabbed my tape measure and began the challenging task of measuring while using my phone as a flash light. 

I had to make sure the walls were being built as specified, so we didn’t incur any ugly surprises during cabinet install.  I observed the walls were the correct width, but the header for the doorway was an inch low.

After activating the alarm system and locking up, I grimaced when I saw it was now pouring down rain, and scurried out to my car.  I decided to text Ron now, and hopefully he would address the header issue with Omar so I didn’t have to.

“Hey Ron.  The header in the kitchen needs to come up an inch, per the drawings. They were built at 85, and I spec’d them at 86.  Please let Omar know.  Thanks!”

Big sigh.

Now home.  To check emails.

It was now coming up on 6:30pm, and pitch black out.  The drive down the hill would be spooky as heck and I opted for country, in contrast to this morning’s rock. 

It was hard to be scared when listening to country.

Twenty minutes later, I was an the base of the hill, and could breathe again. 

With the rain, traffic was still crappy, but it wasn’t quite as bad as earlier.  Forty-five minutes later, I pulled into my driveway.

After lugging my laptop case and purse through the door and tossing them on a chair, I immediately went to the freezer.  My back needed ice.  Now.

I grabbed the icepack and popped a couple Advil for good measure before pulling my laptop from its case. 

On the couch now, with my feet propped up and ice pack securely in place, I pulled up my inbox.

As anticipated, there were over a dozen new emails, half of which were junk.  And the other half of which were bad news.

Backordered mirror.  Defective motor in a client’s new remote operated window shades.  Status request.  Status request.  Status request.  Status request.

And of course not a single word from the delivery company.

After shooting out some brief acknowledgement emails, promising a response the following day, I shut my laptop. 

Nine pm.

Phone rings.

“Hey honey, I’m on my way home!  So, what were you thinkin for dinner?”


The end.  Sort of.

Thank you for enduring this small glimpse into my life.  The part that goes largely unnoticed.  The not fun part.  But every day I have no regrets.  I love what I do, and I love my clients.  The payoff, the smile on my clients’ faces, makes it worth it.  Knowing that I have gone above and beyond, put in my very best effort, makes it worth it.  The sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from overcoming defeat, overcoming challenges of days like this, is one that cannot be matched.