My, how things have changed! Today, we live in a society that is constantly celebrating, moving from one holiday to the next, decorating for each one while thinking of the next one or while buying decorations at a discount from the last holiday.
Every holiday is marketed far in advance. We plan and purchase gifts not only for Christmas or Hanukkah, but for holidays that are both secular and religious. The creation of special days to honor every person and position imaginable is fueled by how easily we are able to buy flowers or gifts for that certain someone. We even can shop via catalogs or the Net and never personally greet the person for whom the gift is intended. Free enterprise-and compelling marketing-has made all this possible!
Is marketing the sole reason for the onslaught of festivities in our contemporary lifestyles? Probably not. By understanding the psychology behind the party, exclusive of the marketing ploys, we can be more effective at meeting the needs and desires of our clients. This, in turn, gives us satisfaction and profit.
The Age of Information we live in translates into the Era of the Informed. We have changed as a culture. We are savvy. We know what is going on. Every day our skills and resources expand. We now can send greetings to anyone, anywhere, anytime. We communicate via memo, express mail, computer, fax modems, e-mail, telephone voice messaging systems and pagers. My four-year-old now listens attentively to my phone conversations, and when I hang up she asks, "Mommy, was that a message?"
Much of what we send and receive is anything but personal. Yet we justify it by telling ourselves that communicating without having to deal with a real person makes us more efficient, more expeditious. The pressure to be competent, to increase the numbers, to enhance the bottom line, has become so pervasive it is inescapable. Nearly all of us feel we could or should be more skilled, capable or proficient, even those who do not have to earn money for their personal or family maintenance. How do we go about it? We try to do two or three things at once. We make use of technology. We avoid conversations that are non-productive. We make every minute count, even while commuting.
But the real question here is, what of the real human being underneath the automated persona? Can we program ourselves right alongside the computer and function only in a businesslike mode? Do we really want to?
Even though we all are informed and living our seemingly 99 lives all at once, deep inside many of us feel empty, alone, exhausted and unhappy. We need real people. We even feel desperate for a real conversation that has nothing to do with current events, immoral or unethical politics, sports hype, investments or business. We want to reconnect with people and feel their concern and support and to lend ours. These days we have to make it happen because if we don't schedule it, plan it or decorate for it, we may forget it and miss the people we most long to see.
Celebrating in the Home
While dining out is at an all-time high, many people find public places unsatisfactory for each and every event. There are times when the atmosphere at home is the best, where people can linger as long as they wish, nibble on food throughout the evening, relax, unwind, visit and enjoy music, laughter and conversation.
Amazing, isn't it, that these things now seem like luxuries? Yet luxuries are justified today, and without the guilt once attached to them. The luxury of being at home is real. More than at any time in the past, people feel the need-the desire-to make home a place where all kinds of celebrations can take place.
Bringing family, close friends or associates into our home is a worthy pastime. Making memories that will last a lifetime is more important than many of the mundane things people do during the day. In fact, it is celebrating holidays, birthdays or other events at home that makes the mundane parts of our of lives more bearable. It is something wonderful to look forward to during the weeks that proceed it, and a warm remembrance after the celebration.
Celebrating the Home
The luxury of making a home beautiful so we may recharge our personal batteries is attainable for everyone. Even without guests, a home that is decorated for the holiday at hand is a very special place to be. For the home owner, host or hostess there is great satisfaction in seeing the home become more beautiful.
Ways in which we can help our customers enjoy the holidays include these suggestions:
• Be honest about fabrication and installation deadlines. If the order is too late for a holiday installation, don't tell them otherwise. If you do promise the installation will make their deadline, be sure to make it happen. Practicing the Golden Rule will bring more business in the long run and create a happier clientele.
• Suggest a bit of lavishness, which can include fringe or tassels and exciting or unusual hardware. Show fabrics with beautiful, rich patterns, colors and textures and urge your customer to consider a soft fabric treatment, perhaps over the top of an alternative treatment that assures privacy and light control.
• Suggest the window treatment be geared toward a celebration theme, especially for rooms where entertaining is the main function. A portfolio of holiday decoration photographs taken from consumer or shelter magazines can be a great way to plant ideas, especially ones you can sell such as table runners, mantle scarves, holiday pillows, table covers or sumptuous fabrics used in creative ways. (Make certain the fabricator can make them and have them priced before hand.)
• Give a gift with a holiday theme when an installation is completed and the final payment is received. A box of chocolates or other delectables, a special ornament, a gift certificate for a pie or a wonderful dessert, a discount coupon for a new product good after the New Year begins or a basket of fruit are all welcome thank-you gifts.
• Never assume your client holds the same religious views as you do. Keep in mind that your customers celebrate and worship in different ways at different times of the year. Respect their views and their right to their religious viewpoints. At the same time, at least in the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday is one that is fairly universal, so showing gratitude for their business then is always appropriate.
• If you haven't been doing it, now is a good time to send thank-you notes at the conclusion of a sale. Consider also sending a Thanksgiving card, or creating something on your personal computer that can be either a generic holiday card or one custom suited to their traditions, in which you thank them for past business in a sincere way. Doing so is sure to make a positive impression-and always include business cards!
The happy result of planning a beautiful interior and seeing it come to fruition is having it shared with others. Experiencing warm and memorable times with those who are most dear to us is one of life's sweetest pleasures. As we pause to express thanks for all we enjoy in this land of peace and plenty, it is especially rewarding to have people with whom we can share our gratitude. No matter how lavish, beautiful and decorated the interior, it is the connection we have with loved ones and dear friends that should mean the most to us.
Keeping life in perspective and recognizing that interior furnishings are our livelihoods, but people are our lives, will help us feel thankful all year long. Happy holidays!
Karla J. Nielson, Education Affiliate ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.