This is How You Know If Your Client is a Good Fit

What qualities mark a great client? In this first installment of our new Pro Panel series, we speak to three home professionals about the signs they’ve learned to watch for in those crucial first conversations that signify a new client will wow them throughout the design process. Landscape designer John M. Algozzini, interior designer Collin Kayser and architect Karen Keating shared their insights in their own words. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Written by Gwendolyn Purdom


1. John M. Algozzini, director of design
K&D Landscape Management
Rockdale, Illinois

We have initial dialogue prior to consultation about scope of work, location and if they have seen our work on Houzz or our website prior to contacting us. If they are familiar with our work, we proceed with a bit more dialogue.

If they are not familiar with our work via Houzz or our website, we ask that they spend a bit of time looking at both venues and then call us back if our portfolio is consistent with what they want to accomplish. It might sound a bit ostentatious on our part, but it has been an effective tool prior to a site meeting. The last item of dialogue is economics regarding fees and budgets, which I usually handle face-to-face at the consultation.

Photo by Garrison Hullinger Interior Design Inc.

2. Collin Kayser, senior interior designer
Garrison Hullinger Interior Design
Portland, Oregon

  • The size and scope of the project fit within our process. This is usually revealed during an initial call or consult. Because we are a professional firm of medium size, we take on projects that allow for full design and allow us to showcase our skill set (CAD drawings, specifications, custom furniture). Not just something like picking paint colors or shopping retail.
  • The client has a realistic budget. For a project to be successful, we strive for a finished project with a happy client. If a client has lofty dreams but no budget, right off the bat we are already struggling to meet the client’s expectations. Sometimes clients don’t know what their budget is. But they must be willing to be adaptable — for example, listening to the pros to learn what is possible. Maybe it means upping what they expected to spend or adjusting their wish list.
  • They have realistic timelines. We can’t jump on a project and have it completed within weeks. Design is a process, and each phase takes some time.
Photo by TKP Architects

3. Karen Keating, president and architect
TKP Architects
Golden, Colorado

It can be difficult to distill what it is that makes a potential client feel like a “perfect match” for our firm, but some of the things we watch for are:

  • Good communication. People who think about their lives as they live them and can express their feelings and emotions about their experiences. Also, people who are not afraid to tell us when they think something could be better. Nonjudgmental critique is critical to an honest relationship between architect and client.
  • People who are observant, who pay attention to the world around them and analyze how and why different places, events, art, lighting, weather, etc. affect them in different ways. In our office we call this characteristic “absorbent.” It is a mixture of analytical and observant.
  • People who value aesthetics. People who may own some art or enjoy fashion or appreciate beautiful automobiles. These are not necessarily artistic people themselves, but beauty, whether in a mountain landscape or a well-engineered bridge, speaks to them.
  • Energetic, passionate, involved people. The charge of being around people who are doing, caring, working, helping, inventing, moving, experimenting is contagious. It challenges and stimulates us to be the best we can be as well.
  • People with perspective. Someone who understands that a beautifully designed home will not fix their relationships, improve their mood or care for their children. It is only a building and can only bring happiness and satisfaction to someone who is already a happy and satisfied person.

Clients who possess these qualities have partnered with us to create our best projects. These have been the homes that inspire us to continue learning, experimenting and improving. The satisfaction of creating the perfect match between a client’s dreams and personality and their custom home design is
the reason we love what we do.