The Most Expensive Design Lesson I’ve Learned

The Most Expensive Design Lesson I've Learned from interior designer Lesley Myrick

The most expensive design lesson I’ve ever learned (and the most important lesson too!) is to trust my gut. Because when I don’t trust my gut, bad things happen. Like an abandoned toilet left behind in the middle of a bathroom full of…well, full of pee. A full toilet that I had to carry outside and shove in the trunk of my car.

Yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds.

“Trust your gut” isn’t just a cute, trite little quotable. This was a lesson that cost me real money, real time, and real embarrassment in front of a real client. (#facepalm) Here’s the story.

The Most Expensive Design Lesson I’ve Learned

For a bathroom remodel project a couple of years ago, I needed to hire a contractor for some last-minute help. I was trying to schedule this while I was out of town and my favorite go-to contractor wasn’t available.

Our policy at Lesley Myrick Art + Design has always been to meet with people before we hire them to get to know them and make sure they’re a good fit. It’s important to me that I trust anyone I hire on for a project and that they have integrity.

In this case, I was desperate and I broke my own rule of meeting contractors before we start working together (big mistake!). Since I was in a pinch, I was referred to a contractor by someone I knew and went ahead and hired him after just a brief phone call. I was skeptical – there were a few red flags on our call – but felt relieved that he was able to come through in a pinch. After all, how bad could it be?

Transitional bathroom with white cabinets and grey marble

What I didn’t know…

…was that this contractor was not even really a contractor. He was just a “handy” friend of a professional acquaintance who was struggling, and she wanted to give him a chance.

Had I taken the time to meet him and listen to the gut feeling I had about him, I could’ve saved myself a lot of time, money, and embarrassment.

So what happened?

This “contractor” did some demolition, electrical work, and plumbing – and all three of those were done wrong. Nothing was up to code, nothing looked right, and nothing worked.

I paid out of my own pocket to hire three new qualified tradespeople – a plumber, an electrician, and a painter – to fix all the problems that he had created. I felt like I had failed my client, and I was absolutely mortified!

When I met the contractor the first day at the client’s home, my gut told me that he wasn’t the right person for this job – but I knew the job had to get done and I was so focused on keeping the project on track that I didn’t tune in to what I was really feeling. I let my logical brain stomp all over my intuition.

And so, not only was the work done poorly and not up to my standards, it was done so badly that I had to eat the cost of redoing the whole project. For a brand-new business owner, the financial hit was painful – but it was the right thing to do. It’s the most expensive design lesson I’ve learned, and I will never make the same mistake again.

Bathroom vanity with teal accessories and marble countertop

Okay fine, but what about the toilet?

Before we wrapped the project up, there was the toilet.

One of the tasks the contractor handled was removing the client’s existing toilet and installing the new one we had specified. I’m sure you’ve already guessed, but of course the new toilet wasn’t installed properly and I brought in a licensed plumber to fix things.

But before the plumber arrived, the contractor removed the old toilet, left it in the middle of the client’s bathroom floor…

…and then peed in it.

That is what I walked into on a routine site visit. A used, disconnected toilet sitting in the middle of the room, full of urine.

I mean, can you even believe that?

My sweet husband (I owe him one!) and I carried that toilet out, and put it in the trunk of our car, and drove it away.

If I had trusted my gut,

I would have saved myself weeks of headache, lost time, and lost income. I also would’ve saved myself the experience of hauling a full toilet out of a client’s house, which is something I can’t say I ever want to do again.

Dreamy soaking tub by Lake Hill Builders and Lesley Myrick Art + Design

Trust your gut.

There’s going to be a little feeling, a little nudge – and it’s so easy to tune it out. It’s so easy to discount that feeling and not think that it’s important.

But that little gut feeling is what’s standing between you and an expensive design mistake. Trust your gut when choosing a designer, architect, or contractor to work with. Trust your gut when choosing paint colors (because your gut rarely wants you to have beige walls – you know it’s whispering for navy!).

Don’t let your design mistake be settling for a boring beige rug. Listen to the whisper and spring for the hot pink Aztek-inspired rug that makes your heart beat just a little faster.

Listen to that little tiny nudge, that little feeling, even if you can’t explain it and even if it feels kind of scary. You’ll never regret going with your gut.

The Most Expensive Design Lesson I've Learned