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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The High Price Of Design Experience

And a great opportunity.

When I First started in the Design Business I was hired by successful Interior Designer in Manhattan. We completed installing a big beautiful brownstone on East 73rd Street    
( between Park & Lexington ). 
We had been working all day finishing this job, making sure everything was just right, and every piece in its rightful place. The project had turned out beautifully, all 6 stories were fabulous.

We were finally back at the office , it was about 7 PM and I was packing up to go home on this cold and dark January night. Just then my boss called me outside and hailed a cab for me, 
I thought to myself,  he must be sending me home in a cab & paying for it because I worked so darn hard .
When I settled in the cab and looked up to say goodbye,  he handed me a bucket. In this bucket were cleaning supplies consisting of  paper towels, Windex, Ajax and a toilet brush. 
I said : " What is this for ?" He said: " I want you to go to the brownstone tonight and make sure that the bathrooms are not dusty on the counters or toilet seats. And make sure the toilets are clean. "
I absolutely flipped out !!!  I mean, I was a little designer. Little designers were not supposed to be cleaning toilets. Were they ??
I said:    " I have never cleaned a toilet, I am not cleaning their toilets !!!! " 
My boss smiled at me and said: " If you want to work for me you will,"  and he shut the door and off I went in the night up 3rd Avenue.
I was so angry, and I thought to myself, what were my chances of getting hired again by another designer of the same caliber, with my limited experience ? 
Thankfully, I only thought about it for 2  1/2  seconds.
I knew right then that I was willing to do whatever it took to gain the knowledge of an Uber Talented Designer. Who , by the way, was generous with the answers to any of the sometimes stupid questions I asked. He shared his personal design rules, which he came by painfully.
These rules came about because of a few expensive mistakes made in his early career.

I learned something about myself, I learned how much I wanted this profession. And how much easier it is for me to take my false pride for a moment, and just put it in a pretty little box for a while. 
Life for me is so much easier when I move with the direction of things, and just try to trust a little bit. 
I know less today ( if you follow my meaning ), than I did at 22 years of age. For me learning never ends, whether it is related to work or personal relationships. 
And it has been my experience, that an open and willing mind is a healthier mind.     And as you might have guest by now, I scrubbed that toilet until it sparkled , and did so with gratitude in my heart.

I mean after all, did I think cleaning a toilet would make me less of a person ?
Quite the contrary.

 **swarovsky crystal studded toilet

( enlarge any picture for more info and a closer look )

Finberg 'TELLS ALL' in her blog of her Adventures in Design


  1. Anonymous08:11

    I can not believe a grown woman would admitt she had never cleaned a bathroom...

  2. dear anonymous,

    and you say that like it is a bad thing !!

  3. I love this story, Renee. I have a friend who's daughter had a similar experience in New York as a young designer! Hmmmmmmm...wonder if it was the same design firm?

    Love the crystal toilet, btw!

  4. Mimi,
    it must be a NY thing. LOL

  5. Wow. I am going to have my design assistant read this!
    All kidding aside, although I have never asked anyone who works for me to do anything like this, I certainly have done some humbling things as a designer.
    Thank you for sharing your story.


  6. brooke,
    yes, it was the beginning of my 'growing up'.

  7. Great post - loved the message. Your response to Anonymous was witty.

  8. This goes hand in hand with what I wrote my post today about installations! No job is too big or too small and there is definitely lots of cleaning involved as well as designing! Lol!

  9. Habitually,

    it's called pride in ones work right ?
    i know you know !!!
    there is no small detail left undone. no job too unimportant. it takes a lot of hard work to truly complete a design job.

    when it is completed,
    just the way we envisioned ,
    it is like our own great big painting,
    a work of art.


  10. Renee - What a great lesson to share. When I was building high end custom homes I was never too good to sweep out a house or clean a mirror just before I handed over the keys. If you take pride in something, you take pride in ALL of it, not just the fun or glamorous parts.

    Anonymous - When last I checked admit only had one 't' in it, like curtains.

  11. I like your attitude Renee and could not agree more about an open mind, xv.

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. i have recently deleted a few comments.

    there was far too much drama for my comfort level.

    love to all my 'buds '


  14. Anonymous21:11

    Are you a grown woman? I met you today and think you're a radical teenager, and I love ya for it! I agree with the others, it's your masterpiece, represent!

  15. oh paris apartment,

    you jest.........

    me a radical teenager ????

    just wait until our next
    Adventure in Design !!!!

    xx love ya

  16. No drama here - just an appreciation for an honest story and a little bit of work ethic!

  17. things that inspire, : )

    thank you for you kind words.

    it's been rough going on this post,
    i had no idea that a toilet brush could stir so much controversy.

    xx renee

  18. Anonymous14:58

    I do not mean for this to be a mean spirted comment in any way. But I did want to say something concerning this post. You seem to think that "to have never cleaned a bathroom" shows class and privilege. I see it as "to have cleaned a bathroom" shows respect and character. I think we have all had times when we needed to clean our own mess. I am blessed to have someone come into my home weekly and clean for me. But I do check my boys bathroom to see if this week, they might need to clean thier own bathroom. I did give my cleaning lady two weeks off for the holiday, with pay and I did not leave two weeks worth of dirt waiting for her in return. Just something to think about.

  19. Anonymous22:20

    Dearest Anonymous,

    I mean this in the nicest way imaginable,
    " Piss Off "

  20. I love love love this story! Great post! Bravo to you! I wouldn't mind cleaning that crystal toilet! Wow! That'a BEyonce toilet for sure! LOL!

  21. judith @ P.A.

    that toilet is a hoot.

    i picture it in dubai , under a prince's 'tushie'.



Thanks for participating!!

About Renée Finberg

I have been in this business since the age of 22.

I love what I do and cannot imagine my life without Design.

Design Challenges are great.

And because of those challenges

I have imported fine antique pieces from Paris,

Designed and Manufactured Furniture,

Created Fantastic Window Treatments,

And solved all kinds of spatial & architectural issues

With my unique style.

If I can't find it, I create it.

My rooms would make excellent movie sets.

I am a visual, tactile and audio sensitive individual.

Creating is what I live for, not math, not spelling, not science.

Just Great Design.

Just imagine how it would be if each of us,

If only for a few hours of everyday,We could be in a space that is our very own.A place that is exactly the way we want it to be

Surrounded by all the things we wanted to see,

The atmosphere we wanted feel, smell and the sound we wanted to listen to.

Private Paradise



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