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Systems Matter

May 8, 2014

“What Do You Mean, It’s Upside Down?”

By Guest Blogger Ellen Walker

I want to share a story with you about systems and what happens when you don’t have them.

I have been working with clients for the past year on their brand new dream home. We selected the perfect wallpaper for their powder room with just the right transitional pattern. They loved it. The installation was scheduled and we were all excited about seeing the final results.

Imagine how I felt when I received a text from my client in the evening with a photo of the wallpaper and a comment: “We think he hung the paper upside down. My heart sunk, my throat closed, and panic set in as I looked at the photo.   Desperately I searched for the manufacturer’s photo online. My worst fear realized – the pattern was upside down.   I wanted to throw up.

I called my installer to inform him of the problem. Thankfully he had only installed 2 rolls. He couldn’t believe it, and swore at himself for not checking with me even though he wasn’t sure he had it right. Frantically, I contacted the wallpaper manufacturer to order more. Of course, the dye lot was no longer available and it was on back order for 6 weeks. (As it turned out, 2 days later I was informed it was now discontinued). Now I had to choose and order a new wallpaper, but the client was moving into their home in 3 weeks and we agreed the bathroom had to be finished.

I took several deep breaths before calling my client.   I summoned my courage and explained the situation. Thankfully my client has a sense of humour. He said his wife noticed the error, and she never notices anything.

My solution? I suggested we paint the bathroom so it would be ready for move-in. Then, when the new wallpaper arrives; we’ll install it, right side up. Naturally, I apologized for the inconvenience.

Here’s what went wrong. I made an assumption the direction of the pattern was obvious. Reviewing the pattern with the installer I could see how the mistake was made. We agreed we shared responsibility for the problem.

NEVER ASSUME (ASS—U—ME): Assuming makes an ass of you and me.

Here’s what not having a system in place around the installation of wallpaper cost me:

  • $2,482.20 New Wallpaper (Wallpaper cost and Time)
  • $   350.00 Labour to remove incorrect paper
  • $   415.00 Labour to paint
  • $   980.00 Labour to install correct paper
  • Priceless – Client’s discovering my error
  • Priceless – Hurt pride

VALUABLE LEARNING LESSON:   To prevent this from ever happening again, I now have a system in place in my Operations Manual. It includes a form for the installer’s benefit which indicates the direction of the wallpaper, along with all the other information he/she needs to know to get the job installed correctly.

I can laugh about it now, but this whole situation cost me more than a few moments of panic. I now know the power of systems!

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[button color=”primary” size=”medium” url=”” target=”blank”]Download Sample Form (DOC)[/button]

e-walker-author Ellen Walker is the only award-winning, Red Deer-based interior designer who specializes in helping successful professionals enhance their homes to meet their changing lifestyles and needs. Find out more about her at