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  • Writer's pictureRenate Ruby

What is curation worth?

Are the items you select more valuable than the one's you don't select?

Let's say you are looking for lamps for a project, and there are 10 lamps all with a cost of goods of about $1000. Out of context, they all have the same value... right?

Now - only one of those lamps is right for your project and the rest of them are wrong for the project. One makes the project sing, and the others are just off, making the rest of the design worse.

Why would you sell the right lamp for the same price as the wrong lamp?

Well, you wouldn't sell the wrong lamp at all.....but that lamp that is right for your project is wrong for others, so only in the context of this project is that the right lamp.

I argue that the act of selecting that lamp makes it more valuable.

You are an interior designer. You have trained and practiced taste. You are curating that lamp by selecting it. By putting it into your design, it has become more valuable. In some ways, you are branding it.

EJ Victor made the furniture for both Ralph Lauren and Kelly Wearstler for a few years. I visited the factory in Morganton NC and saw first hand KW pieces made right next to RL with the same materials and the same techniques as the regular product line in EJ Victor's catalogue - so why did the KW product sell for so much more? It cost the same to produce....however, Kelly Werstler is brilliant in how she adds value to items. The price of the items she includes in her brand - and everything she does to create her brand add value to everything she touches. The cost of production is the same - but the value is more.

Home furnishings are not commodities. All are not equal and the context they are placed within alters their perceived value.

Why do interior designers sell the elements to install their designs at a set percentage above their cost of goods? From my perspective this is not selling the item for what it is worth, but for what it cost.

We wonder why our customers shop us looking for lower prices on items. Might it be that we as an industry don't do a good enough job of talking about the value of curation?

You can buy groceries, or you can go to a restaurant and have a lovely soup. I argue that interior design is soup, not groceries.

When (for example) that parsley goes into that soup it is transformed into something else, so why would the chef make a list of the cost of the ingredients, charge a fee for the time it took to cook the soup and allow diners to line item approve all the elements? It doesn't matter if you like or don't like parsley on it's own - the soup needs parsley to be the soup the chef imagined. Without the parsley (and really, on it's own parsley is really awful) the soup is not the same soup the chef designed and the diner paid for. Without the parsley it's a lesser soup.

The next time a client wants to find an element of your design at a lower price, remember that by selecting that item YOU have made it valuable in this context and you deserve to charge for that added value.

Yes, you charge for your design. Yes, you charge for the time it takes to communicate and translate your design to the people responsible to approve, build and provide elements of that design, but you also have added value to each and every item you select for the design

Let's talk about this. Do you agree? Do you disagree? It's a great topic of conversation.

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