Looking Forward to Monday Morning
A series of essays on business, architecture, and the business of architecture.
Curtain Emergencies
by Daniel Frisch
Posted January 28th, 2019

Approximately fifteen years ago, we collaborated on an apartment renovation project with a now-famous decorator and interior designer. The decorator and I had become friendly and we were catching up by phone one Monday morning when I asked how his weekend had been. He told me with some noticeable glee in his voice that he had just fired a client. I asked him to elaborate, and he told me had received a call over the weekend, asking for an immediate callback – the subject matter being a “curtain emergency.” He told me that when he called back first thing Monday that ‘unless said curtains were on (insert expletive) fire, there was nothing he could imagine that would constitute a “curtain emergency.” After confirming that the client’s house had not burned to the ground, he let the client know that he had chosen to be a decorator to celebrate the fun and style in life, and that perhaps the client might find someone better suited for her needs.

We take our work very seriously, and often find ourselves solving problems and settling matters with meaningful consequences. Project schedules and budgets are real and leave little room for creative interpretation. Building systems need to work without compromise. Client happiness with the finished product is paramount, and troubleshooting is a big part of what we do every day. Our entire business is founded on the quality of service we provide and upon the reputation we enjoy.

Notwithstanding, we can all take things a bit too seriously, and fall into the trap of elevating minor issues to calamity status. A punch-list item is less important than a systemic shortcoming. Paint colors can be adjusted through re-painting, leaks require the opening of walls. Our fist priority needs to be getting the walls right, and that which is behind the walls. Fine-tuning may make the difference between glee and exorbitant glee, and while (universal) perfection may be the goal, we try not to let ‘perfection become the enemy of good.’

To this end, we recently established a ‘priority list’ process in our office. Every Friday, our production team sits together and establishes our ‘critical path’ for each project, and who has the responsibility for each task. We will always get caught surprised by a ‘curtain emergency,’ we hope to be prepared and ahead of the game on a day-to-day basis – thereby giving us to be less frustrated when crises come out of the blue.