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

In the early 2000’s, we collaborated on an apartment renovation project with a now-famous interior designer.  Over the course of the project, the designer and I became friendly and when catching up by phone one Monday morning, I asked how his weekend had been.  He told me with some noticeable glee that he had just fired a client.  I asked him to elaborate and he said he had received a call from his client the preceding weekend, asking for an immediate callback – the subject matter being a “curtain emergency.”  When he (finally) returned the call on Monday morning, he pushed back, stating that “unless said curtains were on (insert expletive) fire, there was nothing he could imagine that would qualify as a ‘curtain emergency.’”  After confirming that the client’s house had, indeed, not burned to the ground, he confessed that he had chosen to become a decorator to celebrate the fun and style in life, and, perhaps, the client might find someone better suited for her needs.

I recall exactly where I was when I had my own ‘curtain emergency.’   I was standing on the first tee of a golf course in Hot Springs, VA about to commence an afternoon round at an annual outing.  My phone rang; the office was calling. Everyone at the office knew I was unreachable except in the case of an emergency, but should something truly important come up, to please call.  We had just finished an apartment renovation on the Upper East Side and the interiors were being installed in my absence.  The associate on the call was nearly in a panic; there was blood on the just delivered off-white Holly Hunt (very, very expensive) sofa.  At first, I thought the office was playing a practical joke, but when I realized the panic was real, I reeled off a couple of quick questions.  Was the person who was bleeding still bleeding, and was the injury severe?  Was the bleeding individual still proximal to the sofa?  Once it was established that no one was badly hurt and that no more bleeding was going to occur, I asked my colleague to call Fiber Seal (the company that treats upholstery) and to ask them whether the stain should be cleaned while wet or dry, and by whom (our team or professionals)?  Within minutes, we knew that the blood should be cleaned once dried and that hydrogen peroxide would remove the blood without damaging the sofa, and I returned to my pre-shot routine.  Even had the damage been worse, was the situation really any different than your garden variety ‘curtain emergency’?

We take our work very seriously, and often find ourselves solving problems and settling matters of meaningful consequence. 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 from time to time, 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 foremost priority is to get the walls right, as well as 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 strive to not let ‘perfection become the enemy of good.’