Why Jake Arnold Doesn’t Text Clients

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When I rang Jake Arnold, the AD100 designer was in LA traffic en route to a site visit. The distant car horns seemed like a fitting backdrop for our conversation, a sound-off on his current industry pet-peeves. The ever-candid Arnold opened up about workflow frustrations and client boundaries, as well as the processes his firm has implemented to help navigate them. Buckle up, busy readers, and prepare to take notes!

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Mel: To say you’re busy is an understatement. Shuffling between A-list client projects, numerous product collaborations, and helming The Expert, you make it look easy! At the end of the day, what’s causing you the biggest headache right now?

Jake: I think the biggest pet peeve for me—I mean, there are so many—is the constant need to pivot and be flexible. With clients, their lives change: One minute they are ready to move forward with the renovation, and the next minute they want to pause. You’ve designed a full house and then all of a sudden you need to pivot, and that’s very challenging.

I can almost hear Ross Geller yelling about it. Is this a pattern you’re noticing more now?

It’s recent, and more so with the clients who have multiple homes, so there are more options of where they want to spend most of their time. It’s not that the projects are on hold—it’s that there’s this time crunch mixed in with it. The design process becomes a challenge. I think that the pandemic allowed vendors to have more pushback on timelines than they’ve ever had before, understandably. But those delays require us to be a little less flexible. And our project timelines have naturally become longer to allow for the contingency in case we have to pivot really fast.

And your contracts reflect that?

Yes, all our contracts were updated at the beginning of the year to give us that flexibility—because even a few years ago, it was a lot easier to set a precedent and have some type of forecast. Whereas now, there are so many moving pieces that are outside of our control. I also now have a more robust kick-off with clients to set healthy expectations for everyone. The selection process becomes, “Here are options based on the timeline.” And sometimes, having the project on such a strict timeline can have the potential to take some of the magic out of the process. But healthy expectations are the key.

Image may contain Home Decor Lamp Chair Furniture Couch Rug Book Publication Table Architecture and Building

Inside Jake Arnold’s LA studio.

Photo: Jazmin Estopin

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