High-end Commercial?!

When I saw or heard the word high-end commercial, retail or hospitality design, I always laughed inside. I was fortunate to have the opportunities to design all these spaces mentioned above, and based on my own experiences, I have only seen really high-end residential projects, but for the commercial, retail or hospitality projects I worked on, they were called high-end, but actually they weren’t.

I had the chance to design a client’s own residence and his jewelry shop, the client demanded the quality of the designs for these 2 projects must be “high-end”. So, I proposed a super luxurious wall sconce for his 12K s.f. residence which cost 8 grand a pop, I proposed 8 but the client loved it and said I want 10. Meanwhile, I selected a nice wall sconce for his jewelry shop, with the retail project in mind, I picked an $650 sconce, and proposed 8, the client loved it but asked me to find something looks similar but less expensive, and I did, the new selection cost $500, he again said “I loved it! but is it possible to look for a similar one with lower price?” I replied “with the look and quality, the price is the best and it meets the budget, and I don’t think I can find anything else with this design but less expensive.” So, the client said “then find someone to knock it off.” I am the designer who hates people copy other people’s designs, so I lied to him saying I couldn’t have the sconce knocked off in cheaper price, so I had to find another one. The final selection was $450 a pop, less expensive, visible medium-low level craftsmanship, but it looked very similar to the very first $650 one, and the client was very happy and said “Good job! It is $400 saving right there!”

I totally understand where he was coming from, because if that project was a 300-room hotel, $5 less expensive stuff per room will generate $1500 savings, this kind of mentality for commercial, hospitality and retail projects makes a lot of sense, and it is smart and no-brainer, but if you call it “high-end”? I totally disagree. Well, maybe the look, definitely not the quality or craftsmanship.