Best gift to give a client that generates the most referrals

Who knew that in all my years as an interior designer that the best client gift that generates the most referrals would be free.  It does, however, require a time investment.

My definition of a client gift was initially a beautiful item in the space that will make someone ask about it.  I gave these custom colored fused glass serving pieces as a gift to my clients.  I thought… hummm….what is more meaningful than something super custom for them that they can talk about? but I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t the best gift to give “for” me.

Interior DesignWorks White kitchen

Kitchen by Interior DesignWorks

It is up to you what you choose that is the best for your brand and the icon of working with your business.

1. Buy them something nice

Maybe they will have the gift set out so their friends ask about it.  <and your good taste>

gold megaphone

Spread the word

2.  Give them a super-secret design gift.  

This is where Three House Rules, the client wrap-up gift that keeps on giving, comes into play.

There are three simple rules I try to use for my house and my client’s houses.. and I spill it.

I tell them their house rules.

I do this at the end of the project when the client wants to go shopping for themself but they feel a little co-dependent. This can be attached to the bottle of wine, champagne… whatever that thing is that you leave with your client.

a bottle of champagne

No Pagne No Gain


Why give away the goods?

  • Shhhh, don’t tell anyone. 
  • This handing-off rules can help end a long-running client and it can just be the cherry on the top for someone to know how to keep things looking nice. It just works. These may not apply for your design but you could modify it for your aesthetic.
  • Make sure they are being let in on classified information.


  1.   You have 3 colors in your house that are your neutrals.  If you are out shopping for a note pad, pencils, file folders, a purse, kitchen utensils please keep within your neutrals.  Yes, I said your purse- if it is going to be out on a counter in your house or next to your desk consider it important. It’s your grocery totes, your le cruset, your toothbrush, and a doormat.  You should stick to your color palette.
Welcome mat

Welcome to the Designer “Know”

2.     No plastic no pattern…. really, if you can avoid it. Items with patterns need designer approval. If you buy paper towels and there are mushrooms on them or plastic cups from the BBQ place it’s over… your commitment to the house rules is over.  What color is your dog’s dish???  You had better believe it should match.  Is it plastic?  Oh,  hell no.  If it is– then welcome to redo territory.   This is also pretty accurate for labels as well. Any overly branded or logoed items are not an option.

3.   Items that are always OK! 

  • Real plants and flowers,
  • fresh fruit,
  • baskets,
  • hand made ceramics,
  • trays, bowls- container style structures that are not colorful plastic bins.
  • Jars, glass canisters,
  • natural stones,
  • wood boxes, branches, etc.

Spend one day looking at Martha Stewart’s kitchen and tell me if she breaks the rules….. how about Joanna Gaines?  these long-standing controlled environments meet the rules every time. Architectural digest??? 



  1. […] See the blog post for house rules […]

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