As a designer, it's inevitable - sooner or later you'll meet a client you just can't work with. It happened to me recently.
I won't get into details, but this client hired me to design her kitchen, telling me to pull out all the creative stops. But when I delivered a set of concept drawings, an early step in the design process, she went ballistic.
Her e-mail response was so filled with invective you'd think I'd just sold her firstborn to a travelling circus. In her view, I did too much and charged too much for it.
I'll admit to one big mistake: For a reason that still mystifies me, I didn't do what I normally do with projects. I didn't prepare a Standard Form of Agreement for Interior Design Services for both of us to sign. If I had done so, we'd have discovered right away that we weren't on the same page, let alone the same planet.
The agreement is a contract that specifies the scope of work, outlines what the designer will do for the client and what the client's responsibilities are in turn. Maybe my oversight was part of some big karmic lesson. I don't know, but my suggestion for others is to do some research before you hire someone. Just as ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, ignorance of the design process is no excuse to accuse your designer of nefarious intent.
To put it in a very small nutshell, here's a synopsis of how the design process generally works:
After discussing what a client wants, the designer takes measurements and prepares a drawing of the existing space envelope, locating doors, windows, level changes and so on. Using this drawing, the designer works up several concepts for a new layout. The concept drawings present options that can range from slight variations to layouts that are quite different from one another.
This is done for a couple of reasons: to allow the client to choose which approach she likes best and because it's rare that a concept can be implemented in its entirety without adjustments - some major, some minor. A concept is not a final design. That's why it's called a "concept" and why most designers present more than one.
After the concept development stage, the designer has to work with a contractor to figure out which concept - or which parts of the different concepts she has developed - can be implemented most economically. It's a collaborative effort to figure out which elements of the available options will get closest to delivering the best product for the client given the limitations of the building. It's the contractor who reveals those limitations. The designer may be able to note some of them but this is where your contractor's expertise comes in.
Unless the designer is also a contractor, or unless she's clairvoyant, (and I'm neither), she can't possibly know what is behind walls or what the plumbing can or cannot be made to do. So don't assume your designer is the devil incarnate because, for example, she showed the sink in front of a window when the contractor confirms a problem with that location.
The fact that some elements can't be implemented as drawn in the concept stage is quite normal and should be expected. This is where working together toward a solution is important.
Therefore, a few tips for the uninitiated:
If you hire someone to help with a renovation, make sure the person presents you with a contract or letter of agreement you can agree on. Understand what you're hiring a designer for and, if you don't understand something, get clarification.
If you have a budget limit for design fees, tell the designer up front.
If you think you've been overcharged, discuss your concerns rationally. There may be good reasons for the amount of time put into a project that you have no clue about. If there's been an honest misunderstanding, the designer may agree to reduce her billing.
Try to create an atmosphere of collaboration and co-operation as it's in both your interests to deliver a successful project.
Finally, try to remember that, nine times out of 10, the person you hired is just trying to do their best job for you.