I have found that unless you have a long relationship with a client, being given some specific constraints right from the start of a project produces better results than when you are given cart blanc or no direction. I always aim to design for my clients - giving them the home that they wished for but better than they could have ever imagined it could be. My clients house needs to feel like their home not mine.
A projects success is conditional on the willingness of the clients to be active participants in the process and to do their due diligence. By this I mean, to have thought about what the atmosphere of the finished space should be - before the project starts. A client's research can be a simple as having flicked through a few design magazines to help them clarify their preferences.
A great client is one who can -with prudence- trust and allow the designer to do their job. The results are always more delightful when you give a designer descriptive not prescriptive input. Clients who let their designer push them beyond what they might have thought their comfort zone is by allowing themselves to be introduced to new ideas, new forms and new ways to live, reap the rewards of senses thrilled, practical needs being met and timely completions.
In the end like any successful relationship, it requires mutual respect and involvement.
I am fortunate that my projects have allowed me to work with clients that have been thoughtful, engaged and open to new ideas and give clear feedback when design suggestions have strayed too far from their vision. They appreciate & value design and budget accordingly.