How To Settle Design Disagreements With Your Spouse

Q: Please, please tell me, you darling darlings, that you disagree on decor once in a while. Please. My hubby to be is lovely & supportive but not terribly interested in design and remodeling (he’s a grad student right now, mostly he is interested in sleep/school). However, he doesn’t like what I pick out most of the time! It drives me BATTY! If you are feeling up to it, do you think you could maybe blog about times when you didn’t see eye to eye? Any tips on how to compromise in these design situations? I’d really appreciate it! Thanks for a lovely blog, you do an amazing job! -Summer

A: With all the decorating projects that Sherry and I take on around here, you’ll probably be relieved to learn that we don’t always see eye to eye on everything. Goodness knows that just because we’re married doesn’t mean we’re always in agreement…

kissing-wedding-picture-1

But we’ve ironed out a pretty good system for overcoming our decorating disputes: we don’t spend a penny or lift a paint brush until we’re both on the same page (so if we start on different ones, there’s a fair amount of begging and compromising to meet in the middle). Which means we’ve both become pretty good at pleading our case to one another.

Usually it’s Sherry who does the pleading because, even as involved as I like to be in the design of our home, I still fit some classic husband stereotypes: I’m generally resistant to change, I’m stingy when it comes to spending on decor, and sometimes I feel too distracted by work, life, whatever to give my full attention to Sherry’s latest project. So here are some tactics- many of which have been used on me- to help win over the husband who may be resisting your new design ideas, no eyelash batting required (well, maybe a little).

1. The Passionate Pitch: Detail your vision with enthusiasm, energy and excitement. Show pictures or sketches to bring things to life for your man (pictures can help men feel more in control because they’re more definitive than a bunch of words). Tell him why your latest decorating idea will improve his life (softer pillows for enjoying the game, a place to put his feet up, etc) and lay your heart on the table (showing him that his support and/or participation is important to you can help him feel valued). PRO: If you’re a good salesperson you’ll hopefully get the “if it’s important to you, then I’ll trust you” response. CON: If the project seems too big and overwhelming, it could scare him off due to the perceived time or money investment.

To further demonstrate this approach, Sherry showed me an inspiration picture when she wanted to convince me to forgo typical dining room seating and bring in a padded bench. Of course she assured me that our space would be a bit less fru-fru than the one in the magazine (and the bench would hail from Target or Bed Bath & Beyond so it wouldn’t break the bank) – so that helped too.

2. The Baby Step: If big design projects scare your man into decision paralysis, spare him the big picture and get his sign off on one piece at a time – a pillow here, a new rug there – ’til your vision eventually comes to fruition. PRO: He won’t realize he’s been helping with a complete room makeover ’til the very end. CON: You’ve denied your partner a chance to help shape your vision and sometimes a healthy debate (or three) can breed better results.

3. The Multiple Choice: Ask your husband to help find new curtains and just watch his eyes glaze over. But ask your husband to pick between your top 2 or 3 choices and you’ll find a guy with an actual opinion. PRO: You’ve gotten him involved without letting him steer your design plan off course. CON: Digging up a few options that you can live with requires a bit more homework.

4. The Give And Take: Get around his stonewalling by offering to give in on something else that you’ve been resisting in return. Want him to approve your dream couch? Let him splurge on that Blu-ray player he’s been eying. PRO: You can get to the decision you want in a flash and without much risk of him backtracking. CON: It’s gonna take some compromise on your part (and a bit more moolah).

5. The Exit Strategy: If your husband has trouble picturing the finished project, sometimes the ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission approach can work. Just make sure you’ve planned how to undo the things he may hate, even if it means repainting the entire room or returning certain items (save those receipts!). PRO: No guy can deny a project that has turned out well, especially if he didn’t have to lift a finger. CON: It may require undoing certain things and apologizing profusely for anything that’s irreversible (“sorry I demo’d the bathroom honey”).

For example, I went to work right after we moved into our house and when I returned home this crazy wooden divider was no longer in our living room. Luckily I was super excited that my wife took matters into her own sledgehammer-loving hands, but it could have gone the other way if she accidentally ripped up the floor while she was at it…

young house love living room

Now what about you? We know we’re not the only ones out there who are married and decorating. Do you guys have any other tricks or tactics for settling design disagreements around your house? Spill the beans!

Go ahead, submit your very own email question. Please note that while we can’t address them all individually, we will try to select the ones that commonly come up and answer them for all to see.

Comments

  1. says

    Oh boy, can I relate to this one!! Love my hubby, wouldn’t trade him for anything, but he is a little skittish when it comes to color and change. (For example, when we met his entire apartment was decorated in shades of tan. Seriously). Only recently has he begun to let go a little and trust me, and I think it’s because we developed a little “design bond” when we recently renovated our entire house. I love all of the approaches that you’ve come up with, and I think that 2, 3 and 5 have served me well. :)

  2. Christa says

    The hubs and I have similar decorating style, yet I’m very opinionated when it comes to particular pieces to finish out a room, or I may have a vision of what I want and try like mad to get our space there. For me, multiple choice works best. And I don’t have to dupe him on it…he genuinely appreciates that I’ve narrowed it down and have asked for his input, and I appreciate that he trusts me with the overall vision to make our home look great for both of us.

  3. sarah says

    my husband mainly has veto power on the decorating side of things. i do all the work and he can veto items if he really hates them. he lets me pretty much do what i want on the inside anyway since he loves what i’ve done so far and he takes care of the outside with his awesome landscaping abilities!

  4. says

    My husband loves to use tools. So, I have found that any projects that involve procurement of a new tool helps a lot!!

    Compromise ends up working out the best because then we are both happy with the outcome. In our bathroom, my husband wanted a faux finish on the wall and I was oh-so-opposed to that idea. We ended up finding a Ralph Lauren “finish” called linen… faux enough for him… subtle enough for me. We both LOVED the final product!

    We are currently working through the comfort/design balance while shopping for new living room chairs :-) It might take a while to find the perfect chairs, but it will be worth it!

  5. says

    I can totally relate…we recently bought a house and it’s been tough not choosing everything, considering I have a bery modern aesthetic and my partener Jennifer has more of a traditional approach to decor. We have learned to compromise a lot.

  6. Jenny R says

    #3 is definitely a big winner in our house. And it works for anything! When we were putting together our wedding registry, I picked out 3 or 4 different patterns of china, silverware, duvet cover, you name it! And all he had to do was pick out of those. That way, you get one of the ones you want, and he feels like he picked it out. I think the key is probably to make him think he had the great idea and that he makes the decisions, even though secretly you know you did both. =0)

  7. Rachel says

    I’m so glad you’ve posted on this topic! My husband and I rarely see eye-to-eye on decorating. He likes BIG DARK HEAVY elements and I like the lighter…more purple…side. Can’t I just have one purple thing!?! ONE!?!

    Anyway, I’ll definitely be taking so of your advice, particularly the one about multiple choice. If my husband’s really honest with himself he doesn’t care THAT MUCH about the decorations in the house, but he does like to feel like he has a say. I think this option will solve a lot of that.
    THANKS!

  8. christel says

    My husband is a nut. A sweet, loving, keeper but still a nut. If it were up to him our whole house would be painted red with black furniture. He likes big fluffy couches, chairs with those built in rolls, and nothing in a light shade! But you see I pull “Here honey which one of these two do you like? You always know what will work best.” And then voila! I have light colors, air furniture, and even a little toile! Sshhh don’t tell him my secret.

  9. says

    This post cracks me up! I use the “give and take” and “the multiple choice” quite often. :) Thanks for the other suggestions!

  10. says

    Wow, guys – I’m impressed. How long have you been married??? You’ve given some excellent advice. I think you can boil it all down to “honest, open conversation” coupled with a LOT of ***respect***. Respect is so key.

    John, my Sam sounds a ton like you. He definitely takes an interest in my ideas and the style/design of our (future) rooms, but his eyes can glaze over at times – and he can definitely freeze up when I start talking about projects that require a lot of moolah. I think he’ll really enjoy reading your perspective :)

    One thing – if you don’t mind. IN reading some of the comments, I just want to pipe up and say there is a really important, (but sometimes subtle) line between pleading your case and flat out *manipulating* your man. Manipulation is always going to be a losing game. I get the idea from what you’ve written that you and Sherry have a genuine respect for the other’s ideas and preferences. She’s trying to convince, *but* not backhandedly, and she’s not trying to fool you into playing along with something that’s purely *her* agenda. Like you said, you don’t lift a paint brush until you are both completely on board. Sam and I like to call it being “one mind” :)

    Again, great advice, guys :) Keep talking and loving each other!

    Jacci

  11. says

    I use the multiple choice tactic all the time. It works well but I find it’s still hard to give up the one I like best when he doesn’t pick that one.

    A good one also is to try to get him think it was his idea.

  12. says

    Oops – didn’t mean to shout when I typed the word “in” up above. Typo. And, I wanted to say that I think it’s sweet to read how other couples are working on getting to the same place in their decision making process, too. This is a very encouraging “build up your marriage” type post – not just about decor! :)

  13. Abha says

    When it comes to big decisions (anything that costs more than $50), I do all the legwork – visiting stores online and in person, wandering through antique stores, etc. – identify 2 or 3 objects I like, and then call him in for his opinion. So, multiple choice.

    For small decisions (the el cheapo ones), I just take them myself. He trusts me completely, and he knows that by the time I’ve bought something, I’ve carefully considered whether it’s something we ‘want’ or ‘need’, and where/how it will be used. Several times now, when he’s away on a business trip, he comes back to find new curtains or frames or cushions. He’s always pleasantly surprised.

  14. Dianne says

    A couple of years ago, we remodeled our Powder Room. He wanted a wall of DARK brown glass tile behind the pedestal sink. This certainly wasn’t what I was thinking (really didn’t work well with the house or our style). So I said “Honey, what about this do you like?”. I realized it wasn’t the glass tiles that he really wanted, but that we put tile behind the sink. Which I thought was a GREAT idea. So I found some marble mosaic tile (in a herringbone pattern) and had it installed on the wall. It looks absolutely amazing and we can’t both be happier.

    So I think it’s important to understand what’s motivating both of your decisions and the statement “honey, what about this do you like” works all the time. For both him and me.

  15. says

    John,

    Hearing you say this, “I’m generally resistant to change, I’m stingy when it comes to spending on decor, and sometimes I feel too distracted by work, life, whatever to give my full attention to Sherry’s latest project,” just gave me all the hope in the world.

    I’m recently married and am still adjusting to what’s it’s like to share my life with a member of the opposite sex, especially one who thinks cardboard boxes are acceptable home decor!

    Thanks.