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…


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.






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