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.


  1. says

    Great post, John! Multiple Choice is definitely key — Dave can only handle so many options.

    To be honest, when my husband and I first moved into our place three years ago I pretty much ignored his wishes/tastes and decorated on my own. Sure, he had an ultimate veto, but his total disinterest in the process coupled with his very tight wallet made him very frustrating to work with. So generally, my tactic was buy first, ask questions later. If he threw a fit, I took it back. Perhaps not the best strategy for decorating together, but it (mostly) worked.

    These days, Dave has learned he better take more interest in the process if he wants a voice in the decorating front. Accordingly, we’re working together more now and to be honest I like it better. Sure, sometimes I wish he’d just “yes ma’am” anything I suggest, but the end result has been a house that’s a lot more “us” and a lot less “just me”. And it turns out that’s what I wanted all along (not to sound cheesy or anything).

  2. says

    I feel that i’m in a pretty lucky boat when it comes to my husband. He typically doesn’t care how I decorate. Now he has voiced his opinions a few times and i’ll either make a compromise to change it or persuade him with the give and take. He has a expensive hobby so just a few words about getting a new piece of equipment for him can usually do the trick. I think the one thing he expresses his opinion about the most is that he hates clutter and knick-knack everywhere. When I bring something in he wants it to have a home and not just a “i’ll figure out where to place it eventually.” I use the “I promise I won’t clutter the house approach” when i’m trying to get my way but ssshh what he doesn’t know is that I equally hate clutter. haha! Nah! He does know that i’m not a knick knack person so it all works out in the end. As far as buying stuff for the house though, if it is under $50 i’ll buy it if I have a home for it but over $50 and i’ll wait and see if the hubby likes the home for it as well.

  3. alexander says

    Alex and I at least agree on an overall aesthetic, so we don’t agree on major stuff. He has trouble with the big picture, so photos/drawings help me a lot when I’m batting my eyelashes. Also, it is helpful if I can show how it will improve how we use the house or increase the value at resell. With projects that he is iffy on, I’ve had good success bringing in a 3rd party opinion b/c he will listen to my mom, our neighbors, and our friend that is a decorator. Most recently, he balked at repainting the living room and hall b/c we painted last year. The color turned out too light, so we need to change it. I used a combination of the 3rd party opinion and am getting a quote from a painter so he won’t have to do it himself or help me. Will let y’all know how that pans out!

  4. says

    When my husband and I first got married, we moved into an apartment and he fought me on everything I wanted to do decor wise. It was just a tiny apartment but I still wanted it to reflect me, instead it was boring and bare. By our second apartment, my husband learned that I would not do anything overly fru-fru (like his mother’s house with flowers everywhere) and that our decorating ideas were similar. I still have to plead my case for some things and after a while, he gets tired of my begging and gives in. Of course, there are also times that I say ok and step back (like painting the spare bathroom pink). It is all about give and take.

    I must admit, I do practice the forgiveness rather than permission many times when I can’t get him to listen to my ideas, usually things like rugs and curtains.

  5. DCKate says

    Great post! Very timely to our home decorating timeline :-) I have two related questions I’d love input on (from you guys or other posters!)

    First, I moved in with my fiance a few months ago. He already owned a home when we met, and my lease was up, so it made the most sense. However, there are a few decorating decisions he’s already made that I am particularly not fond of (ahem-paintcolorinthemasterbedroom-ahem). How can I approach it without sounding like I’m insulting his taste (which is generally very agreeable)?

    Second, when I show him photos, as you suggest, in magazines or websites, he gets frustrated and says he has to see it “in real life”, but it seems impossible to get our schedules together to go shopping for things like curtains (which isn’t particularly an exciting venture for either of us). Help!

  6. says

    These are really great tips! My fiance is really supportive of my decorating addiction, and he usually really likes what I do to our house. But, these ideas are true. He likes a solid picture and baby steps. Often I just go for something if I don’t need another opinion. He will be on board when he sees the finished product! (hopefully!:)
    see our design dilemmas and projects here:

  7. says

    My husband and I dont agree on things alot either. I have learned to stop really asking because in the end, once I have the room done he loves it! But if we are out shopping and I say “Babe what do you think”…he will say “Its alright”….and I think to myself…well when I bring stuff home you dont say that..he probably just doesnt want to shop..

  8. Sammy Jenkins says

    In getting my house ready to sell, we were forced to decorate it (finally) — decisions HAD to be made.
    What helped was getting rid of stuff. My husband was more than happy to install closet systems. Once everything was put away and we had lots of lovely space — it made decorating easier, because now even the smallest things made a big impact. Take a look at J&S’s living room — something as ‘small’ as a new pillow makes a big statement because it is not overwhelmed by clutter and too much furniture. Less is more. And it it easier to agree on a few things – new curtains, a new pillow, etc. than it is to come to agreement on a suite of furniture. A great idea (from YHL) is to shop your home. I was able to redecorate mainly by removing and re-purposing/repainting and the difference was amazing.

  9. Jamie says

    I think my girlfriend has tried every single one of these on me but has mostly settled for #5. She kept talking about how she wanted to paint the bedroom and went so far as to get paint chips and tape them up, etc. I knew that any day she was gonna demand that we spend the weekend painting the room. Then one day I came home from work and she had done the entire room, start to finish, and put all the furniture back in place. The room looked great and I didn’t have to help, so as you can imagine, I was quite pleased.

  10. Missy says

    I can relate to this one. I had no idea that my boyfriend would care about paint colors, couches or rugs. But he does… and his taste is beige and boring!

    I am so envious of my mom and dad. My mom decorates and my dad goes with the flow! Gotta love that!

  11. says

    This is a great post! My husband and I pretty much have the same decorating taste. I am more of the creative vision and he is better at the execution of big projects :)

  12. Alison says

    My husband is usually the voice of reason (“do we really need this?”). So I usually come to him with a full plan, all the low-cost options, and a list of exactly how much effort it will take on his part. He usually relents because it makes me happy.

    This weekend, while sanding our cupboards to be repainted, he actually commented that he didn’t mind doing these projects because I helped out. If I just expected him to do all the work, it’d be a different story, so I think that helps. I think most guys assume that they will get stuck doing the dirty work, so pitching in really helps pursuade them.

  13. says

    I love this post.

    I am pretty lucky in that J isn’t incredibly opinionated on decorating matters. He knows I’m not going to come home with anything floral, pink, or ruffley. Beyond that, he just says “whatever you want!”

    I actually *want* his opinion, however. I don’t want him to feel like our house is a place where he sleeps and eats, but mostly houses MY STUFF. So, he’s kind of taken over the basement- he got to pick the couches and colors and such to compliment his true love- his giant tv, stereo system, and Playstation. I get to work around it all to make it feel slightly home-y, but it’s his room, and he loves it. :)

  14. says

    Moving into a 100 year old house that wasn’t designed for a 21st century family will teach you some valuable lessons about yourself and your husband. We’ve spent a lot of time evaluating “how we live” in our home as opposed to “how it looks”. We’re putting function before form with this old house as we plan a new addition with the help of an architect. It will include a master suite, a master bathroom, closets and a walk-in laundry room. I never considered closets a luxury, until I lived without them.

    Thanks to wonderful blogs like Young House Love, our old/new farmhouse can have practical function and beautiful form at the same time.

  15. says

    I’ve learned over the last 5 years that my husband is interested in decorating, but he wants me to ask him how he would like to incoporate his style into our house. His style is very different from mine: he’s into modern/modern vintage inspired, colorful, artistic, but doesn’t realy decorate so much as put random things in random places (why is Ang the avatar in my flower pot?). He is very talented with design, but doesn’t really implement his talent into “home design”
    I’m sorta shabby chic/country, with lots of natural colors and very organized. It’s been tough to combine the two, but when we compromise (or I should say I compromise) and find a way to bring both of our preferences into our house tastefully things come out pretty nicely!

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