My husband and I have different aesthetics when it comes to house design and decor. He’s more traditional and I’m more contemporary. I spend a lot of time thinking about design and researching trends and he’d rather shoot himself in the foot than do that. I’m fine with spending a bit of money on house items and renovation because I value nice surroundings. He’d rather save that money or spend it on something else.
So, I know that some people are good with one partner taking the lead and the other simply approving final selections. And if you’re in a relationship like that, there’s no need to read any further because you have hit the jackpot!
But if you’re like my husband and I, we both want at least input from start to finish. And that’s where things get a little tricky given our divergent tastes.
So, what do we do? Well, sometimes it’s a battle Royale. Case in point, the office.
I had been dreaming of painting our office a dark, moody color ever since I laid eyes on that room during our initial walk through of the house. I knew my husband well enough to know that he wouldn’t like the color and would veto it. So, what did I do? I painted it my preferred color when I knew he wouldn’t be home for a while. The walls, the ceiling, the trim… the whole shebang was painted my color. And when my husband walked into the room for the first time, he hated it. Like with a passion. And, there were bad feelings. To be honest, it was a sore spot for a long time. But, would I do the same thing again? Well, maybe… I mean, it IS a beautiful room and he HAS come around. But, was there a better way to approach our different tastes and should I have tried another, better way? Yes, definitely.
So, after a bunch of trial and error through living with strong opinions and divergent tastes, here are a few ways that we work through our differences without killing each other.
We talk about priorities generally and specifically. It’s important to talk generally about how each person wants to use each space in the house. What someone might think is a great craft room, another might look at it and think, “MANCAVE!” So, define each room’s purpose together. My husband and I did this from the outset and with the exception of one room (dining room vs. music room), we luckily were in agreement.
Now, the specifics. I like to go around the house, preferably with my husband, and list all the things that aren’t working either physically or aesthetically for each room. Sometimes, it’s the entire space, like our kitchen which needs to be practically gutted. And sometimes, it just looks like a punch list with small to-dos, like the music room needing curtains. Either way, list it all out. Then, I like to break down the items on the list into MAJOR renovation, MEDIUM grade renovation, and SMALL tasks.
From there, my husband and I decide which project in each category takes precedence. I like doing it this way because if we both list the kitchen together as our only priority, then the only thing we’d be doing is saving money and ideas to start on the kitchen in a few months and other smaller, doable projects wouldn’t get done. This way, we’re tackling small, medium, and large projects at the same time.
If we’re both on the same page then pigs fly out of both our rears and we live the happiest life imaginable! But, that obviously doesn’t happen.
So, we bargain and it goes like this:
Me: I want to build bookshelves in the office so that we have more storage in there.
Him: The basement is a wreck though and if we had more storage shelves, we’d have more storage space in general and then you wouldn’t have to build bookshelves.
Me.: Well, I’m not going to store office stuff in the basement, but I’ll clean and build shelves in the basement first since I know that’s important to you, but then I get to build my bookshelves since I know we’re still going to need them even with a clean basement.
Okay, so rarely does it go that smoothly, but you get my point. And… you’re welcome for armchair couples therapy.
It really stinks when my husband thinks I’m throwing around money and I think he’s being too restrictive with our budget. That is a recipe for resentment. So, before we start on a project, we set a budget and try to stick to it as much as possible. We sit down and hash out a number that would be comfortable for our finances. And from that number, we assign monetary amounts to the priorities on the list until that budget runs dry. Then we have the same discussion again with how much can we afford in the budget for new or continuing projects and do it all over again.
Share Styles and Compromise
When I start thinking about a space to design, I like to go onto Pinterest or Instagram to look at what’s out there in terms of options. Ideally, your other half should do the same and both of you should share your ideas.
If your style is the same as your partner’s, congratulations, you’ve caught the elusive unicorn. But, if, you’re like me and my husband, your styles differ then my best advice is to defer to the partner that is more invested in the process and outcome. Sorry hubs!
If one party does all the research, planning, and execution of these projects, then obviously that person cares more about the outcome. So, it makes sense to defer to that person’s opinion. And, if that person is doing all or most of the work then the other person giving their opinions along the way sure seems like dictating and that’s never good.
I’m not saying that there aren’t compromises that can be made along the way but defer to the workhouse partner maybe 80% of the time. It’s only fair!
Present a List of Options that is Appealing to You
When figuring out what I want in a space, I like either making a mood board or at least pinning inspiration photos on Pinterest that I can later show my husband. If I say that I want to paint our room green and I don’t take the time to show him my “vision” of the space to explain why I want a green room, then it’s kind of on me if I get a veto. Same goes for my husband if wants something that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If there’s no explanation or greater vision, it’s a veto from me.
I also like coming up with a small list of options so that my husband can have a say in the direction of the room. Those options are all ones that I either love or at least can work with.
Case in point, I need to paint our bedroom and I know that we have vastly different paint color tastes (see office discussion above!). So, I presented a list of options that are on the light side and dark side because I’m not a big fan of midtone colors. My husband vetoed both options because he wants a midtone color (sigh…). So, as a compromise, I’m painting our sitting room a midtone color that I can live with and he’s agreeing to let me paint our main bedroom a light color. So, even though I didn’t get my first choice, I’m going to the paint store tomorrow to choose some samples that I can live with.
Designate Spaces for Each
If there’s really no compromising, you could designate spaces for each party to design as their own. So, for example, the primary bedroom could get a more feminine touch whereas the basement could be more masculine.
For me this is last resort when it comes to finding common ground only because the house could look disjointed if each were to stake their claim on certain rooms. Because I like my house to look cohesive (see a post that I wrote on the topic), it’s not an option I like. But, for some couples it works.
When all Else Fails: Flip a Damn Coin!
Yup, you could flip a coin! But before that, both parties have to agree that the coin dictates the decision so that each has to live with the outcome.
So, there’s my list of ways to resolve design differences! If there’s anything I missed, leave me a comment. If you found this information helpful, feel free to pin it to help someone else.