Of all the disagreements you could have with your significant other – over spending habits, household chores, or even what restaurant to go to – sparring over interior design doesn’t seem high on the list. Yet home décor can be a real sticking point for many couples, no matter if they’re newlyweds just moving into a house, or a longtime married couple looking for a renovation.
You might not realize just how much you hate your spouse’s choice in wall decorations; or maybe you love your old, upholstered ottoman, but your spouse would rather see it on the curb.
The fact is, if you’re sharing a home together, the design decisions can’t be made by one-half of the relationship. How do you find a happy medium? As with most conflicts in a marriage, the key is to communicate, and to know when to compromise.
There can be an astounding amount of emotions involved in decorating or renovating together, so here’s how you can keep a level head and end up with a home you both love.
Set Expectations and Objectives
It all starts with communication. Before you grab any paint swatches, have a discussion about what you both want to see out of the finished product. What color and patterns do you want to use, and in which spaces? Where are you going to put furniture – and do you have enough room for everything you both want?
Whatever you do, don’t skip this step. Even if your spouse swears that they’ll leave it up to you, and that they don’t care what furniture and paint colors you choose, both of you may end up being unpleasantly surprised later. Setting expectations about the basics — color, pattern, layout, and furniture — is the key to getting off on the right foot. This way, even if one of you will be taking the reins on most of the decorating, the other won’t feel shocked or appalled when they see the end result.
It’s also vital that you take inventory of what furniture and décor you currently own – especially if you’re combining two households – and determine what will stay in the “combined house” and what will go. There may need to be some give and take, in order to keep both sides feeling represented in the final product. Try to respect your partner if they’re dead set on keeping that beat-up old chair, or a tacky-looking mirror. If there’s too much of one person’s opinion in the home décor, the other might end up not feeling like it’s their home as well.
Decide on a Budget
Few things eat away at a marriage more than financial stress, and the costs of decorating or renovating can quickly add up. Before you shop around for new furnishings or carpets, set a budget — one that you both agree on.
You don’t want to spend beyond your means – particularly if you’re newlyweds and still paying off the cost of that wedding – and determining a budget will help prevent you from going into the red. It’s definitely a task that should be undertaken by both spouses, so expectations can be managed and one person doesn’t get the idea that décor spending is limitless.
That being said, it’s also smart for both of you to agree to run any home décor purchases past the other first. It may feel a bit like having to ask for permission, but it can make the difference between mutual agreement, or a fight over that awesome piece of taxidermy you just had to have (and that your spouse hates on sight).
If your schedules allow, take it one step further and do all your décor shopping with your spouse, which will make it easier to talk purchases over and decide together. As a bonus, this ensures both of you will feel represented by whatever you choose to put up on the walls.
Cleverly Avoid a Clash of Styles
You feel enlivened by warm hues, but your spouse loves cool ones. Perhaps you want minimalistic black and white décor, but they enjoy splashes of bold color. If you’re having a hard time coming to an agreement (that won’t result in a completely mismatched decorating style), you can employ a trick or two to make everything work.
One of the oldest tips is to begin with neutral furniture – in shades of black, white, gray, or beige – which will better offset any of the additional touches you and your spouse will bring to the room. This could be anything from your favorite bright red cushions, to your partner’s colorful avant-garde art piece. With neutral furniture anchoring the room, the extra bits of color will act more as accents than an attempt at an entire color scheme.
If you and your spouse enjoy totally different patterns, styles, or artwork, try choosing separate pieces that appeal to each of you in the same color palette. Perhaps you’re adorning a gray and white living room with accents of blue. You can incorporate your favorite turquoise vases atop the mantel, while your spouse hangs a beloved navy blue painting, or adds a sky blue lamp shade. In a room with a neutral color scheme, mismatched pops of flair all in the same color family can give a fun, stylish vibrance to the decor. Plus, what better way to celebrate the individual differences you each bring to the table that make you such a strong team.
Focus on Décor, not Emotions
As Houzz puts it, “A lot of pent-up aggression gets released during times of great change. Painting the living room walls shouldn’t degenerate into an argument over whose mother is worse.” No matter how long or how short a time you’ve been married, you likely know how to get under each other’s skin.
It’s easy to get stressed out and snippy during a home renovation. Everything seems upended, as if your regular home life is on pause. Instead of taking your design worries out on each other, agree to go at the same pace, and save any non-decorating debates for after the work is completed. You want to start building happy memories in your new (or newly renovated) home, not reminders of disagreement.
Stay on the Same Team
Figuring out how to decorate your home as a married couple can be a huge task, especially if there’s division over what furniture should stay, or what color the curtains ought to be. The most important thing is to tackle this task as a united couple, and not try to push your decorating ideas over each other. This is not a competition for who can “win” with the best decorating ideas.
Many times, when couples argue over things like coffee table choices, or wall colors, what each person truly wants is to have their opinions heard and respected. Listen to each other. Allow your spouse the opportunity to explain why they like blue curtains, or why they dislike sectional sofas; and respectfully offer your own opinion, or suggest an alternative. You may find that after a little discussion, your partner doesn’t really feel that strongly about the sofa after all — they just wanted to be involved in the decision. When both people feel listened to, they’re often much happier to make compromises.
Remember that you both live in this space, and you each want to feel like this is “home” when you walk through the door. It may be a big test of your bond, but if you communicate and cooperate, you can come out of the décor debate stronger than ever – and with a beautiful home to boot.
Did you have any disagreements with your partner when it came to decorating your shared home? How did you resolve them? Tell us in the comments.