Monday, August 11, 2008

Sound Off: Decorating Disagreements

Yet another reason that I j'adore Jonathan Adler -- his thoughts (as quoted in the Huffington Post, via Shine At Home) on what to do when the two halves of a couple disagree on decor:

"We have a saying in my company: The wife is always right unless the husband is gay. Questioning your husband's sexuality is a great way to get him to shut up. Assuming that this is not the case and your husband is straight (is he?), you simply have no recourse other than to eliminate him from the process. Take into account some of his functional needs, and then ignore everything else."

Umm, are you reading this, honey?

But seriously, how do you guys handle decorating disagreements with your significant other?

I feel alternately blessed and cursed that Nick actually takes an interest in these things. I love that he enjoys going shopping with me, and is often the one to rustle my ass out of bed so we can hit the monthly flea market before all the good stuff is gone. On the flipside, he'll get mad if I, say, buy six new dining room chairs or decide to change out the color scheme in the living room without consulting him first.

But here's the thing: I don't want to ask him, because I've already made up my mind and have little patience for anyone trying to talk me out of something I've decided I absolutely must have. Plus, I figure that if he despises something, I can always return or resell it. (I find, too, that men -- and kids, for that matter -- tend to hate the idea of change but then usually accept new things once they've gotten used to them. Although they're all still cursing me, three years later, for getting rid of the ginormous velvet rolled-arm sofa. Yes, it was heaven to sit in. But it was so very 1998, and the cats had ripped it to shreds.)

Does my admittedly sneaky strategy work? Sometimes. I think Nick has learned to accept my "design ADD" and just roll with it, at least most of the time. That's not to say he doesn't resent it, at least a little bit. He and the kids have a (slightly bitter) joke about me: "Mom is trying replace all the comfortable furniture with stuff that we hate. Oh, Mom ... " And our 10-year-old daughter has taken to checking the Goodwill closet on a regular basis and rescuing random household items from it. There's one vase, in particular, that I keep finding hidden in her room.

I also tend to use a trick that parents everywhere will be familiar with: Offering limited choices. I'll narrow down a paint color to maybe three very similar hues, then let Nick (and, increasingly, Laurel -- who's determined to have a say in these things) choose the one they like best. So instead of, "Do you want macaroni, spaghetti, or penne for dinner?" It's, "Which of these silvery grays do you like best for the hallway?" It's a win-win, right? Still, I think they're getting wise to me, and I'm starting to hear things like, "When did we decide it was going to be gray?" Or, "Wait -- we're painting the hallway?" Oh, bother.

Verdict: My "just forge ahead and hope that Nick and the kids will get on board at some point" M.O. has met with limited success. And, as gender stereotypical as this is, I also give him carte blanche to make decisions about household electronics, appliances, and functional systems like heating and plumbing -- as long as I either can't see them or they're not too hideous to look at. So hopefully that helps balance out my take-no-prisoners approach to decorating.

What about you? Do you and your partner see eye-to-eye on design decisions? If not, who has final say? What tricks do you use to get him or her to come around? If compromise is the name of the game, are there particular areas that you're willing to step back on and others that you get to make the call on?

Post a comment and let us all know -- I'm dying to hear.

27 comments:

Virginia said...

I had to stop at your Blog , I love the title. My husband unfortunate don't get involve in any decorating decisions.Have a happy week, Virginia

myrnie_twin said...

We kind of see "eye to eye." I'm more likely to pull something from another room to fill in a space, and he's more likely to make big plans (making a built in bookcase, paint the room, raise the ceiling, replace the light fixture, etc.). Unfortunately, what I do doesn't always look great (and he tells me), and what he wants to do....never gets done. (That happens with 2 small children, CPA exam studying, and a more than full-time work schedule. And limited funds.)

Catherine said...

I am an Interior Designer... my husband is color blind... he still wants to be involved in any and all decisions on color and furniture. UGH! Like you said I think it's all about not liking change... but once it's changed he usually likes the outcome.

Ann said...

Hmmmm...am I lucky my husband just leaves everything to me when it comes to our house design? He just teases me when something goes wrong on my projects, but supports me just the same. And always,always, likes the changes and purchases I've made, at least that's what he says to me.

Jennifer said...

He goes along with whatever I want to do and I let him live there. All in all, it works out great.

Melissa said...

Ha! That quote is hilarious! Luckily, my husband trusts my taste and doesn't really care about any sort of decorating. The only thing he specifies is no red and no clutter. I have trouble with the no clutter thing. He sees vases and candles as knick knacks that need to be dusted. So I try to keep him in mind, but ultimately it's my decision.

Anonymous said...

Ha. Ha. Ha. If it was up to my husband, we would literally have nothing in the house except a giant HDTV and a hand me down couch!

Anonymous said...

Ugh! I am in the same boat as you. My husband is informed and involved in the decorating process to a fault. But I like that he is--sometimes. He tends to get stickershock more so than I, because he shops less and doesn't seem to realize how much MORE we could be paying for that 60s blond oak sideboard that I want so very badly for the family room. And when he ixnays purchases that I am fixated on, I get really frustrated. Boo. But I am quietly persistent, as it sounds like you are too, and I usually end up satisfied.

jbhat

Leah said...

Jennifer -- I like your attitude, girl!

C. said...

Like you, I feel fortunate (and at times not so fortunate) that my husband takes an interest in the interior aesthetics of our home. We thankfully agree MOST of the time but for those times that I try to convince him that beautiful wallpaper ala Anthropologie would cozy up our otherwise modern living room, I run into a roadblock. The easiest type of solution I've found is to come up with a fantastic paint color we both love instead and enlist his help to paint!

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with the general 'once I've done it, he'll learn to like it' approach. Shared space really does represent a compromise of two people's taste (unless one person in the relationship simply says that it doesn't mean that much to him/her). My husband and I have negotiated our way between KITSCH-Art-Deco/1950s Interiors (ME) and Dorm-Room-Leaning-to-1970s-Bean-Bags Interiors (HIM). I think we're getting to a good mid-century space with the occasional allowance for an ugly lamp or kitchy print on the part of one person or another. I guess practically this has meant that we've decorated a little more slowly than I'd like--there have been times we've had to wait a long time before we come up with a mutually-satisfying piece of furniture or curtain. The thing I really like about it is that he often expresses an interest and vision for the house in a way that I don't think he would if I just took it out of his hands and did what I wanted alone. All that being said, I think there really are people who couldn't care less and if decorating is something you really enjoying doing a lot this could be frustrating. That being said we both have offices and I play decoratively in my own without consulting anyone about it!

SGM said...

My husband cares, but years of my doing the sneaky thing has beaten him down.
The two biggest fights in our relationship concerned our china pattern and the color of our dining room walls. We compromised on the china and he won on the dining room (we called in a third opinion), and I have to say, it looks great. I hate when that happens!

Anonymous said...

Oh this is killing me. My husband and I often clash but not so much about aesthetics but because he does all the work rebuilding our 1875 farm house BY HIMSELF—foundation to roof. You can't imagine how many times I've heard things like "Do you know how much harder it is going to be to center those tiles" or "I can't put a skylight there I'd need to build another header". Nevermind that it will look STUPID to have a skylight floating over a wall... or any one of dozens of other issues. He's great (fantastic actually) and a lot cheaper than a GC but man is the tension palpable.

The best part is that I am a creative director at a MUSEUM of all places and he simply can't understand why I need it to look just-so. You can just imagine how many times I've replied " You're the one who married a designer...".

Man do I feel your pain!

Amy in Rochester

20 Something Superhero said...

I am also cursed with a bf who has an opinion on what he likes for decor. Unfortunately, our styles are on the opposites sides of te spectrum, he likes beige,browns and creams and that's about it. So I keep the majority of the furniture in neutral colors and add personality through accessories. I've pretty much told him to trust me and buy what I like, he's not disputed any of my purchases yet. While it's probably not something he'd of chosen, he knows I have a creative eye!

Carrie said...

I'm incredibly lucky -- my husband generally leaves decorating decisions up to me. We both have very similar tastes in furniture, which makes shopping easy, and we're not big into knick-knacks everywhere. The really big decisions in our house are paint colors on the wall, and my husband can't picture the color before it goes up, so he really trusts that to me. And he hasn't been upset or disappointed once (and that's in THREE houses so far)!

He also hates to paint, so I end up doing the lion's share of the work in that regard. We also have an unspoken agreement that covers just about everything -- if you do the work, you decide how it gets done. If you don't do the work, you don't complain. If you split the work, you split the input. Works like a dream.

Linda Merrill said...

I'm not married, but can share some client relations issues on this point. Generally - the wife makes the decisions. Most of the time, the husband has some input and some of the time, the husband has equal input. Usually, 50/50 equal input = stalemate. I think it seems to work best if there is some respect shown to the husbands needs (both physical and emotional) but that the wife gets the final say. And on other issues, it's reversed. For instance - the husband gets final selection over the cars or electronics with the wife's input on her needs. The home should be shared equally - but how it's divied up can make all the difference!

Also, I've had clients who love having me there - they say it makes them have to discuss - politely and diplomatically - their needs and wants and they are more likely to come to an understanding, if not total agreement.

Good post!

ali+heron said...

I fortunately have a fiancee with great taste, who is involved in decorating both our home and our wedding. Of course, he still makes rookie mistakes, saying silly things like "that wall arrangement is too symmetrical" and "the boutonniere looks like it will eat off my face". MEN.

Beth said...

My husband said he would let me have carte blanche on decorating the house if he could turn our basement into a recreation of a German-styled pub. I pictured lots of gilt, smoked glass and red carpeting. Turns out he was only joking.

In reality, we use one of the methods you described. I do all the leg work and narrow the choices to two or three things that I like. Hopefully he finds one he likes from the few I like.

We used the same method for choosing our children's names. We reasoned that we would both have to like the names we chose, so I read the 20,000 Names for Your Baby book and picked about 50 I liked, showed DH my choices and he chose from those.

Beth
www.bethsfavouritethings.blogspot.com

corine said...

Once I painted our bedroom girly green and he refused to sleep there. He slept in the guest rooms for a few days, but compared to abstinence green suddenly didn't seem like such a bad option :-))

Libby said...

I'm so glad you wrote a post about this - it is a constant issue for me! Before I get into my tricks to decorating the way I want, I have to give my hubby credit...I have a very eclectic and colorful style and he almost always lets me go crazy with it. I know couples where one is all about color and the other is all about the beige, and that just sounds like a nightmare to me.

Having said that, there are definitely issues that we don't agree on, and I have 2 tricks that have been working well:

1. Its all about the timing. Before I even casually mention that I want to paint the hallway orange, I gauge his mood and wait until I feel like he'd be more likely to go for it. If he's opposed, I just drop the issue for about a week until I feel like he's in an even better mood, then I bring it up again. If he's a little drunk, that's even better! :)

2. If the mood gauging doesn't work, then I drop the issue completely and continue planning everything in my head. Once I've got it completely figured out and I'm confident that its going to look great, I wait until he's gone for a whole day and I do the project by myself. Then I just hope that once he sees my vision realized, he'll love it just as much as I do. I've done this a couple times, and so far it always works out great!

alis said...

My boyfriend and I have completely opposite taste, and very strong opinions (both industrial designers). I like vintage stuff, outdoor textures, a country/beach home vibe etc (think the homes on Sköna Hem) and a dog. He on the other hand likes leather, clean-cut multi-function furniture, absolutely hates any unfinished/old looking detail(says there will be beetles in it), extreme hi-tech security, and worst of all human sized hideous and scary action figures(think McFarlane), and absolutely no dog hair. We ultimately decided that if we ever get married we need two apartments next to each other, and have sleepovers!
My fingers are crossed that our desires can meet in a modern but warm modern scandinavian style and a non-shedding dog.

Leah said...

Oh, alis -- you poor thing!

Nick and I joke all the time that the secret to marital bliss is a duplex ...

Allison said...

Most of the time, my husband doesn't care and goes along with whatever I want. Every once in a while he has a strong opinion about something, mostly something that I proposed that he is deeply opposed to, and then, unless it really matters to me, I usually give in and come up with something else. After all, since I get my way 90% of the time, I figure he should get some veto power at least.

Our current issue is on the garage. We just had a new one built and I want to paint one wall a color beyond just white. He thinks that's silly. I suspect in the end he will admit to not caring as long as I'm the one to do the painting, and I will get my wall. I'm thinking a nice spring green.

Katie said...

My SO has an art history degree and dabbled in museum curation, so he definitely likes to be involved in the decorating process. For the most part our aesthetics mesh pretty well, and I think we both come up with good ideas that inspire the other. Of course, I tend to be the one that likes to rush into things - seeing ideas around the internet that I want to implement ASAP, or wanting to impulse-buy furniture on the spot, and he's the one that makes me slow down and think about it. He also keeps my wild color dreams from being realiz--er, under control. All in all it works. If only the funds and space were unlimited!

Jasmine Holmes said...

I too have tried the tricks you mention which mostly work. And I usually try to keep his comfort and preferences in mind but then I find myself in a fight with him about thresholds! Somehow that comes back to me never listening to his ideas about anything. Most of our marital decorating disagreements are more about communication that a paint color. Hmmm, maybe I should find a couples therapist with an interior design degree?

Sara said...

i'm a few weeks behind here, but must comment... usually i get what i want b/c i do something about it (buy it, paint it, move it, etc). he doesn't. however he was none to pleased when i came home from an antiques shop w/ a new danish drop leaf dining room table & 2 chairs for $300. not happy at all. why? well, we did already have a table but mostly b/c "we had already agreed on darker wood" and his scandanavian upbringing had poisoned him on blonde wood. so i kept quiet when a handmedown 50" plasma tv (that had been sitting in our basement for months) magically appeared in our bedroom. i'll win in the end...that tv won't last forever!

Leah said...

Oh, Sara -- a 50-inch TV?

I feel your pain, honey.

;-)

Leah

 

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