Couples rarely agree on everything, but there are fewer things that widen the marital divide than trying to agree on home furnishings when disparate tastes clash. Who doesn’t recall the famous wagon wheel coffee table scene from When Harry Met Sally? Note to many: Man caves serve a peace-keeping role in the saving of a marriage by providing a conflict-free place for them to have their say.

Blending styles can yield the most interesting and eclectic spaces, but not all styles complement each other well. (Not sure of your styles? Be sure to take our style quiz.) You may feel that your partner’s style waters down a look you love. Yet, the most successful rooms have elements that are balanced: masculine and feminine, bold and soft, etc.

Here are our top strategies for keeping the peace in your home decorating projects.

1.) We Always Welcome & Encourage Complete Honesty

Being forthcoming and honest about your priorities is mission critical when creating a shared home you can both feel proud of. No one is a good mind reader, your chosen design professional included. Holding back and deferring to your partner too often can only lead to resentment if you don’t feel you have equal input. It is just as important for your partner to feel heard and considered, as well, to keep the relationship running smoothly.

We’ve seen a lot of attempts to please both parties in home décor, and not all of them are good. For each of you to feel respected, it is important to have a full say in how your home looks and functions. Don’t take out your credit card until you are both on board with a shared vision.

To begin, it is really important to discuss with your partner and your design professional what decisions about your home are important to you and why they matter. As a general rule of thumb, appearing to be reasonable is more important than actually being reasonable. Ask your partner to explain what decisions matter to them, and why they are important. Remember, for most of us, feeling heard is just as important as getting your way.

2.) We Have the Expertise to Blend Styles Beautifully

A seasoned designer will be comfortable with many design styles and will be able to help you bridge the gap even if your tastes differ significantly. They will begin by looking for the common elements you can agree on. Armed with a deeper understanding of styles, your designer can help you find a style precedent that honours both of your aesthetics by drawing on common elements.

For example, natural wood elements typically found in arts and crafts homes share sensibilities with most Asian aesthetics as well as mid-century modern design. So if one of you likes a certain look, dig deeper to understand what drove that aesthetic to find those common elements. If one of you loves chrome and black leather, take comfort in knowing that a machine-made aesthetic can share elements with other design movements that came out of that time period- art deco, and mid-century modernism were also driven by the industrial age. 

Without getting too deep into art history, trust that your designer can start by simply asking, “Who wants to paint the trim and who wants to keep it natural?” They can pull back and then help you create a big picture vision for the look you will both love and navigate towards a shared vision. Additionally, they will provide a solid rationale for why one choice will work better for you, diffusing conflicts with their input.

What each of you want, after all, is to honour one another and develop a home where you will create memories.


3.) We Tell Couples to Expect Compromise & Flexibility

Marriage is a funny thing. When I was first married, I likened it to a tug of war that ultimately was a zero sum game. “How can it ever work?” I mused. As one of four siblings, you can see where I might have been coming from.

My conflict-resolution skills have matured (a lot) since then, and I’ve picked up some valuable lessons. Marriage isn’t a democratic state, after all. So how could it ever work when two people disagree? The answer lies in patience, great listening skills, and flexibility.

In designing for couples, taking turns might seem like a key strategy (and believe me, this is sometimes the only way), but in my experience, it is the best way to produce a dog’s breakfast of a result lacking coherent vision. An endless struggle of trying to counterbalance your partner’s offensive taste (or lack thereof) will never create lasting beauty, but only provide a testament to the carnage of a dispute not well-navigated!

Truly understanding why something is important to your partner takes patience and good listening skills. Compromise takes time.

When I work with partners like this, I ask them to consider which decisions are really the most important to them and why. It may be more important to one of you to choose appliances with the best Consumer Reports rating than to pick the floor tile. As you navigate the many decisions, you soon learn that some selections are more important to you than others. You may want to hold back and defer to your partner’s taste until something really matters to you.


Trusting Your Designer

Your designer will look for unifying elements like colour, shape, and common motifs to knit two styles together. Contrast and tension are terrific devices to make a room sing. Vive la diffé·rence, as they say. A good design professional will be well-versed in strategies to draw each of you out and will provide a sound rationale for why one choice is better than another, allowing for a tie-breaking vote to avoid many arguments.

If all else fails buy a cottage and let him have free rein.

Need help designing a home that you and your spouse will both love? That’s what we do. Reach out and let’s chat.