Soleful Sunday | Decorating your space.

How Couples Can Compromise on Decorating: New spouses face challenges of blending decorating styles.


You’re madly in love, thrilled to be married, and are finally ready to move into that apartment you found just before the wedding. Or you can now afford to redecorate the space you’ve shared for a few years.

But on day one of the decorating revamp, your husband decides to bring that gargantuan, wagon wheel coffee table with him from his old place, something you assumed would be sent to a junk store or left on a curb. Or he drags it up from the basement, hoping you’ll finally let him display it.

What to do?

It’s massive, it’s ugly, and it doesn’t work with any of the design elements you’ve planned for your home. How do you break it to him that the item he’s loved since his school days is a hideous eyesore you wouldn’t put in your backyard? This is the newlywed stuff fights are made of, but they can be avoided if you think first, and speak and act with care. Here are some suggestions for keeping cool, compromising, and getting the home decor you both can live with and enjoy.

1) Don’t tell him he has terrible taste — tell him the item, or items, are terrible. Insulting him when you need him on board with the decorating choices you wish to make is a bad way to launch the discussion. Hurting his feelings is not your goal, right? Understand that he probably chose the ugly coffee table when he had few financial options to buy something better. Explain that it doesn’t work with the vision you have, then clearly and calmly explain what that vision is. Make sure he knows you include him in that vision, not simply imposing it on him.

2) Don’t go flat out feminine, or you’ll get push back. Men are usually pretty easy going about decorating, happy to leave the bulk of the decisions to their wives. But even the most laid-back guy resists pink accents everywhere, from toss cushions on the couch to decorative throws on the bed. Balance your girlie instincts with his masculine tastes. If you have space, give him a room to do up as a home office or man cave; there he’s free to make it as spartan, or modern, or dark as he sees fit. If you really can’t bear it once he’s decorating “his” space, keep the door closed.

3) Agree on neutral wall colors, and go from there. One of the leading principles of professional decorating is that you should start with a clean, neutral pallet, like off white or taupe on the walls and doorways. This is especially true when you’re decorating on a budget, as white shades don’t have to be blended and come with primer built into the paint. Add pops of color afterward, in furniture and cushions, and other points that draw the eye in. Couples have an easier time agreeing on these shades, too.

4) Decide what you can live with, and what you absolutely can’t. Okay, so that wagon wheel coffee table we mentioned has got to go. But what about that chair he absolutely loves that he got from his parents? Can you compromise and keep that? Think long and hard about whether you can indeed put up with a few of his ideas, and be sincere. If you truly hate the chair (or whatever item he’s insisting on keeping,) place it somewhere other than in plain, central view. Perhaps in the bedroom, so he has somewhere to sit, pulling up his socks, or in his home office. Doing this will demonstrate you’re willing to give in sometimes and consider his point of view on items he cherishes. And for heaven’s sake, do not get rid of anything he prizes without telling him! It’s fine to do that with old t-shirts that he never wears because they don’t fit him; donate them to a used clothing store, and he’ll never be the wiser. But items like furniture, particularly if they came from family, are another matter entirely.

These tips can help you negotiate delicate terrain when you start decorating your home together. Men are usually more relaxed about design and decor than women are, but it’s important that you’re gracious and include him in the decisions. Try to settle on a style before moving in together — boho chic? Traditional? Modern and sleek? That way, there won’t be too many nasty surprises in store when the move finally happens.

Remember, you’re in this together for the long haul. Don’t start a new life, or even a re-do of your existing home, with arguments and derision. You’ll never get what you want with that approach, and hurt feelings and an upset husband is not what you need, right? Be kind, be diplomatic, and before you know it, he’ll be leaving the decorating entirely in your hands.

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