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  • Writer's pictureErin Hackett

How to Make Design Decisions (and Compromises) With Your Significant Other

Whether you've just started living together or have been married for 40 years, disagreements about your home between you and your significant other are bound to happen! My fiancé also works in the home improvement industry, so I've probably had more than my fair share of experience with this -- we can both be very opinionated about our professions! Which is why I'm here to tell you, it is possible to make design decisions with your spouse that you can both be happy about; it just takes a little creativity... and a little compromise.

Design & Photography: Hackett House Studio

Exhibit A: Notice the honkin' 65"TV in my formal living room? Yeah, not my design choice. BUT it was his only request for the room, which I got to do whatever-the-heck-else I wanted with. Win-win. :)

Let's look at three areas of the home improvement process that couples argue over most often. After reading many of these, you'll probably come to learn that they aren't really worth arguing over to begin with!

Budget - This is probably the biggest one. In the world of relationships, couples fight over money more than any other one thing! So it makes sense that when embarking on huge, costly renovations a disagreement or two might come up. While this is definitely one of the more difficult topics to discuss, my recommendation would be to talk with your service providers before you start going at each other's throats. The reality is that unless you work in design, construction or renovations you really have NO idea what things are going to cost. Even more than that, your service providers can help you get a sense of what you CAN afford. For example, your spouse might be dead-set on installing custom built-in cabinetry in the living room, only to find out it's going to cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. This might sound like a good investment when you're talking about that one thing, but when your designer lays out to you both that that means you're not going to get the finished basement you're asking for, temperaments may change. Context is everything, and allowing your service professionals to provide that to you makes everything SO much easier to discuss.

Now, let me be clear. I'm not suggesting that you go into a remodel or new build situation without having at least a ballpark idea of what you're going to spend. But what I am saying is this: it's not worth fighting over the details until you've truly seen the big picture. Let your service professionals help you through that process -- that's what you're paying them for!

Design & Photography: Hackett House Studio

Exhibit B: This photo is loaded with controversy! For starters, I didn't want the TV over the fireplace (always arguing over TV, it seems), but lost that battle once again. Bigger than that, though, this fireplace really tested our ability to compromise on budget. Behind the beautiful fireplace screen is a beautiful arch the former owners destroyed. I rrreally wanted to pay a mason to restore the brick to its original beauty, but was eventually talked out of it. The result? It's still beautiful, and I probably get more compliments on that fireplace screen than any other one piece in my home. (And, we can always get it repaired later when other projects are completed and budgets allow!)

Design Styles - He likes traditional, she likes modern. Sounds like a conundrum, right? No, not really! In fact, many designers love to mix styles to accomplish a fresh look. If you went fully traditional, your house would likely end up feeling overly stuffy (like your grandmother's) and if you went full modern, it may not feel cozy enough. In my experience, working with a good designer who can mix your styles works for the same reason they say opposites attract -- because the styles can be used to complement each other! Think of your difference in styles as the differences in your personality; beautiful on their own, but even better together.

Mixing Modern and Traditional

Design by Courtney Nye | Photo by Amy Bartlam

Treasured Items - This one can be tough, and I feel the need to interject a personal story here. When Tom (my s/o) and I first moved in together, he had this pretty ugly (sorry, Tom, if you're reading this!) red print with a massive horse on it. To me, this things was scary and its eyes had this optical illusion that made is seem like the horse was either very sick or very mean, depending on which way you looked at it. YIKES. But I had moved into his apartment, so.... we kept it up. Then, when we bought our first house together, he managed to hang said horse in the kitchen in a very prominent place while I was off doing something else. Needless to say, I was a bit horrified. I had secretly hoped it would get ruined in the move but, alas, I was not so lucky.

I'll be honest, I didn't say anything about it at first. I think somewhere subconsciously I knew we had bigger fish to fry, and I was picking my battles. Sure, the horse became the butt of many jokes over the next year and a half (yup! that's how long it stayed), but we kept it where it was while we worked on other things. As we worked our way through conversations about other, bigger projects, Tom began to trust me more little by little. He didn't have the design vision I did, but as I finished rooms, he saw what I could do. The horse picture finally came down one day when I suggested we paint the kitchen and "miraculously" I came up with other art to put in its place (it had been in the basement for weeks).

The moral of this story is this: pick your battles, and make compromises. I let Tom's horse stay in our kitchen for a year and a half and now my art will most likely stay there for the rest of eternity (or, ya know, however long we own the house). It's a give and take! If you truly can't stand a treasured item of your spouse's, ask them if it can be relocated to a room that's "theirs," or banish it to a not oft visited place in the house (the linen closet, perhaps?I kid. Kind of). Even if it's a large piece of furniture, like a recliner you hate, ask yourself if there's something you're willing to get in order to give-in and let it hang around. I think you'll immediately find that getting more of what you want is more important than taking away what your significant other wants. Give it a try, and let me know how it works out. ;)


There are many other things couples argue over when making change to their homes, but these are the big three. Feel free to leave your and spouses current quarrels in the comments, and I'll see if I can help out!

Hackett House Studio is a boutique interior design firm located in Columbus, Ohio offering full-service and virtual design services, as well as concierge styling and interior photography. Please visit the services page of our website to learn more about us, and to inquire about working with us.

And for no particular reason at all, shop my latest home finds from around the web! Happy Tuesday!

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