Outstretched hands reaching for each other

When you and your spouse disagree about your remodel

Photo by Toa Heftiba

I was just talking with a fellow interior designer and friend. She shared with me that she almost chose a career in psychology. Then, she laughed and said, "I guess I did." Interior designers have a front-row seat to the fights that couples have when they remodel, and we're often asked to provide "marriage counseling."

So, how do you avoid inciting your personal World War III when you renovate? You're probably busy with a job and kids. You're quickly trying to get up to speed on interior design. You know decisions need to be made but fear making a mistake. Your spouse is in the same stressful situation. It's a recipe for disaster.

This is what I do when I'm working with a couple:

  1. Define roles. Who's handling the money? Who's most interested in design? Who uses the room the most and should, for that reason, have the most input on how it will work? Outlining roles gives everyone a stake in the project. Here's a link to a blog that describes the remodeling cast of characters: the Designer and the Builder, the Daily User, the Stylist, the Environmentalist, the Accountant, and the Professional.
  2. Identify wants and needs independently. At the beginning of the project, I ask clients to fill out a survey about what they want in the new room. And, I always ask couples to complete the survey independently. Then, I compare their answers to see where they agree and where they disagree. You can do the same.
  3. Emphasize the things everyone wants. You've taken the time to find out where you agree, now focus there. If you and your spouse both like the colors blue and green, make those the basis of your color scheme. Trying to include orange - when you know your spouse hates that color - will just bog you down.
  4. Ask for a tie-breaker when you need to. There will be times when you need to compromise. Give a little, if you can. Or, ask for help. Is there someone you trust who you can put the question to? I'm often the "tie-breaker" when my clients disagree. If you're acting as your own designer, maybe your general contractor or a vendor, like your tile supplier, can help.

All pretty basic, right? It's just that in the heat of the moment, during a stressful renovation, we forget.

She didn't know it, but Jackie Lopey's days as an advertising executive were numbered when she bought and renovated a 1950's bungalow. She soon went back to school and started her own design studio. Jackie is an award-winning, certified interior designer and the founder of Wide Canvas.

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