My Most Asked Interior Design Question …

I’m embarrassed to admit to you what my MOST ASKED interior design question is, but here we go … It’s some form of this: “How do you get your husband on board with all your ideas?”

I actually wrote about this topic many years back, but I want to dive in again today since the question does get asked so frequently.

But first, a tiny disclaimer! Two things: 1. Every shared space requires compromise. Unless you are living alone, you’re probably going to need to decide certain things with your roommates or partner or on behalf of your children if they’re not old enough to have an opinion yet. I think it’s considerate and important to care about what another person thinks, even if they aren’t as passionate about it as you are. That said … 2. There’s nothing wrong with one person taking the lead on design. Just like anything else in your relationship, there is probably one person who cares more and is more involved than the other. So, in my marriage, my husband understands that I love decorating SO MUCH and that he should at bare minimum give all my ideas a chance. 

There are a lot of knee-jerk reactions in design. A lot of mental blocks. Sometimes, even, complete miscommunications. This is all normal, especially when you are new to renovating or decorating your first home. Especially when one person spends every night trolling Pinterest and the other person genuinely thinks all white paint colors are the same (LOL).

OK, so that said (can you tell I am dodging land mines trying not to offend anyone???). here are some things that have helped me get Jeremy on the same page before a big project …

1. Showing lots of example photos. 
This is my number one tip! Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. Do your homework and find a bunch of example photos. A lot of people need visuals to be able to imagine something, especially big changes. I always do this anyway because I’m indecisive. I’ve noticed that Jeremy’s eyes start glazing over if I describe a big project to him, but if I just pull some photos he’s interested and has opinions.

2. Take one project at a time. 
When we were newlyweds Jeremy wanted to be completely involved in every decision about renovations—especially in our first home. But over time he developed a trust and also (these are his words, not mine) he realized that he didn’t really care about every small decision, and it was easier if he just let me do it.

So my advice here is don’t try to plan your entire home renovation in one sitting. Plan a room, or even a big project. Start small and it will be much easier to fully communicate about what you are doing. Plus, you will learn valuable lessons from each project!

3. Hold out for what you really want + give it time. 
If you don’t agree right away, give it time.

Pink front door, for example. We had multiple conversations about that door. It wasn’t Jeremy’s first choice. And to be fair he did get his first choice on our previous home and our door was black.

But I really wanted that pink door. So I waited. I waited until there was something he really wanted and I said, “OK, if I can have the pink door.” Compromise … it’s that simple.

I wouldn’t have done it if he truly hated it. But, in the end, he realized he didn’t care that much … that other things were more important to him. And now he loves the door! It was just a knee-jerk reaction, so I gave it some time and kept throwing it out there.

If I went with his initial reaction every time, then every single thing in our house will be a neutral. LOL

4. Give options.
Looking at different options helps a LOT—especially when it comes to big purchases. Seeing examples of a FULLY styled room with whatever element you are wanting to do can be a really important step for someone who doesn’t know how to visualize big room changes (which is most people).

If you want to do black hardware, show your partner a bunch of different photos of rooms with black hardware that all look amazing and ask them which one they like the best.

5. Find exciting things you each want. 
If your dream is to have pink tile in your bathroom or a bright yellow stove in your kitchen, find a way to give your partner their dream as well! Listen to the thing they get excited about and designate projects and purchases that make them as happy as your tile or stove makes you.

The first year we owned our home, we spent a lot of our money on Jeremy’s studio—something that he treasures and uses every day of his life. So after all that, we both feel like it’s kind of fair that he lets me pick out all the wallpaper and the tile. My strategy is that we both get the things that are most important to us. Win-Win.

That’s just the balance we have struck. I know every situation and combination of taste and personalities is different, but I hope it’s helpful in some way. And like I said, we’ve done three houses together now and built more and more trust each time.

I just asked him if there was anything he would want to add to this post and he said he just realized a long time ago that it’s way easier and quicker for him not to care. LOL That’s the spirit!

I wish you luck in all your future compromising! xx – Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Alyssa Rosenheck (see my entire home’s paint color roundup here).

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  • Thank you for the pointers! Such great advice. I’ve learned a lot from observing your renovations and decorating via Instagram and your blog. The thing that has truly been the most helpful for my bf and I has been the visuals. He’s like Jeremy: I start talking and explaining my vision and I can almost see his brain shut off as his eyes glaze over LOL. But I’ll show him examples of what I’m talking about and he’ll say “oh yeah, I do like that!”

    Thank you for the advice!

  • My husband and I are in the process of building our first home, and I couldn’t agree more with what you said here! I’ve found waiting a few days on a decision and showing lots of pinterest examples really helps!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  • I am so lucky that my boyfriend let’s me do everything I want in our apartment, as long as he can decide which technical devices should be bought! Although of course I always show him pictures, but he’s very understanding 😀
    https://www.makeandmess.com/

  • Great advice here! My husband and I have our first home that we’re renovating (slowly, but surely!) and it’s definitely a bit more feminine than maybe he’d like in some areas. I do find that I’ll mention an idea and he may shoot it down only to think on it and then be on board later on.

    Though, to be fair, I also do that too at times with his ideas. So the whole let the idea marinate really works. I just need to REMEMBER this when we have initial disagreements on something, ha!

  • Our home decorating design between husband and wife has also evolved, as it sounds like it has with you. the wait it out strategy is one of the best. And now that we are a busy family with a kid added in – whoever actually get’s it done is the winner for the decision. By going through it slowly (one project at a time) we’ve gotten alot accomplished in 5 years that we’re BOTH happy with (instead of too much too soon that we’re now changing.)

    I did just win repainting the living room, when we first painted it after moving it the color was a “compromise” color… but just wasn’t working for the house or making me happy. the new color is perfect, something we started using throughout the home with no intentions of changing.

  • When dating in my early 20’s, creative control with interior design was a prerequisite to any kind of a serious relationship. It was like, “Is he funny? Check. Driven? Check. Passionate? Check. Going to be okay with me making every single design decision, no matter how big or small? Check.” When deciding to move in with my now husband, I think I even said something snotty like, “if you want to live with me, then you live with me my way.” (Can you believe that?!) As crazy and one-sided as it probably sounds, it’s the least complicated thing in our lives because there’s no back and forth about it. And of course, because I love him so, I’ve planned a lot of stuff with him in mind over the years. It all works out in the end. 🙂

  • Exactly my thoughts! Patience, compromise, visuals…..and then when you both realize they care less about some details and just let you go – its liberating and appreciated 😉

  • I think the “give options” advice is so good. Over the winter, I wanted to paint my entryway pink. I put a bunch of swatches on the wall and my partner helped me pick.I wanted to go with an almost white pink, but after seeing the swatches he thought we should go with a more saturated pink. We did and it turned out great! We don’t agree on everything (which can be tough because I’m so emotionally invested), but working together means we have a space that works for both of us.

  • I just came here to compliment the way that you talked about how to work with your partner to get what you both want rather than “girls like pink and boys like blue” (which I think would be an easy trap to fall into if this topic was left in the hands of a lesser writer).
    You did an incredible job of getting to the root of the question which is, “how can my partner and I work together”. These tricks work for so many situations other than interior design. Great work, Elsie. <3

  • Haha that’s great! My husband and I are currently renovating our first home and he doesn’t really care that much but he’s had some hesitation on a few of my ideas. Like dual tone kitchen cabinets lol or general paint colors.

  • I agree it’s so important to suggest one project at time, otherwise it can be super overwhelming! That said, after a while it is easier to get them on board with the big ideas. Thanks for sharing these tips, it’s a really important topic.

  • This is such a great post! My husband and I just bought our first home and we’re in the process of making it our style. At first I thought he would be super against some of my ideas, but once I showed him pictures and gave him options he got super into it! To the point where he designed our whole guest bathroom (blush, marble, and gold) and now wants touches of blush and lilac throughout the house! For a man who almost exclusively wears blue and gray, branching out color-wise is so fun to see! I love your suggestions and can’t wait to use them while we work on our house!

  • I love how these are interior design yet pseudo-relationship advice tips. Great article…I’m in the process of decorating my apartment now and surprisingly, my boyfriend has been strangely on board and supportive of my whims (even when they involve him building the furniture hahaha)

    xx
    Heather’
    http://stormywheather.com/

    • That’s amazing!!! I think it’s really an interesting topic, to be honest. And we get SOOOO many DMs about it. lol

  • I think this is such valuable advice! It’s hard when your partner has completely opposite taste than you. That can make for more communication so everyone feels like it’s “their home too.” I think there’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day and nothing in the space represents who you are. Examples, communication, and time are all key.

    That being said, my kids opinion in our shared family spaces don’t even get a vote. They would opt for every wall being neon green and red with loads of clutter. lol Their bedrooms however, are all their own.

    • LOL- that’s why you have to show them a photo of something awesome that YOU love too. :))

      We totally had pink walls with orange shag carpet as children, so I get it. haha

  • OMG! The fights over stuff like this! I learned some of this stuff the hard way!

  • It’s funny but compromises can also go the “other” way! My husband loves lots of antique-woodcarvings and I love decorating with bright colors. We compromised. I don’t decorate with brights all over the house (just pops of color here and there) and he doesn’t get to have big antique woodcarvings. Only a couple of small ones in his “areas.” Lol.

  • I’m always wondering this when I see Laura’s home, actually. She sticks to her color scheme hardcore!

      • Fascinating! My guy is rather opinionated and partial to anything animal, celestial, magical, and moody.

  • You’re absolutely right! Both my husband and I are in the design industry and naturally we don’t see things eye to eye. Therefore, we ended up compromising whether we’re working on some of our own home improvement projects or a client’s. Having said that though, it’s also important to understand that homes are a showcase of our life journey. Hence, they take time. The best of homes, with the “living in” quality to them take a long time in the making! xx

  • On our first place together my husband also started out wanting to be fully involved.
    It was kind of a nightmare for me.

    I am full on about making a beautiful home and had several homes before we married that I had transformed.
    I know what I want, how it will come together and I know in a split second when I see something… I’m either LOVING it, HATING it or completely indifferent.
    He’s terribly indecisive if given more than 3 choices…. this applies to menus, clothes shopping…. we’re currently house shopping for our new home…. I want to punch myself in the face. Not kidding.

    Anyway, I can remember wanting a certain light fixture for the living room reno on our first flat. We went back and forth over it passionately for 6 months, I can remember frustration tears while light fixture shopping because I knew what light fixture I wanted but he insisted we look and look and look at other options. I just wanted to move on.

    The fixture I wanted wasn’t expensive but it was a big statement fixture that would hang just above eye level over the coffee table.
    He could NOT picture why the light fixture or all light fixtures wouldn’t just be flush mounts (boob lights! OY VEY!) It took photos and examples and time for him to come around….. AKA= time for me to wear him down! HAAAAA!!!!

    Once that statement fixture was up it seemed to be our turning point. He loved it, company loved it. He then trusted me to just design and do what I do.

    When we sold our flat we planned to leave that big light fixture for the new owner but when we had our moving sale we had so many people wanting to buy it so we sold it… for full cost of what we paid for it 8 yrs earlier. Fist pumps in air.

  • Does this work with roommates too? A friend and I just signed a lease together and I have had a very specific vision of what I wanted my space to look like for quite some time. I figured our styles are pretty similar so she’d be ok with whatever I want, but now she wants to put things up that don’t fit into my vision and I’m like, now what do I do?

  • This was a question I posed to you on Instagram so thank you for sharing! Most things are what I already figured. I think my main thing will be taking the reno very slowly and not trying to do it all at once since my man is already overwhelmed with all he has to do. Also, showing him pics and incorporating what he likes ( he loves animals). I mentioned something about cleaning my bf place, and he’s like “You’re trying to change me” LOL. I said that’s just how we gals are, we like clean and tidy! That night we watched a Parks and Rec episode where Andy cleaned the house for Ann and he just smiled kinda like “Ok, I get it”. Thanks Park and Rec! and thanks ABM haha! 🙂

  • Thanks so much for this post! My husband is the designer in our relationship, so as “the Jeremy” I do think a lot of these techniques help!

  • This is so good!!! It sounds like a very normal explanation of marriage and a good “give take” senario. Show pictures is the best advice!!!