AKA how I got my husband to agree to a pink bathroom
I am a lucky woman. I realize this. Not everyone has the luxury of having a spouse that lets them make the majority of the design decisions in their home. It helps that it’s my job, but TRUST ME, that doesn’t get me a free pass to do whatever I want.
You may have seen on Insta recently that we renovated our builder basic laundry room, and it’s now clad in pink paneling and wallpaper. Not to mention our pink master bathroom, that I’m still slightly shocked that I got away with.
You might be thinking, “I’m not a designer. How in the world can I convince my partner to go along with your design choices?!”
Well, I’m here to help you with that. Below are 7 questions that you can talk through with your partner to help you set the stage for making design decisions and busting any stalemates that you might find yourself in.
Before you dive in, set the context with your spouse:
“Hey, I just read this interesting blog about home design. Let me ask you a few questions and then you ask me the same ones back. Let’s try it!” Stay enthusiastic and positive. They’ll pick up on your energy. They also might be suspicious, so play it cool.
Important note: you don’t have to ask them all at once. This is a relationship, not a job interview.
If they struggle to answer a question, offer your answer first. If they’re still stumped, move on.
Stay curious and ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation flowing: “Oh that’s interesting! A golf simulator room? Tell me more.”
1. What do you remember about your childhood home(s)?
The good, the bad, and the ugly!
Often our opinions about design are formed way back in our childhoods. One client told me that he didn’t realize it until we presented it to him, but “glass coffee tables are for poor people” was a message he took from childhood. Where he grew up, the well to do families could afford wood coffee tables and everyone else settled for glass. This is hopefully an easy, funny way to break the ice.
White wicker couch from the 90’s! Dark paneling in the converted garage! Gray commercial carpet tiles over hardwood floors! All things I grew up with. Get the nostalgia flowing.
2. What does Home mean to you?
For some people, home is just a place you live, eat, and sleep. It’s functional. Utilitarian. For many of us home carries a lot more emotion along with it. It’s more than sticks and bricks. You might use words like sanctuary or haven. Home is the place where you raise your kids and make memories and hold family dinners and escape from the outside world. Getting an understanding from your spouse about what home means to them might help you realize why you’re seeing things in a different way.
3. What do you value most in life?
We all walk around assuming that everyone else values the same things that we do, but often that’s totally untrue! Some people really value home (*cough* me *cough*) and are thrilled to part with money for a vintage rug or wall of built ins. Other people value having lots of money in a savings or investment account. Or taking vacations. Or season tickets. Or hiring a personal trainer. Usually it’s a combination of several priorities. Often times these values are almost invisible, because humans expect other humans to see things through the same lens as we do, and that’s where relationship conflict happens.
For you, replacing the hardwood flooring is not only beautiful, but it’s tied into where your future kids will take their first steps, making it easier to clean up pet hair, or having a floor that you can refinish and love for decades to come. For your spouse, they might just see a floor and couldn’t care less whether it was wood or tile or carpet, because they’ve already spent that money in their minds on a new car. You may not have alignment here, but that’s okay. The first step to getting on the same page with your spouse is understanding where you’re coming from. Compromise comes later.
4. One thing I appreciate about how you care for our home is _______. What’s something that you appreciate about how I care for our home?
In most relationships, there’s usually a partner that is the Homemaker. That’s the person making design choices, tidying, adding personal touches to make the house feel homey. But almost always, both spouses contribute in some way! I may be the Chief Throw Pillow Selector in our house, but my husband is the one that washes the pillow cases if the kids spill on them. Acknowledging what both partners do to make a House a Home builds gratitude and appreciation. Two really important tools for making decisions together.
5. If money and hassles were no object, what project would you take on in our home?
Sometimes it really helps to just dream. Yes, budgets are real and we can’t always take on a project during a busy season of life. But suspend reality for a moment and just play. If all the barriers were removed, take turns talking about what projects each of you would take on in your home. Get SPECIFIC! Not just “the kitchen”, but “I would create a chef’s kitchen with a thick marble countertop for making pastries, and a true French La Corneu stove that costs as much as a car! With an appliance garage and a pantry the size of my first apartment!” You’ll gain insight into what your partner values. Don’t shut them down if they start waxing poetic about their dream garage. We aren’t making decisions here; we’re just getting the creative juices flowing. It will release endorphins and dopamine. Pro tip: A glass of wine or Scotch helps this conversation flow more freely.
6. What was the best purchase we ever made for our home? Which one flopped?
It helps to look backwards and gain some insight on the things we’ve done in our home that have paid off, and which haven’t. Are you thrilled with the convenience of your nugget ice maker? Maybe it’s the nice set of sheets or mattress you finally invested in. Did you cheap out IKEA furniture and regret it? Or splurge on a sofa but quickly fell out of love with it? You’ll either fine commonalities here or it will give you insight into what your spouse values. Either way, it’s a win.
7. What are your Home bucket list items?
Whether you’re in a starter home, your forever home, or something in between, there are probably rooms that you’d like to change. What are your bucket list projects?
I can tell you that when Steven and I had this conversation, “Pink Laundry Room” was on the top of my list, and (as you might expect) couldn’t have been less important for him. Now that it’s complete I asked him how he liked it, and he said “well, it’s a laundry room.” We just have different priorities. AND THAT’S OKAY.
Which is why he got an exercise machine first (trust me, a machine for exercise wouldn’t ever be on my list…not in a million years). His priority was fitness. Mine is beautiful space to make an irritating chore less irritating. Maybe what I need to do is make a pretty exercise room and then I’ll finally start working out!
🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 yeah no.
Once you go through all of these questions, will you and your spouse finally be fully aligned and have no more design-relationship conflict?!?!?
I’M NOT A MAGICIAN.
While I can’t guarantee that going through this exercise will magically get you in perfect alignment, it will give you a deeper appreciation for where the other person is coming from.
I took 1 psychology class in college and I’ve read a lot of Brené Brown, so I feel qualified to tell you this much:
When you want something from someone (a new refrigerator, hardwood floors, a pink laundry room), if you come from a place of genuine caring about their priorities, they are a lot more likely to be interested in yours.
What happens after the conversations? Well, maybe your next project! If you want additional relationship advice from the Home Doctor (can I just call myself that?!?), check out our blog post on how to mix your and your spouse’s design styles.