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Help! Husband and wife have completely different tastes.

We are living in our 4th space as a married duo. The first place in college we didn't do much decorating. White walls galore. The second one I began decorating and accessorizing, but it was random and we were still mostly in college. With little cash, whatever small projects I did thehubs didn't mind because they were so small scale nothing really bothered him. The third one was in a different country, so we basically didn't do anything to - it was all the landlord's.

And now we are in a fourth rental. That we foresee inhabiting for a few more years. It has tan/beige walls, brown doors and brown trim. The kitchen cabinets are old dingy white that look almost a pale, pale, pale shade of greeny/yellow both because of age, probably low quality paint and they reflect the green formica countertops.

I am determined to bring light, crisp, fresh details into our living room. On a budget. This is where things get hairy: We decided to spend $250 to decorate, and it turns out we have NOTHING IN COMMON.

Let me explain with a horrifying illustration.

I showed him the YHL House #1 to see what elements he likes (he generally tends to be more conservative/classic casual while I like contemporary/industrial/thrifted/upcycled) so that we could come together on a decorating plan.

He liked every other picture. As in, ALL OF THE "BEFORE" PICTURES HE LOVED. "Look at this wooden kitchen! I like that dark paneling! Ooooh, classic fireplace."

HELP! He literally said, albeit in a joking voice "Do we need to live in two different houses or will we just continually go back and forth over your desire to paint everything white?"


  • graycmgraycm Orlando, FL
    Maybe if you both took some of the many style quizzes available online you could find some common ground.

    Bring some decorating magazines home and each of you mark pages to illustrate likes & dislikes then discuss why. It will be a lot of work but you will learn a lot about each other during the process!

    Compromise could be including elements you each like in one room or a room more for you and another more for him depending on who uses it most.

    Good luck!
  • I think this is probably a quite common problem, and my husband has liked some of the before photos sometimes too, though not wood paneled walls thankfully! I think some of it is just what they are used to, so more exposure to more current trends might help. I like graycm's idea of bringing home some decorating magazines or looking at home decor websites, which doesn't give him any "before" options! But make sure you choose some that you think he might actually like, like This Old House or Country Living. Have a look yourself - I'm sure you could find some common ground. I've found that my husband has slowly moved towards sharing more of my tastes.

    The other argument that I sometimes use is that I really care about this stuff. I spend a lot of time looking for inspiration, planning, shopping for great deals, or DIY-ing. If he is mostly indifferent, then he should give me a bit more freedom on some of the decisions. I would never force something he clearly didn't like, but if he's ambivalent, the above argument will usually convince him to go for it. And he usually loves it afterwards!

    One last thing I've discovered is that it really helps my husband to be able to see something concrete. So whenever I plan a whole-room kind of makeover, I make a moodboard basically for him, so that he can see how it will all come together. He finds that really useful. It helps me too, but I have so many things floating around in my head that he can't see, so seeing it all put together is really helpful.
  • haverwenchhaverwench Highland Park, NJ
    From your husband's comments, it sounds like he likes natural materials like wood and brick. (I'm betting if you do a search on "rustic style," he will say "ooh!" to all the pictures that pop up.) Your description of your own style is "light, fresh, crisp." So is there any common ground here? Absolutely. White not only can coexist with natural materials, it's the perfect foil for them. All you have to do is let go of the impulse to make EVERYTHING white, and make some room for those darker-toned finishes that he loves like natural wood, brick, or maybe even stone. Do a search on "cottage style" and you'll see tons of pictures of natural materials (like brick or stone fireplaces and heavy, knotty wood furniture) offset by crisp, white walls. My guess is that if you look at those pictures together, you'll see plenty of elements that you both like. If I'm right, you can just make that your starting point, and work from there to incorporate touches of both your style and his. I would urge you to include him in the process as much as possible; you don't want to spend all your money, finish the room, and discover that he hates it. So even if you're in charge, give him veto power over any big decisions.
  • My husband is the same way! He looves our thick, dark, knotty paneling and our dark fireplace. We have gone round and round about it, but finally it came down to a compromise of sorts. I started by trying to figure out what he liked about it, and it turns out that he likes that it is dark and cozy. (I hate it because it's in the whole front of the house and it makes it feel like a dungeon)

    He pretty much told me that if I would leave the paneling and the brick alone I could do whatever I wanted with the rest of the house. So, instead of being mad about it all the time, I have tried to embrace it in that section of the house. Our kitchen has exposed brick all around the stove, but I painted the rest of the kitchen and the cabinets white (they were the same dark wood as the paneling). The white looks good with the brick and I don't mind the brick being so dark anymore. The paneling in the entryway goes halfway up the wall, so I painted the top half of the wall a lighter color and put up white picture frames and light colored curtains. There is still one area where the paneling goes all the way into a dark corner and ends in the fireplace, but I just put down a lighter color rug and 2 comfortable recliners and that has ended up being our sunday afternoon nap space because it does keep out a lot of the sunlight. It's not ideal for my taste but it's helped us both be able to live in the same space without hating the whole thing.

    Ignore the mess in these pictures but this will give you an idea of what I'm talking about. I still cringe a little at the first picture, but I will admit it's a cozy place to build a fire or take a nap, and if it makes him happy I guess it's worth it. I have other rooms that I have put my own decorating spin on and they make me happy so it works.
    3264 x 2448 - 2M
    3264 x 2448 - 2M
  • I agree with haverwench...ask what he likes about them. That has worked for us when my partner likes things and I can't understand why.

    Another thing that works for us...I pick several possibilities that I like and get my partner to pick between these. Even if my favorite isn't picked, I know I'll like the outcome. Maybe you could pull several photos or mood boards that you like, but are different from each other and ask your husband which he likes.

  • edited March 2014
    You have to constantly expose him to your point of view. Not obnoxiously, but slowly over time. Also it helps to present your most far out ideas and more middling comparison. Three years ago there is no way my twin would have gone in for a bright yellow living room, but the yellow is conservative compared to my fuscia sensibilities.

    Also there is a way to do dark and dramatic (or cavelike if you prefer to call it that) and a way to do classic/conservative without doing dated. Mission leans that direction and so does classic english library type stuff.
  • amyla008amyla008 Fort Collins, CO
    Like @lanhamae said - a compromise can work well. I like cooler tones: blues/grays, and my husband likes warmer colors like tan and red. So our living room/dining room is tan and light yellow, while our TV room and kitchen are BM's revere pewter. My husband doesn't like the revere pewter very much, he got his tan in other parts of the house, plus he doesn't hate it enough to get off his butt and paint it himself ;).

    Sometimes you might be surprised and actually end up liking each other's picks. I did our bedroom Rockport gray and at first he was a little grumpy that I was painting another room gray, but in the end he likes it, so you never know :), sometimes you might end up agreeing. I really like the tan in the livingroom now too.

    I also do what @ranchome does and give him a few choices from ones I've narrowed it down to - you just have to be prepared that he might not pick your favorite.
  • I'm loving all of your input, guys! Thanks for taking the time. While it's easy for me to look at our tastes and see nothing but difference, I've determined to find the unity so that our home is a place we both love. We went to Target last night to find a rug for our living room, and he insisted that we get whatever I wanted - what a sweetie pie. I preferred however to snag something I knew he wouldn't mind, and maybe would even love. I was right- I picked out an attractive rug with him in mind and he really liked it in the space. One thing that didn't work- sketching out my vision on lined paper. I wasn't able to translate accurately what I was thinking in a way that didn't scream "too busy/messy/cluttered!" to him. Blame the artistic flourishes of my pen haha! So I hopped on and messed around with a space we're working on. Just like many of you have said, finding a way for him to visualize the end goal did help, and he was much more on board since then.
  • My boyfriend was the same way. I can understand why he would like dark this or that, but when it's executed poorly or in a really dated way, it's hard to look past. He didn't understand why I wanted to paint our kitchen cabinets white, but loved the result. Later he didn't understand why I wanted to repaint our kitchen walls. Now he loves it.

    I prefer touches of rustic or natural elements and I think that's what brings it together for him. He never understand my vision before I do it, but then he gets to be pleasantly surprised.
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