As an interior designer, we often have many roles in addition to the design work we do for our clients. We have to be skilled at managing budgets, skilled at communications, skilled at coordinating meetings, skilled at sales and marketing, skilled at educating, and sometimes skilled at counseling - marriage counseling.
By the time we meet with clients in their homes, they have already gone through a series of emotions, questions and research. And if it is a couple, lots of discussions, and sometimes arguments. It may sound to you like decorating is not a big deal, but for some couples it is a defining moment in their relationship of how they handle disagreements, challenges, and differing opinions. If they have not learned how to handle these conflicts, they can quickly escalate into dangerous waters. When you consider that your home is probably one of the biggest investment you will ever make, it's no wonder couples go through these emotions without knowing how to solve them.
While I would never claim to be a professional marriage counselor, sometimes an objective third party may be all the couple needs to get them back on track, and sometimes, unfortunately, no new space can change the course they are on. Relationships are all about give and take and caring enough about the needs of each other. It's hard for couples to do that when they know nothing about interior design, and that's why it is wise to bring in an interior designer from the very beginning. From the time they realize that they will never agree on anything, it is worth saving their sanity and peace of mind to seek the wise counsel of a professional interior designer, who is skilled at designing with the needs of both parties in mind.
These are some of the areas where I see a major breakdown in communication, fierce disagreements and strong opinions when it comes to designing their spaces
* Agreeing on a budget
* The myth that the wife should be a natural homemaker and even decorator
* Agreeing on the style and colors to be used
* Using family heirlooms
* What areas should be priority
Agreeing On A Budget
Without throwing interior design into the mix, handling money is already a sticking point for a lot of couples. A survey conducted by Magnifying Money (Lending Tree) states that money causes 21% of divorces. That is an alarming number!
When it comes to interior design, couples struggle with understanding what it actually costs. One may be willing to spend on the things that are important to them while the other may not. Most times they have no point of reference except how they were raised, and how their parents viewed money. Those factors have nothing to do with what interior design actually costs today, and so it makes sense that if couples are already having problems agreeing on a budget, they need to call in a professional
Most times couples aren't aware that they can solve this problem easily by consulting with an interior designer for just a few hours without making a commitment beyond that. At least the discussions will be based on facts instead of emotions mixed with "well, my mama says". Not great words to use during marriage conflicts by the way. You want to be sure to hire a firm like Casa Vilora Interiors who will be very transparent and honest about budgets and money, and help you decide the best way to spend the money that you do have to spend. We are available for very high level consultations for this purpose.
The Natural Homemaker/Decorator Myth
I have come across situations where the traditional role of women being the homemaker and even decorator is observed by at least one spouse. If this is something that they talked about before marriage and they are both happy with that arrangement, then there should be no issues where that is concerned. But more times than not, when I experience couples who have major conflicts about decorating their home, it is because the husband thinks that the wife should naturally possess and apply the skills to making their home beautiful and organized. Sometimes it is because of how he was raised and the roles of his parents that were comfortable for him. They may have provided him with a great life, and that's really all he wants for his family, so you can't really blame him. The problem arises when the wife does not agree. Maybe she has a career herself and doesn't have the time and skills to take on that role. On top of that, they may also disagree on many other things with decorating their home and they stay stuck, or worse yet, argue all the time.
I imagine that would be a major stressor for both parties, coupled with the fact that the house itself is undecorated and disorganized, and not a very nurturing nor inspiring place to come home to. Can you see that any human being could crumble under that pressure?
Again, calling in an interior designer at least for a consultation to explain just what is involved in decorating a home, and the skills, resources and time involved. It will shed some light as to why the wife has not been able to move forward. Even if she did have some natural talent, that is not enough to design a space that they will both be happy with. It takes skills and experience and lots of resources.
Agreeing On Style and Colors
Deciding on the style of a space and the color palette is also a big point of contention for couples. The problem that I usually see is that they don't understand style and sometimes they actually agree without even knowing it. One spouse may say I want "modern" when he/she means contemporary. There can be a lot of confusion when it comes to that. This is one reason why I don't even ask clients what their style is. I think that's why many clients now lean towards modern farmhouse, because it is the trendiest and most recognizable style thanks to Joanna Gaines and Fixer Upper.
The more important questions are 1) how do you want the room to function? and 2) how do you want the room to feel? A room should be built around that. I find that couples are more decisive when they are asked those questions. Take for example, if the room needs to function for sleeping and the feeling they want to create is a serene environment, then we need to talk about the TV and whether one is needed in the room or not. That is usually the biggest disagreement - A TV or not. Let's assume that one spouse wants a TV in the master bedroom and one doesn't, but they both want a serene and cozy feeling, then as a designer my challenge is to create that feeling first, and find a way to disguise a TV in the room. A regular couple with no design knowledge will assume it has to be one or the other, while our expertise tells us that it can be accomplished with the right plan and resources.
Same for color. One spouse may assume that a darker room will close the space in and make it feel smaller, while the other may love the idea of an intimate more moody space. Our expertise tells us that color doesn't work in a vacuum. There are other factors that will affect the overall look and feel of the room, including the lighting and the furnishings that will be used with the colors. Color is just the beginning. Unless a couple has design knowledge and experience, they will have no idea how to pull off color, and they will have already spent hundreds of dollars on samples before they realize that they should have called in an expert to educate them on how to choose color. We offer Color Consultations that solve that problem
Using Family Heirlooms
Several years ago, I got called in for a consultation by a young lady who literally sounded like she was in tears on the phone. She had just gotten into an argument with her husband over some antique pieces that belonged to his mother (passed down from the grandmother) that he wanted to keep in the home. They had sentimental value to him, and because he had lost his mom tragically, they were important to him to keep her memory alive. The young wife had never met the mom, and she wasn't as attached to these pieces and she wanted them gone, or moved to another part of the home where they were less prominent. She was near tears because he had accused her of being insensitive and wasteful. Yikes! Strong words.
I actually questioned whether or not I wanted to even get involved with this couple, but I thought, why not. I have something that they need and can help them.
After sitting down with both of them and understanding the stories behind some of the pieces, what they liked about some of the pieces and what they didn't like, I uncovered a few things: 1) The husband actually thought that some of the pieces were quite ugly too, but somehow he felt he had to use every single piece he inherited. 2) They were both ok with repurposing some of the pieces 3) They were both ok with honoring his mother's and grandmother's memories in other ways without making their whole lives about that. We decided to move some of the really ugly pieces to other areas in the home, and mix them in with more contemporary pieces so their home didn't look like an antique shop. We decided to repurpose the ones that had great lines using different fabrics and finishes, and finally we decided to do a family gallery wall that featured some of the best memories he had of his mother and grandmother. We incorporated her parents as well. We did not only use photographs, but we framed dishes in shadow boxes. We framed scarves and even a small quilt. The result was an amazing feature wall, and their home still looked like them. The last I checked, that couple was still together some 8 years later.
Antiques are wonderful to have in every space to give them soul and a sense of history, but they should never be there if they don't work.
Deciding On Priority
So maybe his dream pool room is not top priority for her. This is a struggle for couples; what rooms to decorate first. It stems from the fact that they may have just bought a new home and don't have all the money to furnish all the rooms, and they would rather start somewhere instead of waiting.
I think it is smart to work on decorating your home one room at a time, and keep going as budget allows.
An interior design firm like ours can help you make that decision as to which rooms to make a priority. It is based on a few factors like: your lifestyle, your family needs, your budget, the return on your investment and what is involved with the undertaking. For example, if the floors need work and the living room needs to be furnished, you may want to start with the floors first. Designing a whole house is daunting and overwhelming for couples, but finishing one space at a time that you will love coming home to, will inspire you to keep making your house a home.
I once met a couple who couldn't understand why they were stressed out and seem to argue a lot when they were home, but they were like turtle doves in love when they took time away from home, or even go out to eat (lots of PDA). As it turned out, their master bedroom was the culprit. They would both come home from long days at work, and the room that they should be able to escape to and unwind was an eyesore, and actually as they had stated to me"the ideal place to stub your toes on your way to the bathroom at night". Apparently that happened many times....even to the dog. Haha. I thought dogs had great night vision.
It's been a while, but I recall that the room was literally painted puke green by the previous owners, and they had lived with it for years. The carpet as I remember was also there when they moved in, and it was in really really bad shape.
We were able to clear the clutter by first installing a closet organization system so they no longer had clothes at the foot of their bed and there was a place for everything - his and hers style. We changed the floors to a beautiful hardwood and did a gorgeous soft area rug to soften it up in there. We also brought in a seating area, and because they both loved wine, a wine fridge in their bedroom! Talk about romantic!
The wife who worked in a hospital needed to be able to sleep-in because she worked long night shifts, so we installed black out draperies. Every detail was considered to address every need, and then some. They are also still together some 6 years now. I am going to make a fair assumption that they are no longer arguing and feel stressed out.
So, if you find that you are at odds with your spouse about the look and feel of your home, get professional help, and don't wait until you're near tears to reach out