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Advice for Couples: Mixing Styles

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Today, I thought I’d address a common question, how do couples with different styles and separate possessions who get married or decide to live together create a cohesive home that they both can enjoy? I know many couples where the husband has no input because either he doesn’t care or his wife doesn’t care to ask. I know a few couples who shop for absolutely everything together, and I know many couples who fall somewhere in between.

I received this email from newlywed Carrie in Indiana which prompted the topic:

"Hi Kate! We have recently bought our first place (yay!) and we’ve only lived together since November, so I feel that there is a mish-mash of styles at our current place. What’s your best advice for combining styles or decorating a new home? Neither of us have owned before, so it’s all new territory.

With our new house, he says I can do whatever I want (as long as I leave the garage alone, and that’s ok with me!) but I feel guilty either not getting his input, or wanting to get rid of something that’s his.

mixing his hers

The tufted sofa is mine, the dressers are his…The white end tables are hand me downs from my great-grandma. I love a lot of mid century modern style. I think he’s used to having the matching "bedroom suite" and I’m just not that way. I don’t know where to start, it’s a big project…decorating a house, if we’ve never had a house before to furnish."

Great question Carrie, all newly cohabitating couples have been there. I had think back to the beginning when I was first married and what we did to make it work. I remember he had all of his stuff, I had mine, and when we brought it all together at first it was completely hodge podge and none of it worked together. It took many years to create a home with cohesive pieces and furniture we both appreciate, agree on, and enjoy. 

Here’s a little of our story. In the beginning when Matt came home to find me in my decorating mode tearing out pages from a catalog or with a paintbrush in hand, he got very scared. However years later if he is witnessing the same thing, he doesn’t panic because he trusts me. I have made design mistakes along the way, ones he doesn’t hold against me or bring up (good man!) and that’s part of the journey, but we agree on a classic yet casual style having lived together for so long.


recent updates to our living room

In our master bedroom, he was the one who bought our dresser and highboy from an antique store ten years ago, but they’re a bit traditional for me. I think it’s really important to pick your battles so rather than fight to replace them, I picked out the club chairs, nightstands, and bedding and in that space we compromised. When we bought our dining room table, we agreed on the style we liked then I did the research and showed him the final candidates before we made the big purchase.

In the family room, we picked out our first set of sofas fifteen years ago, ones he loved far more than me (they were forest green); the second set of blue/gray slipcovered sofas purchased were completely my decision and he’s never liked them as much as I have, so the third time’s a charm as they say, and this summer we’re choosing a sectional for the family room and will make the decision together.

With the major remodeling projects, I will do most of the research, narrow choices down to a few selections, then ask his input especially on the big investments and ones that affect value like flooring and countertops. He’s a real estate appraiser so not only does he get it, he enjoys being involved in those decisions. That method works best for us but it has taken many years to get there.  

gray kitchen remodel

recent kitchen remodel

When it comes to decorating, he defers to me on the little things from fabrics to home accents, but I ask his input on the investment pieces and many of the paint colors after I’ve narrowed down a few samples. He doesn’t question me when I feel like swapping out the decor or repainting something but we also have an agreement to consult each other on anything that costs more than a certain amount. Several of Matt’s family’s heirlooms are on display in our home because that’s important to him.

My best advice for you Carrie is to take it slow, there’s no rush. Decide which rooms you want to furnish first, ideally the shared spaces like the family room and/or master bedroom are good places to start. If he completely defers to you you’re lucky but don’t ignore his tastes, especially in places where he will spend a lot of time. Furniture like your bed, sofa, dressers, and nightstands will last you for many years, so either keep his dressers and your sofa and make them work for you or invest in pieces down the road that you’ll both love. If you do that, I recommend furniture that leans masculine (clean lines, tailored fabrics, wood trim, especially since you love mid century modern style) so that you can add more shapely feminine accents over the years should you choose do so.

I asked a few of my fellow designer and blogger friends for tips on how they achieved the same goal, how do husbands, wives, and partners decorate a home together over time so that each one’s tastes are satisfied. Here’s what they had to say:

"I tell clients that designing a space together is a little like Dr. Phil, Oprah, and Judge Judy rolled into one. They need to be honest about what is important to each of them in the space independently, then they need to work out what where they are willing to compromise for the other person’s sake because you will not get everything on your list so what are you most prepared to give up?" Courtney Lake, Monogram Décor.

"Listen to his input. My husband trusts my decorating decisions because he knows that I won’t go in a direction he hates. If you decide to pick out things together, make sure it includes elements that you both love!" ~ Chris, Just A Girl

"Go ahead and pick your paint colors but let him have a vote before you begin painting." ~ Brittany, Pretty Handy Girl

"Limit your colors and never go too pastel or too frilly. If he loves industrial and you love coastal, compromise with neutral tones and natural elements." ~ Marianne, Songbird.

"My husband loves to be part of the decorating around here. I’ve learned to bounce ideas off him and keep all communication lines open about color choices…etc. It always cracks me up when he has an idea about something we have already talked about. His ideas are always the best ones. :) " ~ Brooke, All Things Thrifty

"I feel if I share enough inspiration, before I know it, it’s HIS idea. *wink* just kidding! But I do find if I share visuals (inspiration, sketches, swatches, etc.), then I’m able to incorporate his preferences and he’s able to understand my vision for a space." Roeshel, DIY Show Off

"My husband doesn’t have a huge say in decorating. 99.9% of the time he doesn’t care. But for that other .01% I always go with what he wants so he feels like our home is his haven too." Beckie, Infarrantly Creative

I give my husband plenty of time to get used to an idea, especially big ones. As ideas come to me I’ll get his input, and over time we figure out the details. That way he’s not completely blindsided when I want to make a big change." ~ Sarah, Thrifty Decor Chick

"My husband is pretty easy going about the home decor…I usually pick everything out, price it, do all of the legwork and then present it to him. Usually he likes it, but if he speaks up about something I know he feels strongly about it and we go back to the drawing board."  Melissa, 320 Sycamore  

I know so many of you have dealt with this issue, so share your thoughts. How have you made it work with your mate? How do you make decorating or remodeling decisions together, or do you?

The Best Home Improvements for Resale

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

I was asked by a reader recently about improvements to make to her home before they put it on the market for sale. This is a really common question, every homeowner wants to know what to do to increase the resale value of their home so it stands out, sells quickly, and you get the most for your efforts. Here’s Kathy’s question:

“Hi Kate, I have a question. What improvements make sense if you plan to move? My husband and I plan to retire soon and live closer to the coast. I would love to do an inexpensive update to our kitchen but want to make sure it will not be money wasted. We would also love some ideas on what else can be done to the home for resale.”  – Kathy, Westford MA

Every home is unique in its needs for resale, and value is a truly a regional question, one that depends on the home, the neighborhood, and the market. Of course modern kitchens and bathrooms that have been remodeled are big sellers but there are other improvements that add value as well.

I thought Kathy’s question was a great opportunity to ask two experts on the subject, my husband Matt who is a real estate broker and appraiser, and Liz from It’s Great To Be Home, an experienced home flipper (she’s on her 10th!). They’re here to share the most cost effective ways that don’t include major remodeling. As Liz says, “Sinking lots of cash into the house so that someone else can enjoy it probably isn’t very high on your list of fun things to do. Instead, focus your energy and dollars on smaller improvements that will give you a lot of bang for your buck.”

Properly Operating Systems

Liz: As a flipper, my absolute favorite homes to buy are those that haven’t been touched by human hands since they were built…except to maintain the furnace, foundation, etc. Those issues always come up in an inspection, and 10 out of 10 buyers would rather put their money into a fancy new chandelier or surround sound instead of a new hot water heater so make sure the HVAC system is working properly and structural issues are addressed.

Matt: Make sure the slider and the screen door work properly too. Poor working sliders or broken screen doors turn buyers off quickly. Many people don’t realize that stuck sliders can be fixed easily by removing the door and replacing the rollers. It may take some time and a trip to the hardware store but it can be done for under $20. There are plenty of videos on YouTube which show the process of taking apart the slider.

welcoming entry

Freshen and Neutralize Paint and Flooring

Liz:  I don’t think that you need to run out and paint or recarpet your entire house to prepare it for sale (unless it’s really nasty) – most buyers will put their own touches on at least a few rooms once they move in, and I can tell you first hand how frustrating it is to put in new carpet only to have the new owners instantly replace it with hardwood!  However, you should definitely take the time to shampoo carpets and remove stains, as well as repair any chips, smudges or dings in the paint (no one wants to buy a grungy house).  Also, be sure to paint over any "polarizing" hues that would prevent buyers from being able to envision the space for their own needs – your hot pink craft room might not translate so well to a fellow pining for a man cave.

Update the Light Fixtures

Matt: Modern light fixtures say so much about a home. If the light fixtures are dated and dusty this is a clear indicator as to how the rest of the home has been maintained. Go into a home and see 1980s lacquered brass lighting everywhere and you have a good indication that the homeowner was likely a reactionary owner, only making upgrades when things didn’t work anymore. Light fixtures are very cost effective way of updating your home and showing the buyer that you are a more proactive homeowner than one that would fix only the things that broke down. However if your home possesses valuable vintage fixtures that complement the style of the home, it’s best to leave those in place.

updated light fixtures


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