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Tips on remodeling and decorating as a couple

After we demo’d the walls in the kitchen.

day2Picking out our kitchen tile.
designing-as-a-couple2Deciding on kitchen layout.

So, we’re remodeling and decorating our new home. If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ll know that we bought our fist home last year, we completely gutted the kitchen and did a full kitchen renovation, and now we’re working on the master bedroom and bathroom. Many people are surprised to discover that Jason (my husband) is fully involved in the process, in every single decision. While not a designer by trade, he has a great eye and is a much more practical thinker than I am. Our kitchen reno was a total meeting of the minds and there is a lot of him in the kitchen.

When we first moved into the new home, we did have some words. I assumed that he would be cool with me taking the reigns and doing whatever I wanted in the new house. He (gently) reminded me that this was also his first time owning a house, and that he was just as excited about it as I was, and that he was going to live here too. Oh yeah. I was being totally unreasonable. Oops. So, over this past nine months I’ve learned a lot about what it means to design a house with a partner, (especially if one person is a designer) and I thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve learned.

1.) It may help to treat your partner like a client. One thing that has worked well for us is if I have an idea for, say, a pendant lamp, I provide him with several options that I like and decide on a favorite together. It’s only happened a few times that he veto’d all my initial options (and usually it’s for practical reasons) and then he explains why that pendant lamp won’t work for him, and I take that into consideration when picking more options. This way we both end up having a say and being cool with the end result.

2.) Split responsibilities. We have slightly different roles that we’ve fallen into. Jason does a lot of the detail oriented functional stuff (like picking out light switch plates and deciding where the switches will go) and I take lead on things like finishes. We still run things by each other for final approval but we have our ‘camps’ where one of us takes the lead.

3.) Follow the priorities. There are SO many choices to make when designing and remodeling a home, and it’s easy to get stuck on small decisions (especially given that everything is a little bit more stressful when your living in a house that’s under construction). How high should the wainscoting go? What finish should the shower hardware be in?  Where do we save and where do we splurge? So one thing I have been working hard at, is learning to be really clear about what things are most important to me when it comes to the design of the home, and what things are most important to him. If he really wants slide-in oven and it’s not that big a deal to me either way, we get the slide in. If I really want Aja teal wallpaper in the TV room, he gives me that. We follow each others’ priorities to be sure that we are both getting as close as possible to our visions for our home.

The overarching theme (I think) is to make sure that your partner is (and feels) included in the process (if they want to be!). Ideas get run by each other and everyone gets a say. I think that at the end of the day, the home even works better for the whole family this way because decisions have been made together.

Have you designed a home with a husband/wife/partner? Learn any good lessons? Got any tips? I’d love to hear them!

Alternative Text Justina Blakeney

Designer, artist, stylist & mama. Founder and CCO at The Jungalow. Crazy for color, pattern and plants!

13 responses to “Tips on remodeling and decorating as a couple”

  1. leela says:

    omg love this J!! embarking on remodel of teeny house and feelin the couple stress already. xoxo

  2. Clare says:

    Good tips. My partner and I bought our first home a few years ago. We haven’t been able to redo it so extensively but have totally redecorated and hope to gut the kitchen and bathroom sometime soon. I have more of an opinion and drive with regard to the look of the place, but we have at least somewhat similar taste so it has been fine. He basically has the power of veto, so if I want to buy something for the house I show him first and see what he thinks. He rarely totally vetoes and when he does it’s reasonable. Plus picking together makes it fun and makes the place feel more like ‘our’ home. I also agree on splitting tasks, he has done a lot of the practical stuff. I am a horrible micro-manager so splitting tasks generally works well in our relationship – if he is doing something I leave him to it and thank him after!

  3. Rebecka says:

    My husband and I are about to start a remodel, too. Did you demo the kitchen before deciding the layout? How did that affect the timing of the cabinets, counter tops, etc?

    • Justina Blakeney says:

      He Rebecka! We did do the demo first, but that was because there was a laundry room in the middle of the kitchen that we had to get rid of. Once that was gone we had an open space to work with to create our layout. Then once was was all decided on we ordered cabinets, etc. We weren’t yet living in the house when we remodeled the kitchen so timing everything out was a little bit easier.

  4. jen says:

    My husband and I have very similar tastes and he lets me do whatever I want for the most part, but I almost always show him what I’m thinking of doing and ask for his opinion when I’m stuck. Also, if he asks for something in particular, I make sure we go that route. For example, we had kitchen cabinets installed and we went with the fronts he wanted (I would have chosen something slightly different left to myself) so he feels included and part of the process. I’m happy to get his input when I can because most of the time it’s just me endlessly obsessing about stuff (which is my favorite) ;)

  5. jen says:

    I can’t wait to see your new bathroom Justina!!!

  6. carrie burdick says:

    Being quite a bit older I have gone thru this same exact thing 4 times now, we have built 3 homes and a cabin and one remodel…..i usually pick out several choices of something then always ask his opinion, so in the end I am getting my choice and so is he. Also dividing the labor is a great idea, we did that as well. I have heard so many horror stories about couples getting so mad at each other, but in the end marriage is compromise and nothing is that important that it should come between you, so best like you said to work as a team to get what you both want, makes for a happy home and a happy marriage.

  7. […] Tips on remodeling as a couple, by Justina Blakeney […]

  8. We’re in our first home together too (three years owning now), and while not renovating in a big way we are doing a lot of paint, furniture and other decorating. We’re lucky that our tastes are really similar, so neither of us has had a “wagon wheel coffee table” moment (a “When Harry met Sally” reference). But one of our best techniques for making sure there was no dissatisfaction was simply giving any change enough time to talk it through and judge the depth of feeling pro and con. It’s meant that some changes take a long time (I’m still waiting for the kitchen cabinets to finish getting painted). But when the bright turquoise goes up we’ll both be committed and happy.

  9. Rebecka says:

    Thanks so much for your response! That helps a lot.

  10. aprilneverends says:

    My husband is involved in (almost)every decision. He has strong opinions about stuff .Some things are more important to him, as some are more important to me. Naturally the person who cares a bit less about certain issue-lets the other decide. But we can veto each other.

    I won’t say his involvement never ever makes me crazy, because he sees green and says “purple”, and insists)) He also has very different way of doing things, different time-management skills, and he doesn’t like to delegate. I’m willing to pull a very big but short effort, but then have time to relax a bit. He’s willing to take all time in the world he needs to avoid doing things at once.
    It’s not easy.
    On the other hand, we luckily share some preferences..we both like vintage for example or mid-century modern furniture or Spanish influence. So it’s not like there is no common ground at all.

    Also, when I think of it..even if we struggle because it’s very strenuous time, and lots of commitment, financial and otherwise, and we’re so opposite in our approaches, and we drive each other mad sometimes-I still like doing things together with him. Just because I like doing things together with him. So I know I’m going to remember this crazy time rather fondly, at some point. And this knowledge helps.

  11. Erin says:

    Yes! I agree that the number one thing is to include a partner in the decision-making process, and to truly listen to their ideas and try to compromise when possible. My partner isn’t very concerned with aesthetics, but he does care a lot about comfort and creating space to store his collections, so these two concepts end up being priorities whenever we re-do our space. Love this look into the dynamic of how your relationship effects your design process, thanks for sharing!

  12. […] example, if you have a grand  idea for a vacation or a home remodeling project with your significant other, before launching into the 30,000 foot view that excites you, present as many relevant supporting […]

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