Friday, November 5, 2010

Design Challenge: finding common ground when you and your partner have different visions / tastes

I know a couple who did literally divorce after they built a house together. There’s something about the amount of money we spend and the feeling of ‘permanence’ when it comes to renovating or building a new home that gets to us at the core ... we feel like we have only one chance to get it right, and the last thing we want to do with that chance is compromise on our vision and what we want!


All diplomacy aside, some peoples' taste is really ... not great. Or they’re stuck back in an era that perhaps brings fond memories, but they want to implement that reminiscent decor in a way that is not appealing.

{this is not appealing, in my opinion}

[credit here-on down:]

Whether your partner falls into the ‘design-challenged’ camp, or whether you both have great taste and a good eye but simply have widely differing visions for your space, here’s some suggestions for working towards that common ground so that you don’t have the task of re-building your relationship once all the renos are done:

- Make a commitment to each other to keep communications between you respectful. This will take effort on your part to breathe, stay calm, and be willing to ... (see next point)

- Listen. It can be very hard to stop and listen to someone else’s view point when our paradigm is that they are simply wrong / what they want is not the way to go (for all the valid reasons you have ...).

If you can agree to embrace the next point, listening to your partner – I mean really hearing them and not just waiting for them to finish so you can impart your view – will go a long way to each of you feeling respected and validated.

(Because not feeling seen or heard for who we truly are – and accepted – by our partners can cause us to shut down and become resentful.)

{s/he may like this, but s/he doesn't... or vice versa}

- Agree to disagree. This is cliché but the point here is to agree up front that no one and no one’s ideas are bad or wrong. If you can agree that what’s going on is you each have very different ideas and preferences, it ensures no one feels ‘put down’ which again can lead to resentment.

- Be open to new ideas. Maybe you will never be swayed into what your partner wants, but make a pact with yourself to be open to other ideas.

Step back from the colour scheme and/or specific finishings you absolutely insist are “it” and go back to basics: what is the look and feel you want to have (modern, traditional, ethnic, ‘west coast’, calming, energizing, crisp, soft/romantic, etc.).

{it doesn't get more basic than this}

- Commit to being open to consider different ways that would give you the look you want. Find the common grounds and be willing to compromise.

The notion of the latter can produce an immediate “no way!” reaction, but I’m not suggesting that compromising means you give up what you want and implement your partner’s vision.

(And please don’t compromise with the ‘I get the kitchen and s/he gets the livingroom’ method – the best designed homes flow well from room to room [which does not mean they have to all look the same].)

{maybe she wants this...}

Compromising, when there are widely different tastes, means finding an option that you would both be happy with – to do that, start by discovering and writing down what your common grounds are (see below example).

- Consider working with a designer – one who listens well and who has good mediation skills, in addition to great design skills and creativity.

{and he wants this...}

Design example:

- She wants a light, bright and luxurious-feeling bedroom and ensuite bathroom; one where she can feel pampered by her surroundings, to truly relax and rejuvenate after a long day (she envisions lots of white and water-y blue with silver accents).

- He wants dark and dramatic; one where he can feel sensual and funky (he envisions bordeaux, espresso and black with gold accents).

One common ground is they both want an ‘on-trend’ look – not contemporary, but ‘now’. Another common ground is that they agree the design should consider possible re-sale of the home in 5-7 years.

Working with the above scenario, I would suggest:

- For the bedroom, paint walls an oatmeal/sand off-white; do a feature wall behind the bed, using wallpaper with a backdrop colour that is the same off-white as the paint colour, and has a black damask pattern (you would select the paper first, and then match the paint).

Use both black and white furniture, and accessorize with watermelon, turquoise and a bit of chocolate brown. {Floors in an espresso wood finish would complement well.}

This would produce a look that feels modern and rejuvenating (because of its freshness), while funky because of the creative use of colour and the stunning wallpaper.

{this is an example of the overall look only; not exact re: colours}

[credit most pictures in this post:]

- For the bathroom, use the same colour scheme, but don’t repeat the damask wallpaper (you could do a chair rail around the room, paint the lower portion a light turquoise and wallpaper the upper portion with a patterned paper that brings the off-white, turquoise and watermelon scheme into the room).

Bring the black & white palette into the floor and shower tiles, and use black accessories.

Use brushed silver or nickel for the fixtures – they’re a better bet keeping re-sale in mind, and more subtle than shiny chrome.

Above all – do not give up on trying to find a common ground, and certainly do not give up on your relationship. You’re living with the person you are presumably because you love them. Nothing is more important than that.


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