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How to overcome exasperation with your partner when you can’t agree on design

So, you’ve bought your first home together. From the first viewing you have been imagining how it will look after re-decorating. Now you can’t wait to get stuck into the new place and stamp your identity on it.

The thing is, neither can your partner, with theirs.

You’ll have your style ideas and inevitably your partner will have their own too, and quite different to yours. Especially if it’s a new chapter after being single for a long time.

When we get to our 40s and 50s, we tend to really know what we like – our personal aesthetics are well established. We understand ourselves better. Moving in with a new partner at this stage can be tricky

if you want to avoid a ‘paintbrushes at dawn’ scenario.

But hang on, you have great taste in interior design.… they just need to see how amazing your ideas are and they will simply step aside to give you free reign.

The reality is you’re well aware that your partner has quite strong ideas when it comes to home decoration too. Now you’re facing up to the fact that there could be a battle over everything from the colour of the kitchen tiles to length of the curtains. And where on earth is that fish tank going to go?

This needs to be handled with tact and a clear head. Get this right, and you’ll be set up for living together in harmony, hopefully for the rest of your lives, in a home you both absolutely love.

Start with love

Well, the first thing to do is to remember you love each other and you have chosen to live together! If you both feel you are creating your future home, then remember that this is a house for both of you to be happy in, so you need to work together.

Appreciation of each other’s taste

There’s a good chance that you’ve both become entrenched in your own views and you’ve stopped really hearing what the other person is saying, so let’s start communicating in a way that honours both opinions.

Before you start redesigning the house, each of you pick out a few objects chosen/owned by the other before you met them (eg. a painting, a vase). Tell each other what you like about it and why.

Share your design ideas

A great way to do this is by creating a Pinterest board that you both add to. Discuss what it is about your choices that you’re really drawn to. And then try to find things in the other person’s choices that you like. There is no right or wrong, even if your preferences are quite polarised.


Write down what you need from the room on a practical/functional level.

Also, talk about what is your favourite feature in the room. This could be something concrete/physical or more to do with a feeling/essence of the space.

For example, one of you may love the fireplace and the other may be more concerned with getting lots of light from the window.


Independently, think about words that describe how you want to feel in the room. Then come together and see where they overlap.

For example, if you both find you want a relaxing living room, start to explore what ‘relaxing’ means to each of you. One person may be happy to acquiesce on dark walls as long as the sofa is large enough to stretch out and lounge on. The other person may then feel happy to forego a more formal sofa for the sake of a soft coloured wallpaper.

Give and take time

What might you be prepared to compromise?

Having got to this point, you might have started to realise that you’re not quite so diametrically opposed as you initially thought! Your discussions about the feel of the room may have overcome the design issues completely.

However, if this isn’t the case, there will need to be some compromises.

What is it that you are prepared to negotiate? For example, could you agree to a larger TV screen if it was in a cabinet rather than being wall-mounted? Would you be happy to keep the wooden floor if you could have a large rug?

If you’re struggling to blend your styles completely in one particular room, then remember there are other rooms in the house. Decide which room is most important to each of you and let that person take the design lead in that space.

Remember you love each other and want to live together.

It’s very easy to let squabbles about paint colours and kitchen cupboards mask more fundamental problems within a relationship. If that’s the case for you, then it might be pertinent to step away from the colour charts for a while and focus your attention on remedying those underlying issues first.

This article was first published in The Coach Space



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