Home Front with Angel + Blume
One of the biggest myths that I hear said when discussing how homeowners might approach making decisions on what to have in their homes is that they are happy to leave it all up to their partner. “He/she makes all the decisions and I am happy with what he/she wants.” This is almost never true. At the very least, sooner or later, the proclaimer of this statement will say “but we are not having that”, almost as if completing the earlier sentence that was said several meetings before. In my opinion, finally saying what you like, or don’t like, is a welcome relief because we all have opinions and leaving it to someone else to make decisions is ultimately unfair to the decision-maker.
In fairness, I can see how this situation arises. If two people have very different interior likes and dislikes, it is hard to create a home that pleases both, so allowing the person with stronger opinions a free rein can seem the line of least resistance. However, it could also mean that one of the people involved ends up in a home that they hate and that is a very unhappy outcome.
Knowing the extent of the problem is the first step and gentle honesty helps. I passionately believe that there is, broadly speaking, no absolute right or wrong with interiors, so it is fine to say that one person likes this and another likes that and both are right. A mixture of styles or influences can work incredibly well so the question really is just how to get there. I have undertaken quite a bit of gentle refereeing over the years and I am here to share my tips with you now.
Being really clear about what you like and don’t like is important, and focusing solely on what you don’t like about another person’s taste is not helpful. There will normally be areas of overlap that can be developed but majoring on where the other person is going wrong won’t get you there.
Similarly, being honest about what you feel most strongly about and what you might be able to live with can help with the negotiations. It’s a corny stereotype, but I have found that sometimes, men feel more strongly about lighting, technology, radiators and women are more focused on colour, fabrics, accessories. Indeed some of the most irrational arguments I have witnessed have been about the worth of cushions, but I won’t dwell on this. If your immediate reaction is that I am completely wrong about this, you may be revealing what you feel strongly about yourself - and my question is whether there are areas that you feel you could let your partner have a freer hand, assuming that they will let you have your way with other things?
Are there rooms that are used more by one than the other? I wouldn’t advocate a completely different style in one room of your home but there may be some contentious pieces of furniture that can be homed more happily in particular rooms. I had a client whose husband’s collection of framed photographs of prize-winning cows were verging on the intolerable, but when hung in his bathroom (a room she very rarely went in), husband, wife and cows were all perfectly happy.
If you are already in somewhat of a dispute about what your home should look like, try not to involve friends in the debate. This will not only put them in a difficult position but will also not help either of you at all. If you are in any doubt about this, I would urge you to Google and watch the clip of the domestic argument about the wagon wheel coffee table in the 1980s’ film When Harry Met Sally. The couple in question ask both Harry and Sally’s opinion on the, and I quote “stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale coffee table”, and it doesn’t end well.
There may also be other people in the household who get involved - children, for example, often have very strong opinions that they casually share and are prone to changing as they go along. You may want to involve others in the household, but if you already have two people who disagree, adding more opinions will not help. Considering others is important, allowing them a deciding say is rarely a good idea.
It might be that the difference in opinions is really about something else. There is a lot of emotional baggage connected to someone’s possessions and a dislike of something can be about where it came from, who gave it to you or memories it conjures up. Whether you are the owner of the item or the objector to it, tread carefully when explaining the problem or listening to what the problem is, but do try to find a way to say it. Possessions should be less important than relationships and finding a way to express that, on both sides, will help.
If none of this works at all, and I hope that it does, your last resort is the apparently increasing trend of ‘LAT’ – living apart together – which according to Wikipedia accounts for around 10% of people in Britain and involves being in a relationship but having different houses. Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter famously did this, having houses of extremely different interior styles next door to each other. Their difference in interior design tastes did not seem to be the only reason for the arrangement: it is reported in the press that Bonham Carter said the big problem was snoring - his not hers.
My overall message to you, and to myself when resolving my own interior negotiations, is that an environment that is a creation of more than one style can be a wonderful, complex, inclusive fusion of tastes which is, not least, better than creating a battlefield within your own home.
See angelandblume.com for more.
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