Home Decorating for Couples 101

I’ve been working with a young couple, Kim and Ryan, who recently bought their first house – so exciting! They couldn’t wait to get started on decorating and transforming the new house into their home. We began with a questionnaire that I had them work on together, it had a lot of the usual design type questions and then some that they really had to think about. For instance, their color tolerance. Color tolerance in terms of home design simply means how much color are you comfortable with in your space. Do you like lots of bright color everywhere or do you prefer neutrals? This can be an eye opening question for couples as it was for my clients. Turns out Ryan has a very low color tolerance and Kim is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Creating your sanctuary is much like creating a relationship with your significant other – you each come into the relationship with a distinctive personality, likes and dislikes, behavior quirks and beliefs. The challenge is to blend these unique characteristics into a harmonious balance without losing your individuality. Designing your home together is much the same way.

It takes a shared common vision and yes, comprises. I remember years ago when Micheal (my future husband) and I were making the decision to live together I asked my dad, “how do you and mom create a home together?” My home has always been of the utmost importance to me, it’s my nest and my ‘safe place’ when the world gets overwhelming – I was more than a little hesitant about sharing the design decisions with Micheal as our styles and taste didn’t seem compatible. My dad’s words of wisdom were, “I let your mother make all the design decisions.” I had to laugh because I don’t think my mother would see it that way – I can distinctly remember skirmishes over sofa styles and furniture placement more than once while growing up!

So back to my clients. Ryan and Kim agreed upon the overall design they wanted – Modern Tropical. I then created a design board incorporating the elements we had discussed that were important to them with neutral furnishings for Ryan and bright pops of color for Kim creating a harmonious blend of their individual aesthetics.

They both loved the design board and were ready to get started with purchasing furniture and accessories for their new home. The first purchase was a sofa that was comfortable for Ryan to sprawl out on (this seems to be a major factor for men!) and stylish to suit Kim’s taste. Next the area rug was purchased along with brightly colored throw pillows and some fabulous poufs to provide extra seating when entertaining friends. And then came the first hurdle – the chairs.

It’s no surprise that Ryan’s top priority is comfort while Kim is focused on the feel and style of their home. As a side note, I purposely used the word ‘feel’ as this is often how women create – we want our homes to literally feel a certain way when we walk in the door. So I put together another board with a selection of various styles of chairs that would fit well in their Modern Tropical home. After hours of deliberation, Ryan and Kim selected a chair that they both liked – only to find it’s out of stock so back to the drawing board!

Here are some suggestions and practical advice for couples who find themselves in a design dilemma:

Have a Shared Vision

As I mentioned earlier, having a design board – either one you create yourselves or one that is done for you (shameless promotion here – yes, hire me!) – can save you countless hours of frustration and also a lot of money. By having a clear vision of what you want and a budget in mind, you’ll have a good foundation and will stay on track. Each design board that I create also has product links with prices so that clients can get an idea where they want to spend their hard earned money, and they can purchase the pieces directly with no markup.

Decide on Priorities

This is often overlooked and then everything can become a battle. So sit down and figure out what’s really important to each of you. For instance, if you love to cook and your partner hardly ever does, then decide up front that you have final say on the kitchen design. And really get clear on just how important the overall design of your home is to each of you. 

Years ago when Micheal and I were renovating our first house, we had a major knock down drag out at Home Depot – over cabinet hardware. Yup, cabinet knobs and drawer pulls! You’d think that they would be insignificant but you’d be wrong. Basically we ended up with no hardware on our cabinets for months because we each refused to compromise. That’s when we instituted our ‘form and function’ policy. If it has to do with how it looks, I have the final decision – if an item involves function, Micheal chooses. For instance, the color of the walls, the cabinets, the accessories etc. are my domain. Micheal selects all of the ‘equipment’ that goes into renovating ie tankless water heater, HVAC, etc. And yes, there are overlaps – this is when compromising comes into play. It’s also where we long ago determined that how our home looks and feels is of more importance to me. As long as it’s comfortable, Micheal is good with what I choose (for the most part)!

You can divide up the decision making however works best for you and your partner, either by room, by form and function or anything that suits you both. But it’s important to have a system in place so that you don’t split up over kitchen hardware!

Enjoy the Journey

Keep in mind that creating your home – your mutual sanctuary – is a journey, not something to be rushed through in order to reach the finish line. It takes time to select each piece, choosing things that have meaning and bring you joy. Most of all, have fun! Make a date to go furniture shopping – plan to grab a bite to eat first (and maybe a cocktail or two), set the stage for an enjoyable experience. Get up early on a Saturday morning and hit the flea market, searching for treasures – maybe a unique piece of art or a coffee table you can have fun rehabbing together. Don’t be afraid to take a design break. Sometimes you need a little breather to make decisions, sometimes you need to live in your space in order to decide on a wall color – it’s ok, there’s no pressure. Be grateful that you’re on this journey together!

Ryan and Kim are still working on finding just the right chairs. They’re enjoying their design journey – my heart smiles when I get excited texts from Kim after they find a piece they both love! And they’re navigating the unforeseen pitfalls – like agreeing on a light to hang over their kitchen island. I have full confidence that together they’ll create the perfect sanctuary – a place to make memories with friends and family, a place to soothe their souls after a long week, a place to kick back and relax … a place to call home.



Note: After too many years of being out of the design world, I’m jumping back in and will be starting my new business, Soulful Home Design. I’ll also be starting a new lifestyle blog – stay tuned for further details soon!

Boho Bungalow – New Beginnings

After what feels like the summer that wouldn’t end – it’s time for me to sit down and get back to writing. My mind is a jumble and it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll just jump in and see where this leads!  Our downtown chapter ended when we sold our building in July. With a quick close, I was in panic mode trying to pack everything up within three weeks. Keep in mind that the building was our live/work space so I had a household plus my art studio and Micheal’s office to pack up.  Oh, and did I mention that we had no place to go? That was fun, scrambling to try and find a rental with five animals and only a few weeks’ notice. After much searching and no luck on a temporary home, Micheal was finally able to talk the tenants in one of our rental properties into moving out early and we paid off the rest of their lease.  Phew, we had a place to go.  But damn, I wasn’t prepared for what was in store!

After weeks of sorting, packing and labeling, it was finally moving day. I was frazzled but ready to just get on with it. Everything was organized based on destination – storage, Micheal’s new office, and our temporary home. The move went fairly smoothly, and since we were planning to purchase a new bed for our master, we left the mattress downtown and spent one last night in our ‘dream’ home, the building that we had poured our blood, sweat and tears into for three years as we rebuilt and designed every square inch ourselves. It was bittersweet to say the least, but honestly I was so tired there were very few tears.  Those would come later.

The next morning we got up and started cleaning – I had decided to forgo a cleaning service as I was confident this wouldn’t take too long. I’m kind of a neat freak so the house is usually clean, this would be a piece of cake, or so I thought! Without going into all the boring details, let’s just say this was much more labor intensive than I anticipated. I had forgotten about things like pulling out all of the picture hangers and patching holes, taking apart the fridge (geeze, when was the last time I did a deep clean??? Yikes!) and scrubbing the endless white trim and builtins.  

At the end of a very long day we headed to our new (temporary) home. A simple little nondescript ranch house that Micheal has owned for decades, had seen countless tenants, in need of TLC – but really, how bad could it be? As long as we were all together that’s all that mattered, right? That’s what I told myself as I pulled into the driveway, bone tired and emotionally drained.

The first thing I noticed was that the house was hot as hades and the tenants did a half ass job of cleaning – just great, more scrubbing ahead. Boxes were piled everywhere and all I wanted to do was plop down on the couch and zone out with a glass of rose and mindless TV. I walked into the kitchen and it hit me – this house is a wreck!  To say that the appliances are outdated is an understatement, the cabinets and all of the walls in the kitchen and dining room were a dark oak – creating a depressing cave-like atmoshphere. The rest of the house was painted a dreary beige. And don’t even get me started on the bathrooms. How did I think I could live here? Me, who believes our homes should be our sanctuaries, a place that feeds the soul! 


What a mess – but at least Hope found her bowl!

It was then that it hit me. This is HOME for the foreseeable future. That’s when the meltdown started. The tears and then the accusations, calling my sweet husband a slum lord … it all came spewing out! I knew I had gone too far, but at that moment I didn’t care – how could he think I would live in this house, it was a dump! He stormed outside to see about fixing the A/C and I poured a large glass of wine and sat, sweating and distraught, in the middle of a hodgepodge of furniture and boxes. When he came back inside I apologized and we attempted to move things around enough so that we could sit in the living room and relax.

All the warmth and coziness of a prison cell – but at least Hope is comfortable!

When we finally went to bed – on a double mattress from our former guest bedroom laying on the floor with no platform or box springs – I started crying again. I couldn’t stop the tears. It had been an emotional time, putting our beloved building on the market, going through months of showings then all the back and forth negotiations, and finally the move. Micheal put his arms around me and whispered “we don’t have to stay here, we’ll find another place.” In between sobs, the only words that would come out were “I want to go home.”

The next morning I woke up at 5:00. I felt lighter than I had in months, as if a huge weight had been lifted. As I walked into the backyard with my coffee, the quiet was almost deafening (after ten years of living in the city I was used to constant noise!) and then it hit me, this is not an ending but rather a new beginning. I also felt something else I wasn’t expecting, gratitude. At that moment a deep sense of gratitude overcame all of the frustration of the previous night. I was so thankful for my husband, for having a roof over our heads, for having my fur babies with me and for the next chapter that was about to unfold. I realized how incredibly blessed I am and that I have nothing to be complaining about.  I was actually looking forward to the challenge of fixing up the little ranch house.  If this is where we’ll be living for the duration while we renovate our boho bungalow, then I was determined to make it our HOME!



Note:  I’ll have more updates on the boho bungalow renovation – and also decorating and design tips as I spiff up the little ranch house. I need to come up with a name for this place, boho rancho? Haha! If you have any ideas, would love to hear them! Make sure and check in on Feel Good Fridays – I’m planning to share some of my favorite boho and design blogs, magazines, books, recipes, dog mom tips and more!