How to negotiate home project decisions with your partner

Q: Ever since we bought our house 2 years ago, my partner and I have wanted to update the kitchen. But every time we start talking about the details of a renovation, a fight ensues. We can’t seem to agree on a style, materials, colors or anything! What can we do to come to a consensus and finally get this Reno rolling?

Negotiating design decisions with your partner can certainly seem impossible. In fact, a study by furniture company Article found that couples fight about 72 times a year over home renovation and decorating decisions.

As you probably know, there is no “right” way to decorate your home. A lot of this comes down to personal preferences, and when those preferences vary significantly between partners, things can get ugly. Often the inability to negotiate differences leads to a lack of action, leaving both parties frustrated. Other times, one person makes all the decisions, and the other is dissatisfied or upset that the room doesn’t reflect their tastes.

Finding a way to please both of you can be difficult, but there are some strategies that can help. As with any other dispute between couples, good communication is key.

Schedule a meeting and prepare.

The first step in mastering design decisions is to state your case. Take time to sit down with your partner for a meeting. This gives you both the opportunity to contribute your ideas. It’s also a good time to discuss the budget to make sure you’re on the same page.

Put on your designer hat and be prepared. Don’t just provide your wish list, bring photos and specific suggestions that will help your significant other envision how your ideas could look in your space.

Negotiate home improvement decisions with the partner


Take the time to listen.

One of the keys to a good relationship is active listening. Be open to what your partner has to say and really listen to the arguments behind their preferences. There may actually be an emotional need behind your significant other’s request that may not be obvious at first. For example, maybe your partner prefers a minimalist design because they grew up suffocating in a house with too much clutter. This understanding can build compassion and allow you to prioritize the outcome that matters most to your future together.

Also see: 9 Reasons Science Says Home Improvement Is Good For Your Wellbeing

Consider individual strengths.

Don’t disregard individual strengths when negotiating differences. Perhaps one of you has an eye for paint colors and small details like hardware and lighting, while the other has a knack for planning a layout that best suits your family. Consider dividing design decisions based on these strengths to achieve a result that reflects your merits as a couple.

Avoid rewards.

Design decisions don’t have to be made one-to-one. On a given project, one person might reflect more of their original ideas, while on the next project it might be the other way around. Don’t get too bogged down in making sure everything is perfectly even, or you’ll find yourself fighting over things you don’t really care about. Being generous with your partner will benefit the relationship tremendously. And while it’s not about expecting anything in return, they’re often more willing to give something the next time.

Negotiate home improvement decisions

divide rooms.

If you find yourself getting bogged down in too many small decisions for each room in your home, consider dividing decorating decisions by room. One designs the kitchen, the other plans the living room. Decide which spaces are most important to each of you, then divide them up accordingly. It’s still important to listen to your partner’s preferences and consider the overall design aesthetic of your home, but you can put the finishing touches on this space.

Related: How to Decorate a Living Room

introduce the right of veto.

If you’re concerned that you’ll annoy your partner every time you walk past the huge leather armchair in the center of your living room, you might want to introduce veto power. Each person gets a veto or two per room to use when they strongly disagree with a design decision. And remember, you don’t lose if your veto stays on the table. In fact, it’s a win for both of you.

See also: 10 things you never knew were negotiable

Get a designer.

If you’ve tried all of the above and are still stuck in a deadlock, it might be time to seek outside help. Consider hiring a designer who will listen to your preferences to create a space that suits both of your preferences.

Sometimes, when two people try to combine ideas, they end up with an end result that doesn’t express a clear design aesthetic. Professionals are trained to take conflicting concepts and merge them into a cohesive look.

Negotiate home improvement decisions

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