I have a confession to make. I've made some big decorating mistakes in my marriage. One of the first happened when I had a garage sale while we were still newlyweds. Unbeknownst to my husband, I ended up selling all his brown bachelor pad stuff: the brown bedspread, brown towels, brown everything. As I later found out, he was not ready to part with those treasures of his single life. Another time, I refused to hang the oil painting of his precious grandparents on the hip-looking peach walls of our first home. "After all," I justified, "who wants dead people staring at you?" At times, in frustration, I would ask, "Please God, I know you say that the two shall become one, but that doesn't include our decorating styles—does it?"
After fifteen years of marriage and many more mistakes than I care to write about, I've come to realize that successful decorating, like a successful marriage, is about teamwork. For some couples, "how to decorate" debates may not be an issue—you may see eye-to-eye in all your decisions. Or easier still, your spouse may be passive about decorating and leave those decisions entirely up to you. The challenge comes when both parties have moderate to strong, differing opinions about decorating.
Here are eight ways to help the two of you become a dynamic decorating duo. (Spouses take your corners, please.)
1. Pray Together
Believe it or not, God, the Master Designer of the universe, wants to be intimately involved in all areas of your home life—even the decorating. Take one look at the beautiful world he has decorated and you'll see that God is interested in color, pattern, texture, and detail. Begin your decorating process by praying together. Ask God to guide your steps and unify your hearts. You'll be amazed at the results. Remember, the goal in decorating should be to create a beautiful home that reflects God's beauty and order. A home environment that is pleasing to God and to both partners will nurture your marriage and your family relationships. Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain." Don't take on your project without him.
2. Dream Together
Have fun looking at decorator show houses, model homes, furniture stores, and home improvement stores together. Or, for a cheap date, go to a bookstore, grab a cup of coffee, and flip through home magazines and books. Court each other again. Communicate your thoughts about what you like and then listen to your mate's ideas.
3. Ponder Your Passions
Your home should reflect the passions and personalities of both partners. Think about the things you and your spouse enjoy in life. The inside of your home should reflect what you like to do outside your home. Because my husband, Bill, loves golf, his office is decorated with old golf clubs, trophies, balls, and framed photos of fellow golfers. I love colorful flowers and beautiful gardens, so we hung several floral paintings throughout our home.
If your decorating styles are polar opposites, like "macho man leather" married to "frou-frou linens and lace," and space allows, consider decorating a special room for each of you. You might have a masculine library or office and a feminine sitting room in your home.
4. Plan Together
As you work together, write out a realistic plan, budget, and proposed timeline. Walk through your home and make a list of everything you want to do from painting the walls to purchasing furniture. Shop different sources to estimate how much the major items will cost and then prioritize your purchases. If you don't have the money for an item, don't buy it. No matter how beautiful, there is no possession worth the financial stress that will result if you purchase something you can't afford.
5. Hire a Referee
If the budget allows, consider hiring a professional decorator for a design consultation. An objective third party with a fresh set of eyes may be just what you need to unify your ideas. One of the best ways to find a good decorator is through a friend's recommendation. Another approach might be through designer homes you have toured. As you walk through, take notice of decorating styles that you particularly like, and pick up the designer's business card to keep for a possible reference.
6. Focus on One Room
Concentrate your decorating dollars and energy on one room at a time, preferably where you spend most of your time. It might be your master bedroom and bathroom, kitchen, or main living area. As you work together to create a beautiful room and see the fruit of your labor, you will be motivated and encouraged to begin work on another area.
7. Agree to Agree
If you cannot agree on a major purchase or decision, then wait. This practice is a good rule of thumb for all areas of marriage. It honors both partners, and protects you from making a mistake that at least one spouse will regret and may bring up time and again to remind the other. If the two of you cannot agree on a minor purchase, determine whom it will affect the most and let that person decide.
In case of a deadlock and you must make a decision, the wife should have her way. After all, "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" God has entrusted women to be the primary overseers, managers, nesters, and nurturers of the home. Letting a woman blossom and express her nesting instincts will benefit everyone under your roof.
8. Celebrate What Lasts
Though we've been in our current home for over a year, Bill and I are still going in circles about the main "palette" fabric to use in our living room, which will determine the entire decorating scheme throughout our home. He wants a muted Ralph Lauren look; I want a cheerful Laura Ashley style. So we continue to wait. … until we find a fabric on which we can agree.
Who knows what we will end up with? Brown, or shall I say "mocha," is coming back. Too bad that bedspread of his is not. As for the painting of his grandparents, it now hangs prominently in our dining room. I have grown to appreciate it as a treasured heirloom reminding us of my husband's wonderful heritage.
If I were single, my house might be decorated differently, but then again, it would be missing the best accessory of all—my cherished husband. When it comes to your current home, remember that loving relationships are what matter most and will far outlive any fabric you choose. And the best news of all: Your future home in heaven will be beautiful beyond description.
Terry Willits, interior designer and author of Simply SenseSational Decorating and Creating a SenseSational Home (both Zondervan), is thankful for her decorating partner, Bill, with whom she lives in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.