The Home Design School
October 16, 2016

Decorating Diplomacy: How to Talk to Your Partner About Decorating Your Home

Moving in together with your partner can be an exciting time. It’s often the start of a new phase in your life: it’s an opportunity to put down roots and build a nest with your partner. 

If you’re anything like me, moving into your ideal home with your partner will be something that you have dreamed about for years, even before you find the right place and get the keys.

You envisage trips to your local DIY store, carefully selecting the perfect shade of slate grey together, then heading out for a lazy Sunday afternoon shopping spree, picking out the perfect antique armoire which you both know will look amazing in your bedroom. 

So when the big day comes and you actually move in, it can be a bit of a shock to find that the reality is nothing like you imagined. This person, who you thought you knew so well, this person that up until now had seemed like such a perfect fit for you, suddenly starts having opinions on paint colours, furniture, fabric and more.  And what’s worse, those opinions most certainly do not fit with yours. 

Or this person takes absolutely no interest in decorating at all and get cross when you spend money on home décor. ("Why do we need scatter cushions anyway?").

And what if, sin of all sins, they want to adorn ‘your’ walls with their sporting memorabilia instead of the tasteful art prints you had imagined?

Since when did they have opinions like that? How could you not have known they had such different taste to you? Why can they not just see what you see? 

That harmonious rapport you envisaged descends into frustration and petty arguments, and can even escalate into outright war if you’re not careful. 

So why is decorating such a hot spot for arguments? For some couples, creating a home signifies so much more than just choosing a paint colour or a fabric pattern. It can raise issues around money, control and even the big questions in life about security and sanctuary. This is big stuff, people.

Now, whilst I make no claim to being a relationship counsellor, I have had my fair share of decorating arguments in my time (including one particular show down in IKEA, which still makes my cheeks hot when I think of it). I have learned a thing or two about decorating diplomatically, and I’m going to share my top tips with you in this Decorating Diplomacy mini-series.

Today’s post is for those of you whose partner won’t talk about decorating, can’t see the point of it or just simply disagrees with you about the need to do it. In the next post, we’ll look at how to combine your style tastes with your partner’s to create a cohesive scheme without feeling that you’ve compromised.

So let’s get started:


It is rare that your partner does not care at all about their home environment. Even if they show little interest in home décor, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will have an opinion on some of it.  Just running ahead with your own ideas will lead to resentment, and even sabotage. Like when we were children, we had to learn to share our toys, sharing your home environment is also something that you need to learn to do.


You know that out-of-town business trip that your partner has booked? It is not an opportunity for you to decorate that bedroom/ living room/ bathroom while they are away. After all, they’ll be pleased that you’ve done all of the hard work when they get back, right? Er, no, wrong. They will simply be annoyed that you went behind their back. This is pretty underhanded behaviour, which communicates that this is your space and that you will wait until they are out to do whatever you like. Don’t do it! Be fair, be assertive and plan your décor together.


"What do you think of this…?" is a loaded question, fraught with booby traps for the unsuspecting partner. If you have already seen something that you would like to include in your home décor, asking your partner’s opinion may not elicit the reponse you were expecting or wanting. Are you really ready and prepared for an, "It’s ugly and I hate it" answer? If you genuinely want their opinion, then ask, but if what you are really hoping for is reinforcement of a choice you have already made, then ask a different question. "I would very much like to have this particular vase. Do you have any objections to this?" is a clearer and less emotive way of approaching things. 


If you have a partner who is reluctant to discuss home décor with you, make sure that you choose a good time to discuss it. Don’t pounce on them when they are hungry, tired, just got in from work, watching a TV show or a sport’s match, or even if they’ve just sat down for an hour’s relaxation after the children have gone to bed. Your decorating passion might be a priority for you, but it might be a chore for them, so respect their time. Tell them that you would like to discuss the issue, and ask them to give you a specific time when you can discuss it together. If they are reluctant to do this, see (5) below. 


You may have spent years dreaming about what your home will be like before you even had one. For some people (and I include myself here) creating a home signifies security, comfort, a reflection of your unique personality, and it can even be a manifestation of love. But not everyone feels the same way about their homes. For some people a home is just somewhere to lay your head, and as long as you have furniture to sit and lie on, something to block out the light and provide privacy, then they are contented. If you and your partner are on a different page with this, then you need to communicate to them why this is so important for you. Be clear about how important achieving this is to you, why it matters. Have an open conversation about the things that are important to each of you. So for your partner, being able to go out with their friends might be important, or being able to do adventure activities, or having the latest widescreen TV. For you, having the home you desire is important. Once your partner understands how important this is for you, then you can find a way to meet both of your needs. And if your partner can’t see that your needs are important too, well then it really might be time to consider if this is the right person for you.


A partner can object to a home décor project for a myriad of reasons. Unless you truly get to the bottom of their objections then you will never resolve the problem. If they keep making excuses about not being able to afford it, for example, this could just be a smokescreen to disguise the fact that, actually, they don’t want to have their Saturday afternoons taken up with sandpaper and paint brushes. Once you understand the sticking points, you can begin to find ways to compromise and to achieve a happy outcome for both of you.

I’ve put together a quick quiz that you can ask your partner, to help you to get to the bottom of how he or she feels about their home and home décor. The answers will help you to understand each other better, and it’s a great starting point for further discussion. Download it here: Quick Quiz

Next time, we’ll take a look at how to incorporate both of your styles, to help you to create your dream home in a more harmonious way. If you’ve experienced this as a sticking point, let me know in the comments below, or share it in the Facebook group. I’d love to hear your experiences.

Until next time x

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