How Interior Designers Help Couples Compromise

Stephanie Figy
Written by Stephanie Figy
Updated December 30, 2014
sleek dining room design
Senior interior designer Kapan Shipman says this loft design blended one person's sleek and clean preference with the other's love of color and movement. (Photo courtesy of Kapan Shipman)

Interior designers find solutions to style disagreements.

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Unsure of what colors to paint their home’s interior and unable to reach an agreement, Cary, North Carolina, members Bob and Sara Baird turned to highly rated interior design consultant, Décor Coach of Apex, North Carolina.

“What’s surprising is that we ended up choosing colors we never would have tumbled to on our own,” Bob says. “I wanted a dark green dining room, and my wife wanted something yellowish. But we both discovered we absolutely loved a slightly blueish gray. We repeated the process in each room, starting with a palette that would complement the adjacent areas.”

Color disagreements are easy to fix, according to Décor Coach owner Jodi Schavone, who has been told she’s better than marriage counseling. “If someone wants a blue and the other person doesn’t like blue, we can choose a gray with a blue undertone,” she says. “That usually makes them happy.” However, other disagreements often need to be solved.

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fun modern living room
Beyond Design owner Kathy Tufts asks questions upfront to see what homeowners hope to achieve in their design. (Photo courtesy of Beyond Design)

Interior design compromise

Schavone says while design disagreements happen, what she deals with most often are quarrels on whether the couple should complete a home project.For example, members Jim and Gayle Thomas say they were debating replacing their kitchen backsplash, due to cost. Schavone helped them find a contractor who gave a reasonable price. “We love our kitchen now,” Jim says. “We get constant compliments.”

Kathy Tufts, owner of highly rated interior design and remodeling firm Beyond Design in Clifton, Virginia, sometimes helps compromise on the common areas and creates unique spaces for partners.

In a recent design, Tufts says she dealt with a woman who liked pinks and oranges, while her soon-to-be spouse liked more contemporary and traditional colors. Tufts says by asking a few questions, she found out her female client wanted happy colors. She then focused on finding out what colors appeased the couple for the common spaces. That didn’t stop Tufts from designing the woman’s office with hot pink, and adding a green accent wall in the man’s office. “They have their own space and expression, but the main spaces satisfy both,” Tufts says.

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When couples don’t agree, interior designer Kapan Shipman of highly rated Habitar Design in Chicago, says she’s a mediator who listens to both sides, making them feel heard. “The trend in the last five years is more about celebrating the individual,” Shipman says. “You can find a way to mix styles without it being ridiculous. No one wants a showroom.”

There are different ways to achieve this, including tying a room together with colors and accents. If there’s a particular piece of furniture you want in the room, such as a vintage chest, Shipman says to incorporate it into the design by using elements of the shape, color or texture throughout the room.

new kitchen tile backsplash
Members Jim and Gayle Thomas debated replacing their backsplash, but are both happy with the result. (Photo courtesy of Décor Coach)

Advice for blending styles

When it comes to working with couples, Schavone says she helps them see that a home is like a marriage. “It won’t work if it’s one-sided.” Listening to customers is about 80 percent of her job. “As long as I address the important parts of their ideas, they can usually give a little,” she adds.Shipman says to talk about what pieces are important to you. “You want aspects of your person before you joined, but you also want the house to represent your life together.”

She also says both parties should approach the home design willing to compromise. If only one person in the relationship likes bold colors, there’s a way to incorporate it into the space: “Have a bold sofa, and keep the paint mellow,” Shipman says. “You would not be a couple if you didn’t have something in common.”

Of course, if the task is daunting, experts advise hiring an interior designer to help. Expect to pay between $100 to $200 for an initial one-hour consultation, although prices vary based on region and complexity. If hired, designers will often deduct the consultation fee from the total project cost. Designers price projects per hour or per project.

“Blending ideas together can be challenging, but it is also the most rewarding part of the job,” Schavone says. “Even better than helping to design a beautiful room is knowing that the project actually brought [a couple] closer together and gave them a space that they can enjoy.”

CHECK OUT: 5 Pro Tips to Improve Your Interior Design Acumen

bedroom design
Kapan Shipman says she mixes colors, textures and patterns to make a cohesive design. (Photo courtesy of Habitar Design)
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