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Sharing a Space: The Battle of the Sexes

We know there's a compromise in there somewhere!
We know there's a compromise in there somewhere!
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In the olden days, he bought the house and you got to decorate it. But today, women have jobs and the places men shop have cool furniture. So, now he has ideas about how to decorate, while you get to go halvsies on the mortgage. Not all progress is forward progress, right? So, how is it possible to mesh your design savvy with your main man's, you ask? You may be a little bit country, while he's a little bit rock and roll, but that doesn't mean you can't work past your differences and ultimately share a space that you both love. Here are some tips to mastering the battle of the sexes -- and hopefully, winning the war.

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You never know where your inspiration will come from.
You never know where your inspiration will come from.
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When you have X and Y chromosomes co-mingling, you're bound to have different ideas of what you want your house to look like. So, before tackling the big project, it's not a bad idea to spend a little time with your significant other, getting inspired together. Visit trendy bars and restaurants, or pop into a newer hotel lobby to see if you can find elements you both like. Then, get out the shelter magazines you've been hoarding and start tearing out inspirational sheets. Eventually, you'll come up with a pile of ideas that you can both agree on.

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Before you start bringing stuff into your house all namby pamby, make a date to sit down with your partner and list out everything you want to do. Each of you should come to the table with an idea of elements you want to change or add and furniture pieces you want to buy. And you might as well talk about each of your non-negotiables right now and get that out of the way. If he's insisting on bringing the wagon wheel coffee table, you need to know sooner rather than later. Man up and have the talk now.

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One of the fastest ways to derail a harmonious union is to have a disagreement about money, especially at the time when you're planning on spending it. For the sake of peace, love and understanding, you need to sit down and come up with a realistic budget before you start spending. He may be keen to spend a couple grand on an HDTV, while you would rather put that money toward a comfy sectional. But if you can't afford to spend $2,000 on any one item, knowing that ahead of time will head off that discussion at the pass.

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Talk about it before you get down to business.
Talk about it before you get down to business.
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As we all well know, the key to any successful collaboration is communication. But sometimes, a couple's negotiations more closely resemble a war between enemy countries than a treaty between peaceful nations. And when you're trying to win the war, respectful communication often goes right out the window. Keep in mind that you love this person and want him to be as happy living in his environment as you are. So rather than placing an embargo on his ideas, hear him out with kindness and sensitivity -- even if it does mean pretending that you're actually considering his beloved, yet hideous, plaid couch.

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It's likely that you and your other half are going to come to the table with your own ideas of what looks good and what you want your home to look like. And then go ahead and figure that some of the ideas aren't going to mesh. But maybe they will if you adjust your expectations a little. You may not get an entire living room full of mission furniture, but his modern aesthetic may not totally clash with your country cottage style. If you can agree that you both like light woods or a certain color palette, you can successfully mix and match different styles of furniture to come up with something that uniquely reflects you as a couple.

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If one wants blue one wants yellow, maybe a nice shade of green will put a smile on your face.
If one wants blue one wants yellow, maybe a nice shade of green will put a smile on your face.
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Ugh, the dreaded C word. It's so hard to give it up when you have such a specific idea of what you like. But you're going to be doing plenty of compromising over your lifetime with this person, so consider it good practice. If you're constantly arriving at loggerheads when trying to agree, maybe you should go back to kindergarten basics and try taking turns. Let him pick the couch, and you get to do the end tables and coffee table. He wants the masculine leather recliner? Add some colorful throw pillows that suit your taste. If that kind of sharing isn't quite working, maybe each of you can take a room and make it your own.

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There may be cases where a compromise isn't rising to the surface. In that case, you may want to rezone areas as his and hers. Is his vision for the home office art deco while yours is baroque? Throw a room screen up in the middle, and each of you decorates the areas as you see fit. Yes, it won't be the cohesive space that you had hoped, but at least you'll each be comfortable hanging out in your individual spaces. Even the happiest of couples need space for themselves, so consider it your own personal retreat.

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Keep those frustrations in check; you have to meet in the middle.
Keep those frustrations in check; you have to meet in the middle.
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You have a great idea for your living room layout, but your significant other is more visual than verbal. Fortunately, the Interwebs have some great tools for planning your room layouts. You can get a visual of how your furniture fits without hefting it around the room a million times. And if your household is anything like mine, completing that step will make your husband much more cooperative during your other decorating exploits.

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Most decorating can be easily changed if it's a colossal mistake. And you get to say "I told you so!"
Most decorating can be easily changed if it's a colossal mistake. And you get to say "I told you so!"
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Anything that requires negotiations between couples has the ability to get heated. The immensity of taking on a task like decorating a house can start to feel a little like a job. So, it's important to remember that this is one more step toward blending your lives, and you should enjoy the journey. This may mean that the taskmaster needs to take a backseat. The key is to keep things light and have fun with it. Pour some wine, take dance breaks -- whatever you do as a couple to keep your spirits up and enjoy the process.

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If all else fails, you may want to bring in a third party to help navigate these choppy waters. Our recommendation? Skip the therapist and call in an interior designer. She does this for a living and should be able to offer some alternatives to get your ideas out of deadlock.

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Sources

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  • "History of American Art Deco." Brynmawr.edu, 2010. http://www.brynmawr.edu/cities/archx/05-600/proj/p2/npk/historydeco.htm
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