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How to survive a renovation without getting a divorce.

"Happy wife. Happy Life."


Though I may fault him for leaving too many shoes at the front door, stacking papers like he trying to build a fort, and his preference of video games over seeding the lawn, my husband knows the way to my heart.

Give this girl a project, and she's a happy lady.


Over the last several years many of our friends have asked, "How do you guys do it?".

Or playfully quipped, "You guys are crazy!"


A toast after wrapping the Apartment Therapy shoot

Obviously, this prompted a lot of thought about the process & partnership we've developed over our first two renovations. My husband Chris, (Saint Christopher) is a kind, patient, thoughtful man, clearly willing to endure my shenanigans quite beyond what most other human beings would ever consider reasonable.

After all, I did wake up one morning just 5 months after our first renovation had finished and declared I was ready to move on to "our" next project. It's warranted he get a little credit for all the behind the scenes effort that he not so glamorously endures.


So what's our trick to a happy partnership during a renovation project? A few thoughts about making "it" work with your SO below.



Don't expect to get input.

If he says he doesn't care--I've learned he probably doesn't. And in my (fortunate) case my husband doesn't care about a lot of things.

At first, I got pretty frustrated and concerned that the finished product would be an inaccurate reflection of our style because he'd made no real design input.


After sometimes exhausting conversations about something he "didn't care about", I finally realized what he was actually saying was:

"I trust you to decide."

Though I sometimes miss having a sounding board for every little decision, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm going to make most of the design decisions solo.

Chris simply lets me pick and this has probably made our renovations go much more smoothly.

While I still talk into the wind a lot, I've stopped nagging about whether he likes this trim or that trim or what he thinks about a wall mounted faucet for the master vanity.


Instead, I ask:

"Isn't it pretty!?" as I unpack it once it has arrived. ;)


Value input.

As important as it is to ask for input, it's more important to value it. As mentioned, Chris had few opinions when we renovated our first home. But after years of listening to me talk about fixtures and finishes, engineered v. regular hardwood, lever v. knob handles, and whether to use unlacquered brass or nickel for the finishes in the 2 flat renovation he's learned a thing or two. Through his education and continued exposure, he's developed preferences...dare I even say, "style".


He's learned all about untreated brass patinas and that you need to pay attention to the gage on a stainless steel sink bowl. Further, he's developed an appreciation for interior design and fine craftsmanship. While he and I might not always see eye to eye, I continue to ask for ,and value his opinions. I even let him pick the faucets and shower systems for the master and guest bath...


Be honest.

Be up front about the budget and your expectations for the finished project. These might vary between you and your partner, so talk about it early in the game. In almost all cases Chris thinks with head and I follow my heart. Our decisions are often guided by two questions.

Chris will ask, "How much does it cost?"

I will ask, "Do I love it?"

With these two very different approaches, we've learned to navigate difficult situations and make cessions and compromises to ensure we are both comfortable with expected outcomes. In all parts of our relationship, including this one, we are very honest with one another. We apply this strategy to our relationship on a daily basis, and have found it works well during renovations, too.


I've wanted things (badly) that Chris has vetoed because the outcome wouldn't be worth it. While there have been several one offs in our brief history of home renovation as a couple, this principle has lead to bigger life conversations as well.


Know your strengths.

The key for many successful partnerships is that often there is a division of labor. That division allows each individual to shine where they do most brightly. In our case too, this is true. For as long as I have known Chris, he has been a calculated risk taker. Someone formulaic and measured. He's there to weight every decision with an excel spreadsheet and to back the great idea with math. He is the level headed left brain to my right brain crazy scheming.


The balancing act works well. He may not be able to visualize the finish line the way that I can, but sure as heck knows how to get us there in one piece (even if both of us get a little dinged up along the way). We function in our separate wheelhouses fairly easily.

He doesn't try to guide me on paint color selections and I stay clear of the numbers.


Know your limits.

With small renovations under our belts, we've become much better at drawing the line when we are individually, or as a team, ill equipped to complete a task. Do yourself, and your relationship, the kindness of stepping away from a project if you can't do it properly or without killing each other.

Home renovation is a hell of a time! It's important to acknowledge how challenging it can be as well as appreciate collective successes.


The moments I've felt closest to wanting a divorce were while jointly hanging drapes, pictures or light fixtures -- where our relationship and the chandelier literally felt like they were holding on by a thread!


I'll file those under the "if you can't say anything nice..." tab. ;)





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