Lessons in Marriage: Decorating with a Boy

One of the hardest adjustments after getting married was decorating with a boy. It was hard because I honestly never considered it being an issue. I just assumed J would gladly give me full reigns and let me decorate however my heart desired. But as it turns out, apparently boys don’t like it when you call their stuff trash and refuse to use any of the boxes they brought on moving day?

Who would have thought.

I kind of wonder why no one else talks about this. They never discussed this in our marriage counseling. My girlfriends never complain about their husbands caring about decorating. My dad never gave a fuss about how my mom decorated. Was J different than most guys for wanting to keep his poster of the Hurricanes winning the Stanley Cup and displaying it proudly in our home?

I started to get jealous of wives whose husbands let them do whatever they wanted. Paint their bathroom pink. Add ruffles to every curtain. Hang pictures of flowers on the walls. So maybe that’s not my style, but by golly what if it was! Why can’t my husband not care about the decorating and be like those guys? (For the record, it’s dangerous talk when you start using the phrase “Why can’t my husband….” Don’t do it, ladies.)

Like all things in marriage, this area took some major communicating and compromise. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’ve mastered it, but we certainly are way better than we used to be.

Here are a few tips that have helped us live in harmony at home:

how-to-decorate-with-a-boy

1. Involve him in the process. When we started actually talking through it, turns out he has no problem with me being the sole decorator, he just didn’t want our home to look like he didn’t live there. A fair point. So whenever I have an idea of something new or different, I will tell him about it. Share what I’m thinking and cast my vision. Which brings me to…

2. Show him pictures. I like to text him pictures before I buy something, like this doormat I got the other day at Target. It’s always a little scary to press send and wait for the “go ahead!” or the “I don’t love it” text back, but it’s always worth it and has made this process much more… harmonious. Of course this does require being flexible if he really doesn’t like something, and that’s when you either have to let it go or convince him why this is something you really want (it’s not that expensive, or you’ve been eyeing it for months, etc.). Pictures also help with really big or crazy DIY projects. I want to paint our kitchen chairs multi-colored and our hutch white (or blue – I can’t decide!), so I show him these pictures:

Paint Chairs

1 // 2

He agreed I could do it when we have a house… but I’m still kind of hoping he’ll let me tackle these projects this summer. ;)

3. Agree we don’t live in a bachelor pad.  I’m a girl and I like things pretty. And I want our place to look grown up. He agrees, obviously, and actually has come to like my cheeky Anthropologie meets West Elm meets Crate and Barrel style. But he also isn’t ready to part with his sports posters and knick-nacks, so these are proudly displayed in our laundry room and closets until we can afford a house with a proper man cave.

4. Find things you both like. This Seinfeld poster is a good example. I saw this on a blog and thought it would be a great compromise of something he loves (Seinfeld) and a nice design I was okay hanging in our living room.

5. Pick your battles and be okay with a little guy stuff. What’s the point of having a picture-perfect home if both of you aren’t happy in it? Life is too short to be fighting over silly things… which is why we have bobble heads on the shelves above our TV. It takes a lot of willpower for me to keep them there (and not accidentally knock them over when I dust), but it’s a reminder that J is important to me and it’s okay if everything isn’t perfect.

Am I think only one who had an adjustment when it came to decorating? 
What do you do with the bachelor pad items he brought into the relationship?
How do you handle decorating with a boy? 

  • Jen

    Wow, I am really glad to see this post. When you’ve posted pictures of your apartment, I loved loved loved it. But in my mind, I knew that my husband would never let me decorate our apt to be so girly. And I started a game of “Why can’t my husband” in my mind. So it’s not just my husband, most boys are like that :)

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one out there with this struggle. Decorating with a boy is a great definition for compromise. I always thought boys didn’t care and decorating would be a breeze. That is definitely not the case. These are great suggestions for creating harmony, we utilized all of them when making decisions. It takes time (and a lot of pictures) in order to make decisions. But in the end I think it will all be worth it, we’ll both be happy and comfortable where we live.

  • Marie

    Both my husband and I have been bouncing around in apartments for years and haven’t paid much attention to decorating, so I was surprised when he showed a very defined aesthetic and strong opinions when we registered for wedding gifts! His style is more rustic while mine is more girly, but we can usually find a style we both like. I think it would be harder if one of us was into a modern aesthetic while the other liked traditional, for example.

    We just bought a house so it feels like there are a million and one things to do so right now, I am thrilled if he has decorating ideas or implements any of them. Not having all bare walls makes it really feel more like our home.

  • Kelsey Sayre

    I am very glad B let’s me do whatever I want, but I also make sure to keep pieces that mean a lot to him in strategically placed areas…these are pieces that he values and I like ;)

  • He lets me do whatever, but I’m still afraid that he will hate whatever I choose! Sometimes I wish he cared about how the house looks haha

  • Love this! Is it okay if I write a reply post on my blog linking back to you? I have so many thoughts on this!

    Adam generally gives me free reign in the house, but I still have to convince him that a lot of my ideas will look good. He doesn’t get design and doesn’t believe certain things will look good when I try to describe them. I often show him pictures from Pinterest/other blogs (like you did with the chairs/hutch) and that definitely helps him understand. Guys are visual apparently! He claims that he has control over the design of our yard, so I can have control over the design of our house. haha :)

    So funny that everyone’s starts to compare their marraige at some point or another. Just this week I told my husband “my blog friend and her husband take their anniversary off every year to have fun…do you think we should start doing that?” haha.

  • Oh heck no this didn’t go smoothly and still doesn’t precisely for us. But that’s because most of the time I don’t care about the decor and he does; and so when I do want to have to do something it bugs him because I’m not sticking with the theme. I’m not sure what the theme is, I just like the random things I like or like to reuse things and not waste. He likes to match. It makes me grumpy sometimes but I suppose it honestly doesn’t matter so much to me that we’d really fight over it. I just stomp my feet sometimes and then move on :)

  • as long as it doesn´t get all pink and fluffy, I don´t think BF cares too much about what I do with decorations… I do always ask him about this or that, but he has faith in my taste, so he don`t interfere much..

  • Carla

    My husband is VERY involved in decorating. He likes everything to match perfectly while I am more relaxed about decorating. My father was never into decorating so it was a bit hard to adjust to a man wanting to be involved in which curtains we selected. We have been working together decorating, its a slight challenge but there could be worse things.

  • You are absolutely right — there could be worse things!

  • Jon has too many opinions about decorating. For example? He hates curtains. I’ve been told if I put them up, he will take them right back down. I am also jealous of the women who have men that don’t care. Where did they find them? How do I get one?

    Kidding of course!!

  • Mrs. Pancakes

    I already got
    Permissions to decorate our house free reign I can’t wait!! Great tips!!

  • Thanks for the tips, the boyfriend and I have such different decor styles. It’s hard to satisfy both of us.

  • Woohoo! A little jealous over here. ;)

  • Wives with high maintenance decorating husband unite! ;)

  • YES! I’d love to hear how you and your husband work through this, especially with a new house and multiple DIY projects. I think you’re right about the visual part — I show J pictures and he thinks it looks nice but really can’t see my vision in our place. Looking forward to that post!

  • Haha, yeah, I’d count your blessings. :)

  • I feel the same way about decorating too — I don’t like things all matchy matchy. I like for it all to look nice but I think you need some eclectic charm too. :)

  • Haha yes, it does take a lot of time and a lot of pictures to make decisions. Glad I have to vent to on this. ;)

  • Aw, you’re so sweet… it’s nice to hear you think my place looks girly despite many protests and compromises from J. Most boys don’t like change and certainly don’t think decorating is worth the expense, you’re not alone!

  • Interesting! I’ve never thought about this. We’re renters, so can’t really do anything to the places we’ve lived. But then again, I actually don’t care AT ALL about decor and furnishing, and neither does he, so I don’t anticipate any clashes when we get a place of our own.

  • my husband’s actually the stylish one, but neither of us really care about decorating the house. shame, i know LOL he’s very opinionated so i usually just wait until he gets distracted and doesn’t care anymore, to do what i want ;)

  • Shoestring Alley

    This made me chuckle. I know just what you mean since Husband and I are are currently renovating and redecorating our ‘forever’ house. I mostly get to pick and I tend to do the same as you re. showing photos and taking input on a selection of final choices. I had a particular look in mind for our main living area and printed out a selection of photos to illustrate this. To my horror, Husband pronounced it ‘too old lady’. What?! Talk about style-based confidence crisis. Turns out he thinks any kind of patchwork is old lady. Ditto patterned rugs. Weirdly though, when I find individual pieces he likes them so I suspect I’ll win this battle :-) .Good luck!

  • Yes, registering for our wedding was when I realized we had such differing decorating tastes. That’s great you guys have found a style that works for you. :)

  • Pictures are definitely a must for us. I see the complete picture in my head but he sees things in diagrams and needs a visual aid. It’s an interesting challenge. It makes me more creative and improves my communication skills. I get a kick out of problem solving ;)
    I actually like that I’m not the only one that cares about how our house turns into our home and that my input does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. I enjoy expressing myself creatively, but it’s a thousand times better when the person most important to me sees it and values it :)
    It’s challenging for the both of us because it’s the first time in both our lives that we’ve had anywhere we could decorate, so it’s really special to share that experience and we’re not in a great hurry to make all the decisions right away. That helps!

  • Bean

    My husband has antique family heirloom pieces i.e., dining room set, buffet, rug, which mean a lot to him, but would completely ruin the clean, simple, contemporary look I’ve created in my house (he moved in with me). I know I should find a way to incorporate what’s important to him, but everything about it feels so wrong.. I get depressed just thinking those heavy ornate items being brought into the house, yet I feel like a real heel for not being more accepting and for putting so much emphasis on objects, when what I really care about is our relationship.

  • Ella

    Omg just read this. I was looking more women online to see if i’m not the only one passing through that. My fiance and i had a huge fight last night over decorating. Is just he wants to hold on to old dirty stuff when logically those are things that you throw away. I’m already accepting his thousands of music instruments. Idk what to do. I thought it was a girls job and him being so nosy over it is annoying.

  • Wayne

    Lol this is so belittling of men, as if none of them have interior design sense and women always have a better eye. What a crock of Shit. Women like useless chintzy dust collecting crap. End of.

  • Stephanie

    to Wayne: It’s really not belittling of men and she’s not trying to say that they have NO design sense. This whole scenario could be flipped if it were the husband with the creative eye and the wife without. The point is that compromise and communication is a must! I assume that you can safely say that most of us women are a little more demanding then guys in this specific area especially if ,prior to living together, the woman was independent and in her own space with free range with her creativity on decor. I think it is belittling to women to say that we like “useless chintzy dust collecting crap.” We may think that your items are “useless and awfully unappealing” but its your things. You love them and have an eye for them, and it respectfully should be the same for us! You wouldn’t want your “useless crap” to be tossed aside because of her opinion, and neither would she. Creating a home for two is taking two lives and combining them under ONE roof and creating an environment that best captures both!

    I am in the process of moving in with my significant other and this has been the topic and notable adjustment area between the two of us as well through these times and it feels great to know that we’re not absolutely nuts! Great article! We have deemed a “Man Cave” for him and his friends, and he actually WANTS me to help stock it with all of his manly sports paraphernalia, dart board, and manly prints!