Home Remodeling: How to negotiate with your partner

Reem Hassouneh
August 14, 2019

My husband and I are two different personalities; I like meadows and open hills.p and he likes forests and mountains. At home, I like clear and neat spaces and he likes to display almost everything. In few months we will embark in a new house remodeling project.

When w first moved to our current apartment, we had few discussions and he almost always won. Every now and then I get frustrated with the crowded space and I make irrational decisions that makes things get worse for both of us.. kind of revenge actions.

I want to avoid making the same mistake and get this move satisfactory for both of us. I’m just sure how to do that, he has the stamina to argue and argue ... I’m not a good negotiator and I quickly crack and say ... whatever!

Any ideas?

Comments (31)

  • remodeling1840

    Before we built our custom home twenty years ago, my husband and I faced each other, took each other’s hands, and promised. “We want to get the house we’ve dreamed about, we want to stay on budget, we want to remain friends with our builder, and we want to stay married when this is over.” Building and remodeling are very stressful. Not everyone is able to handle the intensity. You cannot go on a trip together if you are not headed toward the same destination. Both of you need to clarify your common goals and pledge to get there together. From experience in the construction business I advise you two to get the same map.

  • PRO

    Best way?

    Ask: Would you agree DH, that given you favor our home a bit fuller, and given I feel my best in airy and open space, free of clutter, do you think we could work with a designer?

    Ask: I want you to be thrilled with our result, and I think you may want me to be thrilled. Is that accurate?

    Ask: What if we got the result that thrilled both of us, and met more of our needs in practical ways as well as the emotional needs that we both have for our home?

    Ask what if there were ways to do just that, and NEITHER of us may be aware of them because we simply don't do this remodel thing every single day?

    The reason I suggest this, is that it puts a buffer between you. It adds a dimension to what often becomes a test of wills, one partner not fully understanding the other and their needs. Getting help can do much of this, while still ensuring thst neither partner feels the "design bus" ran over them, and BOTH end up happy with all the decisions. It will alleviate stress, get you more cohesive results, maximize whatever your budget is in terms of function and beauty and it will speed the entire process. The "negotiating", won't feel like negotiating, it will simply feel like beautiful solutions to practical and emotional NEEDS. It is not a two against one, win/lose. It is far more a case of everyone wins.

    There isn't a designer worth her salt that doesn't refer to herself as marriage counselor, financial advisor, "shrink" and yeah......also designer. It's a business that means we wear all four hats. Going to have to trust me on that one : )

  • Reem Hassouneh

    Thank you remodeling 1840 for your advice, I’ll make my husband read your advice and I’m sure he’ll agree.

  • PRO

    And then........................ ? .you both sit down individually and you EACH make a wish list, you EACH make an idea book. The designer ? She marries all this practical and emotional stuff : ) This ensures you will stay married, and happily. Worth mentioning too, that a designer is less expensive by far, than divorce lol.

    Your contractor will also thank you. That's a guarantee.

  • Reem Hassouneh

    Thank you Jan Moyer for your thorough response. I agree, hiring a professional is THE solution, hopefully I’ll be lucky to find a designer who wears the four hats and works in Switzerland!

  • PRO

    Good luck to you! With both the process and result! : ) You're supposed to have fun and that means both of you.

  • arcy_gw

    I wonder about the reasons he like "EVERYTHING on display"? I hope it is more about being happy in a crowd vs too lazy to find what he needs and put it back when he is done! Early on I learned when making decorating decisions he will like it in the end. His input was often not what I wanted him to say--so I quit asking. LOL. He has always been fine with the end product--from what he tells me. If he secretly isn't-well that works for me too!!!

  • misa

    Home remodel projects can be stressful before, during and sometimes even after. And they really test marriages, relationships, etc... Compromise is your friend, but that word all of sudden no longer exist when it comes to home remodels. Husbands or wives who usually don't have an opinion on little or big things suddenly want their stamp of approval on everything!

    My approach with projects/remodels and most times its me that brings up the subject is to approach DH with pictures of ideas of what I think we would both like, need and can imagine that in our home. We start from there, adding or deleting items, adding/deleting wants and needs, designs, colors, etc.. till we both get something that we both agree on and more important are happy with.

    I agree with posters above. Tell each other that this is our home and we want it to show the best sides of both of us. And get a designer if you find yourself frustrated with just discussing, arguing and not getting anywhere with the actual project. They will have design boards, powerpoint, CAD layouts that will help you imagine your new space. I know too many couples that put off on projects for years, because they can never come to an agreement. Good luck!

  • PRO

    Case in point here, just for fun:

    The man in the couple who resides here? He was a bachelor until he was forty, and he is used to his own way. He'd have a cigar room everywhere. Every room would visually weigh ten tons. There would be no daylight. there would be as much leather and black and heavy wood as could be stuffed into four walls.She needs elegant. Some sparkle, some girly, sexy, glam. Below is the bedroom. and the living room they both adore. No, not kidding. They both believe they "won" . And they did.

    Tudor glam redux · More Info

    Tudor glam redux · More Info

    Tudor glam redux · More Info

    Tudor glam redux · More Info

  • defrost49

    My husband and I are different - I tend to leave a trail of clutter. He's neat and organized. We've only done two houses. The recent one in 2007 was a complete renovation of the family farmhouse. We used a kitchen designer that he liked (he was a builder) and I think what worked best for us was having territories. This was his family heritage and he had definite ideas about the kitchen which included something as simple as a table in front of south facing windows to enjoy the view (we keep binoculars handy to watch birds). The color choices were up to me but he had a strong preference for off white cabinets (remember, old farmhouse). I'm glad I let him decide that because with windows on the north as well as south, we have a light and airy kitchen. The room we use as an office was completely his to choose. He had a few things he wanted hung on walls in the house. The rest are my choices. I have a room of my own that is off limits to him. I chose things for 2nd floor bathroom. He chose for 1st floor. In our case, he thinks I'm the best one to choose colors. We made joint decisions on flooring types. The best thing about our kitchen designer was her idea to expand the kitchen space that the two of us had never thought of and it made a huge difference.

    Good luck with your project!

  • PRO

    "The best thing about our kitchen designer was her idea to expand the kitchen space that the two of us had never thought of and it made a huge difference."

    There you go...............amen.

  • PRO
    Home Art Tile Kitchen & Bath

    I also believe a designer can solve your situation. But you must agree to respect her decisions.

  • PRO

    Per Home Art?

    You must agree to respect the IDEAS. The very important thought process and reasoning behind those ideas. In turn, she respects yours, and accommodates in the best ways for both. You are always the deciders. : )

  • PRO
    Home Art Tile Kitchen & Bath

    Jan, or even better, recommendations. :) Thank you for adding to the comment.

  • PRO
    Cawood Architecture, PLLC

    Find a professional who will help navigate the design-it sounds like you need an advocate;) Also make sure to pick someone that you connect with, and that you feel is listening and respecting both of your ideas.

    In my own work, I always try to make sure to listen to what each side wants and then make sure that they each get at least a few of the the space/features that are most important to them (sometimes its a very small request, or a special, almost private space), and if it conflicts with the other person's wants I try to find a compromise. Usually it works out great, and a couple will respect most of their partners desires, but in the end if there is still disagreement I try to remind everyone that they should each get a few things that they love, and allow the same for the other people in the project.


    "Every now and then I get frustrated with the crowded space and I make irrational decisions that makes things get worse for both of us.. kind of revenge action."

    Like what?

    What do you do that is so wrong?

    How do you define "crowded space?"

    Are you physically tripping over objects? Can guests put things down on a clear table/counter/flat surface in your home? Does your husband clean his objects so they are free from dust, dirt, grime, grease and are his objects attractively displayed with pride?

    When you say he "won" the discussion does that mean he got his own way and "crowds" your shared living space? Even though he knows his action triggers stress and angst on your part?

    Shout out to Jan for her excellent reply. But it sounds like a designer may be way more of a psychologist than a designer in this case.

    Also not sure what you mean by "making the same mistake."

    Mistake in that you cave? Mistake in that you don't "make irrational decisions" based on his choosing to crowd your shared living space? Mistake in that you don't want to give him your blessing to crowd your new living space?

    Agree with Misa in approaching with inspiration photos and calmly starting a 2 way dialogue.

    Good luck to you, we hope you and your hubby get your dream home.

  • Reem Hassouneh

    Thank you Janie,

    Here are some examples of what I mean with things on display and crowded spaces:

    Sport outfit and gear in the guest bed room. This normally is moved to our bedroom when we have guest.

    The nuts been on the kitchen counter for a week, they should stay there so he can remember to make his nut power bar.

    The camera gear in our shared office.

    The guitars are in our living room ... and no... no one play guitar in the family.

    I might understand this mess in this relatively small apartment, I worry that this will continue in the new house.

  • Reem Hassouneh

    ... and my irrational reaction, I bought my own office desk and forced it in the “shared office room” where we were supposed to share one desk... and then rented a CoWorking spaces downtown and left my desk dusty and neglected because even if tidied it I can’t work in that work in the cluttered place.


    Hi Reem,

    Would it be fair to say you just don't want to look at it?

    If all his "stuff" was behind a closed door be it a cabinet, closet, trunk, what ever?

    For example as I have aged, visual clutter hinders my ability to focus and think.

    The bags of nuts on the counter for a week, lol! Bless your heart, I would have thrown them out claiming that they were abandoned!

  • Ashley Page

    No advice, but I can relate, especially with stuff being in line of sight so he doesn't forget. Curious what everyone suggests :)



    That is NOT irrational!!!

    YOU need to do YOUR work!

    Sending you a cyber hug.

  • PRO
    Sina Sadeddin Architectural Design

    A lot of that clutter looks like it comes from lack of storage.

    When planning your remodel make a list of all of his clutter and give him a dedicated place to put it. Random sports stuff that he drops off? Give him a locker or closet for it. Random snacks left around? Give him a basket in the kitchen where he can store them in a neat way.

    I definitely agree on hiring a designer to merge to two design ideas together.

  • doods

    I think he needs his own special room, with a walk in closet to maybe encourage a little tidiness in that room. I'm serious, this room could also be his office. This room is his to organize when necessary and to clean. Make sure it has a door that can be closed! The rest of the house can be relatively tidy, and hopefully you can find a little nook for your office. Put the nuts in the kitchen cupboard, and a note on the fridge to remind him to make his bars, and let him know where his nuts are.

    I'm not a clean or tidy freak, but boy I couldn't live with that.

    Good luck, hugs, and be strong, in a kind and considerate way.

  • PRO

    " No matter where you go, there you are"

    It is difficult to force radical changes in habits on anyone. However!!

    Every issue in your photos has a solution. the most obvious is separate work spaces.

    The second is storage, and the use of that storage, meaning to some degree........


    Another is." Do either of us even USE this thing?"

    Now. There are some folks who are visual in different ways. For some, it needs to be in view and at hand. These are admittedly: Old people quite often , as out of sight becomes out of mind. Or they are lazy people. They don't want to budge from a chair. Not to get a Kleenex, a pen, a stamp, manicure scissors, a nail clipper . If the chair functioned with a toilet in the seat? Yup.......

    Now that I have grossed you out?

    Sit him down. Explain the designer concept. Explain that while you CAN accept he needs to see his STUFF. you will be miserable if that concept is every single room.

    Marital happiness is some compromise. It doesn't mean you flatten yourself to a DOORMAT and one who is uncomfortable in her own space.

    I'm not your shrink. but ask yourself how many other ways this "give in" aspect of your personality has you taking trips to destinations that aren't ever what you'd choose? How many restaurant meals /location/food type do YOU select? Or do you routinely cave to "wherever" because you avoid the confrontation in total.

    NOMB. But just ask yourself. It is YOUR home too,

  • olmama

    I haven't read all the comments, but maybe my two cents will help? My husband and i have been remodeling our house all summer and doing most of the work and all of the design ourselves, just to add another level. We had one head to head standoff about a tub in our master/main bathroom. I wanted a tub to soak in, plus it would save money over a fully tiled shower. He wanted a shower. We went as far as picking out a tub and almost ordering it and then him balking again. We decided that in our reno we would each get one giant veto and he would use his on the tub. We tiled our shower, it looks great, and I still have my veto in my back pocket. I also keep threatening to use it, but haven't had to yet.

    If you have lots of those decisions that you can't agree on, maybe you could up it to 3 vetos per person, but keep the number small enough so that they are valuable. It helps to show you what you truly care about, versus what you want to compromise on.

    Also, in terms of all his stuff being displayed, depending on the size of house, maybe he could have a room, or part of a basement for all his gear. My friends husband has all kinds of hobbies and he has created a himself an open display of all his hiking/running stuff, camera equipment, etc. etc. and it's organized but it's outside of the common space.

  • erinsean

    I think, after reading this, that he needs a "man cave" where he can have all of his "things" out and around him. A sort of "no woman's land", preferably in the basement where he can clutter to his hearts content and you can have the living room and bedroom to keep neat and tidy. Would that work? I have a husband that likes neat and tidy but by his TV watching chair, things must be handy for him to reach. I "suggest" that he clean out his little chair side table now and

  • PRO

    Honestly............. for the Senior Year ( male ) Required 101 life skill course title

    " A happy Wife Means a happy Life"

    For the senior Year ( female )

    " How to Blow Enough Complimentary "Smoke" Up His U know What to Get Virtually Anything"

    Biology hasn't changed in a few million years. Give a little get a LOT. : ) Believe it.

    Same with all partnerships, so let us not go there, okay? lol

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    OMG, Jan, I howled at "If the chair functioned with a toilet in the seat? Yup....... "

  • Reem Hassouneh

    Dear all,

    Thank you sooo much for you comments and advises.

    Janie... hug you back.... and you know what? CoWorking is more interesting than working from home, I met lovely people and helped me socialize.

    Jan, your comments are straight to the point, I rarely feel it’s my home too. I don’t want to be unfair to him, he’s not a lazy person, he helps with house chores. But he is territorial and been testing my limits and I allowed it. Moving to a new house which will be the home, I need to stand up in a civilized way and have a say.

    Olmama, I really like the veto solution. He will have the cellar to do his man cave, hopefully it will fit his 2 mountain bikes, his city bike and his motorcycle :)

    Again, thank you all for your precious contribution xxx

  • lexma90

    My spouse and I are now on our second house that is being built for us. One of the lessons that I learned from the first time was to not let my spouse (IMHO) get his way so much. I was more of the planner, he was the "no I don't like that" guy. We have a designer on this build, but I'm still more the planner and thinker, and he's not. Also, I'm generally more organized, and he likes his stuff out where he can see it.

    We do also try to balance each of our desires, and he's finally figured out the art of negotiation. I get the color of front door that I want, he gets the shape of mirror that he wants in the powder room. And without either of us saying anything, I suppose we each have veto rights.

    I have my woman cave, where everything is my decision, he also gets a room of his own. That helps. And I have to live with the fact that he will have a space in the kitchen where his stuff always sits out, and the toaster oven that I hate. But the rest of the kitchen will be clean and put away.

    Because I visit houzz, and my spouse does not, I would save pictures (of things I like, naturally), and he would go through with me and decide which he liked. So at least we could narrow things down.

  • Lyndee Lee

    Remodeling or building a house for two different personalities is always a challenge. My business partner and I were doing most of the work ourselves and supervising the remainder. My hubby travels frequently and he was not involved in the day to day work on the house and often didn't visit until I asked him directly to go check out the progress.

    I tried to choose options I could accept and then let him choose which particular item he wanted, such as bathroom tile. If he didn't like any of the options, I found more. We had general discussions about colors and I did the final choices. He had a couple requests that I made happen: soaker tub in the master and smooth walls in the main living area. Funny thing is he still has not used that damn tub even though DD and I have each used it a few times.

    Anything expensive or difficult to change like the stone on the chimney, I discussed with him. Easy to change out like light fixtures, I put up what I found and he can ask me to change it if he dislikes my choice.

    My irritating issue is he often does not take any action after getting an item out or putting something away. So, I walk into a kitchen with doors and drawers open and the dishwasher open. Closet doors, cabinet doors, his desk, top of buffet for sorting the mail, everything is out in the open. Someday I swear that he will come home to a kitchen without cabinet doors. I really should not complain because he is a good cook and does most of the cooking, but it still bugs me to walk through the kitchen and close all the doors. I just try to keep commonly used items in plain sight, but with a designated spot so we know where the item should be.

    I suggest picking an area for him where you agree never to complain about the look. Then pick an area which will be yours to enjoy and you are allowed to move anything left in your space either to his space or into a special location where it is a pain to retrieve. If he leaves a coffee cup in your space, put it on his chair. If he drops his keys in your space, drop them down the laundry chute. Or course, you have to be willing to let him inconvenience you when you do something similarly irritating to him or leave stuff in his space.

Need help with an existing Houzz order? Call 1-800-368-4268