Couples’ Home Decor Horror Stories (and How They Survived)

By  | Feb 10, 2017

Home decor is supposed to be fun, but when you add a significant other into the mix decorating your home can be downright traumatic. In fact, according to a recent study of 500 couples by Home Goods, 25% of Americans are more stressed out about picking home decor together than they are about doing their taxes. Death, taxes, and decor: the unholy trinity of life’s stressful certainties?

Home decor horror stories

Relax: Decorating a home with your life partner doesn’t have to be a killer. There are ways to mitigate the style-meshing madness without ending up in relationship counseling, or worse.

Here are some couples’ worst home decor horror stories, with survival tips that could help us all stay in love.

Kitchen cabinets work as dressers, right?

“When I moved in with my boyfriend—now my fiancé—he was living in a house he’d been gutting and renovating for a year. I went from a perfectly pristine apartment to unfurnished chaos; he was even using extra kitchen cabinets as dressers. After three months of this, I told him if we didn’t get some bedroom furnishings, I would slowly die. But when we finally went furniture shopping, suddenly he had an opinion on everything: He wanted wood, I wanted upholstery. Eventually, I took the initiative and narrowed the selections to three options that seemed to mesh both of our styles.” –Liz Kot, Long Beach, NY

How to survive: According to the Home Goods study, 93% of couples have disagreed on a home decor decision since moving in together, and nearly half of respondents go head to head on a regular basis. That is why it’s critical to find a middle ground.

“You can do the legwork and limit the options,” says interior decorator Jill Hosking-Cartland, founder of Hosking Interiors. “Or you can hire an interior designer or decorator who is trained to help you find something that will appeal to both your sensibilities. This process is easier when you have a neutral party whose sole goal is to see both parties happy.”

Many stores provide free in-house design help, including Pottery Barn, West Elm, Ethan Allen, and Room & Board.

Clashing over color

“My then boyfriend/now husband and I had been dating about a month when he painted the walls in his bedroom a dark brown color. It was awful!  So I just got up one day and grabbed some old paint cans that were his leftovers and mixed a pale neutral tan/beige color and painted straight over the dark umber that was there. He was shocked at first, but deep down I think he admired my ‘get it done’ approach.” –Julie Heller, New York, NY

How to survive: For 44% of couples, color is one of the top decor decisions where they don’t see eye to eye. If one of you likes things muted and the other goes for bold colors, one compromise is to use the latter as an “accent” wall so you both feel like you’ve won.

So many milk crates!

“When I moved in with my boyfriend, he was using milk crates to store his record collection. I desperately wanted to throw them out—the crates, not the records—but he wouldn’t let me. I lobbied hard for them to go in the basement, but then he would argue that they might get damaged. Finally, after much negotiating, we bought some new furniture to store the collection more attractively.” –Jo Smith, Los Angeles, CA

How to survive: To help your partner say goodbye to an eyesore/atrocity, it’s up to you to find alternatives—after all, it’s much easier to dump things if you have something new to take its place. Or if both of you have a couch and one must go, “try the practical approach,” says Hosking-Cartland. “For example, to determine which couch stays, discuss which one is more comfortable or has less wear.”

‘He never wanted to spend money’

“My first husband was tight-fisted with money, especially when it came to furnishing our home. It was a constant source of frustration because he wouldn’t let me buy anything unless we agreed to it—which meant we usually ended up without. So when he bought a patio furniture set without telling me, I was furious. But once I cooled off, I realized it was so nice, it worked great as an indoor dining set at a fraction of the usual price. So I dragged the set inside. Obviously, this didn’t go over well, but we did end up using that patio set indoors for quite a while until I convinced him to get a replacement.” –Kaye Chapman, New York, NY

How to survive: No doubt, finances are a top contention point for couples, and the Home Goods survey showed that more than one in three respondents have lied to their partner about the cost of a home decor purchase.

A better solution? Find ways to decorate on a budget by perusing thrift stores, outlets, Craigslist, or estate sales. The less you spend, the less financial strain it will place on your relationship (not to mention your bank account).

Kimberly Dawn Neumann, who is based in New York City, is an author, performer, and fitness professional.