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The Juggle is Real...

Prioritizing Your Partner – in design and life

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Designing a pretty house is hard. Designing a beautiful house with your partner is harder. Designing a stunning home with two toddlers feels nearly impossible. It’s like a plastic surgeon being asked to pierce a ferrets’s tongue. Sure,  you can do it, but all your real skills are squandered. You see, all that toddlers really want and need can be wrapped up in two words – space and destruction. These are not the words that make a designers heart flip with joy. Nay. And I don’t want to lose Brian’s style in the mix, either.

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This whole double toddler thing has not just made designing more difficult, but has also made life, marriage and generally staying awake long enough to chat about how you are really doing more challenging. So when Plum Organics (yes, the pouches and puffs that your babies scream for and suck down) reached out as part of their new campaign that encourages parents to prioritize their relationships (sans guilt!) I thought – well, I do like an excuse to talk about our marriage, Lord knows. Why are they sponsoring a post about relationships? Because they believe that making love is essential to a good partnership – thus their Do your Part(ner) campaign. They are right. And listen, having sex leads to a better marriage, which can lead to making babies and more babies lead to more buying baby food – and they make baby food. Do I think we all should be having more sex with our partners? YES. But time is so hard to find, and patterns are so hard to break. When Brian and I are on a good kick (before I had a recent pregnancy scare – DEAR LORD), our marriage can feel pretty close to perfect .. although, to be clear, making more babies is certainly not part of our “perfect” plan anytime soon.

Listen, we love Plum’s food – I’ve downed a few pouches myself (haven’t we all?) and while I prefer to actually chew solids, my, goodness those pouches do taste good (but not too sweet, don’t worry).

Back to us, our relationship and our home:

So this time around, with our new house, I have three very important clients to consider – let me give you their bios:

Elliot Henderson:

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This lady specializes in throwing food, stomping on it, and sometimes scraping it up and eating it if we don’t catch her. She is also adept at shaking her bottle maniacally, like a rattle, near many an upholstered piece of furniture. She does these things with glee and a ridiculous amount of ‘cute’. She also says ‘mama’ like it’s the most important and under-used word ever, with arms outstretched. Her use of the affirmation ‘yah’, with an intense head nod, is unequivocally adorable. Sixteen months is a ridiculously cute age.

Charlie Henderson:

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Charlie is particularly good at bringing in dead lizards from the backyard and resting them on the arm of the chair, then not telling us. He also likes taking his shoes full of sand off on the rug, and haplessly rubbing his yogurt-riddled-hands into the velvet sofa (we let our kids eat snacks on the sofa on the weekends because we are lazy and our sofa pays the price). Charlie is also learning he has to ‘clean up every single mess’ which guess what? IS JUST MORE WORK FOR US. That kid should not quit his day job, he’s out-right terrible at putting broom to pan.

**Free parenting tip from my mother (of 6). Have your kids from birth, clean up their messes and fix their mistakes even when, especially when it’s an accident. She said with the last couple of kids she started this protocol and they made WAY less accidental messes and became more careful in general because they knew that they were in charge of cleaning it up.

But he is also saying ‘mama please cuddle me’ pretty often in between the meltdowns. Examples of such meltdowns are these: He’s devastated that a helicopter isn’t flying over our house, or that I made a bristle block laser instead of a rocket. In case you have a friend who has a 3 year old, give her a hug and tell her that she is a good mom. This stage is INTENSE. He loves hard, expresses FULLY and managing his meltdowns should be training for the CIA bomb squad.

Lastly …

Brian Henderson:

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This man specializes at being a ridiculously present dad, entertaining best friend and really open and vulnerable human being. He ain’t perfect but, man, whenever I look at the facts I’m absolutely shocked that I landed him. We’ve been together for 16 years, (read all about our ups and downs here) lived together for 14 of them and generally have had the same style – both in home, fashion and parenting. The amount of times we have left the house both in chambray and plaid is too embarrassing and gross to count. What I have said over and over the last 16 years is ‘man, i can’t believe we are always on the same page’. This includes restaurant choices or how we travel (without a plan). We also both “avoid paying bills”, or “hate dealing with paperwork” so ‘being on the same page’ can really be a bummer, legally.

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Back to our house …

I took over the design of our home 6 years ago when the blog started taking off, after Design Star. I had all the leverage to kinda do whatever I wanted because that is how we supported us and I barely even asked him his opinion. If he was in earshot of me and my team making decisions I might throw the question out there, hoping he didn’t hear. But generally he had little input – of which I was mostly annoyed by. I found him to be a naysayer, he found me to be bossy. We were both right. (He didn’t really want THAT much input by the way – but probably more than he got).

This was absolutely my mistake. What that did to him was make him feel very little ownership over his home even though he generally liked everything in it – we have similar styles after all. One always wants to be asked, right? So his reaction was to complain a little too much about the things that he didn’t like. And in my mind I was like – I SPENT HOURS AND HOURS MAKING THE VARIETY OF DECISIONS NEEDED TO GET THAT PIECE IN HERE!! I felt that he didn’t want to participate in the process but loved to complain about the close-to-wonderful results.

But this time around things are changing. I’ve learned my lesson and our marriage is in a better place than it has been for years so we are both working at avoiding those mistakes.

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Here is what is happening:

We are not designing the house for toddlers – we are designing it for a family of young kids and we are doing it together. Sure, it will be kid-friendly but not unbreakable. Every day they learn better habits, which make me think maybe they can handle that glass paneled hutch in the dining room…

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I’m enlisting Brian’s help in every step of the process. Sure, I am taking the lead and it would be silly to imply that we are doing it together, 50/50, but I’m treating him like a real VIP client and presenting the best options to him before deciding on the final. He has GREAT ideas and he’s normally right about more functional aspects. He typically bubbles over with common sense and has a really good sense of color and style.

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He wants to be involved … probably not as much as he is. He’s realizing quickly the amount of decision making is absolutely paralyzing and exhausting – and he doesn’t even know the level of coordinating and minutea we are battling on a minute to minute basis.

Involving him has made the design of house both more frustrating at times AND yet more successful. There are times when he’s really done looking at options (I have to book meetings with him on his calendar with Ginny and Mel to get real info out of him). Yet I’m texting him photos from the flea market of potential purchases – something I’ve never done before. He responds with a ‘ooh fun!’ which isn’t typically something he would say. What he is really meaning is ‘I think you want it and it might be cool but mostly I am trying to be into this because I know it’s important for our marriage that I participate in the process and not just complain about the result’. I buy it, obviously, psyched that he just OK’d me to buy 7′ garden bird statues for our courtyard. He’s right, they are ‘ooh fun’.

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Prioritizing him into the design of the house was crucial to our marriage. And us prioritizing our kids thoughtfully and yet not obsessively into the design of our home is best for our family. We make time for each other, but for the first time I’m grateful for his opinions, feel relief in his input and am enjoying the process even more than the result. When we got married we promised we would be each others first priority, then when we had kids that shifted – not because they are more important but because they are so, so, so needy. My parents, for 45 years and 6 kids ALWAYS had a date night once a week. They have such a strong marriage because they know that if they don’t, the whole family suffers. Prioritize your relationship, ESPECIALLY when you have kids. Your partner (my husband) needs our attention, I promise.

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That’s us. The Hendersons are great, but not perfect. Our relationship is so easy and effortless and yet a lot of hard work to maintain its original health. Making time for him actually makes me less stressed. And right about now, designing our house, I’m looking for less stress, more doing.

Thanks to Plum for giving an excuse to write this post, and a reminder to prioritize that man – both in the design of our home and in life by taking the pledge to Do Your Part(ner). Remember that Plum is a brand by parents, for parents. They have been keeping it real for years now with their ongoing #ParentingUnfiltered conversation, which encourages people to share ALL the complex realities of parenting (the good, the bad and the smelly). 

What about you? Are you totally in charge of the design? Are you making time for your partner? Do you let him or her weigh in on all decisions or is he the leader of the design decisions? Or are you both too busy with littles to even think about switching out a lampshade?

*This post is in partnership with Plum Organics – a company that we love. But all words/ideas and feelings are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep the makeovers coming.

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  1. I think this is always important to remember. Before my fiancee and I were together I was definitely a “my house my way” kind of girl. But it’s his home, too, he deserves to love it and be as comfortable in it as I am, so he should have a say in what goes into it. He appreciates that and there are times where he’s like “totes don’t care about pillows” and that’s fine, but there are other times where he will say “I’m not about that bedspread, how about another one” and I respect that.

    http://aneducationindomestication.com

  2. I LOVED the bio’s, hysterically real! 🙂

  3. I loved this post–such a great reminder (as my husband and I attempt to update/refresh our new home’s dated interior!) And those black leggings–YOWZA! Love!

  4. Ugh… Involving my partner (who I love unconditionally) in home design / decor choices is exhausting. He doesn’t want to be involved and says he doesn’t have the time, yet he hates everything when he’s not involved. He also hates a lot of things I like: stripes, floral, most colors, also most neutrals, abstract art, faux fur… It doesn’t help that our budget is tiny, so any mistakes hurt all the more. Further, he grew up in a house where almost all of the things were cheap and thus he never learned to treat things carefully. So, even if I buy the perfect thing, it will most likely be stained or scratched or broken within six months. :: deep emotionally-charged sigh ::

    1. I know. Your first sentence was my life. Dunno, force him? It kinda might take the fun out of it but also I do a lot of reminding him of how helpful he is, how good of taste he has (which he does) and how important it is that it looks like him.

      1. You are right , Emily! I told my husband I want our home to be a reflection of his and my style. I also pointed out the thinge he hated previously and told him how giving me his opinions can help us create a more functional space in our new home. He used to hate looking at furniture and pillows until I kept telling him think about how you want to use it, like I would say do you want this pillow behind your back. When you talk sentence putting him first he will be more receptive. I sent him a pic of the Warren Platner jubilee gold sidechair and guess what he actually ended up buying and paying for it. It’s navy and gold, most certainly my style but it seems he has now come to love my taste of brass! 🙂

        1. Is everyone living in the 1950s? The gendered aspect of this post is a bit disturbing. My husband is my partner and wants to live in a warm hospitable place, as do I, and like everything else in our lives we build it together. This reminds me of that uncomfortable thing when a dad refers to caring for his own kids as “babysitting.” Yikes.

          1. I think it’s more just about being a professional *something* and taking into account your partners opinions on that something, even if they’re not an expert. It’s easy to take more than half of the responsibilities in an area that comes naturally to you. Certainly, a male interior designer is going to face similar challenges with his partner. I didn’t get the sense that Emily was suggesting women are the ones who exclusively design their homes.

          2. I always correct people when they ask if my husband is baby-sitting! You don’t babysit your own kids.

  5. This is really awesome and sound advice! I always make sure to ask my husband if he is okay with something in the house before it becomes permanent, because he has to stare at it everyday too! Luckily we haven’t butted heads too much in this department.

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  6. Great post with lots of great points! My very practical husband isn’t really interested in the details of design choices. He is a minimalist and doesn’t really need much ‘stuff’. Our issue is the spending of the money. We have 2 young kids in full time daycare ($$$) and the designer in me is always wanting to change and improve (more $$$)! Our biggest issues have been centered around the budget. I think the solution is we just need more of it. lol!

    1. Oh, I hear you. My very practical husband loves the oak furniture that he refinished 25 years ago because it’s durable …. and I have more Emily’s light, happy, California style. And he sees no reason to spend money on design choices. That’s why we still don’t have a coffee table and golden 80s wallpaper in our guest room. Two kids in school here and living in the very expensive SF Bay Area … I have so many ideas and try to make design choices in a budget conscious way, but then he says he does not “want cheap crap”. Oh well.

      1. I feel your pain, so much inspiration, creativity and ideas brewing, with no outlet – frustrating! That’s where thrifting comes in. You can get amazing pieces for a fraction of the cost, you just need to know where to look, and look often (and have cash available when the piece is found). I just found a few pieces for our media room, and I tell you after living in the house for four years, I finally feel like it’s taking shape. It takes time to find quality, aestheicaly-right, pieces on a budget! But it’s also really rewarding.

  7. I can so relate. Especially since I have a three-year-old Charlie, too. My husband hit the nail on the head with him, saying, “he’s just the best when he’s not the worst.” Ha. Our first design decisions were disastrous, so glad we have learned to compromise (him to form, me to function) and communicate better.

    PS you are the queen of writing sponsored posts that are meaningful and relevant to both brands. Kudos!

    1. I love that phrase. Also that song – when she is good she is really really good and when she is bad she is AWFUL’. Last night we had a 3am temper tantrum because he wanted to get up for the day. That was after Birdie was already up twice (they are both sick with colds/sore throats). But I was like THREE AM???

      1. This is what my Grandmother taught me many, many years ago. And something I am saying a lot these days because I am kitty-sitting my daughter’s psycho cat.

        There was a little girl with a little curl right in the middle of her forehead and when she was good she was very, very good and when she was bad she was HORRID!

        1. Oh RIGHT! its HOrrid!! 🙂

  8. After “The Great Soap Dispenser Incident of 2011,” we pretty much decide on all home-related choices together. In our last place, we each ended up taking the lead in different spaces of the house. He designed the living/dining room, I designed the bedroom and kitchen. The person with more ideas ends up naturally taking the lead, and the other person has veto power. We both really enjoy the process and have similar ideas about budget, style, etc. so it works really well.

    1. LOL! It’s funny how things like sop dispensers that are technically not that serious can become the most important decision in the history of humankind. Years ago I was so excited to get a new soap dispenser. Not two days later our toddler used it and accidentally tipped it over. It broke into many sharp pieces and scared her to death. Obviously her safety was more concerning than loosing the dispenser, but at the time I was so disappointed! Anyway, after twenty plus years my husband has realized I have pretty good taste and work hard to find the best design options at a reasonable price, and I have realized that narrowing the bajillion options down to several (that take both our tastes into account) so he can help decide (if it matters to him) works out pretty well. Basically, we trust each other. That goes a long, long way. And not just for home decor.

  9. Um…you are amazing.

    “It’s like a plastic surgeon being asked to pierce a ferrets’s tongue.”

    That’s the weirdest, best metaphor yet.

    1. Yes! The ferret comment CRACKED me up – but it made so much sense (about using your skills in the most effective way possible)!

      1. HA. you should have read the backup analogies. This was the one that made me laugh the most every time 🙂

        1. The writing in this post was especially good! Just chock-full of strong imagery and just-right turns of phrases. I don’t know how long this post took to write, but, wow.

          But I think that’s why I tune in every week. Not only are you incredibly talented, your voice is fresh, funny and heartwarming.

          1. Okay, I have to say exactly what Lisa said. +1!!!

            Now that Lisa mentions it, in my subconscious, I was asking myself, “I wonder how long that took to write. Such strong phrases, imagery, ETC.”!

  10. Great post! I love reading about juggling this career in real life. Your desires are really awesome in this area. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. I struggle with this. In theory I think it’s the right way. But the house was purchased solely by me. And we aren’t married. So like technically it is MY HOUSE… I do involve him in decisions regarding expensive items and things not easily changed like tile. I narrow it down to some options then get his opinion. So far there’s been no complaints. And I did let him put a tv in our bedroom which I hate.

  12. Great post, Emily! And great, hilarious descriptions of your adorable kids.

    I am of the mind that decisions shouldn’t be made unilaterally, but that the person who cares a lot more should have more of a say. Getting a husband’s input (or letting him make the final choice) on something he doesn’t even really care about at all is kind of pointless. For instance if you asked my husband right now what color our living room walls are painted, he would not be able to tell you. Even if given a multiple-choice test. Whereas I care deeply, so I should get to choose things like this.. That said, I do think the not-as-strongly-opinionated spouse should have veto power.

    Glad you have found the right balance! Your family is an inspiration!!

    1. Maybe you are right. maybe I should stop forcing him. We just got in a big “debate” tonight about a design decision and i’m feeling kinda over it. I need to re-read my own post and remind myself that its important that he feels involved because right now his apathy is a huge bummer.

  13. I was cracking up while tearily reading. Loved the descriptions of each family member! Great post.

  14. We are in the same situation as you and Brian used to be. I am definitely more design-oriented (I started a clothing company as a side hustle, mittonandlaboss.etsy.com) and have been very interested in how I design my spaces since I was a kid. When we bought our first home together, I started a home and food blog (The256Project.com) and have used the blog as an excuse to take over design control, much to my husband’s chagrin. And, like Brian, my husband has good taste and has provided good design advice for my clothing line and our homes together. The naysaying struggle is real! This situation of him not providing enough input either due to my overbearing nature about it or him not being as interested in the topic as I am is definitely an issue and one that I need to work on. Thanks for writing this post. I think you will find in the comments section how spot on and helpful you are.

    1. Thank you. It’s so hard. it really is. It’s like designing your house is a microcosm of your relationship. I think that’s why it so important to prioritize …

  15. Thanks for another excellent post which really made me chuckle.

    My controlling and abusive ex-husband went ballistic if I so much as moved a picture without his permission (although he took no interest in interiors).

    I’m pleased to say that for the last 12 years it’s been my choice only. Of course I do ask for other people’s opinion (especially my family) but in the end it’s down to me – which is great – but you do have to own your mistakes .

    1. My mom’s controlling and emotionally abusive ex-husband (my former step dad) was the same way with decor…. he would throw rages and fume for days on end over design decisions/purchases/minute tweaks, despite having no interest in interiors. So glad she got out of that hell-hole, and you too!

      1. Thanks Kim! And pleased to hear your Mum has escaped too.

        1. Congrats to both of you (or your mom, Kim). YA, THAT sounds like not something to work through 🙂

  16. my husband is super involved in our decorating purchases. it drives me nuts sometimes, but generally we make our decisions together. Fortunately it’s only him & myself, and we have very similar taste! he took 2 years of searching before he found the perfect media cabinet for our living room. and i agreed with him.

  17. I really enjoyed this post! And now I like Plum Organics more because I didn’t realize they did all of these cool parent-centered campaigns. I see their stuff at the grocery store but now I might actually buy it for my 10 month old twins. I see that as a partnership done right. My main job is in marketing so I just wanted to applaud this effort on both sides. #nicelydone

    My husband and I sometimes butt heads over the house, which is a mutual passion of ours. I’m fortunate that his passion is related to building and constructing and the general execution of my design ideas. I dream it up, he executes it. The butting heads part comes into play when I don’t make a decision for him – for example, he had to pester me for weeks to choose a stone for our backyard garden wall, which he was super pumped to build. But to be honest I didn’t care about the stone garden wall at all so I kept telling him to pick the stone, and that drove him nuts. I learned that he doesn’t want to make design decisions, even if it’s for his own project.

    He’s also super OCD and into measurements, geometry, blah blah blah. I’m over here like, “Wouldn’t this be beautiful?!” without any thought about how hard it would be to actually execute my plan. So while it’s a nice balance, we both can drive each other crazy if we aren’t careful. YAY marriage!!!

    1. Jordan,
      My jaw was dropping with (friendly) envy about how your husband loves building and constructing… and HE was pestering you to choose a stone for the wall, which he was pumped to build. AMAZING!! I LOVE my husband, but I have realized solidly that, contrary to my hopes, building, constructing, home renovating, or even painting is nothing he is interested in.

      If we had a garden wall to build, we may have a 10-minute conversation about how it would be cool to do it ourselves and not hire someone. Then two weeks later, I’d mention it again, and he’d grumble and look at some stone samples. Then I’d go to Home Depot and buy the stone. Three weeks later, I’d bug him on a Saturday to research and do the job… and he’d complain the whole time and vow to never do this type of work again. True to life!

      I just have to shout out my kudos to those who actually DO stuff around their homes. Amazing! I sit here impressed and will live vicariously through your stories and progress! 😀

      1. I love hearing these stories. It really does make me feel better that we are just a normal couple, arguing about stupid things. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the feedback. xx

  18. Thank you Emily. You’re right and that was a very appreciated post and so so true. The moment I started prioritising my partner at the absolute top of the list everything became easier and I’m so proud to be in a strong and healthy relationship, just so because we work at it. Thank you for that post. It is valuable.

  19. I’m 76 and living with way too much stuff from his side of the family and stuff my sons don’t want to get rid of so here it resides. But I grew up in orphanages and had no clue how to be a Homemaker.
    I was married at 19 to a 21 year old Chemical Engineer so I went from nothing(worked as a Nanny in a wealthy home) to having an income. I wanted so desperately to fit in and look competent that I talked my Husband into buying used French Provincial furniture that was a disaster with the Babies that came along. And I replaced that with an on sale set -wonderful construction,and indestructible velvet fabric but UGLY as Sin. If you ever think of what the neighbors or Family will think of how YOU decorate. Forget it,the mean spirited will criticize and your friends won’t and if you can’t pay CASH for it I wouldn’t buy it

    1. I want to hang out with you. You sound like you’ve had an interesting life and that you are cool as hell. thank you so much for your honest comment 🙂 xx

  20. I love seeing these posts with the kids rolling all over each other and the house a mess (but still gorgeous! gotta love good bones). Its so awesome! I have three boys and those messy tumbling days are my reality. My husband and I have been together since we were teenagers. Its fun, complicated and endearing all at the same time. Mostly we just look at each other in these messy crazy days and wonder how in the world we got here. This post is fun, real and messy. Just like life with a growing family. Its the best. Thanks for sharing. oh and I i do all the decorating because he knows i love it and he doesn’t really care as long as the pillows are smooshy and blankets are soft.

  21. This post made me happy and I can totally relate with a two-year old who suddenly has lots of opinions and likes to eat mysterious food off the floor (when the hell did we have raisins last??) I love your personal posts – keep them coming, please!!

    One of my “themes” for 2017 is to make more time for my husband so this is timely and you really hit the nail on the head. It’s so easy to drift into parent mode because it demands soooo much of your attention so we have to make a deliberate effort to have couple time.

    When it comes to decisions around the house, I have learned to narrow down choices to 2 or 3 items that I love (i.e., pre-approved ideas) and ask my husband to choose. That way he’s involved, but I’ve presented him with a curated selection of pillows / rugs / art whatever that will all work in the space.

    Thanks for the great post and making sponsored content look easy 🙂

  22. What a sweet post! And great reminder to communicate, even when we’re probably in agreement over something- say it out loud.

  23. I love this post. It’s so honest and real. I love the reminder that marriage takes work, but that it’s so worth it. Learning to decorate together was a challenge for us – I didn’t expect my husband to care, but he does. After a learning curve, we’re on the same page, style-wise, and it makes things so much easier.

  24. Thank you for being so open! This is so huge. I watch design clients do this all the time, and it gets into power balance, money, cleanliness, aesthetics… crazy hard. My own turning point came when I was buying my first apartment. My husband (then bf) kept defaulting to me, but I could just feel the swallowed opinions. He felt uncomfortable ‘butting in’ because we weren’t engaged yet, and it was mostly my money. But I wanted to design our home, not mine. I had a meltdown organizing our ‘shoe-seum’ shelving by the front door (I liked mixing by color; he wanted his-and-hers shelves). I found myself ranting “I KNOW I sound like a lunatic, but this is VERY symbolic and I need you to mix your life up with my stuff and REALLY LIVE HERE!!!” Give me your opinions, but also agree with me! Read my mind! I’m scared you have one foot out the door! Commit to my heart via my shoes! AAH! We had a really good talk about how to share our lives – huge shift. Now I try to honor shoeseum during all joint decisions.

    1. OMG. that made me laugh out loud. Literally. Not in a LOL way. I want to see said Shoe-seum. thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  25. Awesome post. I am engaged (married in just a couple months!) and while I am making most of the wedding plans and my fiance is fine with it, we recently butted heads over the invitations I designed. I was horrified. I am a professional Graphic Designer with impeccable taste!! We were able to work through some issues and for me to see that he is allowed to have input as it is OUR wedding even though I know what looks good. It has taken me a while to understand that while he may not have opinions about flowers, he may have some about other things. It’s not all or nothing. Which I am learning to understand.

    At home he’s pretty much the same where there are things he doesn’t care about at all and then some (seemingly random) things he is passionate about. And functionality. He is always a stickler for function. (Which, yeah, I get)

    It will take a little bit of time for us to figure out our groove with all of this, but this post is super helpful Emily!! I’m glad I’m not the only one. All my girlfriends husbands let them do whatever they want! (Can you imagine!?) I love when you write these posts, they are awesome and a great example of how sponsored posts can still have great content. Heck, I don’t even have kids yet!

    1. Congrats! and good luck. Its easy and challenging. And there will be many ‘invitations’ you’ll have to redesign. Choose your battles and know that when he cares its cause he’s probably right. xx

  26. My husband is pretty open to what I want but I ask him anyway be cause he thinks of practical reasons for or against that I sometimes miss. Also about the kids being bad at brooms and such. I got a dirt devil a few months ago and my 4 and 2 year old boys think it is the funnest thing to clean up crumbs and dirt. It’s a win/win!!

  27. We’ve had kiddos most of our marriage, so the design has always involved, well … everyone! I’ve ended up going “big” on original art … b/c it creates an inspiring space for the kids and you can do less expensive, or simple furniture, that can be cleaned, stand up to wear and tear, etc, b/c everyone is so in love with your art. Just a thought. 🙂

  28. Hmmm, If I were married to “The Design Star” winner, I’d happily turn over the keys. I was at a meeting once and ran into the husband sitting outside in the cold. He explained that his wife wouldn’t let him sit on the white sofas. Sure enough, they were divorced soon after. In my perfect world, I would make all design decisions. I am better at it and it matters to me waay more. That said, out of respect for my partner, I will never load up on pillows on the bed, I will always have a coffee table you can put your feet up on. I will strive to create a home for us that welcomes and nourishes our souls.

    1. I’m with you. Comfort over anything else these days. and thank you 🙂

  29. Thanks Emily for a great post. I always try to take into consideration that I am not the only one living in our space. We recently built a new house and I am still in the process of getting new furniture and décor. We have combined pieces from both of us and some just don’t work in our new house, which he is finally admitting to and willing to let go. He pretty much let me run with lighting, tile and plumbing decisions but I did ask his opinion on some key decisions. Luckily he has been nothing but happy and complimentary with all the decisions I made. I always want him to be comfortable as it is his house too. We share the same taste in many things and often come out dressed in the same colors as well when we go out.

  30. This post really spoke to me, especially about how to decorate with toddlers in the house. We have a two year old, and destruction truly is the name of the game. With that said, I refuse to live in a space that makes me feel unhappy and depressed because all of the ‘me’ has been stripped out of it in the name of child-proofing. Don’t get me wrong, we have made many adjustments, and the white couch I see in my dreams will have to wait, but I also think it’s okay to raise kids in an environment where not everything is for them, with an understanding on my part that this may mean a few things get damaged/broken along the way. I’m curious – what are some things that you are willing to compromise on when it comes to being kid-friendly, and what are some things you aren’t? (And please note – I of course would never do anything to compromise safety)

    1. White slipcovered couches are amazing even with kids/pets. Wash the cushions once a month and the rest every couple of months. Yeah, it gets dirty in between but your normal couch is that dirty too and bleach/oxyclean fixes anything!

      1. Good point!!! Now you’ve got me thinking…

  31. Wonderful and hilarious post, Emily. My partner and I have pretty different styles and we mesh them together. Initiative is what reigns supreme. If he or I do something, the other happily accepts it because it’s one less thing to do. This creates a him, me, him, me pattern to decorating, leading to the meshed style. We consult for big purchases, but haven’t had many yet. We haven’t even had walls we could paint yet, but when we do, that will surely require compromise.

  32. My trick for keeping the couch free from spills is to wrap the single couch cushion in a quilted throw secured with those clips that secure toddlers mittens to coats. When there’s a spill or (vomit!) I can just launder the throw. Added bonus the throw adds more texture and color to the room.
    Also totally identify with your situation. To a lesser extent, and ten years on…

  33. Love your posts, Emily! Loved you on both shows as well!! So sweet to include Brian in the design. BTW, those panels/walls in the store photo of you & Brian sitting on the white sofa? OMG!!! Love that!! I want this in my home today!!!!!!!!!

  34. This all sounds so familiar! Designer here…2 kids, ages 4.5 and 1.5. Husband who is not quite as stylistically similar to me as yours is to you. I’m so very grateful he is so accommodating. And I try to get his input, and feel like I am always designing with him as a “client” in mind, but usually I just hope he doesn’t notice when I sneakily replace our dining chairs for the third time because I just can’t make up my mind and rearrange our sons bedrooms every couple months while he’s at work…let me tell you though. Every gruff and understated “I like it” or “it’s nice” makes me want to jump up and down with glee so I really do try. Unfortunately white is my favorite color and black is his. I’m incredibly into tactility and soft things and I’m not kidding you he actually prefers those cotton tee shirts that are cheap and like crunchy and scratchy to the soft organic ones I buy him. It’s so weird. Doing my best 😉

  35. This is great, That’s a great website, it really is what I was looking for, thank you for sharing!

  36. Love. About to start building a house together. This was so timely! Thank you!

  37. Your post couldn’t be more timely! Moving this weekend and mentioned to my bf (father of our 2 year old) that I bought a new Bath mat & he was so genuinely hurt…he said “this isn’t just your home.” Quite the wakeup call that even the little decisions need everyone’s input so they feel valued. Thanks for always sharing great “jewels”

  38. Am I the only one completely repulsed by the non-recyclable packaging of Plum products? I know their lighter weight gives rise to their claim of being an “eco-alternative,” but that is a whole lot of petroleum-based product that’s not going anywhere. I would think people who procreate should care *more* about this issue.

    1. There’s probably always *some* additional step a person could take to be more eco-friendly. For example, vowing to never eat at a restaurant or buy anything from a store, and instead, create the items at your own place of residence, baked from your own produce or sewn from your own sheep you raise. Perhaps some people draw their “line” (such as, “I try to take short showers to conserve water, but I am willing to eat pouches of food”) differently than others.

      In other words, maybe they care to an extent…

  39. To achieve what we want and to do what we want in life, we choose to rely heavily and trust each other. To each singularly handle tasks so we can come together on what we want.
    A) one of us will have the stronger skill set in the area of the task and that person simply does it. (Obviously once you have conceded/ delegated you let go, neither one of us would complain to the other after we have taken the task off our plate. I used to do this, however we made a simple rule of it, and it does make sense.
    B) The challenge comes if we both want to or equally talented in that area, then we compromise.

    So as far as A) goes, I have bought homes without him needing to see them until after the fact, or he has organized o/s trips for us, that he asked me to block out the days in advance, yet I didn’t need to be involved with the details or even where we were going, till about an hr before trip to pack. It frees up time for both of us.

    With regards to B) compromise, we once went furniture shopping together, it was hilarious, we weren’t able to select a single thing together in a whole day, rather than go thru that futile experience again, we came at it from a different direction. I said I want to do 100% of this home, in return I will ask you in advance about what really matters to you and make sure I address that ( fortunately it was his office chair, that was it). Plus I know the 2 things he would want to know was how much? and how long to do? So in return after doing a spreadsheet, plus giving him a time line of the process. Those 2 needs of his, were met, knowing the total price, rather than getting surprise invoices for an undetermined length of time outweighed the alternative. Plus he got to spend the time it would have taken on things that really mattered to him, traveling together. Also fortunately I know he likes to make me happy, like I believe is the bottom line for most men, and as most have mentioned above they often don’t seem to care as deeply about the house items.

  40. This is definitely something the boyfriend and I are learning. We’re only three months in to our very first apartment together and he has opinions on things I NEVER THOUGHT HE WOULD. So it’s been interesting to say the least, but also really fun too.

  41. What perfect timing for this post. My partner and I just applied for an apartment (our first together) last night and spent most of the evening talking about how we might decorate it. I’m realizing that my word is not final and that he is/will be just as invested in making our space special. Remembering that throughout this process is going to be really important.

  42. Love this post. Love the “everyday” photos of you guys that aren’t professionally edited. Love your love and your advice – and your mom’s advice – but boy is that tough… letting a child clean up a mess takes forrrrr-ev-errrrr. Also date night once a week? Howww? I have kids the same ages as yours + a 5 year old and it’s harrrrd. Coffee and wine make it better. Thanks for the great post.

  43. God I love your blog. Typically I hate the sponsored posts where the bloggers lose their ‘voice’ in an attempt to shoehorn the product into the post. But yours are always so thoughtful and still ‘you.’ This one especially spoke to me as I also have two toddlers under 5 and the husband and I have had ups and down in our relationship (of 15 years!) that seem to mirror yours. I needed this reminder right now so thanks for sharing it in such a beautiful way!

  44. Yup, yup, yup – love this post, and the advice to stay focused on your partner. When my husband and I started decorating our first home together, I was surprised at how invested he was in the decisions. Our design process involved a spreadsheet keeping track of potential furniture pieces and a lot of compromise. In the end, I’m so proud of how we worked together on it and I think we got to a better result by including both of our input. Plus to your point, I think it’s so important that our space really feels like home to both of us.

    xx Jean
    http://www.skylineblossoms.com

  45. I feel oh so fortunate that my husband is color blind…. it knocks out 50% of what I’d have to involve him in! LOL! We just moved 6 months ago and I have a similar approach- I will pick out my top 3 choices and then let him discuss those with me. He doesn’t need to see the whole big world of choices I obsess over first. 🙂

  46. Working on including my partner more. It used to just be me picking things I wanted and then later he would tell me he hated it. Since he’s doing a lot of the labor in our new house, he’s gotten to make a lot more decisions and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Since I was stuck in bed with our newborn, he went and picked the paint colors for our bedrooms and I LOVE them. Thanks to that fun discovery, I feel a little more comfortable not having to make all the decisions and he loves getting to make our house a home

    1. Grateful for this post!
      This may be very personal – but if you are vaguely considering having another child at some point, do bear in mind that this might not happen at all, if you are very set on the TIMING of it… It’s a big thing – worth a thought…
      Thank you for your blog!

  47. I don’t know how late to the party I am, but I love this entry. We went to a marriage conference early where the speaker said to let the wife’s domain be the home and its decor. May sound old fashioned but it has served us well as out taste is really different…..yet he tends to love my end results. We have had some rough patches on two fronts: a. Remodeling. Sigh. We have have come a long way, but it has been painful coming to terms with our lack of communication while working on the house. and b. I like to ask his opinion, but it drives him nuts cuz I mostly use him as a sounding board which helps me process and usually I end up being the “naysayer” and squashing his input. I think he gets now that his opinion does help me process, but doesn’t usually mean I am going to do what he suggested. I am trying to be more open-minded about his opinions though. Good words.

  48. What do you do when you have a dear and sweet husband who doesn’t want to let you do what you want, but as an engineer is completely design-deaf?

  49. Hey… I totally relate to this! I’m an interior designer.. currently designing our home… so hubby and me found an awesome way to work together… especially on the furniture. I tend to be more visual while selecting a piece.. he’s more practical. So every time I liked a piece, I’d point it out to him. And he’d go sit on it to see if it’s actually comfortable. It was really funny.. but worked well. We have great looking, comfortable furniture! 🙂

  50. I actually like getting my boyfriends option. We live together and I mostly get to design our home. He actually has good taste. I typically resist it at first, but in the end his opinion usually makes sense. What drives me nuts is his mothers opinions. Her and I do not have the same taste. She does not have the same taste as her son even though she thinks she does. This woman put carpet in her kitchen. She keeps buying stuff to put in our home and I keep pretending to loose the stuff. She is a wonderful woman; we just do not have the same taste and she does not seem to get that.

  51. Great post! I love decorating my house but it can be a little hard when you have toddlers around the house 🙂

  52. I absolutely love this and, in reality, every post you upload! I went back and read your post on the ups and downs of your marriage and I really love how honest and real you are.

    I do include my husband for all our decor updates because when I wouldn’t, he would do exactly what many husbands do, complain when he wasn’t head over heels for something only because he didn’t have a “yay” or “nay.” Exactly what you said about Brian, my husband didn’t really want to spend too much time and energy in these decision, but did want to get asked. I’ve noticed that my husband will allow me to select what I want because he is simply happy he got asked–that is–unless he seriously does not like something, but if he sees me excited about a specific thing, he’ll agree.

    By the way, you are an inspiration to many, including myself, and I love how unafraid you are in being honest. True honesty is hard to come by and sharing your story can help many in their marriages/relationships–including myself. I am a forever Emily H. fan!

  53. May I just say that this was a beautifully refreshing post. So so so nicely written and so true. When my husband and I got married we definitely had to compromise style wise. He is more wood tones and dark walls and I’m definitely more lighter woods and white walls ha! We are still renting right now so wall color isn’t much of an option 😉 no painting allowed here! When we do finally buy a home and retire our well used Ikea furniture I will definitely come back and read this post!

  54. This whole double toddler thing has not just made designing more difficult, but has also made life, marriage and generally staying awake long enough to chat about how you are really doing more challenging.

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  55. I know. Your first sentence was my life. Dunno, force him? It kinda might take the fun out of it but also I do a lot of reminding him of how helpful he is, how good of taste he has (which he does) and how important it is that it looks like him.

  56. Sure, you can do it, but all your real skills are squandered. You see, all that toddlers really want and need can be wrapped up in two words – space and destruction. These are not the words that make a designers heart flip with joy. Nay. And I don’t want to lose Brian’s style in the mix, either

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