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10 Truths About Renovating With Your Partner

I wrote this piece for Houzz a while back; Houzz is where I spend my working days – come and say hello over there some time. From a survey we'd done a while back it seemed that, for many, renovating with a significant other can be an emotional rollercoaster. So it is an apt piece to share over the Bank Holiday weekend, I thought, when many of us may have been tackling a spot of decorating with our beloveds.

Given the expense, the barrage of daily decisions to be made and, of course, the fact that you – literally – have to live with the results, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many of us have found working on a project with our nearest and dearest rather challenging. In fact, 48% of Houzzers in the UK found renovating with their partner to be ‘frustrating’, 33% said it was ‘difficult’, and 17% even described it as ‘painful’. Can you relate? If so, you’ll recognise these home truths about the process.

Photo, Brian O'Tuama Architects, via Houzz

1 You might have different motivations
While some renovators are spurred on by an image of the finished project – a pristine kitchen extension like this one, for example – others simply aren’t quite as driven by the idea of completion. Which can be, like, really annoying for both parties.

DIY projects are fertile ground for this kind of couple discontentment. If you’re in the former camp, you will be infuriated that a person can sleep at night having paused halfway through the re-grouting project two months ago! If you’re in the latter, you will vainly argue for quality of life, weekends off and the importance of mental rest.

This kind of relaxed attitude, of course, does not extend to a relaxed response when said partner is prodded towards completion; the ‘doer’ will tread carefully, itching to get in there and finish it themselves, or grumbling to get someone in.

But if this is you, be warned: the repercussions of ‘taking over’ may be greater than the satisfaction of seeing the work finished. Throughout this impasse, a comfortable resentment will blossom between you.

2 The paint aisle can be a dangerous place
Decorating should be the fun part of a renovation project, the final polish when you can enjoy making creative decisions about colours and finishes.

But when there are two of you making those decisions, ‘fun’ may not be the first adjective you’d both use – especially in the aisles of your local DIY store. Here, the stage is set for one of you to demonstrate theatrical disbelief that the other doesn’t know the difference between oil-based and water-based gloss / eggshell and satinwood. How can a person get this far in life without such basic knowledge?! (And doesn’t everyone know the difference between Hague Blue and Stiffkey Blue?)

Defensiveness from the accused party will (understandably) ensue, as will amused glances from fellow shoppers, each of whom will feel your pain – unless, of course, they’re single and blissfully autonomous when it comes to DIY. (By the way, if you recognise the accent paint shade in this kitchen, you are almost certainly the theatrical one in this stressy shopping situation.)

3 The worker bears the brunt
When you first embark on a DIY renovation, or perhaps just some redecorating together, forget those happy paint adverts, where smiling couples laugh and joke as they paint the nursery together, or those content-looking husbands or wives bringing their relaxed-looking beloved a cuppa and harmoniously surveying the hard work.

This status quo is a privileged one, earned only by those who’ve done their time at the coalface of communal redecoration, gained a deeper understanding of one another, and made (and stuck to) some serious relationship promises. The reality is that the person without the paintbrush will:
a) Dislike the colour upon seeing so much of it for the first time (and the painter, having spent several hours on the job, will not agree).
b) Ask why the skirting boards weren’t masked better.
c) Get quite passionate about whether or not the radiator should have been painted.

You can read the rest of this piece over at Houzz.

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