his and hers


I get it. Giving feels good. Doing for others is what really makes us happy. Not things. Actions. Selflessness. I so get it. I do. But what happens months later, when you gave and gave, and now you’re stuck in some hideous room with texture and layering and repellent off-white yellows and beige and muted greens and browns that you hate to spend any time in because it’s what your partner wanted? It feels good to make someone happy, but it just doesn’t feel good to live in a house of sag and shag.


Had Marie given in and selflessly allowed Jess to keep his ugly wagon-wheel coffee table, would they now be in splitsville? See, she would’ve entertained more, had a lighter step, and a sunnier disposition had she not awoken to that uglyass coffee table day after day. Or would she instead have raised her eyes and focused on the kitchen instead? It’s all, after all, a matter of perspective, right? Keep your eye on what matters most… on who matters most: the partner you vowed to spend the rest of your life making happy.

Next up in the "what matters most" lineup is a harmonious environment: a place for he and she, both. Now what? Is the answer queuing up "Designing For The Sexes" on HGTV? Is it hiring a therapist or interior decorator? Is it divvying up each room. "If you get to decorate the bedroom, I get the living room." Or is it choosing pieces that aren’t offensive to either party? Is the compromise selecting items that neither person loves but can at least live with (please say no, because up until now it’s been just that), or is it about creating a balance? How would one go about creating a balance between complete opposites? If he wants ornate rococo designs, lush with well-appointed fabrics, and she wants bare, minimal, steel, how the fabric do you make it work?


I can say, without a doubt, anyone who’d offer his/her services as our interior designer would earn every last penny. Because it would be no small task. I have to imagine that successful interior designers must’ve minored in psychology. Because it’s not just about having an eye and listening, about setting up expectations and wowing a client (coming in on budget). It’s about really listening, about negotiation, and about compromise. If it were up to me, I’d hire one in a mad dash second. Not because I don’t think I have an eye, but because I realize the Suitor has eyes and tastes of his own, and we’re always at a stalemate.I like books our shelves. He doesn’t. I believe a living space should have a coffee table (or ottoman acting as a coffee table), whereas Phil thinks it’s unnecessary, and he’d rather have the empty space for the kids to run. He’s also not willing to relocate the rug to a different part of the house, as "everything is already YOURS as it is." Holy power struggle. And. At. A. Time. Like. This.

That’s where everyone wants to go. At a time like this you should be focusing on something else. At a time like this you should just want to make him happy. At a time like this, there are far more appropriate things on which you ought to focus.

To which I have to respond: a time like this you should realize that there aren’t any real "you should’s." Because this is how we deal. Phil gets a $2500 camera for Father’s Day. It’s what he wants, cheers him up, "helps me take my mind off my mortality." Then he asks me to please hurry up and decide on new bedding. Just order it already. But I want it to be something we both like, and it’s not so easy. This is how you continue to live. You make decisions, argue about the decisions, discuss priorities, then drink and figure out what you want for dinner. You go on as you always have. You don’t have long talks about heart transplant lists. Instead you make lists and comb through interior design mags.

An interior designer would have solutions (ideally that we’d both love). Perhaps they’d suggest more side tables, a sofa table in addition. Then guests would have a place for their drinks, and Phil would get his way of having no coffee table. Would it still look empty and unfinished without a coffee table? The designer would know. S/he would select a new rug, something more eye-catching. And that would be the compromise. No coffee table? Fine. But then that means a different rug: you choose. It would fix the symptom, not the problem. And I’m fine with that. For now.

It’s no secret that I believe the act of compromise is akin to donating blood with an intern and a hard to find vein. Intellectually, I know that making your partner happy should be your greatest goal, that the act alone of giving should bring you happiness. But when that happiness comes in the form of having to look at a kitchen full of rooster-themed objects and art until death do you part… it might just come to that.

Interior design, how we choose to organize all the crap of our lives (what belongs in the garage, and what belongs on a shelf), is tricky. It’s the age-old love story: a man and his battered chair. The wagon-wheel coffee table. Everyone thinks they have good taste. We know the story, and we know who always wins: the woman. Because men shouldn’t care. A happy wife, a happy life.

A YEAR AGO: Question: Very Quick Answer
3 YEARS AGO: Faute de Mieux
5 YEARS AGO: Congratulate Me



  1. I'm so glad that you posted this.

    It's important for people to remember that life goes on. As painful, as gut wrenching, as anxiety ridden as it may be, life goes on. It has to. You can't stop with the day-to-day stuff, the little things that make you happy. You can't live like you're already mourning. You're not mourning.

    Phil is very much alive and kicking and your marriage is still active and your children still need hugs, kisses, and playtime.

  2. How IS it that men with no design sense (my own ego and judgment noted) have such strong opinions about what they like? I do have good design sense. I have received unsolicited compliments from a variety of sources. And I can pull the whole room together, and make it seem like two rooms actually belong in the same house. So, why does he insist on that ugly picture to take all the cohesive out of the plan?! Aaaah. Well, it keeps the day-to-day from getting too bland, I suppose.

  3. My fiance says that the home is my domain.


    He doesn't like shabby chic. Florals. Anything that isn't an ordered, orderly print.

    Etc. Etc.

    Plus: he is COLOR blind. Go figure.

    I get this.

    But what I'm most impressed with is how you two do manage to go on in the face of what you have to face. Bravo!

  4. While my husband will defer to me decor-wise no matter what he really thinks, I do know better than to get rid of the ugly black recliner in the den, the man and his battered chair. We have lovely burgundy jaquard in a muted floral weave for the couch and my arm chair, so at least the black doesn't clash too much. I may want harmony in design, but the chair was his grandfather's and holds memories that I can't throw out. I put pillows of my choice on it at least. Eventually I hope to move it to the basement rec room, but for now I let it stay. An unhappy husband doesn't make for a happy life. And if one ugly black chair in the den is his price for a lovely, classically styled living room where guests congregate, he can have it. Luckily our tastes aren't opposite. And we managed to mix some nice Danish modern with the Chippendale and Federal antiques and it somehow works. For us, compromise works, but then Rick isn't quite as stubborn as Phil, except for that chair.

  5. One day at a time. What else do people expect you to do? You gotta live your life, and not be afraid of living.

    Also, nooooo, not the rooster kitchen. Dear god, no.

    I do love the brown and white room in the last picture sans the funky pillows.
    Were these actual pieces you both liked or just random pics?

  6. How about an ottoman as coffee table? That way he can think it's an ottoman….but you will know it is (and can use it as) a coffee table.

  7. Oh, to have such problems! We live in a one bedroom house, that we rent and that we love, but now there's a baby on the way. We're scrambling to convert our middle/dining room into a room where the baby can sleep & we can keep all the baby stuff because we LOVE this place – it's a 1929 Spanish style hacienda and it's beautiful. And it's CHEAP for LA, within walking distance of the beach AND we have a fenced backyard. We'll leave in a couple years (have half a year to go before it's born) when we absolutely HAVE to and he's promised me we can move back to the East Coast.

    It's Spanish style, so I found a hand-crafted Spanish furniture store, boyfriend loves their stuff. I found about 10 different sheet/duvet sets that look cozy and Spanish-y, sent him links and said which do you like, then I chose my favorite of the ones he liked. Done.

    So, decorating? Arguing about decorating? Caring that much about decorating? Uh… we have plenty of other things to think about.

  8. I've been scouring the web for so long, that I've created a folder on my computer titled "styles I like." I can't remember where I found each element, so I can't really give credit or details to each one. Every time I come across something that catches my eye, I throw it into the folder. One day, if an interior designer comes into the picture, I'll be ready, armed with "here are some photos of things I typically like" to give the designer a sense. But as we don't have a designer, I grab these things now and ask Phil if he likes any of these looks that I've posted above. And his answer is no. Sooo, I ask him to send me things that catch HIS eye, so I can better understand what he likes.

    Phil has always wanted a king size bed, especially with how large our bedroom is now. I don't care either way, so we went ahead and purchased a sleep number type bed, where you can control the different zones for each side of the bed. That said, we now have a mattress but still need to agree on a frame (I gave up and told him to pick whatever he wants). But I care about the bedding. Everything I want is simple. It's sateen cotton. Plain, soft to the touch. Everything he wants is textured. He wants layers of different textures.

    I believe if you have busy bedding, the head and foot board should be simple. Or if you get an outrageously beautiful bed, you keep the linens plain and add a few seasonal throw pillows to update the look given the season. You know, hang garland above the bed and throw some red velvet euro shams on. The bed looks like a present when it's white like that. I love the ability to change the pillows given the season, to do orange and blue with nautical elements come summer. Mix things up a bit.

    Phil doesn't want white bedding. Not even white bedding with a colored border or embroidery. So the HE SAID image above is actually what he sent me in terms of what he'd be okay with for our bedding choice.

  9. Oh, and how I've ALWAYS wanted a chandelier in my bedroom… but alas, it's hot as balls in Texas, and I need to keep the ceiling fan. It's the only way I get any sleep.

  10. I really don't see that your blues and yellows are all that different from his blues and yellows.

  11. My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to taste. He likes ultra modern looks: chrome, glass, cold hard edges. I like cozy warmer looks, essentially anything at Restoration Hardware. He also had strong opinions about what he wanted and didn't want. We tried for over a year to find anything we could agree on for our place and ended up with nothing but frustration and empty rooms. We finally hired an interior designer, and seriously, it was the best decision we ever made. She was able to work with our respective styles and find a way to combine them to design rooms we both love. Of course, we made all the final decisions, so the place feels very much like it is ours, and not like it was designed by someone else.

    And, since her 10% designer's discount was passed on to us, we actually saved more than her fees. All said and done, it was less expensive to use her than not to. Of course, the equation only works if you are buying enough furniture. We furnished a living room, dining area, bedroom and den, and it was enough for the cost to be overcome by the discount. I'll say it again: Best. Decision. Ever.

  12. A thousand years ago, I did something ridiculous and married a man who liked dead animal heads and wagon wheels – crossed rifles across the fireplace – rustic, woodsy and ugly as bat shit. I thought, as a young, hopeful bride, that he would see the error of his ways and come over to the 'civilized' way of living…formal dining rooms, white couches…tables shiny and beautiful. Didn't happen. One of the 'oh god, the end is near' times of the marriage was when he moved my car out of the garage to 'dress down a deer'. And didn't do a very spiffy job of cleaning up after it. I was a vegetarian for years…and still cannot consider eating venison.

    So – when I got to do things my way? At first I was maniacal about making it all about me. Started with a fresh, clean slate – painted all the rooms eggshell, ripped up the yucky carpets and polished up the hardwoods. I ripped down the wallpaper, and relished the clean, quiet spaces. I turned my bed into the most cozy, beautiful, girly nest, bought a big fluffy white rug for my room, and started living.

    Now, ten years later, my girly nest is even more ridiculously girly, but the rest of the house is that lovely, well-lived in, homey, casual, messy but not dirty, haven for the darlings and me. Ahhhhhh, bliss.

    Glad you're continuing to live, and making your nest comfy for you all.

  13. I love white bedding – especially with a simple monogram. I want that chair in the far-right on the top row in the "she said" section. If I lived in Austin, I would love to go shopping with you = I love your style.

    Somewhat off topic: I have a program on my Mac called Mark/Space Notebook. I use it for filing design ideas and photos. You might like it – you can drag and drop images and make notes about them, etc. It's sort of like a digital notebook. You could set up separate folders within — i.e. master bedroom, mudroom… Keeps everything in one spot and also syncs w/my blackberry.

    One more thing – loved the "When Harry Met Sally" reference. Loved that fight over the table.

  14. Sounds like you two need a referee for every aspect of your life since one of you is always intent on "winning". Is being right more important that being married?

  15. It sort of seems like you are the kind of couple that thrives on disagreeing. Even if you had successful therapy, an interior decorator, a nanny, a cook, etc. you could still come up with something to debate. Some people thrive on this. I prefer a more laid-back non confrontational life which is why I — and my BF too — have been able to make "compromises" we could have never imagined before living together. But you know, it works, and regular fighting/ debates/ power struggles would not work for us at all.

  16. Hmmm, based on the photos I would first slap Phil for the toile suggestion. NEVER! And then slap you for the wallpaper madness in your photos! NEVER! But that's cause I hate toile and wallpaper and especially toile-related wallpaper!! I agree with you that there should be balance. Some things big/busy/loud/frilly/bold/printed. Other things should be solid/clean/simple/modern/organized. My favorite pic is from Phil's montage: the yellow bedding. I don't like those stripes on the wall though. But the bedding is busy while the pillows show clean lines and the bed/skirt is simple. And that lamp is the coolest! I also very much enjoy a funky-print chair like you chose. Those just make me feel good all over! I get what I want usually when it comes to design but I always ask my husband if he likes it first. He says yes or no but never offers suggestions of his own. I just wouldn't know what to do with that!!! Good Luck.

  17. And in Texas do you really need one of those giant, heavy, weigh-you-down bedspreads? I live in Arkansas, and our very expensive luxury bedding is stuffed in a closet somewhere. Your choices seem to have more cotton and usability. Does Phil like to feel stuck when he's in bed? Or would you just throw that heavy piece of toile on the floor to sleep and then put it back on the bed every morning? I just got sick of dealing with a giant bedspread that weighed more than me and bought something full yet light. Just a suggestion to get him on your side.

  18. how can anyone not like white sheets?? Does not compute

    But anyway, what about white with different textures? Like some white brocade pillows, some embroidered etc?

    The blue tools picture you have seems like itcould fit both of your styles… But I feel like then the problem would be that you'd want to accessorize with bold modern contrast colors, and he'd prefer an antiquey, richer feel. You can't really mix irreverent and not :/

  19. For bedding I am loving rubiegreen.com, organic cotton, very pretty with ice cream colors. Very small selection though but perhaps to mix and match? Jonathan Adler has some beautiful clean colorful linens. Dwell is awesome as far as quality is concerned, softest sateen cotton, but their recent line is a little too geometric for my liking. I have the Hedgerow in the rust color and my little one love looking for birds and caterpillars and ants in the design. Good luck!
    Ooh or otherwise you can get some custom made bedding with Trina Turk's new fabric line!

  20. What about your children? Will they never enter these rooms? Because your choice in design (and his for that matter) doesn't seem practical with twins in the house. Or do you care if things get gooey and sticky? And please don't tell me you never allow them (the children) to get gooey and sticky! My son loves to jump and cuddle on our bed with us.

    The only room I kinda like is the bedroom with the chandelier in it.

  21. And I'm not trying to be rude, I guess I just like practical. Maybe I should assume your house is big enough where the children don't need to go into every room or your bedroom. Also, are you still renting? Or did I miss when you bought the house?

  22. My fiancee & I had a discussion about this at a dinner with some friends. I know what I wanted & he was going to pay (I think your situation is a little different). And our friend who's been married once before said to my fiancee "Have you been married before?" My fiancee said no & then he said "Just let her decorate the way she wants to decorate because in the end you really aren't ganna give a shit about it and she'll be happy." Is Phil really that into interior decorating?

  23. Hello, how about winter linens vs. summer linens? You can take turns having your way. The sateens are lighter weight and good for summer. The heavily textured linens are better for winter.

    I'm freaking Solomon here.

  24. This is an issue for your therapist, not a decorator. Why do you have to have your way all the time and why do you want your life to look life some stylized magazine or catalogue? Oh and dropping the cost of Phil's camera? Tacky.

  25. Hi there-

    Random question. What is the (although perhaps there are several) website you have mentioned about apartment decorating for small spaces (such as NYC apartments)? I think there was something else you mentioned besides apartment therapy.


  26. I decorate the house as hubby has no opinion other than "pick the damned paint color already so I can get started!" Great that Phil has an opinion but just sounds like another area of your life to fight over. If hubby was in the condition yours is in I would spend more time trying to get it 'right' relationship wise than decorating. Yeah, life goes on but I'm all for appreciating what I have NOW dammit.

    Maybe a decorator is just the ticket. Let her deal with the bickering ;)

  27. I can see it being really possible to mix elements of what you both like and compromise. Seen it on design shows quite frequently as well. It shouldn't be that hard – and should actually be fun. Happy to help ya! still working on my site http://www.gwazdoskyinteriors.com :)

  28. >> how can anyone not like white sheets? Hello stains! I hate white bedding and I'm a girl. But I don't like white in general, nothing in my house is white apart from a cream coloured leather couch. I only like the pictures with the bookcases on top and the blue vase in your compilation, everything else is a bit too frou-frou (esp his choices, sorry Phil).

    Get the interior designer. If either of you still dislikes something at least you can both blame the designer instead of each other.

  29. I really like how you are sharing both of your likes and dislikes about the design. It seems like the lower right picture of Phil's "likes" might get you to a place that you like, too…maybe? It's sort of beige on yellow, so it would give you about 80% of the clean look that you're looking for…and then they put those pillows in the background that are solid or solid with a stripe of color. I get it, still compromise, but it's a gorgeous look!!!

    That being said, just wanted to let you know that you and Phil are in my thoughts and I'm hoping every day that you're able to find some peace and solace in all the tumultuous moments of the past few months. Hugs!

  30. Bummer you didn't include my comment yesterday to this post. Guess I should stop commenting/ subscribing then. Best wishes!

  31. I see you did post my comment. My bad. Good luck with the decorating! I'm off to make eggplant parm.

  32. Fabulous – so when my fiance & I knock heads about everything that goes on the wall, in the fridge, on the desk and in the dog, we should really just recognize that its a constant battle. We might as well not get upset about it & be satisfied with compromises, because evidently, it doesn’t change the longer you’re together. People don’t spontaneously decide they agree with the other person’s taste in china patterns or sports posters. Perhaps the key is keeping the emotion out of it & being satisfied…but seriously. Men shouldn’t care.

  33. Hi, this is my first time in your blog, but I honestly liked it. I do have some comments but I guess I’ll save it for the next time. Keep up with the great job.

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