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Every man should read this one

An Open Letter to my Lover on Decorating

By 03/20/2010July 4th, 201763 Comments

Dear Husband/Boyfriend/Partner,


I have a friend who recently started selling window coverings for a major department store in the city. She confided that she visits a lot of retired women who are finally splurging on drapery as their husbands have recently passed away and can’t say a thing about it (true story).

Architectural Digest

So I’m just wondering; how can I get you to appreciate the value of creating comfort and atmosphere inside our home as much as you appreciate having the biggest and best our-friends-will-be-so-envious-house or flat screen television?

As difficult as it may seem, how can I have you equate new living room and home décor to a vacation or golf game?

Architectural Digest

Also, I get your obsession with wood because you’re a guy! And I love that about you! *You like log cabins and rustic environments (lodges & camps). Wood is real and men like real stuff as it relates to wood. Trees are a part of the woods and outdoors and I know you love that because you are a hunter (or camper).

But sweetie, it would make me really happy if you would let me paint our 80’s oak (or any era of dated wood) cabinets white. I promise I’ll stop complaining about our old kitchen (for at least few more years) until we can afford to install a new one. *Contributed by Stu Stiller, thanks 🙂


 Did you know that we should budget a minimum of 10% – 25% of the total cost of our home for furniture and window coverings? As a bonus, when we go to sell it will already look staged and designerish which will add anywhere between 6 – 20% more to the total selling price.

I love you. Can we compromise and alternate between decorating for trips or new bigger and better tv’s? I promise you will love being in our home and having our friends over even more when I’m done!

Love, (insert your name here).

PS. Darling, I accidentally left your Lazboy chair by the curb and it’s gone! I went out to buy you another one and learned that it has been discontinued forever. I swear I cannot find one in any store.

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Related posts:

Happiness is. . . A Happy Wife

When to Buy Leather Furniture

Danger; The First 24 Hours after you take Possession of your New Home

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  • Nancy@marcusdesign says:

    This is so funny! I think every woman can relate in some small way!! I often feel I have to 'convince' my hubby on various home projects over a period of time so this post really hits home! But thank God, no Lazy boy in here 🙂

  • Deborah says:

    Very funny post, Maria! Is that 25% REALLY accurate??? Gulp.

  • pve design says:

    I would love to see the divorce letter. I am in hopes that this is part of a series. My eldest sister just sent me "letters" that I had written to her over the years.
    Priceless. Please save this one – in case Mr. Lazy Boy comes along. He will need to know exactly what he is getting into. Is he allowed to pick any color for his "Man Cave?"

  • Leslie in Adams Morgan says:

    My husband is definitely a project man … and wood plays a big part in our house but he also has a good eye and picked out our drapery and it works better than anything I would have ever selected. Be careful what you wish for though … I have to compromise a lot more than I would like on our surroundings since he does value atmosphere and is involved in what things look like. I'm all about clean and sparse and he likes complicated and ornate. It's Saturday morning and Home Depot is on our agenda for the day. Thank God it's for shelving and not for the wood-cave structure he was designing for our bedroom last week.

  • rachel @ perfectly imperfect says:

    HA! thanks for the giggle…
    i'm really blessed to have an awesome husband who trusts my instincts. maybe that's because my decorating/home budget is very small… : )
    he does want a recliner, though.

  • Southern Chateau says:

    Maria, I love, love this post! I have written on this very subject before. Any man that gets that bossy over a woman's home (yes, that's what I said), is way too insecure, in my opinion.

  • JeanetteS says:

    Over breakfast this morning my husband and I were having a discussion about some changes I wish to make to our home's interior and he said "what's wrong with what we already have?".

    I need your Dear Husband letter. Brilliant!

  • The Zhush says:

    Hilarious…because it's so true!

  • Tara Dillard says:

    After years trying to please Husband with our home, receiving caveman responses, I made a choice.

    I told Husband what I would be doing with the house. If he didn't like any of it, "Divorce me now."

    Even cavemen understand certain tones in a woman's voice.

    Husband's eyes got big. Long pause. Caveman & wife; eyes locked. A mouse within caveman squeaked, "Ok."

    That was more than a decade ago.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • Mona Thompson says:

    I like what Southern Chateau had to say about being insecure. I think I will tell my husband that. I really like the image of the porch. I'm working on one now and will be posting about it soon. Mona Thompson

  • E @ Oh! Apostrophe says:

    Ha! This post makes me laugh! I am thankful that I have a husband who doesn't grumble too much at all when I want to decorate our home. But I have to say- 10-25% of the cost of our home on furniture and window coverings!? I'm not sure who came up with this figure, but that's not a world that I can live in!

  • Susan says:

    I started my day with a smile thanks to your post 🙂 Theres alot of truth in that post.


  • Charlotte's Color Specialist says:

    Maria – once I saw the photographs of the log cabin and the dock I couldn't read the rest of your post. I LOVE that style home! If I had my choice that would be my ideal type of home – along with the dock and that gorgeous painting of the bird. That was a fun post now I will go back and re-read it. Your posts always tap into the innovative side of design. There's the mind of an artist for ya!

    Enjoy the first day of spring!
    Donna ☼

  • Mary says:

    What a great post! It hits home because we have a red leather Lazy-Boy in our living room. I would love to carry it to the curb but I think he would divorce me if I did that. Everything else is nice in the room so it sticks out like a sore thumb. Cute throw pillows don't even help it.

  • Real Estate Resuscitation says:

    I know this won't work for everyone b/c moving may not be an option, but my husband and I have been transferred 3 times over the past 9 years with his job. I have remodeled all 3 of our houses making very, very nice profits. It seems money in his bank account has made it quite clear to him that I know what I'm doing. Now when he has a strong opinion on anything it is usually right. There were some rough waters early on in this learning process though!!! Whew! Glad they are over!

  • AB HOME Interiors says:

    hehe, so so true. And here in the south, women always want a beautiful home-but typically the men make the financial decisions.

  • Karena says:

    Very Funny, and so true. I have talked to many interior designers and architects about budgeting for fine art up front. It is just as important as the sofa & fabrics etc!

    Maria great post

    Art by Karena

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    I am forwarding this post to Aaron. ASAP !

  • Jane Hall The Voice of Style says:

    Hi Maria,

    So funny and so true! Men have a reverence to wood ( even ugly wood) and leather! And it has to be brown leather, which is cold in the winter and sticky in the summer and worse yet decorative cushions always slip off!
    Being a good designer also means negotiating a compromise, and I don't charge extra for the marriage counselling.
    I have to admit I sometimes go into a job with the express purpose of talking the husband into doing what she wants, or I sometimes recommend that she just goes ahead and makes the changes as he probably won't notice….. Pretty sneaky but usually it works and the husband likes the change in the end.

  • Dorothy says:

    You say we should budget 15-25 percent of the cost of our home toward furnishings and decorating. A home you can finance at a 5.5% interest rate. Can you finance the furnishings and decorating at the same rate somehow? It seems like that would be much more difficult.

    I'm asking because my husband and I are going to be looking for homes soon and I want to be armed with the knowledge I need to fight for my decorating. 🙂

    Great post!

  • Vanessa says:

    Too funny Maria! My husband is pretty hands off when it comes to anything design related – he always defers to me.

  • Acanthus and Acorn says:

    Too funny. I once had a friend whose husband had one of those awful Lazyboy recliners. She called me to help pull the family room together.

    The first time I saw the hideous, brown, beast it seems I didn't hide my feelings too well. She just looked at me and said "I know, it stays." I said I can't help you then.

    It eventually went to live out it's miserable life in his study…but the whining over the relocation was insane!!!

    One day the kids were playing on it and it broke! My friend called to tell me her exciting news. She went out and purchased a very expensive leather chair the very next day she been considering to avoid any talk of a replacement!

    We all laughed over this many times. Thanks for making me laugh again with this letter!

  • La Petite Gallery says:

    I am a new visitor, Have to say a funny ,great post.


  • Lynne says:

    I've just found your blog and as you say we should read and comment, that's what I am doing. But I will have to call back to read more of your interesting articles.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Dorothy,
    I don't know about financing a 25% decorating budget on top of your mortgage, my advice would be to not get yourself in a position where you are are house poor in the first place so that you have money to decorate.

    It makes no sense to me to live in the most beautiful house in your neighbourhood and then barely have a stick of furniture in it (or have it all be IKEA).

    Obviously I say this because I'm a decorator, but have the inside match the outside is all I'm trying to say.

  • chanteusevca says:

    Hilarious but true. My husband is now in the office using a new program to design a new kitchen. He has finally learned the lesson: Happy Wife = Happy Life.

  • s. says:

    This is a funny post. But seriously… if women want to decorate their houses beautifully and men want big TVs and golf clubs, why don't they each earn what they want to spend? In my work, I see many women whining about not being "allowed" to do things in their homes, but they expect their husbands to bank roll it all. I find it rare for a guy to say no to a request worded like this, "Honey, I earned a bigger commission cheque than usual this quarter and instead of blowing it on shoes and purses, I'd love to invest it in making our house look prettier and cozier…" Seriously, ladies; if you want something that makes your house look nicer than by all means get it but pay for it yourself. (and, yes, I'm a proud female, myself).

  • Dorothy says:

    I agree that the inside should match the outside. However, if we were to buy a modest 175 K home, I don't think we're going to be able to come up with an extra 25 K for decorating.

    As far as financing goes, being able to finance something at a reasonable rate is wonderful because I can get a 9% return on my investments. If I'm paying someone else 5 or 6 percent to let me borrow their money, I'm coming out ahead.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Dear S,
    Well now you open up the debate about women that stay home to raise children and what that's worth? I get your point if both work but what do you say to a stay at home mom? That just because the husband makes the money, she doesn't have a say?

    It's watching my father dominate my mother (growing up) inside the very thing you are talking about and saying things to her like "what did you do with the last $50 I gave you?" that made me vow I was never going to let anyone dominate me like that! Don't get me started on that one. . .

    Thanks for your comment, I love a good debate!!

    And Dorothy, you've lost me on the numbers (it's a good thing this blog is about colour and design and not numbers 🙂 so I don't know how to debate your point, even though I might 🙂

    Spend 10% then, but I have seen way too much 'renovating' going on inside the house without any thought left to making it beautiful. When it's the right furniture, colours, lighting and accessories that pull a space atmosphere, NOT if the final pennies were spent on crown molding. I'm just saying. . .

  • Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP says:

    Ohh what is is with men and their fug ugly lazy boy chairs! I hate them sooo much.

    This did make me laugh!

  • Marlo says:

    That’s a good one Maria!

    And thanks to you Maria and everything you've been blogging about over the last year, which I share with my honey, he is now starting to look at our home with fresh eyes and sees a lot of things that need updating and says it currently doesn't have the right feeling and what can we do to make it feel good. It's music to my ears. 🙂

  • camdesign says:

    This was a great post .lol. until you all misspelled my lively hood.
    I design with those everyday and I must admit afew are not fun to work with…but in the right room done properly by a wonderful designer…me… well it is magic… believe it or not. If you want to see a wonderful one I use, go on the website and look for EVA…that is a 2010 Lazboy… and it is a recliner that is so comfortable…
    Back on subject, not having drapery is like wearing a beautiful outfit, great hair, fab shoes and forgetting your mascara and lipstick… the soul of the look is missing…

  • Natural Mystic says:

    Hilarious. My husband recently suggested we put a 52" flat screen tv in our dining room. You could imagine the blank stare I gave him.

  • Jürgen says:

    A very funny post!
    But I think all men are not like that … I love the decor…

  • Space by Eliana Tomas says:

    utterly delicious. i love to design for man. and i love to have them involved in the design process.
    as always, nice post!

  • Grace says:

    Too funny. My husband is actually pretty good, although he can't see out of the box, to say transform a stool into a table by putting marble on top, or something like that. The real one who is like your fictional man is my father. Honestly if they painted their bedroom walls green at one time in their marriage, then they ALWAYS have to be green. He is 80 now, and is not likely to change.

  • camdesign says:

    the Zest is amazing, I agree…go forward a few posts and check out the commercials with the outtakes…and then let me know what you think… I loved them so much I video taped them all with my camera so I can have them forever…I am that lame, lol
    Love you, maybe we can do coffee sometime in 2010…

  • Linda at Lime in the Coconut! says:

    Ha! But so true…although I am having a curtain quandry as I type. Luckily my guy gives me carte blance to do whatever…he knows this is my specialty. His is the technology end.

    Hope your letter will be used!!

  • Diana says:

    This is so funny and so True!!! I just forwarded this e-mail to my hubbie!!!

    He's on a mission to convince me to let him buy a Lazy boy (like that's ever going to happen!!)

    In my case my hubbie never trusts me!!! but when he sees the en result he is very pleased and happy!!!

    Congratulatios Maria, your blog is like fine wine, it is only getting better with time!!!

    PS: I forwarded this e-mail to my hubbie so that he knows what's going to happen if he buys a Lazy boy 🙂

  • Love Where You LIve says:

    This made me smile. And, yes! Why don't people furnish their wonderful homes. I don't get it . . . guess they either run out of money post construction or they begin to feel like pinching pennies. Your other points hit home, too. (Altho, my husband is pretty progessive along these lines…..)

  • Mrs B says:

    Hi Maria

    Mr B just does not get that I need drapes for my home. He actually had the audacity to say 'cant I just get some blackout fabric for now until we can afford it'! Believe me, that is a true story LOL

    Anyway, I gave your blog a beautiful blog award…for your generosity in sharing your experience and advise you give about colour. Thankyou so much Maria!

    Mrs B xx

  • Annie Wilcox Designs says:

    Yeah girl, you have it down. I am behind on the drapes but I did spend a small fortune on our custom furniture which my husband calls "his retirement". He loves it though and well made is well made. Our house reflects my love for color and my need to use design for function, four kids you see.

    By the way I have a new color client and we had a blast together this week. I will use flowers like you suggest for the after shots. The befores were too embarassing for her. Do you find that at all?

  • foleydog says:

    So funny. My DH loves coming home to a comfortable, well decorated house – but thinks my individual projects (this year, new drapes, and natural accessories) are silly – he laughed when I was filling old vases with river rocks, candles, and twigs, but likes the effect. But as this is our third house, and he loves the final results – he doesn't really say anything anymore.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Annie,
    Well you may have noticed that my website does not include 'befores. I made the decision not to include them because while browsing big name designer websites (while designing mine) I noticed that none of them included the befores.

    So I wouldn't stress about it, the only time anyone would get to see a 'before' of my projects now is on my blog because you'll never find one on my website.


  • Kelly, Arte Styling says:

    Very clever, Maria! Especially love the La-Z-Boy visual. Oh how I wish all those chairs would just disappear off the face of the planet!

  • Dorothy says:

    Okay, Maria, you probably want this thread to die, so sorry. But I just read S's post and it made my blood boil. Staying at home with children is a tremendous sacrifice and truly worth so much more than anything businessmen, doctors, and lawyers do. Combined. Just because the market doesn't value motherhood doesn't mean it's not worth anything. Women make those sacrifices so that men can go earn money, so the money that those men earn belongs to both partners equally. Ugh.

    And Maria, my husband and I had a talk and we decided that before we buy our first house, we'll save enough for a twenty percent down payment and fifteen percent for the furnishings and design. Thanks for your input!

  • Lauren says:

    hahahah love this!!!

    it's such a tango sometimes when working with couples. i'm really lucky with dave- he trusts totally.

    my grandmother made one bad decorating decision like 15+ yrs ago and my grandfather hasn't trusted her since. she is so talented and it's drives me crazy to see him resist any changes she tries to propose. argggggg


  • Anonymous says:

    I am renovating a house i grew up in that my father wouldn't allow my mother to change anything but wall color. Just painted all the trim and brick last week. It is a totally different house, Dad walked in and sais whoa, You're doing a great job. My husband is actually thankful my Dad didn't do it years ago so we could do it right. We have done all the work ourselves saving Thousands$$ (don't worry my inlaws are professionals in the paint Biz, we couldn't pay for a better job.
    Try this on them: Since the kids were gone I worked all weekend in my panties to make my hubby extra happy.

  • Dobbygirl says:

    Maria, can I just say first, I LOVE that you quoted Stu (I'm a bit biased though seeing as he was my CMG mentor and I adore him – LOL!) and second, this post is dead on. I have a feeling that it's a battle that will rage on until the end of time. I made my hubby ditch his hunter green (which leaned more teal) leather recliner and since he insisted upon a recliner I hopped over to Hickory, NC to Mitchell Gold and picked up a lovely dark brown leather recliner that absolutely looks nothing like a La-Z-Boy, it looks like a proper leather chair. It's really all about compromise and being on the same page (or at least in the same chapter in the same book – ha!). Love your blog!!!

  • rb says:

    Wow, what a discussion. I'm the breadwinner in my family and also the female. My husband and I make most of our decorating and renovating decisions together. We spend the most on things that add direct value to our investment, like our kitchen remodel, and spend the least on things that don't, like bed linens and toss pillows.

    The thought that spending on the home is something the woman needs to beg her husband for sounds incredibly outdated.

    And for the record, not all women like draperies. I don't.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Dear rb,
    I think it's great that you are your husband are on the same page when it comes to decorating, and I couldn't resist pointing out that the story I told about drapery simply expresses how men and women have different priorities when it comes to furnishing the home.

    Men generally love it when it has atmosphere but tend to resist the cost of getting it to that point!

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Anonymous says:

    Ha-ha — stereotypes are fun!!

  • Twenty Two Flamboyant Street says:

    This is so true – my latest spin to get the okay on bathroom renovations is that it will increase the value of our property. Its working – sort of!

  • Nicole says:

    Very cute! Thanks for the chuckle!

  • s. says:

    Sure, Maria. Women who stay at home with the kids do work that has value, and before settling into that role the heads of the household should try to figure out an equitable way to deal with money that respects both their contributions. A woman shouldn't have kids with a partner unless they can reach a mutually-satisfactory agreement about money beforehand. And if she agrees that it doesn't include money for her to spend on the house, then so be it.

    Besides, when I wrote my comment, I was thinking more about the 90% of the women I see complaining who do NOT stay home with the kids – who have their own income and their own jobs. But, they spend waaay more than their husbands do on clothes, on makeup and spa treatments, on shoes and on hair. And they they whinge that their husbands won't "let" them buy XYZ for the house. In fact, in most of these cases, the husbands would happily "let" the wives get almost anything for the house if it came from their own salary. But in this supposedly equitable era, a surprisingly large number of women see their own salaries as being a lot about "fun" expenditures while they still have the antiquated view that the men should pay for most of the "serious" items.

    In my household, my partner and I discuss what we want to get. He wanted a big screen tv, I saw it as a waste of money but had no problem with him buying one… out of "his" money. He didn't think silk curtains were something he cared to underwrite, so I paid for them 100%. But we agreed on the sofa, the dish-washer, the plates and the desk in his office so those came out of our common, "household" account. Not so tough…

  • Jennifer's Design Team! says:

    I just had to comment on the lamp…that lovely tree lamp. It's so "GREEN". Where on earth did you find that?

  • Candied Fabrics says:

    Funny! THanks for the laugh!

  • Jen says:

    Spot on as always Maria. This letter should come to every wife on wedding day 🙂

  • Caz says:

    haha I love this. It's double for me because the boy makes his living working with and designing wooden furniture.

    I couldn't bring myself to tell him that the custom-made jewellery cabinet he made for me out of some fancy-shmancy solid wood I'd love 50,000 times more if it was white or very dark stained like I asked for it to be.

  • Donna says:

    Oh my goodness Maria..that is the funniest thing I've ever read about hubbies..and wives. But I have to give credit where it is due. Tim picked the contemporary blue couch over a very elaborate and detailed victorian one because he felt it would 'go' with anything and not get out of style. How true is that?!

  • lawyerchik says:

    I love the sofa and chairs in the last photo you have on this post – love the post, too, but since I am single, I make all of my own decorating decisions, good, bad or awful!! 🙂

    Who makes them?

  • megeranski says:

    As always, an interesting post.
    It did not make me laugh, it made me very very sad.

    I can’t imagine being in a relationship, let alone married to someone, from whom you’d have to get permission to do something.

    Who does that…

  • Whitney says:

    LOVE this!

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