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Advice for HomeownersEvery man should read this one

Two Magic Words to Move Your Design Project Forward

By 10/22/2013September 24th, 201943 Comments

Two Magic Words To Move your Design Project Forward

Artwork by Liza Lambertini Source

This post is written by my fabulous Design Associate Irene Hill:

For about the past year I’ve been telling people my husband and I are in the middle of a renovation project. That’s not really accurate.

Three years ago we purchased this little 1,000 square foot rancher in a nice neighbourhood.

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As Kevin and I are both self-employed and have been for years, we are our own pension fund. Apart from the little pension the government gives you for breathing and making it to 65, we’re on our own for having enough money to retire. And while that time’s not right around the corner, it is getting closer every year and it’s up to us to make sure we’re ready.

And of course, everyone knows that real estate is a great way to increase your wealth, so, along with our full-time jobs, we dabble in the renovation end of real estate. What that looks like is that in the past nine years that we’ve been married, we’ve lived through three renovation projects.

We got possession of our first townhouse a month before our wedding and Kevin moved right in. We ripped out the unnecessary walls that first weekend. Luckily for us it never entered our minds that, as our townhouse is part of a bossy strata, we were not allowed to remove any walls until we had asked for and received permission from the strata council. We did not tumble to that fact until the secretary of the strata, who lived next door, came to see what the loud noise of banging was about and to welcome us to the complex.

Fortunately, amidst the rubble of our newly torn-down walls, she loved what we were doing so much she extended forgiveness and went home to get her husband to come and see what we’d done so he could do the same thing in their house. Did I mention I’m a designer and the daughter of a career house builder? It helps when you really, really know which walls can safely be taken down and which can’t.

But I digress. Fast-forward through the townhouse renovation, the 60-year-old farmhouse renovation and we’re at the bungalow renovation.

So, the inaccuracy lies in the term “renovation.” When you take the roof completely off and add 2,300 square feet including a second story to accommodate a two-bedroom suite, the term is no longer “renovation.” The term is “rebuild.” That actually fits much better with how tired we are. It’s coming along but it certainly is slow when you do 90% of the actual hammering and nailing yourselves.

Second Storey 1

And let me say right here and now that I adore my husband. Not only is he sweet, loving and great to me, my parents, five siblings and their spouses, 22 nieces and nephews and seven great-nieces and –nephews, he’s also handsome and handy. Hence the hammering and nailing. And plumbing. And almost everything else that you need when you’re rebuilding your house.

But he’s also got a strong design opinion. He’s not one of those guys who couldn’t care less what our house looks like as long as he’s got a sandwich and a warm, loving spot to fall into.

He must have been a designer in a past life because he cares about all the little details. Like, all the little details. And needless to say, we don’t always have the same ideas so there’s a lot of negotiating in our house. Once in a while that’s code for “arguing.”

You can imagine how many design decisions need to happen when you tackle a project of this size. So, it’s been a Godsend to have the language I’ve learned from Maria’s training and from hanging around her for the past two and a half years. Because I can usually communicate why what I want is the right choice for our house.

Kevin and I managed beautifully until it came to making a decision on the colour of the siding. For weeks we went back and forth on choices that could work and that both of us could live with. We settled on a colour only to find that it was a custom colour and would blow our carefully planned budget. Back to the drawing board.

Then came the day when we absolutely had to make a choice. Winter is coming and the siding had to go on the face of our poor, naked house. Decision time.

Again we scrutinized the Gentek siding specifier and Kevin pointed to a medium gray and said, “That’s the one I want. Every colour you want is too light. I want a colour.” And because we have a black roof and will be painting all our trim the right white, I gave in. “Okay honey, you can have your way.”

I went to the office the next morning and Maria asked, “How’s the siding decision coming?” I had to confess I was winning with so many of the design decisions that I gave him what he wanted for the siding of our house. “But that’s battleship gray!” Maria said, “You can’t do that colour, it’s fine on a beach house with lots of white railings and trim but not on YOUR house!”

Two magic words

So we sat down and she prepped me with the best answer to every question/concern under the sun and I went home ready to stand up for the right colour for our house.

And you know what it came down to? Siding specifier in hand, I looked at my life-partner and said, “Honey, please.” He started to bring out one of the counter-arguments I’d heard many times before and I just said it again, “Honey, please.” And my wonderful husband looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Okay.”

The next day I walked in the studio door and the first thing Maria asked me was, “How did it go?” I told her Kevin agreed to go with Canyon Clay and I had ordered the boxes on my way in to the office.

“What did you say?” she asked, wondering which of the compelling arguments had won the day.

“Honey, please.” (Sometimes it helps if your eyes get big like the kitty-cat from the movie Shrek.)

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She said, “OMG, I would never do that. I would just list all the reasons why I’m right and how, as the professional, my opinion should win, it wouldn’t even occur to me to say, ‘honey, please.’ You’re brilliant. My nephew Markus does that to me all the time and I just give him anything he wants, haha.”

I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have the right language to communicate with design clients. The right language can communicate the why of how decisions get made and give you confidence in your decisions and the power to explain them to your contractor, your neighbour, your friends, and anyone and everyone who will have an opinion about the choices you make.

Two Magic Words to Move your Design Project Forward

But when it’s your husband, sometimes two little words can be more powerful than all the compelling and right arguments. And as I sit here writing this, my darling husband is outside nailing the last of the siding to the house. It’s beautiful and we are both so happy every time we drive up to our house. I’ll show you a picture when it’s finished.

What are your best tips for getting your husband to decorate the way you want?

Related posts:

An Open Letter to my Lover on Decorating

The Best Reason to Paint Old Furniture (or Convincing your Husband to Decorate Your Way)

Why Does Comfortable have to be Ugly?

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk up to the front door, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. 

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  • Kevin Hill says:

    The benefits of giving in to your wife far outweigh getting your own way (nudge nudge wink wink)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Dear Kevin,
      When and where is the seminar? I’ll sign up my husband and let me think… about four others. What I suggest for our house is not actually about me, it’s about what will work best, be most functional, look best, and resell best. It’s not about overturning the way you’ve always done things or getting my way over yours. If you have a way to communicate that, please get Maria to let you guest post.
      About Half Sincerely (regarding the seminar),

  • Lisa Groshens says:

    Let him think it was his idea!

  • CRY!…just kidding. 🙂 Hubby recognizes that I am far more sensitive to asthetics than he is, so he’s fine with me making 99% of the design decisions. Just the way I like it! 🙂

  • Angela Taylor says:

    I am the queen when it comes to design and colour in our home. SHE who must be obeyed…LOL Seriously, my husband is the best and allows me to do most anything as long as I don’t bankrupt us.

  • Kathy says:

    He’s a “big picture” guy, so don’t overwhelm him with all the details, just show him how it will all look at the end, when it’s finished, and he’s onboard….

  • Kimberly says:

    Oh, Irene, I love this story! (and I love your husband’s first-comment response 🙂 ) What a fabulous transformation already! I’ll hold you to your promise of showing us pictures when it’s finished. Can’t wait!!

  • Karen Dyck says:

    I love this story, too. Put when you have power like that, it is always a good idea to remember to use it carefully and seldom.

  • Gilda says:

    I have to try that phrase–!!!!!!

  • Fran says:

    This is hilarious! Loved your post, Irene. I tend to be way oo argumentative. I’ll definitely have to try the ‘Honey, please’ tactic the next time I need to convince hubby to do it my way! 🙂

  • Julie says:

    Hi Irene
    We are constantly doing small projects (my idea) but my guy is a detail person too! He likes everything I’ve insisted on doing, but it is such a struggle to get him to agree initially! I am definitely going to borrow your “Two Magic Words”!

  • Michele In SF Bay Area says:

    You are genius material!!
    I love the magic words. My husband is not at all involved in our “remodel” or as you say “rebuild”, but he does get rather stubborn about certain house things and no matter how much logic, professional experience and vision I have, he sometimes won’t budge…I must try your magic words next time. It should be part of everyone’s repertoire of tools in our bags!!! Thanks for the great article and kudos to Maria for finding a design associate with such smarts.

  • Victoria says:

    Kevin is as wise as my husband Rob has become! They both know that like the saying goes down here in Texas, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Love it and can’t wait to see the finished home!

  • Angela says:

    Love this story. And my siding in VA is Canyon Clay! Woohoo!

  • Tristan says:

    “Honey please” works for me every time. Of course my husband is smart enough to know if momma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. LOL We live by that code and we have a long, happy marriage. As long as we have the money my husband trusts my decisions. God love him.

  • Trish says:

    NIce work Irene! An impressive job, wow. (Nice spouse management too!)

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Irene—so good–I love that sweetness gets the honey! My other recommendation: when he “Wants to”:) at 10:00 in the morning or whenever—GO FOR IT!!!! Everything sounds good to him AFTER that!!!
    (I may be of that certain age….but I’m not stupid!) LOL!

  • Love this Irene! I too have a handy hubby who likes to be involved in every little design decision. As you may have noticed from our house, we have been at a stand still for awhile 🙂 While we soldiered through many “negotiations” over the years, with studying decorating, staging and taking Maria’s amazing course, I have changed substantially from a High School teacher who like “decorating”. I think we are in for many more “negotiations” as it is time to revamp our home. I am going to definitely use your brilliant words, “Honey, please”…brilliant!

  • Love your article, Irene. It’s brilliant. And the comments are cracking me up, too.

  • Marcy says:

    I love this. My husband is also very opinionated. He likes to tell people I make all the paint decisions but he is so heavily involved and vetoes so many things he might as well make them himself. And I don’t have even nominal control over any other aspects.

    So our house involves a lot of discussions but it’s turning out how we both want it.

  • Joanne says:

    My husband of 20 years used to question everything I did, even though the décor was not important to him. After a while he figured out that I knew what I was doing and left it to me. Also, if you do stuff when he’s away on business, he might not even notice that a wall is in a different place when he gets back. :o)

  • Cyndia Montgomery says:

    I am laughing so hard now! My husband and I do all our renovations together, and I would say 95% of the time we are on the same page. But there are the rare times we butt heads and things can get dangerous (kidding!). But tempers flare and sometimes I give in just to make him happy, almost every time knowing how wrong his decision is. I know that if I used the “Honey, Please” he would fall down laughing.

  • Beth says:

    Wonderful entry to come home to after a looong day, made me smile and laugh. Good job, Irene. {Wondering if you said please in two syllables – puhleeeze.} ; )

  • Karen Hill-Williams says:

    Irene you have the creative mind like none I have ever seen.
    As other may have guessed by my last name I am Kevin’s sister…….we were taught to pick fights carefully when we were young and if I know Kev he will get his way down the road some where.
    Love ya both and hope to see you and your new house in the spring……will be bringing your newest nephew with me when I come, oh and his Mom and Dad.

  • Susan S says:

    This was the cutest story!

  • Helene says:

    How I enjoyed your story Irene! I too have a wonderful husband. I’d love to hear if he likes the color and post a picture.

  • Julie S says:

    Ah! This may be the magic I was looking for. My husband sounds a LOT like yours, and I have not yet tried this tactic to get him to agree to my choices with decor. Wish me luck!! Great article 🙂

  • Monique says:

    I need a new husband LOL! Seriously Irene, FANTASTIC job and you have the most beautiful eyes, good thing you know how to use them! I can’t wait to see the end result!

  • Cathy says:

    Love your story as well as the first image of the dragon and waterfall. Do you know the name of it, or where I might find a print?

  • Joan says:

    What a great post! Almost made me want to have another husband 😉

  • franki says:

    Almost verbatim. franki

  • Oh that is so very brilliant! It’s wonderful to remember that you are on the same team & sometimes just letting go and showing your vulnerability to your ‘teammate’ is all you need to do!
    So beautifully written! I was captivated from start to end 🙂 Thanks Irene!

  • Kay Perret says:

    Yep, ‘if mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy’ is definitely the way I grew up. And my husband was quick to climb on that bandwagon. 🙂

    Looking forward to pictures!

  • Beverly Leeck says:

    I always wait until my husband is out of town (he’s not handy at all and hates painting). He knows where I’m about to pounce with renos because I talk about what I want to change and how much it will cost… he just doesn’t know exactly when it will happen and disagrees with me often! He’d love to have more control but I don’t actually believe in letting husbands control anything more than what makes them most happy – like what restaurants we go to (yup the way to this man’s heart is through his stomach) – he stopped eating my cooking a long time ago! He’s also a compulsive cleaner so I let him control that!!!!!

  • Ashley Casserly says:

    Good for you, Irene. Thank you for maintaining respect for your husband, but also asking for what you want without relying on manipulation. A great outcome for your house AND your marriage. Kudos!

  • So true – charm works wonders. I think pictures of how different choices will look also help to make the decision-making easier.

  • Kelly says:

    We seem to speak the same language. Last week my sweet husband wanted to put a tacky storm door in front of my custom ordered, amazingly beautiful front door and my best argument was that I desperately needed it not to be there followed by “Please, sweetheart”. 🙂 Worked like a charm. (well, that and a few other convincing moves… 😉 )

  • Elizabeth says:

    All are good strategies! Here is another one, which works for me: show him a “visual” to give him an idea of what you are talking about: the colour, a feature, an interior shot, a piece of furniture… My husband is not able to visualize what something looks like, so I go through my collection of home decor magazines and find a “visual aid”.

  • Eva says:

    My husband and I began renovating our 1100 sq ft home to 2800 sq ft about seven years ago. Budget restrictions mean the interior finishing is up to us and at the end of the day my husband. Here is what we did. We defined our vision for the home when complete and so many, many decisions were simplified because they had to go with the vision. Some things were very important to him (stucco siding) and I didn’t care as much so we went with his choice. Other things were important to me (marble countertops) so he let me choose although we found the actual marble together. It is so important to have the vision, to assemble that dream book of tear sheets and it helps clarify so many decisions. On this renovation adventure and through friends’s renovations I’ve seen many lovely products that wouldn’t work with our vision. My kitchen was inspired by one I found in a magazine over twenty years ago, the photos don’t look dated and I don’t believe my kitchen ever will.

  • Nancy says:

    Brilliant! Love that story .
    Who would have thought something as simple as “Honey Pkease ” would work !
    That’s my new best line
    Thanks and look forward to seeing your home

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