When Roo Green moved in with her now-husband she hadn’t reckoned on having to compromise her style.
Whoever coined the phrase ‘Home Sweet Home’ had clearly never had a stand-up row in Ikea about bedside tables.
Six months before I married my husband Damian, I moved in with him. For a variety of reasons (fuckwit commitment-phobes and long-distance dalliances) it was the first time I’d cohabited with a partner.
Sure, people gave me advice, but no one told me the biggest challenge would be learning to live with someone else’s taste.
Damian had owned the house for 18 months before I officially moved in, and it felt like all he’d done in that time was add a lot of brown-toned items to the magnolia box: Fifty Shades of Beige, if you will. (That’s the one with no sex, because someone’s sulking after you laughed about their curtains.)
If I tell you that the last sofa I bought for myself was bright pink, you may, quite rightly, get the impression that there was some distance between our interior styles. It was as if the merry old land of Oz had moved into Cadbury World.
My then-fiancé also seemed to be obsessed with his recliner sofas in a way I’d not seen since Chandler and Joey stayed glued to their matching loungers in Friends. To me they were ugly and took up way too much room, but for my husband they fulfilled his criteria: to be ridiculously comfy. The fact they were an assault on my retinas was not considered a good enough reason to let them go. For a long time they were a (Parker) Knoll-go area.
Before I got married I’d been renting places, and while I’d always personalised those homes, there were limitations. What got me through was fantasising about all the projects I’d tackle when I finally owned my own home – and it never really crossed my mind that I’d ever have to take someone else’s view into consideration. It was something of a wakeup call to discover that while my husband’s approach to furnishing a home was different to mine, it didn’t mean he didn’t have strong opinions.
Sofas aside, my husband has a really good eye when presented with choices; he just doesn’t know what he likes until he sees it. I can envision how a room will look and feel – even when it’s empty – so initially it slowed everything down because he wanted to eyeball it before he’d commit to it.
We once spent nine months searching for a rug, only for my husband to ask me why we hadn’t bought “that one with the black and grey mix” AKA THE VERY FIRST ONE I had run past him. I resisted the urge to scream, “BECAUSE YOU GRUNTED WHEN I SHOWED IT TO YOU,” and whipped out my Visa card before you could say “tufted shag” in case he changed his mind. The moral here is that he needed to see all of the options and mull over them, before pulling the trigger and purchasing.
“There are times when we still lock horns. Every time my husband gets a twinge in his back, it’s blamed on not having recliner sofas (nice try), and if you want to see a world record in eye-rolling then just ask my husband about my London bus blind.”
The recliner and the rug (which sounds like the whimsical sequel to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) were both frustrating issues but they taught me that sometimes you must be patient and play the long game. I decided we’d decorate with the sofas in situ and once the rest of the room was done, my husband grudgingly accepted they did not chime with the rest of the aesthetic (which he really liked).
I picked colours he was comfortable with, which means our shared spaces (living room, bedroom and en-suite) are monochrome. White, black and grey are surprisingly easy to live with, and as long as there is a lot of texture (cushions, throws, and rugs) it can be very cosy. My husband was the one who later introduced mint green into our bedroom by suggesting a print would look good in there. I’ve slowly added other accessories in that hue and it softens all the white and pale grey.
In my office, our spare bedroom and the kitchen there is more colour and pattern against a white background, and in my husband’s ‘man cave’ he has merged old and new with greige walls – a lovely mix of brown and grey that feels very ‘him’ and is incredibly cosy for when he wants to play guitar, listen to music and er… iron (no, me neither).
Decorating this house has shown me that making more considered purchases can save me money along the way. If I’m still keen on something after six months, chances are I won’t get bored of it – which used to happen A LOT with impulse purchases when I lived alone – and I can often buy stuff in the sales.
There are times when we still lock horns. Every time my husband gets a twinge in his back, it’s blamed on not having recliner sofas (nice try), and if you want to see a world record in eye-rolling then just ask my husband about my London bus blind (“vintage, my arse”). In the main though, we’ve learned to find the middle ground, without ever feeling as if it’s a second-best choice.
Our home looks nothing like the bachelor pad I first moved into, or the places I rented as a single woman. It is absolutely ‘our style,’ reflecting us both, having been forged through respecting the other’s right to have an equal say. Parity begins at home.
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Roo Green has worked in radio since all this was fields. She loves reading, eating and writing, and blogs at www.roogreen.co.uk. Paisley Park is in her heart.