Friday, October 30, 2015

Style Mix

Do you struggle to explain your design style? Do you struggle to make your house feel like "you?"

You may need to figure out your style mix.

There are basically three style umbrellas that most styles fall under, Rustic, Traditional and Modern.

Let's start with Rustic. Rustic can mean a few different things. To some people they think of a lot of wood tones, reclaimed wood, barn doors. Other people think simplicity, and a tiny beach cottage with weathered wood flooring. To others a farmhouse with lots of white walls, beams and original flooring. Still others may think lots of natural elements, with a hunting lodge feel.

Rustic basics: weathered woods, simplicity, informal, vintage, tapestries, quilts, textures, rough or distressed surfaces, painted surfaces.

Example: HGTV's Fixer Upper

Traditional style often gets a bad rap because people think traditional means old and antique. While that is true of the more Victorian style, there are lots of expressions of traditional that have a less formal feel. You may not like claw foot bath tubs but you may love crown molding. Typically traditional will have more curves and shapely furnishings. and you'll see more details in the molding, cabinetry and millwork. In Texas or the southwest, traditional can also mean a lot of mean a lot of large pieces, leather and lots of woodwork. And maybe an animal head or two. 

Traditional Basics: Ornamentation, Heavier textures, patterns, curved edges, architectural details, crown molding, antique pieces, larger scale furnishings, archways, Wainscoting, tufting, period details.

Example of Traditional: Sarah Richardson, Rehab Addict, Downton Abbey

Modern tends to be the opposite of traditional. It was a cultural response to the fussiness of the traditional period. Less details, more simple and sleek, can feel more formal. Modern architecture and design tends to have a linear feel to it. Midcentury Modern, Danish modern and Scandinavian are variations.

Modern basics: Pointy legs (midcentury) clean lines, sleek, minimalist, minimal visual clutter

Example: Madmen, IKEA

There are some other styles as well like Global, Industrial, French Country, etc. but we'll stick with the big categories for now.

See if you can narrow down your top three styles. The difference between a designed room and a furniture store is the mixing of different elements to create a cohesive look. If you like many different styles you may like a more eclectic style, which skillfully incorporates many styles together without looking like a yard sale.

My personal style mix tends to be transitional (blend of traditional and modern), coastal and cottage. A tiny ounce of global thrown in here and there, for the patterns and colors.

When you can articulate your style you can be more intentional and focused in your shopping which will keep you from getting things that aren't right for you.

For some style inspiration check out my Houzz ideabooks on my website

Have fun!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Building Considerations

On TV, it seems like fixer uppers are all the rage.

But where I live in Austin right now, it's all about the new.

In the five minute drive to my son's preschool, we pass by three major construction sites where new subdivisions are popping up faster than you can say "excavator". Thanks to him and the crazy amount of construction here in town, I know the names of every vehicle under the sun that digs up and/or moves dirt. 

Here in the suburbs, the master planned community is where it's at.

Having been through the mass building process myself, and having worked with a lot of folks who are doing the same-I thought I would share some of my experience in this area for any of you who are considering the pros and cons of building new through a large builder. All the following photos are of our home.

our house, during construction

Let's talk about pros:

Let's face it, new is new. 

Even the most basic new construction can feel great if you are used to living in an old house that needs a lot of work.  Not everyone is a weekend warrior, and there is a peace that comes from knowing that there isn't asbestos or some shady exposed wire waiting to catch fire inside your wall. If you are working with a reputable builder, you at least can know that everything is done to code and has city approval. Most builders will cover any issues that do come up for the first year. Everything is new and nothing needs to be fixed.

First Floor Living/Dining


If you get in early enough, you can with a small deposit, select the home, select the lot, and sometimes aspects of the floor plan, within certain limits. In addition to the the core features like fireplaces, porch size, appliances, and exterior finishes you get to determine which tile/carpet/wood/counter/doors/cabinets you want, and that is very appealing to many people.


When you build, you have a lot more control over timelines. You can focus on getting your home ready to sell, and don't need to be out house hunting. You have some more control over the closing. You can know your floorplan ahead of time, and determine what furnishings will work in the new home. If you are local, you can go monitor the progress of the home as it's being built, and get a feel for how it is going to look ahead of time, which you can't do in an owner occupied home.

Master Bedroom-my favorite view


When you do move in, you not only get a new house, but new trees, a basic landscape design, and fully functional porches, driveway, sidewalk, etc. Everything, though basic, is in great shape, and all you need to do is maintain it, and slowly improve and add, as opposed to have to remove or undo what a previous owner did. I can't tell you how many hours and dollars we spent on our previous home just dealing with the out of control yard.

But it's not for everyone.

Let's talk about some cons:

Upgrade Costs

All the homes start with a base price, but that price quickly changes as you start to add on "upgrades". Typically the standard features aren't the most interesting, and after seeing the beautiful model home, it can be tempting to adding on bells and whistles. If you want wood floors or certain types of tiles, you pay more depending on the "level" of the item. and like a car, any upgrade you add before financing costs you even more over the long term. If you can go with more standard features at first and upgrade on your own later, you will no doubt save money.

Limited Finishes

I was excited to be able to customize my home, only to find a pretty limited selection.  The options you have will depend on the builder and the price point.  In our case, some of the "standard" options were downright ugly. And because I do not like waste, I didn't want to have a tile or flooring material installed that I planned to remove, so I ended up compromising on those and spending a bit more than planned.

Many Decisions

The process of building and deciding everything can be overwhelming for some people. Many of the decisions are made in a design center before your the house is even started. Though a designer is often provided, they don't function the same way as someone you hire personally. You typically get one very long meeting and have to choose everything at once.



Rome wasn't built in a day, but these homes go up quick. There is an expression called "builder grade" for a reason. Even at higher price points, you are going to see some things before or after you move in that may drive you nuts if you are a detail person. In our home, our kitchen faucet has already leaked twice and flooded my cabinet. This happened to my neighbors also. We both had to order replacement parts within the first two years. The windows don't come with casings. The garages are unfinished and needs painting. You often need to seal the grout. There's no such thing as maintenance free even in a new home.

Having gone through the process, there are definitely things that I would do a bit differently, but overall it was a great experience. Yes, I do miss my old quirky home with it's unique character, but now I have a blank slate and can put some money into the decor, instead of into replacing electrical sockets and paying for septic tank inspections.

If you want to get some more helpful tips about production building or designing a spec home, go to my website,

If you are thinking of building, or have done it yourself feel free to comment about your experience!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Corner Office Update

Remember my corner office? It's not finished yet, but it's making progress so I thought I'd give you an update of where it is at!

In life, some rooms evolve as your needs change at home.

This loft space has definitely changed its purpose since we moved in two years ago. It started as a sort of guest living room/TV/piano room, and is now being transformed into my office/studio. The TV went to the man cave (it was too close to the other one anyway). The piano is now in the guest room.  There is a long chaise sofa that has to stay, because people sleep on it when they visit. It has to go where it is because it literally does not fit anywhere else. Believe me I have tried.


Desk area now (in progress)

I have since upgraded the small white desk to a larger IKEA Malm desk with a the pullout. I wanted to do a sort of corner desk to utilize the space, but this allows me to sit on the corner when I work, but still utilize the one significant wall I have in this room. I'm hoping to make a large linen pin board to go over the desk, and add some fun desktop accessories.

The other half before

the other half after

Here's kind of the long view:

Not very exciting but the former clutter is gone and at least it's clean. I'd like to add a glass coffee table, and an accent chair to make more of a seating area and conversation zone. I'm hoping to replace the basic builder mushroom light with something like this:

or maybe a cool vintage chandelier... not sure yet. I am also looking to brighten things up with a lighter paint color, and maybe add some chair rail to section off the corner and paint an accent color below. I'm a big fan of chair rail because to install it you only need to be able to draw a 
big straight line.

So a work in progress, but it now at least it feels like an intentional work space. I even have my own bathroom! 

Do you have any rooms that have "evolved?" Feel free to share some photos and ideas!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Realistic Kitchens

What's in your kitchen?

I recently spent a night in at a friend's family home: a custom, high-end luxury home on a lake. In addition to the amazing lake views, three car garage and amazing outdoor living room, this place had a kitchen with all the luxury elements. The giant exotic granite island was double thick, with a huge 6 burner commercial cook top, two refrigerators, two wine fridges, a built in ice maker that is actual appliance, a huge commercial fridge, a coffee station with two machines, a second bar sink and bar, and the list goes on.

My friend explained that her dad's company held corporate events there for 50 people and often hired a chef to cook there. All those bells and whistles are things you would likely find in a dream home, which was what this home was built for, for retirement and for family to visit for years to come.

Most of us ordinary suburbanites get by just fine with the basic appliance set, a boring 4, maybe 5 burner stove, one sink, one dishwasher, and maybe a blender or two. Most of our dream kitchens have a large island and maybe a Vitamix.

So I thought I'd talk about how to upgrade or update a kitchens on a slightly smaller scale. Whether you have a big boring builder grade, a small vintage home, or just need a refresh, here are some tips:

  • Paint your cabinets.
 If you like the layout of your kitchen, and the cabinet frames and boxes are sturdy and aren't damaged, they can be painted or stained. If your home is newer and you just want to change the color, I strongly recommend hiring a professional to spray them so you know they will last. If you have more of a smaller vintage home or fixer upper you may just want to paint them yourself until you are in a position to replace them. Painting your cabinets white or linen white is always a classic choice and will make your space look bigger.

  • Reconfigure your existing cabinets.
 If you plan on making a major footprint change, and need to pay for labor, you may be able to save by using your existing cabinets. As long as you have a fairly standard layout and standard sizes, this could work out. You could always add a few cabinets here or there if you can find matches through the cabinet company. You can also replace just the doors and leave the boxes.

  • Use stock cabinetry.
If you can create a kitchen design using stock cabinets, you can save a fair amount of money. You can buy unfinished ones to be painted or stained, or use a prefabricated system like IKEA has. If you design it well it can look great. If you don't it can look cheap. If working with a contractor make sure they are familiar with the IKEA cabinets, you may want IKEA to do the assembly and install and have the contractor oversee it.

  •  Add open shelving.

If you are able to keep your stuff neat, this could be a good option for you. If you like to display cute plates or dishes, or even cookbooks, this can make great use of wall space that doesn't have cabinets, or need a cabinet alternative. It can make it feel more open and add some character. In a more modern home it can look great if you keep it uncluttered.

  • Replace hardware.
 Even a standard knob or pull in brushed nickel tone can be an upgrade in some spaces if that's all you can afford. I love pulls, but they tend to cost more, so if you have a lot of doors, consider using a pull for your drawers and knobs for your cabinets to keep costs down. You can often find cheaper brand name hardware on certain e-bay sites on the internet if you buy in bulk.

  • Upgrade lighting.
Good lighting goes a long way. Recessed lighting is always ideal in a kitchen, but if you can't do can lights, consider changing out the overhead fixtures you do have. Consider semi-flush mount fixtures instead of flush mount that can fit at least three bulbs instead of one or two.  Add under cabinet lighting for more task light along counters. I personally love to have a dimmer in the kitchen if possible for the evening to soften things a bit after a long day.

  • Paint your appliances.
Say what? If you have older appliances that are dingy and yellowed, consider painting them. There are appliance spray paints out there that can really help. I had white appliances in my former home and used the white on the refrigerator, stove handle and vent hood. People couldn't believe the transformation. I do not recommend painting a white or black fridge with stainless paint-it won't be the right texture and will look fake.

  • Upgrade flooring. This really makes a difference in the way your kitchen looks. If your flooring is old and dingy, some new tile can really make things look cleaner and fresher. Especially in smaller kitchens, this can be very affordable if you know what your are doing. If you need help, you can save some money by picking up the materials yourself and working with an installer who just does flooring or tile installation. If you have to keep the floor tile, consider cleaning and staining the grout a lighter color. It is kind of tedious, but can really freshen it up.

For major renovations, the kitchen is one place you don't want to mess around, but you'd be surprised what you can do to jazz it up a bit for a lot less!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What is Your Style?

What is your style? Do you know? Could you describe it?

Some sites have a "design quiz" that you can take to figure this out. But none of the questions ask you about actual furniture, color, or decor. Instead they ask, if you could be an animal what would it be, or what type of beverage do you like to drink? What country would you live in if you had the chance? In my opinion, your answers to those things really don't have anything to do with your home.

Each time I take one just for fun I end up a style like bohemian mid-century minimalist or something not even close to what I would say my style is. 

Some people say you should look in your closet for inspiration. I wear many colors, styles and patterns, but that doesn't mean I want them on my wall or my bed. I love to wear black but you will find very small amounts of black in my home-it's just not something I like to decorate with. unless it appears that way naturally, like on my piano.

When it comes to style, I have found most people have either no style (think bachelor pad) too many styles (think flea market) or only one style ("matchy matchy")

I love to help people figure out what their design style is because it helps them enjoy their home more and spend money wisely. Some people need some guidelines so they don't buy just anything that catches their eye. Some people need tools so that they can confidently buy things they want and know it will work with the rest of their home. Some people need more help than others. That is why designers exist.

When I work with clients the first thing I try to do is help them figure out what styles they naturally gravitate towards. Most people have a few they like, they just don't know what it is, or how to describe them. There are a lot of styles out there, like country, farmhouse, traditional, mid-century modern, and there are different character traits of each style. Most of us like more than one.  It is also possible to like some aspects of more modern styles but also like some aspects of more Rustic or Traditional Styles. You don't have to be "just modern" or "just rustic."

A good designer can blend together elements of different styles and make them work together in a cohesive way. Some styles mix better than others. A true "eclectic" design style, where several styles are mixed, is harder to put together than you would think. And there is a fine line between true eclectic and flea-market ish cluster.

Here are some things to think about when determining your style preferences:

Take an objective look at your decor and furniture. If find you have too many styles, try to narrow down the things you really like versus something that you got only because it was on sale, or because your mom gave it to you. Play the "which one doesn't belong" game. If something looks really out of place or doesn't really work, consider moving it to another room where it is a better fit.  Many times what is needed is not a complete overhaul or replacement, but some careful and good editing.

If you find yourself with a lot of older pieces you don't like anymore, consider changing out the hardware to something sleeker or more modern. Paint an older dark piece of furniture a gray or a white to fit into a more contemporary scheme.

If you don't have enough style, or are working with a blank slate, browse photos of rooms in various styles and save the ones you like to a Pinterest or Houzz page or a file on your desktop. See what draws your attention and if you see any common elements in each. For example, I like the sleek shiny white cabinets, or, I love the rough texture of the table, etc.

Finally, think about how you live. If you aren't very formal, you probably aren't going to like the real heavy ornate side of the traditional spectrum, or anything that will read fancy and flashy. On the other hand, if you like to dress up and don't have a big family or small children, you may prefer some more sleekness or some bling and sparkle.

Style is personal, but it also takes a bit of work and thought about who you are, what you like and how you live.  If you aren't happy with your home, and you want to change it, spend some time figuring out your style situation first, you'll be much happier with the end result!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Design TV

Do TV design shows help you or hinder you?

With all the television programs out there, Interior Design is all the rage these days.

While I love the decorating shows as much as the next guy, they can sometimes be a little misleading.

For example, if you have ever watched HGTV's Property Brothers, you would be led to believe that Jonathan does all the designing of the decor and furnishings. He is the host of the show, and obviously can do grout and do construction, but have you noticed that his clothing never gets dirty? His job is to look good on camera and host the show while a team of many skilled folks you never see do a lot of the work in the background.

 If one man could look that good, renovate an entire house and do all the interior design that quick, well, he would be downright superhuman. The truth is that many of the design shows are hosted by the celebrity who has skills for sure, but they often have a local design firm behind the scenes actually doing the project that you wouldn't necessarily know about. All the photos in this post are from projects done on various HGTV shows. You can look them up on

Sometimes design shows give credit to these firms, sometimes they don't. Some shows use homeowner contributions to pay for things, some don't. I'm sure there are agreements and contracts involved that I know nothing about, and certainly the level of involvement of the host varies from show to show depending on what they do and what the network wants to portray.

Design shows can certainly inspire us to make our own plans and dream about what we want our homes to be like. On the other hand, you the viewer don't always see the hard work and time that it takes many people behind the scenes who are making those designs a reality. You also don't see the costs that a real life project might incur because on rooms are often staged to promote a certain vendor or product, like Wayfair or Lumber Liquidators, etc.

Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper even says in the Q and A on her blog that the homes seen in the shows are staged for the reveal and it's up to the homeowner whether or not to buy the furnishings.

Let's face it: TV Shows are ultimately about making good television. If you want to watch actual real life on TV at a real pace you might want to stick to Championship Golf or The Joy of Painting.

Even though I know it's not totally realistic, I still love to watch the shows and be inspired. I often put design shows on in the background to motivate me get my bum off the couch and start doing something.

My favorite design shows highlight the actual design process start to finish. I love to watch a project come together step by step, but they must not have mass appeal because they all get the 5:30 am spots right after the all night infomercials. No problem for me thanks to DVR.

What do you think about design shows?  Are they motivating or discouraging?


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Where to Begin

Is your ideal home new construction or a fixer upper?

I assumed that moving into a new construction house would be less work. The truth is that new homes have their own set of to-do's that take time, money and physical exertion. And in our case, very long ladders.

The challenge of a new home is that it looks pretty nice as is. Just like a new car, it has that new smell you know? You don't want to put any nails in the walls. They just look so new and unblemished. You're afraid to really move in and mess it up.

When I moved into my former home it was so old and ugly. I was motivated the second I got the keys to fumigate the kitchen, paint all the trim white, and undo all the icky things that were "left" by the previous owner.

New or old, when you get into a new home, how do you decide what to do and when? You can't just go out and buy everything, and you can't instantly change everything, so you have to prioritize.

How do you do that when the to do list seems endless?

First of all, I suggest you focus on function before decor. Don't tell my husband I said that.

If you have an attached garage, set this room up as soon as possible. This is the space you go in an out of every day and it's also where you will need to access the tools and equipment you will need to decorate your home. Once that is done, you will find it speeds up everything else.

On the inside of the home, identify the missing or broken things that interfere with everyday tasks and living.

When we moved into our current home, we didn't have a window covering for our large bathroom window.  After one week of showering at night in the dark so no one would see us, we made that a priority.  We also installed some large towel hooks to hang a towel on next to the shower. Those small things made a big improvement in our level of comfort in our bathroom, and made it look a little more finished.

 You may need to get ceiling fans put up, or you may need to change an old appliance. Whatever it is even if it is not glamorous or exciting, if it will make a difference in your quality of life, do that thing first. It also can add long term value to your home.

Second, focus on the spaces you use and see the most.

For us, we started with my husband's office, because he started working from home as soon as we got here. It is the first room you see when you come in the front door. The next room was my son's room- since he was a baby we needed things more or less in order in there.

Save the lesser used rooms  or upstairs spaces for later, so you can use them as temporary holding areas for things you aren't sure about or for sorting or storing things you may not keep. Shut the door when you have company. If you have a guest room, make sure you have a decent bed for them to sleep in, but other than that don't worry about making it perfect right away.

Third, try to decorate one area at a time. 

This is so hard, but it will keep you from buying things haphazardly.  Figure out your overall furniture layout and placement, then decorate. I decorated my son's room because it was the smallest and already had everything I needed to complete the room in terms of furniture. I only needed a few new decorative things to make it feel finished. Once it was done, I didn't have to think about it anymore.

Finally, enjoy the things your home has that made you choose it in the first place.

Our back porch is our favorite spot. In the evenings there is a nice breeze and my husband and I often sit out there after my son goes to bed. If your neighbor has palm trees like mine, you can pretend it's near the ocean-even if it's Central Texas.

Maybe your home has a great yard for the kids to run in. Maybe you have a great front porch. Maybe your neighborhood is great for an evening walk. Is there a window with a view of the woods? The sunset? Whatever it is, find something you like about your home and be thankful for that and enjoy it while you are settling in.

Don't be discouraged when you see the perfectly decorated houses on TV after a major renovation. Most of the time they are staged, and a lot of that furniture goes right back on the truck
when it's all done.

Enjoy the process of moving in to your home one area at a time.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Realistic Home Office

In my home, I have the corner office. In that it is in a corner. And it is being used as an office.

I have great aspirations for it, but it is a bit  sad and sparse right now as you can see. But I am excited about the potential now that this corner has a purpose. My plan includes a larger desk with a pull out (I'm looking at the IKEA Malm desk), some open shelving above, a soothing paint color, and some window treatments.

This is the other half of the loft. I'll add an accent chair in the corner to define a seating area, a coffee table for books and whatnot, and an arc lamp. I'll eventually upgrade the basic builder light fixtures for better lighting at night, but I actually get decent natural light now that it's summer.

Since my husband works one of those day jobs that requires a desktop computer, conference calls and such, he gets the main office, which was one of the first rooms I did in our house. The cat loves it.

Transitional Home Office by Kristin Bythewood Interiors

I believe that the environment we work in can really impact our productivity, energy, and our attitude about our work, especially at home, where there can be distractions. Here are some things to think about when setting up and decorating a home office.

  • Identify the function of the space before you choose the furniture. 
Decide if you need space to spread out or just enough room for a laptop. Think about paperwork and filing needs.  Do you have office or school supplies to store? Determine what kids or other family members may need if they use it. You also need to consider the location of the outlets and how you will plug everything in in such a way that it isn't a cord disaster. Those things are not very exciting to think about but they will help you make smarter decisions when looking for furniture.

  • Prioritize your desk and chair first.
If all you need to work is a laptop and a cup of coffee, you can get away with a small parsons desk with a few small drawers. But if you have paperwork, various office supplies, files, inventory, gadgets, etc., you will need something with more substance.

You also need to consider ergonomic factors. If you will be sitting all day, get a decent chair that is the correct height from the desk and is comfortable and supports your back. A home office gets more use than work because it is used for both work and other things. If you use a laptop you might consider raising it up or attaching a keyboard.

  • Make it look like home, not a corporate office.
You can take a home office deduction whether you buy an ugly desk or a nice one, so why not make your office comfortable? .

Check out office liquidation center near you for a great variety of "executive style" desks that actually look like furniture. Change the hardware for a quick update.

Ikea has some affordable options with table tops and leg combinations in glass and wood that are easy to put together and can be combined with other storage tucked underneath.

For a more modern minimal look you can go with a parsons desk or even a small dining table.

Simple touches like curtains, paint, and a seating area can make an office feel much more comfortable to be in. It also gives you opportunities to take a break from the computer and sit and read.

At night our office doubles as a place to watch TV. The windowsill acts as a great drink holder and remote control spot. Now THAT's practical.

  • Incorporate things that reflect you and what you enjoy.

My husband was in the military and is a home brewer so I incorporated his beer glass collection and his coin collection into the design, For you it could be fresh flowers, photos of your family, books and magazine, collectibles. anything you enjoy that reminds you of why you work so hard.

Yes, that is a toilet trophy that says "unflushable".

A home office can be functional, comfortable, and look great.

I believe it can inspire you, and, hopefully, your work as well!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Design and Marriage

Who calls the decorating shots in your house?

I came to my marriage with the notion that my video gaming cerebral husband would be happy to fix broken things and revel in home improvement. It would be so blissful to work hand in hand, side by side, tiling and grouting as we looked lovingly at each other, teaming up all weekend long to increase the value of our home.

After an entire day of tension, bloody knuckles, and a muddy bathtub filled with debris and a tile saw, it was all I could do to get the heck out of there, pick up some take-out and pray that he would be able to finish by the time I got home so we could end our misery.

The reason that people don't fight much on decorating shows on TV is because someone else is doing the work and the network is paying for it. Did I mention skilled teams of laborers and an artisan craftsman at the ready? The really good ones send them to a hotel.

In real life renovation requires hard manual labor, causes unexpected problems, and takes longer than you think it will. Husbands and wives have to hash out what to do and how to do it while trying to stay nice to each other. If you really do work well together in this way you should count your blessings!

Here are my tips for finding the middle ground at home when it comes to design.

  • Learn the non negotiable needs your spouse has and learn to work with them.

My husband insists on the television being exactly across from the sofa. When considering the furniture layout in the living area, I let him choose the TV spot, and then work around it to make it look nice, conceal wires and soften the harsh look of our large TV. 

You can do a lot to soften a TV with nice baskets, lamps on either side, or a nice piece of furniture to use as a media unit.

  • Don't fall into typical gender roles. 

Each spouse should do what they are good at. Since my husband has an electronics background I make him do minor electrical things like outlets and ceiling fans. I do pretty much everything else. 

  • If possible, try to find designated areas for each person to have ownership of.

This could be a small corner for hobbies or sewing, or maybe a large shelf or cabinet to display a large collection. Tuck a small desk and chair into a guest room closet for a hideaway office. Then each person has an area to retreat to right at home. This is especially important when you have small children.

  • Find out what your spouse actually cares about the most.

My husband will give an opinion if I ask, but the truth is, he really is not that concerned about 95 percent of our decor at the end of the day. I have learned to only ask his opinion if it is something he will actually use a lot, or a major piece of furniture. Generally he likes what I pick because he knows I know him and what he likes.

If you have a spouse who likes to be more involved in the decor, make sure you consider what they like and need and try to compromise. The best designs blend more than one style together into one cohesive look.

  •  Narrow down your options when it's time to make purchases.

Instead of dragging your entire family to the IKEA, figure out what you are looking for, and pick a few things that will work. Only bring your spouse to a store if they are required to see it or sit on it to make the final decision  (unless you really enjoy family outings to very crowded stores) 

  • Hire someone to help you.

 A designer can help save you a lot of stress because they can act as a mediator and make suggestions from an objective point of view. I try to get to know my clients specific taste and find things they will both like according to what is important to them. 

My marriage survived the tiling project, and it also taught me a lot about who I am and am not and who my husband is and isn't. Don't let unrealistic expectations cause problems in your relationship. Compromise, know your strengths, hire some outside help.

Or apply for an HGTV show.