Renovating is the ultimate stress test for any relationship. A major home renovation tends to expose any small relationship weakness, turning hairline cracks into massive craters if you’re not prepared.  Talk to any trades person, designer or general contractor and we all have sorted stories of relationships collapsing mid way through, or immediately following, large renovations or new home building projects. 

As a former social worker turned Interior Decorator, I often joke that “counseling is extra” with my clients. At the very least, it usually lightens the mood during tense moments in the design process!  On a personal level, my husband and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and we’ve had our fair share of renovation errr... “discussions” shall we say.  We’ve renovated at least 5 homes and built one new home during our marriage.  That’s a lot of mess, clutter, dust, hassle, blood, sweat, and yes even a few tears along the way!   We’ve always managed to keep it together for a few reasons.  These are just a few things my husband Barry and I have learned along our bumpy renovation road together:

  • Big Picture Thinking Happens TOGETHER: Setting your overall project budget and agreeing on the general look and feel of the space are two “must haves” when renovating.  You can always spend less in one area and splurge in another, but once you’ve set an overall budget you are both comfortable with, do not stray from it unless you have 100% consensus.  Keep your priorities in mind, your relationship is always more important than that designer chair or light fixture!  (but maybe you can skimp on a few other light fixtures to splurge on one amazing one, right? A girl can always find a way to get what she wants!!)

  • Divide and Conquer:  Decide ahead of time who is in charge of making decisions related to each part of the renovation.  Work to your individual strengths.  For example, I’m a planner, my husband Barry is a worker.  A beautiful match!  I design the layout of the space, select and order materials/fixtures/furniture, obtain quotes, prepare budgets, arrange for delivery/pick up of materials, do most/all of the painting and general site clean up.  Barry does virtually everything else!  Many couples don’t physically complete the renovation, but the divide and conquer technique still works – decide who is in charge of communication with subtrades, budget management (within the agreed upon overall budget), who picks the colours and finishes, selects furniture, arranges movers, etc.   

  • Let Go and Don’t Hover:  Mutual trust and respect for one another is important – let your partner implement his/her plans and don’t second guess them unless they ask for your thoughts or help.  Stepping over your boundaries is wading into the dark side!

  • Distraction: A renovation takes time, and there will come a time (or times) that you hit the wall.  That wall may be different for you both.  When it happens, recognize it and take some time away to refresh your mindset and energy.  Do something else without thinking or talking about the renovation.  Even something as simple walking the dog together helps!

  • Laugh, A Lot:  Remember to keep your sense of humour.  When you spill that paint, or end up covered in drywall dust, smile and take a photo!  It will be a memory you’ll treasure!  I remember one morning in particular, when we were renovating and living in a house that had just ONE bathroom sink, ONE toilet, and ONE bathtub, yet none were in the same bathroom!  My husband was trying to shave as he prepared to leave for work while I was trying to do some breakfast dishes and get the kids off to school.  Needless to say, we took one look at each other and burst out laughing!  Who lives like that?? We did!  For a very short period of time... thank goodness! 

  • Celebrate Milestones:  Let’s face it, large renovation projects tend to be a journey.  Be sure to stop along the way and enjoy your accomplishments.  Reflect on how far you’ve come and all that you’re created!  It will bring you closer together and keep you moving forward as a team!

  • Keep Your Eye On The Prize.  “This too shall pass” as they say.  One day you’ll be able to sit in your new space and just enjoy it!  Stay focused on that day, imagine what it will feel like, and stay positive!  It will happen - it always does!  Imagine entertaining family and friends more often, simpler pleasures such as spending more time at home together because you love to be there, or if you’re like us, maybe it’s dreaming of napping on your new couch!! 

My husband and I are proof that you can renovate and actually enjoy it together!  It’s become our hobby, our “thing” we are good at together.  In some ways, it becomes a badge of honour we wear proudly as we overcome obstacles to achieve renovation success.  It’s a step you take together in life.  Have you renovated with your spouse?  Do you have your badge?  Contact us to share your renovation romance!  We’d love to hear from you

“Consider hosting a “demolition party” – ours went for an entire weekend as generous friends stopped in to help rip apart the house!

“Consider hosting a “demolition party” – ours went for an entire weekend as generous friends stopped in to help rip apart the house!

Even the kids got in on the excitement! (circa 2006)

Even the kids got in on the excitement! (circa 2006)