DO YOU NEED AN INTERIOR DESIGNER OR A MARRIAGE COUNSELLOR? - Kanebridge News
Share Button

DO YOU NEED AN INTERIOR DESIGNER OR A MARRIAGE COUNSELLOR?

Interior designers often employ therapy-like techniques to find stylish compromises for clients with warring aesthetics.

By KATHRYN O’SHEA-EVANS
Fri, Sep 9, 2022 2:42pmGrey Clock 4 min

My husband James and I are decorating our new vacation house in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and have taken on so much more than we can chew that we’re choking…mostly because I’ve been a rude co-designer. Years of writing about decorating have turned me into the Joan Rivers of home décor, minus the comedy.

He wants wood, leather and black metal. If I don’t get white upholstery, one too many throw pillows and patterns as dainty as the pinnules on a maidenhair fern, I will perish.

When James texts me an image of a chair or light to consider, it’s often more masculine than I can bear—and I’ll text too brusquely why I hate it. My behaviour is not OK, especially because my spouse is one of the kindest souls on earth.

I’m not the only person whose style clashes with her partner’s as painfully as pink paisley and tartan plaid. “Disagreements between couples on residential projects is the leading reason our studio decided three years ago to pursue more hospitality and commercial projects,” said Dallas, Texas, designer Jean Liu. “Maybe we were unlucky, but we realized how unequipped we are to handle marital strife.”

It wouldn’t hurt an interior designer to bone up on strategies for couples-conflict resolution. In a 2021 survey by Houzz, a website and online community dedicated to home improvement and decorating, 11% of the couples among the 75,470 U.S. respondents declared they found it challenging to work with their spouse on a renovation. In the Houzz U.K. 2022 Renovations and Relationships Survey, 16% of 1,250 respondents said they considered separating during the renovation process.

When it comes to cohabitated spaces, the stakes are high, in part because your home is “an expression of who you are and your personality,” said Boston family therapist Terrence Real, author of “Us: Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship” (Goop Press, 2022).

Los Angeles designer Kevin Klein has found that when working with couples, disagreements are as unavoidable as shipping delays. Consequently, during initial consultations, Mr. Klein asks clients how they’ll handle any impasse that might arise. “They always look at me cross-eyed, like ‘What are you talking about?’ But that moment inevitably comes six months down the line, when we’re doing relationship counselling rather than designing.”

Real-estate developers Ilana and David Duel credit Mr. Klein for steering them through their own renovation harmoniously. “It’s really hard between husband and wife to make decisions,” said Ms. Duel. “You can spend hours and hours on just the tile.” She longed for an all-white house with light wood floors, while Mr. Duel and Mr. Klein sought to maintain the 1930s abode’s Spanish character.

Today, such unlikely roommates as a boxy, white marble coffee table—a nod to her taste—and drippy Murano crystal sconces—a reflection of Mr. Duel’s—are shacked up happily in the couple’s living room. “If you decide to hire a designer, know that they’re much better at designing than you are,” she said.

In case you don’t have the coin to take on a personal interiors pro, video design consultations offered by websites like the Expert, billed by the hour, can yield affordable tiebreaker advice. Decorist’s new service, for example, lets you book a 30-minute Zoom session with a pro for $59.

Whether hiring an expert or going it alone, Mr. Klein recommends you set up “office hours,” as he puts it. “When you come home after a long day, you don’t want to address these design decisions,” he said. “It’s not sexy; it doesn’t feel right.” Dedicating specific chunks of time to the process, periods when you’re both well-rested, is a better way to hear the other person’s side, he says, “than while you’re sitting in bed together watching TV.”

Another sanity-saving strategy: Choose décor that’s easily swappable. When Los Angeles designer Rydhima Brar’s client sought a swashbuckling 1970s-inspired graphic wallpaper, her other half didn’t find it shagadelic. The peace offering? Removable wallpaper they could switch out if he still balked down the line. Ultimately, he was into it.

Pictures, in these situations, are worth a thousand exhausting negotiations. “Most people don’t have the vocabulary to define their style,” said New York City designer Rozit Arditi. Gray Walker, a designer in Charlotte, N.C., often asks client couples to “pin” images of things they like on Pinterest boards, an easy ask, and then seek compromise with the help of those visual aids. “I have found that hearing both parties and giving each person a bit of what they want is the way to go without conflict,” she said.

For the living room of her clients’ 1930s Georgian revival home in Charlotte, Ms. Walker navigated warring aesthetics by acknowledging each—installing a Chinese screen and timeworn Oushak rug for him, an antique obsessive, and a bergère upholstered in faux fur as well as a minimal brick-red-velvet sofa for her, a fan of all things modern.

Seeking middle ground can lead to unexpected dynamism. When he first met his husband, Atlanta designer Vern Yip gravitated toward clean lines and Asian antiques. But his husband “brought a lot of European antiques into the picture that I never wanted and always felt kind of claustrophobic around,” Mr. Yip said. The happy medium they found was far from middle-of-the-road. “He had this dining table that had a ton of carvings. It was really well made but very old European. And we paired it with these Brno chairs—black leather and chrome—and it just sang, you know? They gave each other space.”

Pulling a common nostalgic thread from a pair of clients’ pasts helped PJCArchitecture find a design detente for the couple’s lakeside second home in Indian Lake, N.Y. Rob Maher, a retired Metropolitan Opera chorus member, asked for something resembling a Japanese tea house, while his wife, Deborah Allton-Maher, a retired Metropolitan Opera dancer and attorney, longed for the lusciously loggy cabin in the 1981 film “On Golden Pond.” After learning that the couple had toured Japan several times, the New York City architects found consensus in a shared memory of shou sugi ban (charred wood), a common feature of the country’s temples. The bridging fix: The architects sided a modern Adirondack pitched-roof house with the material. “We loved it,” said Ms. Allton-Maher.

Therapist Mr. Real’s bottom line: “You can bully your way and get what you want in the short run. But you’ll breathe in that solution in the long run, in your partner’s resentment,” he said. “If you frame it as a power struggle in which one of you wins and the other one loses, you both lose.”

I didn’t want my husband and I both to lose, so I (mostly) quit being a tyrant. I relented on two of James’s desires, a pair of leather-and-walnut chairs and channel-tufted leather bar stools. And you know what? They look great next to my white bouclé sofa and the Deco-ish barrel armchairs I chose in a cinnamon velvet—and I think they’re all destined to live happily ever after.



MOST POPULAR

What a quarter-million dollars gets you in the western capital.

Alexandre de Betak and his wife are focusing on their most personal project yet.

Related Stories
Property
China’s Housing Market Woes Deepen Despite Stimulus
By REBECCA FENG 18/06/2024
Property
I.M. Pei’s Son Speaks of His Father’s Legacy of Creating ‘Places for People’ Ahead of a Retrospective in Hong Kong
By ABBY SCHULTZ 12/06/2024
Property
THE EAST COAST CAPITAL SETTING THE PACE IN THE AUSTRALIAN REAL ESTATE MARKET
By Robyn Willis 06/06/2024

Home prices declined at a faster pace in May in major cities, while other data show a mixed picture for the world’s second-largest economy

By REBECCA FENG
Tue, Jun 18, 2024 3 min

China’s broken housing market isn’t responding to some of the country’s boldest stimulus measures to date—at least not yet.

The Chinese government has been stepping up support for housing and other industries in recent months as it tries to revitalize an economy that has  continued to disappoint  since the early days of the pandemic.

But fresh data for May showed that businesses and consumers remain cautious. Home prices continue to fall at an accelerating rate, and fixed-asset investment and industrial production, while growing, lost some momentum.

“China’s May economic data suggest that policymakers have a lot to do to sustain the fragile recovery,” Yao Wei, chief China economist at Société Générale, wrote in a client note on Monday.

The worst pain is in the property sector, which has been struggling to deal with oversupply and weak buyer sentiment since 2021, when a multiyear  housing boom ended . The market still doesn’t appear to have found a floor, even after Beijing rolled out its most aggressive stimulus measures so far  in mid-May  in hopes of restoring confidence.

In major cities, new-home prices fell 4.3% in May compared with a year earlier, worse than a   3.5% decline in April, according to data released Monday by China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Prices in China’s secondhand home market tumbled 7.5%, compared with a 6.8% drop in April.

Home sales by value tumbled 30.5% in the first five months of this year compared with the same months last year.

“This data was certainly on the disappointing side and may ring some alarm bells, as May’s policy support package has not yet translated to a slower decline of housing prices, let alone a stabilisation,” said Lynn Song, chief China economist at ING.

Economists had also been hoping to see a wider recovery this month after Beijing started  rolling out  a planned issuance of 1 trillion yuan, the equivalent of $138 billion, in ultra-long sovereign bonds in May. The funds are designed to help pay for infrastructure and property projects backed by the authorities. Investors  gobbled up  the first batch of these bonds.

Monday’s bundle of economic data, however, underlined how the country still isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Retail sales, a key metric of consumer spending, rose 3.7% in May from a year earlier, compared with 2.3% in April, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. While the trend is heading in the right direction, it is still a relatively subdued level of growth, and below what most economists believe is needed to kick-start a major revival in consumer spending.

The expansion in industrial production—5.6% in May compared with a year earlier—was down from April’s 6.7% increase. Fixed-asset investment growth, of which 40% came from property and infrastructure sectors, also decelerated, to 3.5% year-over-year growth in May from 3.6% in April.

Key to the sluggish economic activity data in May—and China’s outlook going forward—is the crisis in the property market, which has proven hard for policymakers to address.

The property rescue package in May included letting local governments buy up unsold homes, removing minimum interest rates on mortgages, and reducing payments for potential home buyers. It also included as its centerpiece a $41 billion so-called re-lending program launched by the People’s Bank of China, which would provide funding to Chinese banks to support home purchases by state-owned firms.

The hope was that by stepping in as a buyer of last resort for millions of properties, the government would manage to mop up unsold housing inventory and persuade wary home buyers to re-enter the market. In turn, Chinese consumers, who have  most of their wealth  tied up in real estate, would feel more confident about spending again, thereby lifting the overall economy.

But the size of the re-lending program wasn’t big enough to convince home buyers, said Larry Hu , chief China economist at Macquarie Group. “Meanwhile, their income outlook also stays weak given the current economic condition,” he said.

For the property market to bottom out and reach a new equilibrium, mortgage rates, which stand at around 3-4% in China, need to be as low as rental yields, which are currently below 2% in major cities, said Zhaopeng Xing, a senior China strategist at ANZ. He said that a large mortgage rate cut will need to happen eventually.

The other key part of China’s push to revive growth revolves around the manufacturing sector, with leaders  funnelling more investment  into factories to boost output and reduce the country’s reliance on foreign suppliers of key technologies.

The result has been a surge in production. But with domestic consumption not strong enough to absorb all those goods, many factories have been forced to cut prices and seek out more overseas buyers.

Data released earlier this month showed that  Chinese exports rose  faster in May than the month before.

However, the export push is  butting into resistance  as governments around the world worry about the impact of cheap Chinese competition on domestic jobs and industries. The European Union last week said it would  impose new import tariffs  on Chinese electric vehicles, describing China’s auto industry as heavily subsidised by the government, to the point where other countries’ automakers can’t fairly compete.

The U.S.  has also hit  Chinese cars and some other products with hefty duties, while countries including Brazil, India and Turkey have opened antidumping investigations into Chinese steel, chemicals and other goods.

Beijing says such moves are protectionist and that its industries compete fairly with global rivals.