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The Modern Domestic Woman: Tips for surviving DIY projects with your significant other

My spouse, Peter, and I tend to work semi-harmoniously on home projects together. We enjoy the process of finding inspiration, picking out colors, tile, etc., and selecting new tools and supplies, but find the execution often brings moments of tense discussion. I usually take the role of cheap labor and child wrangling, while Peter does the more detailed work.

In our prechild days, we used to pair a nice bottle of wine with a home improvement project, which would inevitably stir conversation and boisterous laughter. On one occasion we painted our living room a lovely java color. As the bottle of malbec dwindled to mere drops, we noticed that one of us (we’re still not sure whom) “accidentally” painted a caterpillar on the ceiling. Our hysterics could be heard around the neighborhood, and we still reminisce about that project today.

Home decor doesn’t have to be just a dispassionate trip of buying random things and slapping any old picture on the wall. It’s about creating memories and building relationships – one project at a time. Pick an area of your home that needs a little sprucing and exchange Christmas gifts by way of intimate renovation.

And don’t “forget” to weave his style into yours. Once you get over the stubbornness of always being on the deciding end of home enhancement decisions, the fun really begins!

He loves his Cole Haan wingtips like you love your ballet flats, doesn’t mind going scruffy for the day even though you are consistently poised and polished, and almost always orders an extra side of bacon with his breakfast while you predictably prefer a fresh fruit salad for brunch. He’s the yang to your yin, complementary instead of conflicting, making your relationship one of balance; however, he is decidedly interested in peppering his home decorating opinion among your feminine approach. Let’s discuss how to appease the masculine in feminine decor without bruising either one of your egos and keeping an aesthetic equilibrium you both can enjoy.

1. Start with a chair. Most of the time, all a man needs is a little space to call his own, and a leather club chair can be easily femmed-up with a cashmere throw or silk lavender pillow.

2. Metal exudes strength, so opt for industrial accents like metal drawer pulls made from vintage pipes. The farmhouse trend pairs perfectly with this decor. Metal stools and cage-y light fixtures that can almost pass for chicken wire are also a sure bet! Can we say “delicate Man of Steel”?

3. Satisfy the little boy in him by introducing a little nostalgia from his youth and yours. I’ve found many a kitschy dinosaur on the ModCloth website, OR while you are creating your winter terrarium, add a few plastic dinos to the scene! These ideas, placed on his bedroom side table, will nicely mirror your collection of framed unicorn prints from your childhood.

4. Find a leather Chesterfield sofa. The rounded arms bring a soft feel to this sofa while the old-world “worn” look of the leather combined with studs and mahogany feet exude a manly flair.

5. Opting for copper instead of ceramic or stainless brings a rugged and textured look that will flatter delicate countertops.

6. Go gray when it comes to paint and choose a stone or porpoise hue. The sky is the limit in colors that compliment this popular color. Perfect for plum curtains or cranberry furnishings, gray will be a lovely canvas that will stop arguments in every household.

7. If your man is obsessed with everything nautical and screams out random quotes from “Moby Dick” in his sleep, it’s time to take that literary infatuation and translate it into art. Take to Etsy. Giant squid scenes abound! Appreciate the artistry of his interests. “Game of Thrones” has a beautiful cast, yes, but look to the background. The house sigils are a mastery of talent. Order some prints and frame them.

8. Make his hobby pretty. If he is a die-hard fisherman, find dainty décor that will arm you a simple response of: “But it’s a fish, my love. Don’t you like fishing?”

These recommendations should, at least, bring about an environment of compromise. The goal here is mixing and matching all the elements that make you as a couple beautiful and translating that into a home that feels uniquely the both of you!

Smitten with domestic life, but not to the point of unhealthy obsession, “The Modern Domestic Woman” author and St. Charles resident, Elizabeth Rago, is a freelance writer who spends her days writing for PB Kitchen Design in Geneva. You can visit her blog at or connect with Rago on Facebook at Feedback can be sent to

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