Decorating Compromises for the Sexes

It’s no secret that most men and women decorate differently. Men lean towards leather couches, overstuffed recliners and large-screen televisions - the bigger the better. Women tend to favor collections of knickknacks, floral sofas and throw pillows.

How can you smooth over the clashing tastes men and women have while creating a space both feel comfortable in? It's all about compromise.

What Color Walls?

What about painting those white walls another color? A man will usually say, “What's wrong with white? What's wrong with the way it is?” A woman wants to try all kinds of colors, from exotic colors to cranberry red or deep blues or vibrant yellows while men literally shake their head in disbelief.

The answer is surprisingly simple: use neutral earth tones like sage green and taupe; they satisfy her need for color but because they are neutral, they're not upsetting to him.

Furniture and Plain versus Print Fabrics

And when it comes to a sofa or sectional, men prefer leather, but women don’t. One solution is upholstery made of ultrasuede, a soft but pricey polyester microfiber that mimics real suede. But if a man has to have authentic leather, he can get just that - he gets his own turf in a club chair earmarked specifically for him.

As for fabric, women tend to prefer more ornamental designs. Men like solid colors in their upholstery; women like patterns, particularly florals. A neutral sofa in solid upholstery pleases the man, of course, but the compromise is all the decorative throw pillows the woman wants. The woman loves the decorative touches and the man feels like he's gotten what he wants - a beautiful but plain sofa. The woman can also have a side chair or two that could be covered in a more decorative fabric.

What to Do with that Television

And then there's the bane of many women's existence - the behemothic TV. For many men, TVs simply cannot be big enough. In women's eyes, any TV that can be seen is too big.

The compromise here is to leave the public areas for all to enjoy and, if possible, dedicate a room to the television. The beauty is that the family room is freed up to become what it always was - a place to read with the kids, play Scrabble, maybe do some homework or have a quiet cup of tea. Then, when it's time to watch a movie, you get up and go to the media room.

If you can’t dedicate a room as the media room, tuck the TV in an armoire, so when the TV is not on, it looks like a handsome piece of furniture instead of an eyesore. In the case of a large projection system, you may not be able to stash the screen and projector, but you can put the rest of it in an armoire.


Women are inveterate collectors, and here again the genders don't agree. The men simply see it as clutter. Too often collections are spread around a room - six pieces here, four there and so on. There are too many pieces and you don't see anything anymore. Collections should be contained and beautifully displayed. Collections come to life in display cabinets, where they can be admired by everyone.

Minimize Accessories

Pare down your accessories and put them together in simple, elegant and artful arrangements: one table lamp with a beautiful photograph next to it; one vase of flowers with one or two prized objects next to it. Men won’t object to that.

And if there's simply too much stuff, put most of it away, then rotate out the displayed pieces every three months or so. We forget how lovely our things are because they've been sitting in the same place so long we actually don't even see them anymore.

Who knows where the differences between the decorating styles of the sexes originate. But knowing they exist, you can work with them to design some pleasing decorating compromises that make a home you both enjoy.