Thursday, July 19, 2007

Long Distance Decisions

Sure Fire Method for Avoiding Decorating Arguments

I got to thinking about all the choices that have to be made when building a house from scratch. Because we are doing it, that's why. And we are living in Arkansas but the house is being built in Massachusetts. Everything down to the cabinet knobs is fraught with potential disagreement.

Do you feel overwhelmed by wallpaper books? Do you get bewildered picking out paint samples. It may not be high up on most people's list of Things That Cause Anxiety Attacks, but it can certainly toss some people into a first class tizzy that results in putting off the project.

Since I am a big fan of making something happen as soon as I decide that I want it to happen in the first place, I am amazed at the months it takes some people to make a decision.

If you visit one of these people you might see a half a painted wall, another wall with four long stripes of various beige tones, and eight wallpaper books that are overdue from The Dakor Center.

Perhaps you've stopped by a friend’s house to bring over a half dozen ears of fresh corn, but before you leave you must listen to the alleged dilemma:

1. the aesthetic reasons behind the ‘stripes that go down’ patterns.

2. the possibilities of "going with the flowery choices"

3. the sheen concerns around the satiny group

4. why it's got to have at least a hint of mauve in it

5. and not be "too" feminine

Your friend wants you to look at the 34 samples she's narrowed it all down to and rank order them. Then she will want to argue with you about the order in which you placed them, or the price, or whether it might be a good idea to run over and get more books, like the ones with textured backgrounds. Or flocking. No! No flocking. And don’t make me tell you why I don’t like toille.


If you would like to help a person like this, or you ARE a person with a wallpaper dilemma of your own, here's a game to get you through it. Let's just start with the wallpaper. It's making a comeback, and lots of folks like it in bathrooms, regardless.

The rules are strict, but if you follow them, the decision will be made within 24 hours, not months.

1. Go to the wallpaper store, poke through the books for a few that look to be what ever you think your style is. Don't justify it. Just go with your impulse. BUT you may only check out four books to take home.

No. Not five, four.

2. When you get home, rip up a sheet of white paper into 25 strips.

3. As you look through the books, put a piece of paper to mark the page
every time something catches your eye. But you may only make 25
choices. When the paper is gone, that's that.*

*Well, OK, you can move a piece of paper if you find another one you
love, but you CAN'T add a 26th piece of paper.

4. Don't keep looking through the books when you have done this. It's a

5. When your significant other comes home, the one who hates shopping and would keel over before entering a decorating center, the next round starts.

(If you live alone, you can do this yourself, but it would be best if you waited a day to do the next step)

When your partner is relaxed and ready, because you have warned this helpmate that his/her services will be needed for no longer than fifteen minutes, here's what you do:

You say, "I'm going to show you two patterns at a time for the "whatever" room. Out of the two, you tell me which one you like best."

Since you have already made 25 choices that you like (or hastily removed a few of them within the past few minutes due to a change of heart) you can't lose. You've already chosen things that would look good.

6. Each time your partner makes a choice, remove the paper from the
"Uh, uh" page.

Bye, bye.

Take the "Uh, Huh" choice and put it next to another option. Never more than the two options at a time.

7. No going back. Just keep going forward. You'll be down to the last two in no time.

8. Ceremoniously pull the last slip of paper from the books, thus hiding all of your previous options, because you now have wallpaper that you like, and your partner has picked his/her favorite.

Tah-da! Bring the books back the next day and order what you need.


Some places maintain a very large selection of wallpaper and permit you to wander the premises with a scissors. Not only is it great fun, but you can get a larger hunk of wallpaper, and it's not bound. Therefore, you can forget about the slips of white paper. You've come home with NO MORE THAN twenty five samples.

You take your partner into the room to be transformed and hold up two samples. Crumple one as soon as a choice is made and move on, as above.

The benefits of the alternative is that the store will have the wallpaper in stock and there's even less down time to worry about your decision.

People get hung up in decision making because they fear making the wrong one. Many times there is no wrong decision to be made. This college will give you options, ideas, and contacts that will be different that attending that college...but neither choice will be wrong.

Certainly choosing wallpaper is easier, when you think of it in that context.

Now. Go look in the Yellow Pages for something like The Wonderful World of Wallpaper and get yourself there.

Oh. By the way, don't go to more than one store. Have you learned nothing from the above approach?

Simplify, simplify.

This works for paint samples. This works for tile samples. This works for fabric samples.

Practice over the years allowed my husband and I to make every aesthetic choice we needed to make including carpet on a weekend blitz visit with our builder who is working hard 1500 miles away from us, his clients. I bet he feels lucky we aren’t cruising by the building site every live long day saying, “Maybe we should move that window a few feet over. You think we could get a different countertop?"


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