Dear People in Relationships,
Happy 2016! May this be a prosperous, non-furniture buying year for you and your loved one. I adore a good room renovation or sofa-upgrade, but I do not wish upon any of you the displeasure and sour taste that buying furniture with a significant other can bring. Oh, you think it will be fun and easy. You have so many options! So much freedom! A new coffee table will finally make your Living Room complete! It should be a happy experience for you and your loved one. But its not. Its neither fun nor easy. "But we're in love!", you say. Furniture buying doesn't care that you're in love. It won't matter. Someone will come out the winner, and the other will fork over their credit card.
I consider furniture buying with a significant other a kind of war. You have to strategize, pick your battles. It helps to drop hints here and there. I suggest opening up the webpage for your favorite sofa on their iPhone so they stumble upon it when they least expect it. Or print out a picture of that dining table and stuff it every random place imaginable: car console, a pair of socks, their gym bag. Anything that keeps them on their toes. Let them know that you mean business and you're not going to give up your quest to have that reclaimed wood table for next year's Thanksgiving dinner. Keeping the other one happy and oblivious until you pounce and catch them off guard with your statement of "THIS IS THE ONE WE'RE GETTING" also gets the job done, if you want to be tyrannical about it. Of course, you try to be diplomatic in the beginning, you really do. But we wouldn't have wars if everything could be solved with careful, politically-correct discussions and debates, now would we?
It happens to people at any age or stage of relationship. Wether you're newly married, or you just celebrated your twentieth year together, there are always casualties to the War of Furniture Buying. Take my parents for example: they're empty nesters with a Bonus Room that is finally no longer the teenage boy crash pad. For years, it was in constant use as a makeshift bedroom for my brother's friends - a merry-go-round of couch surfers, of sorts. Recently my mother, in her infinite wisdom, decides that the over-sized sectional that collected the stench of sweaty feet and body odor for the last ten years needed to go. My dad's take on the situation? "Nah, its just getting broken in!". He takes the if it ain't broke don't fix it adage a little too literally. In the end, Dad ended up staying home, watching the golf channel glumly, while Mom and I went to Crate and Barrel to find a new sectional. The victory was hers.
The time had come for me to upgrade my bedroom. As it turns out, IKEA furniture is great, as long as you don't use it everyday for three years. My dresser was falling apart, partially because of the amount of clothing I was attempting to stuff in it - but that's beside the point, and my full-size mattress was morphing itself to resemble lumpy cardboard. No amount of memory foam toppers could save my back from the lumps & bumps - I Princess-and-the-Pea'd that thing.
Things were getting serious between my boyfriend and I (and also, I'm poor), so I proposed that we should upgrade my bedroom furniture together in the hopes that "someday we'll be married and live together so we might as well buy the furniture we both like now". This was my first strategy of war: plant a seed that would result in not only getting new bedroom furniture, but would share the cost. You're probably thinking that I'm cold and heartless and a terrible person, but THIS IS WAR! (sidenote: I'm really not awful) So the search began for affordable beds and dressers that wouldn't cost us an arm and a leg.
Right from the start, I knew we were in for a battle. We have totally different tastes - I love cleaner, modern lines in colors of white and beiges. He gravitates towards the dark leathers, more masculine pieces (which is fair). We're both hard-headed so there was really no compromising to be had. Someone was going to have to lose.
I strategized that if I could just wear him down with my suggestions, that eventually he'd have to cave. On the days he was working 12+ hours offshore on the drill ship, I'd send a list of my favorite options to him. I figured that he would be so exhausted at the end of the day (when he checks his email) that maybe he'd just give up and say, "Just buy the one you want. Stop bugging me". But of course I wouldn't love a man that caved that easily. He fired back his own list right back to me. The games had begun.
We argued over the dresser first. As it was the cheaper of the two pieces we were going to buy, that battle only took about ten emails back and forth with images and links to our favorite options. He had his reservations about buying a dresser from a less expensive furniture retailer only because of the materials used. "Are you really sure you want a dresser made out of MDF?", he'd ask over and over. I would snap back with something like, "Yes, this is what I do for a living!" or "I have excellent taste!". He was very diplomatic to seldom mention that the IKEA dresser that was currently falling apart before my eyes is also made out of particle board and was once new and shiny too.
But I won the battle of the dresser and we agreed upon the Olly dresser from Overstock. It was within budget and met my criteria for mid-century mod. Eric was thrilled, I'm sure.
MEG - 1
ERIC - 0
You should know that I don't give up without a fight very easily. When I was eleven years old, I even wrote an essay to my parents as to why I deserved to attend an N*Sync concert. (It didn't work, but that's beside the point). After firing links to beds on Overstock and Wayfair back and forth for several weeks I decided that if he could somehow visualize how I would pair the bed and our selected dresser in the room, that he would definitely agree that my favorite option was best. I made some very crude mock-ups to backup my argument. If this somehow ended up in litigation, at least I'd have proof that I was being thorough and thoughtful.
This was going to be the N*Sync essay to my bedroom furniture debate. This was going to end the discussion once and for all and prove to my boyfriend that the Somerby bed was, yes, more feminine, but look how well it worked with the dresser and the rest of the decor!
What happened? I won. Well, sort of. We "compromised" on the Fava wingback bed instead (my next-best option). And in hindsight, I hate to admit it, but he was right. It does look better to have a less-feminine bed and it could work with any sort of furniture or decor in the future. We ordered the Fava bed and called it a tie.
MEG - 1
ERIC - 1
I've heard that if you ever want to test a relationship, try building furniture together. Of course, I thought this would never apply to me and Eric because we're so like-minded in a lot of ways. We both have very strong OCD tendencies and have somewhat construction-related backgrounds.
The dresser arrived from UPS in four large boxes that were so heavy that we had to carry them up the stairs in tandem. Once opened, the packages exploded with about 100 screws, nails and wooden dowels and a large array of varying sizes of wood-laminated particle board.
It was hell in a box.
We laughed, we cried (ok, I cried), hammers were thrown (not really), but we somehow made it to the finished product. The old wives tail was true - we tested our relationship to extents we didn't even know existed. As it turns out, we both have very different ideas about how furniture-in-a-box should be constructed: I believed that you should do it step-by-step, helping each other to do the same task. His method was working by efficiency - we each work on separate tasks in succession and put the pieces together as we go. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The main weakness surrounds the fact that I really have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to building furniture. Clearly, this is evident based on my past experiences with IKEA and my belief that they really do include extra screws in the box just to mess with you. Eric had faith in my skills, but I did not. Which led to me sitting around watching, sometimes Snapchatting, him work while he gave me small, easy, skill-building tasks to complete, like a toddler.
The final constructed piece was okay. It was one of those pieces that you look at and go, "meh". It did the job, but it wasn't spectacular. In fact, it was just what you would imagine the byproduct of toddler-like tears and particle board would create. The manufacturer knew that the pieces weren't cut exactly right and that when it was fully constructed, edges of the unfinished particle board were peeking through. But don't worry, they have us a "correction marker" to cover it up. That, folks, is when you now that you just bought yourself a solid piece of furniture. When even the manufacturer gives you a marker to fix their mistakes.
What came next was even sadder than getting a "correction marker" in your furniture assembly kit - I admitted defeat. I acknowledged that I shouldn't have ordered a cheaply-built piece of crap and wished that I had listened to my boyfriend's concerns about the choice of material.
But I had to WIN. And now I have marker-corrected particle board as my prize.
MEG - 1
ERIC - 2
At least the bed looks nice.