design for couples: body language

As the newest design assistant at Seriously Happy Homes, I’m consistently amazed at how much confidence Rebecca’s clients have in her. Part of it is because she understands how to read between the lines. The other day, we were helping a client pick out a paint color. Within a few minutes of meeting this person Rebecca pulled out a wonderful green with cool, blue undertones that the client absolutely fell in love with!


Later, as we drove away, I asked her how she instantly picked the best color for the client. Rebecca explained that she was both listening to the client and watching their body language. As she fanned past the blue-green paint swatches, the client leaned in said a quiet “Ooo!” That told her everything she needed to know.

Middle aged couple sitting on the sofa having a dispute at home

Rebecca uses this talent for reading people a lot, and it’s especially handy when trying to get a couple on the same page. It’s common knowledge that
trying to make design decisions with another person can create friction. Most people assume that this is because the two people have different ideas of what the space should look like. Surprisingly, it’s more often that the two people have different ways of describing what the space should look like. That’s right! They may actually agree on the design and not even realize it!

Because she knows this, Rebecca usually tries to avoid describing her ideas, and instead shows the client her ideas and then (and this is the important part) pays attention not to their verbal responses, but to their body language as they look at the design ideas together.

Take a simple situation – picking a wall color for the master bedroom. If Rebecca asks the two people what color they might have in mind for a space, she’ll get either a blank look (“Umm, that’s why we hired you”) or two different answers (“Blue” and “Green”). Instead, Rebecca asks both people how they want the room to make them feel, and then shows them a series of colors, kind of like an eye test.

ia_cntr_classicfandeck004_540x395Without even having to hear their answers she’ll know which way to guide them because, without realizing it, each person will respond physically to colors they do (or don’t) like. If they love it they’ll lean in, or intake their breath, or say ooh, or ask a question. If they hate it they’ll lean away, or cross their arms, and usually stay silent (they don’t want to argue with a pro, but they’d never in a million years paint their walls that color).

If you’re trying to find common ground with your significant other or your roommates on a design solution, why not pull out the paint chips (or  look at photos of rooms on Houzz or Pinterest) and see what gets them excited! Tune in to what they aren’t saying by watching their body language and listening for those non-verbal cues. By paying attention, you can help your discussions go much smoother, and your happy home will thank you for it!

Now go out there and conquer your space. Together!

May your home always be happy!

Hi! I’m Rebecca West.

I’m not your classic interior designer because, frankly, I don’t care if you buy a new sofa. I do care if your home supports your goals and feels like “you.” Remember, happy starts at home!