Making the decision to renovate

In this column from the Last Word series, Duncan Stuart shares his findings about how couples make renovation and new kitchen decisions.

Couple cooking in a steel kitchen
COLUMN Duncan Stuart 

I work in market research and I love the job because it gives me license to listen to people and understand how we tick. Not long ago the subject was renovation and new kitchens. We wanted to find out about how couples make their decisions. 
To find out, I interviewed couples who had recently renovated their kitchens, and most of these people had gone to a kitchen specialist. On average, they had spent around $22,000. A number paid a lot more. I’d always thought the critical moment was how we negotiate with our suppliers. Not so. The real bargaining happens closer to home.
To set the scene I asked: had they purchased a new car recently? As it turned out, a number had, and in every case the purchase was a spur of the moment thing for the husband.  “I just saw the new Holden and knew I had to have it,” said one man.  “The thought of my wife in the Pulsar, and having a breakdown on the motorway at night – I was thinking of her safety.” 
“So, she drives the Holden?”  I asked. The man coughed embarrassedly. I already knew the answer.  “You know men,” she said. And they both laughed. That was the main pattern when it came to cars. The men seemed to regard it as their turf, and the fact that they’d spent $40,000 or $50,000 on a new vehicle wasn’t a matter for debate. 
So how about kitchens? Well now the rules were totally different. Here the decision seemed to dwell in no-man’s land. The wife couldn’t just go out and blow $20,000 on a new kitchen. Not without discussing it. And in most cases the men simply didn’t want to talk about it.  “Later, later...”  he’d say. And often the topic would lay dormant for years. 
But in a majority of households the wives eventually found ways to navigate around this impasse. In two cases, this is what they did. They waited until a dinner party and for the guests to leave. It is after midnight and the couple would be doing the late-night dishes, the husband drying the wine glasses. That’s when she would drop the heat-seeking missile.  “Don’t you think it’s about time we got a dishwasher?”
Couple washing dishes
Now show me a man, any man, who would even argue against that? Of course, he says yes. The trap is set. Next Tuesday morning he’s at work. The phone goes and it is his wife.  “Honey, the men have delivered the dishwasher...but it doesn’t fit under the sink. Darling, there’s nothing we can do. We’re going to have to remodel the kitchen.”
“She got me,” one husband told me, rolling his eyes like he should have seen the missile coming.  “She totally got me. You know women!” 
But the story isn’t over. Having convinced an unwilling husband to now venture into a kitchen showroom, suddenly his masculine impulses start to kick in. He sees the country kitchen cupboards and they remind him of a Morris Minor. No way! But there it is, gleaming in the corner: the brushed stainless kitchen with the German appliances. If this was a car, then this is the Mercedes SL Coupe with full 6.3 litre V8 power. It costs $15,000 more than the cheerful kitchen his partner has budgeted for, but no matter. “Let’s get this one!” he announces. 
“I thought the colours were a bit dark, but who was I was to argue?”  confessed the wife in the interview.  “You know men!”
And so we make our big renovation plans. We don’t always get what we want, as the Rolling Stones sang, but we do get what we need. And what we need most, I learned, is love and harmony with our chosen partners. Even as we’re renovating we’re happy to make sacrifices, and play games, to avoid big arguments. For richer and for poorer, our lives are better as a result.  

Interested in more columns by Duncan? Read The certainty of the new, the mystery of the old.  

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This column by Duncan Stuart featured on page 120 in Issue 05 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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