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Stress of remodeling causes some couples to consider a split

By Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

Designer Nancy Hugo didn’t seem perturbed that a picture of one of her remodeled kitchens was used as a much-discussed example of bad design. Not even a little. Not a whit.

Which contrasts sharply with the results of a survey that showed that nearly half of couples who’d remodeled said the stress created friction – and 12 percent confessed they’d thought about divorce or separation.

To borrow from Rudyard Kipling: If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, you can be a successful designer.

Hugo is an Arizona kitchen designer with 28 years of experience. She has spent much of her career knocking down walls. “I’ve eliminated many walls to achieve the open-kitchen concept,” she said in an email.

She created the open kitchen that was pictured with the online column blasting open kitchens that I wrote about last week. The column was written by J. Bryan Lowder and appeared – with the photo – on Aug. 13 on Slate.

Bad design? Hardly.

Don’t take my word, though. You be the judge. Visit Hugo’s online site, http://nancyhugo.com, and click on “Before & After.” The open kitchen picture that ran with Lowder’s column is the third one down.

Before, the kitchen was completely enclosed, with a dropped ceiling. After, the light-filled kitchen features walls of soft green, an angled island with sink and microwave drawer, alder cabinets and granite countertops.

The new kitchen is pleasing to the eye and invites guests to linger.

The picture ran with appropriate credit to Hugo. Still, her restraint is impressive.

She republished Lowder’s column on http://designerscirclehq.com, a design blog she edits. It ran unscathed, with a simple note at the bottom: “This ... in no way reflects the opinion of the editor.”

Which brings us to that survey.

Houzz, the hugely popular online design and remodeling site, discovered that – surprise! – remodeling can be emotionally stressful.

The July survey showed that: Forty-six percent of those who responded online said remodeling and redecorating was collaborative – but the same percentage said it was frustrating. One-third don’t like their significant other’s design style – and a whopping 76 percent of those told their significant other just that.

One in five respondents made big decisions, from tearing down walls to picking furniture and appliances, without telling the other.

And, as I said, 12 percent admitted considering divorce or separation in the middle of the project.

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