Dear Miriam,

You will probably think that I don’t have much to be worrying about, but I would appreciate your thoughts on the following matter.

My husband and I recently built our own home on the family farm. I have an interest in interior design as a hobby and I really thought about how I wanted the house to look and feel. I’m very happy with how it turned out and hopefully we can look forward to lots of happy years together there.

This is the issue: as a house warming present, my in-laws gave us a piece of art from a local painter. I know that this was really thoughtful of them and I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but it is just so not my style. I’d nearly go as far to say that I hate it.

It is a big piece, the kind that would usually go over the mantlepiece or somewhere quite prominent; not something that can be tucked away in a corner, out of sight and mind. My husband thinks it’s grand, but he would not have much interest in art or interiors. I just can’t imagine having to look at it for the next so many years.

I know I probably sound like such a snob. The last thing I want to do is offend them, but it’s hard to find a solution. If I don’t hang it up, I will probably end up insulting them invertedly anyway, but I really don’t want it in the sitting room.

Have you any advice for this situation?

Sarah, Munster

Miriam responds

Dear Sarah,

Advice? Hmm … stage an elaborate art robbery?

Of course, I’m joking. I can understand that you have a particular aesthetic in mind for your house, and this just doesn’t fit what you had planned for your forever home. You have to live with it, at the end of the day.

I can also see, though, that your in-laws probably put a lot of thought into choosing a gift that they hoped that you would love and cherish. I’m quite sure that they did not buy you something that they felt you would hate. In that sense, I think they would rather that you had something that you liked, rather than something that you had to pretend to like. That just defeats the purpose of a gift altogether.

I’m not sure if this was a commissioned piece, or a painting from the local artist’s own collection. If the latter, I wonder would it be possible to exchange it for a different piece from their gallery that might be more to your liking?

In terms of addressing this with your in-laws, you don’t have to get into the nuts and bolts about why you don’t like the piece. You could just say that given your chosen colour scheme etc, a different piece would actually complement your home better and would they be ok if you arranged a swap (if this is possible with the artist, of course).

Maybe other readers will have some advice on how to deal with this conundrum; if so, I will publish any useful tips if people get in touch.

At the end of the day, it’s probably not something to lose too much sleep over. Worst-case scenario is you end up hanging it somewhere that you don’t have to look at too often, eg a guest bedroom. At least it will have a story to it. And isn’t that really what makes a home at the end of the day?

Wishing you and your husband the very best of luck, health and happiness in your new home.

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