Updated: Dec 23, 2020
With Valentine's Day coming up I thought I would tackle a major sore spot for a lot of couples...(cue the dramatic music) decorating. Moving in together is a major step for any relationship. Many people think that the hardest part of living together will be those extremely private details or strange habits that you've hidden away from each other emerging with your cohabitation. Sorry but no, learning how to handle each others idiosyncrasies will pale in comparison to combing two design styles and two households of furniture without complete and utter relationship meltdown.
The first rule for cohabitation that not only works for life but for design is compromise. Trying to blend two design styles will be tough, but with respect, communication, and (you guessed it) compromise it can be done.
Before you can even think about combining design styles, you've got to first combine the things you own. Whether you are moving into a new place together or one of you is moving into the other's place, the tips below can definitely help the transition.
As I mentioned before, in any good relationship communication is key when it comes to sharing a space and making it your own. Unfortunately, many times this doesn't happen when it comes to design because there tends to be one person that takes over. If you want to create a home that you both will love you need to talk about your wants.
I always suggest to my clients to sit down and make separate lists of things they want in their home whether its pieces of furniture you want to keep, a certain color, or a particular vibe you want the space to exude write it down and then make note what is priority for you from that list. By doing this both people are heard and you can easily see where your wants overlap.
Budget Moving in together is typically a test for how well couples will work together financially. To avoid any surprises and to avoid putting yourselves into major debt over creating the Pinterest perfect home, create a master budget for decorating your home—and stick to it!
Listen the majority of people (myself included) do not have the funds to just go out and buy all new furnishings to create the style they want. When it comes to deciding what to keep verses replace take a good look at those big purchase items (like furniture) and see if you can upcycle anything to work for your new style by repainting it or having it reupholstered. This will not only save your budget, but you will now have items that look new but feel familiar until you are financially comfortable enough to upgrade.
Create A Palette Together
Creating a beautiful home is very personal, which is why I always tell my clients not to focus so much on what is currently trendy, but more on what they love or are drawn to. Real talk, if you're working with a designer/decorator they are there to help you and give you direction and ideas. When it comes down to it you live there not them so if something doesn't feel right or you don't love it you probably never will. And lets be honest, no one wants to spend money on something that they will end up redoing right away because they were pressured into it.
When figuring out what look you want for your home pull inspiration from where you both are from, what you're interested in, where you've traveled, a vibe you like. Then think about why you like (or dislike) those places/things. Maybe it's the weather, or the scenery. Maybe it makes you feel a certain way. The answer to those questions can then be translated into colors, textures, art, decor, and furniture.
For example, when it came to figuring out a color palette for our first home my husband, Blair and I easily agreed on going with a grey wall color throughout. Blair is from New Zealand and when he told me he wanted to live Stateside for awhile I knew it would be a big change for him, especially being in the Midwest, so I really wanted to incorporate as much New Zealand into our home as possible. For the accent colors we pulled from his love of the ocean and have gone with shades of blue. To warm things up a bit and help tie in the original oak wood floors (very Midwest) we chose coordinating wood hard surfaces with a bit of an industrial flare as a nod to my time in and love of Chicago. To keep things a bit more modern and give the walls a pop, we painted all of the trim white. All of the textures have a more natural feel. While the majority of the art is a nod to NZ, gives hints to waves, or are pieces we've picked up from our travels. The overall feel of the color palette resulted in a very cozy and relaxing vibe to the spaces.
Blend Your Styles
Once you have an idea of what you want for a palette it's time to combine your separate items together and/or shop for new ones. Instead of pinpointing a specific style to work off of use shared details to create an eclectic mix of your individual design styles which will be something you will both love and feel comfortable in.
The key to this step is to remember that you're moving in together and you're creating a style that reflects ours not mine. You can't expect your partner to sell, donate, or get rid of most of their things so you don't have to. Now I'm sure you can argue that your things are better, but honestly don't we all think that our things are better than the other persons? The exception to this would be if one of you actually has better quality items. When I say quality I mean new (less than 5 years old) versus those janky college or hand-me-down pieces. This should be the time for all of that mismatched, dorm chic furniture to disappear if possible.
Remember that list I recommended you make in the Communication step? Time to put it to use. Now is the time that you will compare your lists and decide together what you'll be putting in your new space. While doing this make sure you are asking yourself why you want to keep certain items. If the only answer is "But I've had this forever," you might want to re-evaluate. Don't force your partner to be stuck with something because you are a creature of habit.
When it comes to your tchotchkes/sentimental items the best solution is to box the majority of them up for safe keeping. Pick out a handful of your absolute can't live without things to put on display. Since the goal is to have the space reflect both of you, you don't want the whole thing to be filled with twice the accessories or showcase only one person's personality. You can eventually come back to these boxed items once you think you have your space the way you want it and figure out if you want to purge anything or add anything else to the space.
Embrace Your Differences
If you and your partner are having a hard time finding a middle ground when it comes to design choices compromise is going to be your best friend. To keep rooms feeling gender-neutral I always suggest using light or dark colors throughout. No, this doesn't mean you have to go with white or beige for your walls a muted blue or green can feel just as neutral. Sticking with a neutral color will allow you to blend both masculine and feminine elements in your pops of color, art, and decor. When it comes to purchasing items to fill in the gaps, go shopping for them together. This will give you the option to find items you can both agree on, and you can spend time together. Finding a middle ground on even the most basic things like dishes or towels will make the experience fun, and you'll enjoy being able to put the finishing touches on your spaces.
Struggling with finding that perfect wall color? Contact us to set up an in home or online color consultation.
A big debate I deal with is the recliner. A typical Midwest staple it is the main stalemate I run across when blending styles. She hates that bulky, frumpy eye sore in the middle of the room, but that is his go to chair to watch the game in. Thankfully furniture designers have solved this one for all of us designers with the modern recliner (really, really, thank you!). This recliner gives the clean lines of a more modern accent chair she wants while still providing the reclining, swivel, and comfort he loves.
The great debate in my own house...Pillows! Blair has a very firm opinion of no pillows on the beds or the couch or the accent chairs. When he told me this I think I actually grabbed by heart and gasped. Our compromise was one large statement pillow on the bed in our bedroom, a sham set on the guest bed, and two accent pillow sets for the living room (none of which of course on his chair of choice). While the compromise does not fully satisfy my love of decorative pillows I am embracing the more minimal look and and quite happy with the pillows I do have around the house.
Change Takes Time
In the beginning, especially if you're both moving into a new place together, it can feel really overwhelming blending everything together. This is when you need to remember that it doesn't have to happen all at once. Prioritize your furniture especially if you don't have the room to store everything and go from there. Design is not forever, it is constantly changing just like we do as people and your home should reflect that change. So take the pressure off of yourselves and remember to breathe.