decorating as a couple

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The idea for this post came from a friend. She is getting ready to move to a new apartment with her boyfriend.  However, she has concerns with merging their design taste. She is a modern girl that abhors clutter and thrives on clean lines. He is enthralled with all things vintage and has sentimental attachments to collectables that he’s amassed over time. Now, that she’s entered into her thirties she wants to create an adult space for entertaining and an environment that exudes maturity while simultaneously demonstrates the seriousness associated with merging their lives together. The problem is that they have a difference of opinion on how to accomplish this goal.

This is a common problem for couples moving in together.  The solution is compromise.  Without compromise one person’s will dominates the other, which is a recipe for resentment. Some folks are fine with relinquishing control but for those of you who aren’t, here are five tips to make designing as a couple a little bit easier.

1.     Show respect towards your partner’s design taste

This is my first tip because I find that the best way to approach a potentially combative conversation is through positivity and respect. You may not like the over-sized black 80s sofa, but your partner does.  So when you criticize it, you run the risk of indirectly criticizing him/her. The best way to handle the topic of replacing it is to “couch it” in terms of “updating”.  Suggest replacing it with a piece that you both chose together. This will establish a mutual sense of ownership and pride.

2.     Clearly present your design ideas

It is easy to judge or to provide negative feedback, but it’s much more difficult to provide an alternative.  If you ask your partner to disregard their belongings, than you should be able to provide an explanation as to why, and offer a solution. For example, “Honey, I’d rather you donate the black sofa because I think it’s too large for our living room. I would prefer a sofa with a smaller foot print. Maybe we can research Danish modern sofas? They are known for being more compact and are currently popular in design.”

3.     Listen

In my opinion, lasting relationships are centered on compromise. Remember, your ideas are not more valuable than your partner’s.  After all, they make up 50% of the relationship. Listen to what they have to say! In regards to the earlier example, you’ve expressed that you’re not a fan of the black sofa and have provided your input on a potential replacement. Your partner may or may not like your idea. Maybe, you can concede on fabrication, pattern or color? Do not completely disregard their ideas, but hear them out! Their concerns are valid and may lead to a better outcome.

4.     Seek professional help

Sometimes couples aren’t able to see eye to eye, or don’t have the time to see the design process through to completion. In these circumstances it may be beneficial to seek professional help.  Working with an interior designer allows third party input. The designer can bridge the gap between styles to create a cohesive space that is both attractive and reflective of each member’s personalities. Plus, like in therapy, the designer can remain impartial…or at least be the bearer of bad news to your partner.

5.     Have fun.

Moving in together is a huge deal. In some cases, it is the next step towards marriage or a life-long commitment. This is your chance to exercise your creativity. Use those Saturday morning trips to IKEA, Pottery Barn, Room & Board or whatever store you frequent as bonding time, but most importantly have fun!!

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