Love is in the air, or is it? With Valentine's Day upon us, romance and relationships are front of mind. Which as an interior designer, got me thinking about the number one design challenge my clients come to me with time and time again: How to merge opposing decorating styles!
When you live with someone, it’s inevitable that you will have some differing opinions on how best to decorate. Maybe you’re moving in with your partner or have been married for years. You might have a few housemates or live with your best friend. Unless you live alone, there is ALWAYS the challenge of blending interior decorating styles. We’re all different, and so the aesthetics we love and the items we’ve acquired are bound to be different, too. And thank god! Could you imagine how boring it would be if every space was the same?
Not to fret, I’m going to share with you my top five tips on developing a harmonious love nest when you and your partner just seem to come from different decorating worlds.
Tip 1. Both people should start by asking themselves how they want to feel in the space.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Your home is nothing if it isn’t your sanctuary. It needs to be the place where you feel happy. Let your hair down, decompress and recharge to take on a chaotic outside world. Now, exactly how your home becomes a sanctuary is different for everybody.
Maybe you have a job that requires rigorous processes, offering little room for experimentation or imagination. Because of that, you might really crave a lot of texture, patterns, colour and artwork in your sanctuary. You need homewares that will excite your senses and allow you to escape the structured world of your nine-to-five.
Your partner on the other hand, might be a kindergarten teacher, which is rewarding but let’s face it, exhausting. After dealing with boogers, finger paint and messes all the livelong day, they would love nothing more than to come home to a clean, orderly and minimalistic space. That’s fine! The heart wants what it wants. But first you both have to identify that need. The need to feel good in your home, in your sanctuary.
Tip 2. Make a list of “must haves” and “absolutely nots”
A good rule of thumb is for each of you to make a list of all your items that have sentimental value. Then tailor a bit more. List at least three items that you can’t live without and at least three items you really don’t want in your sanctuary. Really take stock. What is it about these items that make them a “must have” and why are the other items “absolutely nots”?
I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t a chance that you and the other person might end up with very conflicting items on your respective lists. Chances are, you will. In comes the art of compromise. Offer one-for-one trade-offs until you both come to place you’re happy with.
If you’ve really taken the time to identify why you love something, then there’s always a way to make it work. And maybe after some thought you’ll realise that you’re holding on to an item for futile reasons and now is the time to get rid of it to make room for something better.
Perhaps you're holding on to an ugly lamp. Maybe that lamp has sentimental value because when you look at it you are reminded of how badly you wanted it at one time. How your younger self scrimped and saved when you were flat broke because you had to have it. That lamp might be a daily reminder of just how hard you've worked and sacrificed to get where you are today. It's not un-common to attach emotional value to material items. Once you realise this, you may decide you're actually okay to let the lamp go. Maybe not?
On the other hand, you could have a dining table that was made by your grandfather. It might be dated, but there’s no way you’ll part with it. Maybe your partner has a framed poster signed by their forever rock-god hero from a concert they attended in ‘95. Take stock, and then figure out how you can make them work.
Could you update the table with a fresh coat of paint and pair it with some cool modern chairs? Perhaps removing the signed poster from its cheap plastic encasement and having it professionally framed would elevate it into a real piece of art? Where there’s a will there’s a way.
Tip 3. Decide whether to merge everything or to separate styles by zones
Try to decide together if you want to merge styles in joint spaces or separate styles in different rooms.
If you decide to go the separate approach, you can still incorporate small elements of the other person’s aesthetic into the space, and vice versa. That way you have a cohesive flow and are still keeping things very interesting.
I can’t remember where I heard this, but it’s always stuck with me: Pretty goes with pretty. Now I know, not everything that the other person loves is going to be pretty, but through compromise, you can probably make it work.
Tip 4. Let colour be a uniting force
A good place to start when pulling a cohesive design together is with colour. Once you know what items you’ll keep and which items will need replacing, you can start creating a scheme.
Try to see what neutrals your joint items have in common and build from there. If you have a quirky piece, let it shine. If you have multiple quirky pieces, think about dispersing them throughout the home.
Just as we often use a colour wheel as a tool to figure out our colour scheme, (opposites attract!) you can use this trusty style wheel to see which contrasting styles work well together, too.
Don't worry if you and your partner’s styles aren't directly across from each other on the style wheel. Fortunately since 2016, interiors have steadily entered into an era of true eclecticism. You can have pieces that are European in influence, midcentury, art deco, and tribal all in the same space that work together seamlessly.
Tip 5. Go Shopping together!
Once you’ve purged to merge, go shopping together to find at least one piece that you both love. This exercise is particularly important if you are in a romantic relationship. As people continue the trend of pairing up later in life, we’re bound to have some carryover items from past relationships and our single lives. That is totally fine. Neither of you were living under a rock, if you were, you probably wouldn’t have found each other to begin with.
That being said, you have to clear some of the old and make way for the new. Even if the two of you join forces to purchase something as simple as a new side chair, it’s important to have something that is symbolic of making a choice together.
As I mentioned before, opposites attract. So if one of you loves more traditional and the other more modern, try to find a pieces that have modern lines, with a bit more traditional fabric or vice versa. By doing this, you are not only compromising but you will have a piece that will help to decisively unify your space.
Finally, if you’re finding all of this way too difficult, you might want to call in a professional. With the rise of remote design in this ever-connected world, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to create a professionally designed space that will ensure your love nest is the perfect sanctuary.
Have questions about merging your love nest? Let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to help you come up with a solution that makes everyone happy.