Best time to combine
“The time when people are moving in together as a couple is usually a really good, positive time, when both people may be really open to try to compromise or find a middle ground when it comes to decorating choices,” says Stein.
We asked her to recap a few of her most common suggestions that could apply equally to fresh newlyweds and established couples who share their living space.
Bridge your décor divides. “This isn’t a contest to see who wins the style battle. Even if one loves traditional while the other loves modern, good design can bring the two together in perfect harmony,” says Stein. “Combining things can be the best way to design, anyway. It makes the space look more interesting when there’s a variety of looks,” she says. “I think it’s really important for both people to see their styles reflected in a home.”
Pare down your duplicates. When there’s suddenly two of everything, try to make choices mutual with impartial questions and review. What works best in the home? Which item fits the space best? Which of the two is better quality? “Really try to avoid a situation where one person’s stuff all stays, while the other keeps nothing,” she suggests.
Renew sentimental favourites. Accept that one person’s cherished family heirloom might be another person’s eyesore, but do try to find a meaningful compromise. “It could mean recovering a favourite chair in a different fabric, or maybe thinking of a different way to use a piece: An old dresser that belonged to your grandmother could maybe fit in the foyer, instead of the bedroom.” Refinishing, repainting, reupholstering or changing hardware can breathe new life into an old favourite and also make it into something that you can both share in.
Carve out personal space. “I think everybody should have a place to sit in their own home where they feel comfortable and can relax,” says Stein. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in a dedicated room, she suggests, just a comfortable chair in a reading space or office in a second bedroom, or away from the main living space.
Plan it like you mean it. The best time to plan your new décor as a couple is before you start shopping for furniture or physically moving things around, suggests Stein. “Take the time to sit down and plan. Think about what you want to do. Take pictures of everything you have, to help you make decisions. Measure everything, so you know what really fits. It’s one big puzzle, so start by looking at all the pieces you have.”
Strive for harmony on money matters
While you’re planning, don’t sweep finances under that new rug. While you may agree to disagree on décor, it’s important for couples to see eye to eye on household finances, from who pays the mortgage to who claims tax credits to how much you spend on new furniture or renovations.