When opposites attract, that can mean opposing tastes in home style and decor.
If one partner enjoys clean, minimalist spaces while the other loves mementoes and tchotchkes, who gets their way? What’s the compromise when one loves bold colours and the other prefers calm shades?
Interior designer Penny Drue Baird draws as much on her doctorate in psychology as on her design training when she works with couples decorating a home.
“I’m there as the mediator — like a marital therapist working out how to approach it so both persons don’t feel like they’re the one that can’t get what they want,” said Baird.
Baird and two other New York-based interior designers — Deborah Martin and Michelle Gerson — offer their insights about decorating a shared space.
Explain your vision: All three designers meet with each couple to find out “everything they are hoping to achieve, and the look they feel like they’re going for,” Baird said. Clients bring photos from magazines and design books to help explain what appeals to them.
You can have this meeting on your own to show your partner what you envision. And you may find that you have more common ground than you realized.
“It’s about discovery,” Martin said. Take the risk of showing your vision, and take in your partner’s vision with an open mind — you both may end up happily surprised.
Cohesive compromises: Gerson recommends making a list of items you both need in the room you’re decorating — plenty of seating in the living room, if you both like to entertain.
Find that common ground, she says, and try to agree on one major piece of furniture. Maybe it’s a sofa, with a shape that one partner loves while the other likes the fabric.
Once each person feels like their biggest requests have been heard, it may be easier to compromise on other details.
Another way to compromise: If one person likes a space full of colourful things and the other dislikes clutter, Gerson said, “then we try to organize the stuff. When stuff looks organized and purposeful, and not just like stuff all over the place, then people start to realize they do like having stuff around.”
If a home is big enough, couples with differing tastes might find it’s easier to compromise on the main rooms if they each get more say in other rooms, Baird said. One person might choose darker colours for a home library, for instance, while another can use bright, bold colours for their home office or hobby space.
Take your time: Gerson advises couples to not fear leaving a bit of empty space until the right piece is discovered.
“It’s OK if you have a fabulous sofa and a great coffee table and a rug,” Gerson said, and to then wait until you find a wonderful chair you both like.
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And with enough communication and patience, Baird says, most couples manage to decorate their homes without conflict.
“I’ve never had anyone get divorced,” she says, “until after we were done decorating.”