For couples setting up a new home together, it’s a challenge: how to merge two sets of stuff and two decorating styles into one space they both can love.
“Emotions get really high when it comes to your belongings if the person you’re choosing to spend the rest of your life with doesn’t love what you love,” says stylist Marianne Canada, host of the “HGTV Crafternoon” web series.
In our increasingly design-savvy world, many people come to coupledom with a clear idea of how their home should look. Even when couples try to accommodate conflicting tastes, they run into the space issue.
“Most of us just don’t have room for two full households together,” Canada says.
“You have to make some choices.”
Here, Canada and two other interior designers — California-based Betsy Burnham and Florida-based Laura Burleson — offer advice on mixing, matching and peacefully negotiating a merger of two homes.
Claim your favourites
Each person probably has a few treasured pieces of furniture or art that they can’t imagine living without. Burnham suggests that partners agree to each keep perhaps three or four of these pieces in their shared home. If one partner truly dislikes one of the other’s absolute favourites, consider changing the piece a little through painting or reupholstering.
Burleson cites one couple who disagreed over a set of cane-backed dining chairs. The solution: lacquering the chairs in a dramatic shade of charcoal grey that matched a modern, concrete and brass dining table.
“It takes repurposing things like that for people to look at them in a new way,” Burleson says.
“It’s such a great exercise as a first compromise. And we all know marriage is based on compromise.”
Burham agrees, and says this creative approach can work with almost any piece of furniture: For example, “if she’s always had a floral chair she likes to read in,” says Burnham, keep it but recover it in a more neutral fabric that both partners agree on.
Go with the contrast
Once those favourite pieces are chosen, Burnham suggests creating a clean slate by painting the walls a crisp white or a white shade with just a hint of colour. Then look at all the remaining furniture against this new backdrop as though you were shopping.
Rather than trying to group items that are similar, experiment with pairing those that contrast. All three designers say contrast can be the best part of decor. In fact, couples merging two households “have such a leg up, design-wise,” says Burleson, because they can creatively mix and layer a wide range of decor into one stylish space.
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