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How Moving in With My Boyfriend Changed Both of Our Design Aesthetics

coastal-inspired bedroom

Emily Everyday

As someone who writes about interior design for a living, I obviously spend a healthy (okay, maybe unhealthy) amount of time thinking about how I would decorate my space. So it should go without saying that I made a mood board on Pinterest as soon as my boyfriend and I decided to move from the east coast to San Francisco. My inspiration was strictly California cool: A neutral color palette, plenty of plants, and all the cane and rattan a one-bedroom apartment could handle.

The problem is, my boyfriend’s design aesthetic is very different from mine. When I asked him to describe his design style, he jokingly replied, “Masculine, dark, Marlon Brando.” Honestly, I don’t think he’s wrong.

Over the past five years, I’ve noticed he has a penchant for pieces with a story. He loves old antiques, dark wood, and ornate details. As a movie buff, his old apartment and graduate school dorm room was covered in framed posters of his favorite films. And he loves to buy home décor whenever we travel.

Though I was incredibly excited to move in with my boyfriend and inevitably decorate our new home, I was slightly concerned our clashing design styles would be a complete disaster. But over the past five months of cohabitating, I’ve noticed both of our aesthetics have changed.

The problem is, my boyfriend’s design aesthetic is very different from mine. When I asked him to describe his design style, he jokingly replied, 'Masculine, dark, Marlon Brando.' Honestly, I don’t think he’s wrong.

At first, the shift wasn't about how we decorated our home but what we specifically didn't pack from the east coast. I lived in a studio apartment for five years, so my home was filled with monogrammed pillows, faux sheepskin throws, and the occasional female empowerment sign. But since I wanted our new digs to feel like home to both of us, I made the conscious decision to leave those overly personal belongings at my parents' house. And without realizing it, my boyfriend did the same. I mean, we've been here for months, and I haven't seen a single framed movie poster. 

But the more time we spend together—and the more time we spend making design decision after design decision—we've both been able to understand and embrace each other's perspectives. After visiting my co-working space and traveling to one particularly Instagrammable winery in Napa, my boyfriend understood the maximal-minimalist vibe I was trying to bring to our space. He didn't even flinch when I filled our living room window with plants or bought a trendy globe lamp.

"I've come to appreciate lighter spaces, like lighter colors and mood lighting," he explains. In turn, I've learned to celebrate his penchant for character and try to find new ways to tell stories through our home's design. Our built-in shelf is filled with old records, statues, framed pictures, and, sure, books. We proudly display our woven napkins from Peru and Guatemala at our almost weekly dinner parties. And I only cringed a little when my boyfriend proclaimed he preferred to paint his own canvas than buy pre-made art online.

But perhaps the best example of our merging design style occurred when we went consignment shopping shortly after moving into our space. You see, my boyfriend found these dining room chairs that he dubbed the most comfortable dining room chairs ever. While we do have room for a separate dining room, the wooden chairs had a dark, reddish stain that was in violation of my well-appointed Pinterest board. But instead of veto-ing these chairs, I searched high and low for a table that would match our chairs without making our dining room feel dreary. We ultimately found a white, slightly distressed, borderline-perfect dining room table.

Would my boyfriend have picked the dining room table? No. And it's okay. I wouldn't have given those chairs a second thought. But when the table and chairs arrived at our home, they looked perfectly imperfect. This combination isn't a reflection of my or his personal style, but a marriage of the two.

Honestly, isn’t that what cohabiting is all about? Sure, we will continue to have our design differences, but there’s something extremely poetic about putting your own, very personal aesthetic on the back burner and working together to create a home that is dreamier than either of you could’ve imagined. Creating a home that isn’t driven by ego or Instagram, but love.

Or, as my boyfriend put it, “This space has everything we love, and that’s exactly how it should be.”