You know what can break the spell of those happily-ever-after bells ringing in the air after the proposal?
An impending move-in date.
Living in New York, I don’t take housing lightly. After seeing so many couples who lived together end up breaking up and going through the painful process of splitting their things and searching for last-minute couches to surf (while mending their broken hearts, no less), I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t move in until there was a fucking nonrefundable diamond on my finger. (It actually ended up being a beautiful pink sapphire, but I digress.)
Interestingly enough, actually merging our things together into a teeny-tiny one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side proved to be a great test of how we problem-solved as a couple, and it also gave me so much insight into how my future husband’s mind worked. For example, apparently dining chairs aren’t meant to have arms because they get in the way of eating, and coffee tables shouldn’t be see-through. Did you know these rules?
As ridiculous and specific as his furniture tastes were, I realized I couldn’t bulldoze him into making every décor choice I wanted (thankfully—I mean, you want them to have a backbone, right?). So I found myself listening to a software engineer’s ever-so-tedious analysis on coasters (can’t be square) and rugs (can’t be bumpy) that when a press email came across my inbox with the subject line “Furniture Shopping: The Secret Killer of Relationships,” I just had to laugh.
Thankfully, my software engineer and I made it to our wedding day while successfully furnishing our apartment, so I’ve put together a few guidelines on how you, too, can avoid killing an otherwise flourishing relationship as you take it to the next step—moving in together—with confidence.
Make the person with lesser taste throw their stuff away in stages.
Daniel, the engineer, was coming from his spacious New Jersey home where he spent five years accumulating gigantic nerdy gadgets like a 3D printer and four computers with a personal server and a dehumidifier the size of a tubby 5-year-old (to put that into Manhattan real estate terms, it took up the entire walking space of our bathroom).
While he was forced to give up his bed, his sofa, his dining table and chairs, and that hideous 3D printer, I relented in allowing him to keep the impractically large dehumidifier and a table the size of the entire length of our living room—just so that he didn’t feel like he was losing his bachelor identity.
Here’s the key: After living in the apartment for a year and pointing out that his gigantic desk got zero playtime, he conceded to replacing it with a smaller desk that just happened to fit our new midcentury aesthetic. Building a home in stages helps lessen the immediate harshness of change and allows both partners to realize that giving up on what was yours doesn’t mean you can’t create something new together.
Decide on a color palette so that the little things are fair game.
A simple way to help make sure you’re both visually on the same page is to start with a mood board. This way it’s not a debate or a learning curve every time you’re ready to buy another piece of furniture. How does your forever roommate feel about rattan? Does Scandinavian minimalism speak to their soul? For accents, would they go for black, white, or gold? Landing on the overarching style together will allow for a more curated shortlist as you tackle each room.
One question we had to answer straight away: How much pink is too much? For us, the limit was two large items—an accent chair and sheer pink linen curtains. By establishing that our color palette would include blues, greens, and, yes, corals, I didn’t have to consult him whenever I wanted to purchase a throw pillow that happened to have a pink accent or a magenta vase. Once you’ve established the vibe of the room and mutually agreed on the bigger pieces, the small accents can be a shorter, less intense conversation.
So, about mutually deciding on those bigger pieces…
I mentioned that Daniel is a nerd, yes? Every single appliance in our house had to be certified and positively reviewed from three independent sources. That’s why when we were looking into purchasing our first washer/dryer, after extensive research (trust me), LG was the clear choice. LG has been dominating the laundry award circuit with Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, and ACSI (there’s your three!).
And outside of the fact that it passed Daniel’s meticulous scrutiny, it’s pretty and smart (look, ladies, you can have it all). The washer and dryer, like most appliances these days, come with an app. You can select a cycle, start or stop a wash, and get status updates on how your load’s doing all from your smartphone. It even works with the robot in the house, meaning we can yelp at Alexa to see how much longer the laundry will take. Future, is that you?
Set a veto number, and honor it.
Once you’ve established your joint aesthetic, give each a set of undebatable vetoes. That way if the other partner doesn’t like something but can’t come up with the words to explicitly communicate why for god’s sake they don’t like this flawless $2000 floral Anthropologie armchair?! they can exercise a veto in peace.
If you need a third party to mediate, head to the polls.
Sometimes you might need a tiebreaker, and in that case, Instagram is a helpful mediator. Daniel and I were almost finished with our living room; we had picked all our big pieces (the sofa, coffee table, rug, and accent armchair) and needed to round out the seating around the coffee table. Should we get a bench? Two matching chairs? Ottomans? After consulting our Insta fam, we confidently bought a set of rattan ottomans to complement the midcentury-modern vibe.
And if I were to leave you with one last piece of advice so that you can move in with your partner/fiancé/spouse with confidence, it’s to remind yourself (through all the furniture decisions and revelations of differing tastes) that you love this person. Your relationship will outlast all the pieces you end up bringing in, so focus on the relationship as priority… even if that means foregoing that amazing Anthro armchair.