Taking the leap to move in with a significant other is a major relationship milestone that comes with plenty to celebrate. However, design-savvy individuals seeking to achieve a particular aesthetic may be wondering just how to incorporate a partner’s beloved furnishings and collections into that scheme. Fortunately, designers have plenty of advice to offer to those preparing to share a space for the first time.
"I often joke that part of my job as an interior designer is being a relationship coach,” designer Adnan Anwar says. “It’s exceedingly rare that couples see eye to eye on style, and I’m always caught right in the middle.”
However, Anwar—and the other designers we spoke with—have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to ensure that couples creating a home together for the first time feel satisfied and heard during the planning process.
I often joke that part of my job as an interior designer is being a relationship coach. It’s exceedingly rare that couples see eye to eye on style, and I’m always caught right in the middle.
“Even if one side is far less opinionated about the layout and aesthetic of their home, I always want both to be excited about the final result,” Anwar adds. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Read on for tips from Anwar and others on how to make the joint design process as seamless as possible.
Your partner may not know that a certain piece is especially important to you—or why this is the case—unless you speak up.
“It is important to be open, honest, and, most importantly, kind when combining spaces with a partner,” designer Danielle Chiprut says. “Speak your truth when it comes to the pieces that you love and are a must to keep in your home, and allow your partner to do the same. Share your love for these special pieces so that your partner truly understands what makes them special to you.”
“I often suggest that couples print out the design presentations that we send them, individually go through them, circle what they like, and then compare notes,” designer Ariel Okin says. “This is a very helpful way to combine pieces without getting into the personal. Plus, it’s a fun little game.”
Complete this exercise, and then be prepared to make some compromises. “Gather inspiration and communicate with your partner on how you want your space to look and feel,” Chiprut explains. “Once you decide on a direction together, allow that vision to shape your choices. Let your inspiration guide you—it will make the tough conversations much easier if you’re working towards a common goal.”
That said, a little juxtaposition of styles is always encouraged. “To me, the essence of great decorating is achieving balance through contrasts,” Anwar says. “I have some tried and true tricks I return back to, one of which is eschewing a matching dining set.”
For example, he recently paired a client’s heirloom dining table with clean, modern chairs that spoke to her boyfriend’s aesthetic. “This works as well in an apartment as it does in a formal dining room of a house,” Anwar explains.
He notes that gallery walls are another way of showcasing a couple’s variety of interests. Anwar adds, “When I’m dealing with a larger project, I try to give each individual a space where their style is more pronounced and vary the ratio of their styles in the rest of the house.”
It’s all about respecting each other, finding common ground, and not sweating the small stuff.
The concept of pairing modern pieces with more classic ones, which Anwar illustrates in his dining room example, is something that designer Paige Kontrafouris suggests as well, and this can work in any room of the home.
“While working with clients, I don't think I’ve ever encountered two people who really shared the same design styles exactly, and this can definitely lead to some disagreements,” she says. “Traditional furniture with modern art and bold pattern accents brings the best of both worlds.”
In some cases, couples may prefer to start anew with furniture and décor. For partners who are moving in together after each living with roommates or who have chosen to relocate to a new part of the country, this may simply arise out of convenience.
“Moving in with a partner can be challenging. You’re learning all about their quirks of living together while trying to agree on a style that helps both people feel at home and included in their space,” designer Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski reflects.
Rather than combining belongings, Piotrowski and her partner decided to start with a clean slate and sold most of their individual furniture, she explains. “This way, we could buy pieces together that felt like 'us', and we didn't rush it. We’ve slowly collected pieces over the past two years as we've found items that we both love.”
Of course, individuals won’t see eye to eye on everything, “but it’s all about respecting each other, finding common ground, and not sweating the small stuff,” Piotrowski adds.