ASK SARAH : decorating difficulties

q:  Hi Sarah, I just moved in with my boyfriend of a little over a year and we’re butting heads over decorating our apartment. Neither of us had a lot of furniture, but what we did each bring to the house is an ugly mishmash and our tastes are totally different. Do you have any suggestions for a new-to-living-together couple on how to get past our decorating differences?  Best, Emily

a:  hi emily!  first, thanks for your question and i totally feel your pain.  i think lou and i spent the first 6 months we lived together arguing over just about anything we could think of.  it’s a big adjustment and on top of that you don’t have the comfort of a home you’ve known to help you keep your head on. the good news: all is not lost!  you can make a home together that reflects both of you and still feels cohesive even if you don’t start out on the exact same page. we did it, and although it took time and lots of effort, it was totally worth it.  here’s my advice:

one thing lou and i did that helped is we got rid of almost all major furniture pieces that we brought into the house individually and started from scratch (the only things we kept were things that both of us really loved, which was almost nothing).  this was hard, until i saw a giant piece of art that i couldn’t stand being put into storage and realized i would rather that be gone and lose some of my own things than have both. we chose pieces together that we agreed on. i took the lead in coming up with a basic design plan, then ran pieces by him for approval.  we lived with very little for some time, adding things as we could afford.  

don’t assume you’re always right. this was so hard for me, as i had some dated ideas about gender roles in interior design. be open to the idea that your boyfriend has ideas and viewpoints that are worth listening to.

find common design ground: if i had my way we would live in a house filled with gold and white and brass everything. it would be an amazing reflection of my most sparkly dreams. and if lou had his way he would live in a super modern, minimalist abode. where we found our common ground was a love of mid century design.  the house is still a bit cluttered for lou’s preferences and doesn’t feel like a palm springs vacation home the way i would prefer, but it’s a happy compromise and feels like both of us without one personality totally dominating. it’s worth it to compromise and sacrifice a few design dreams to have a space that really reflects you as a couple. 

any other advice for these new cohabitants my friends? would love to hear how you all negotiated the decorating in your homes.  and as always, send your questions my way, i’m having so much fun with this new series!

photo by emily johnston andersen via the brickhouse tumblr

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Reader Comments

  1. paige|

    this is great! i should probably stop dominating the design ideas and let my husband have some input. HOWEVER, i had to put a big red x on the golf tournament trophy…that he placed on the mantel when i wasn't looking. right?!

    Reply
  2. Erica|

    Great post! 🙂

    I wanted to ask, how do you stay positive and motivated in the early stages of starting a small business? How do you find strength to carry through the long hours and difficult days? I've just started my own business and have found difficulty in staying positive and motivated through the struggles of getting started. Any advice?

    Thanks Sarah! xx

    Reply
  3. Katrina|

    Love this new series! Wonderful advice that I will hold onto as I move into a new apartment this summer with my fiance! 🙂 thanks!

    Reply