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Design Design Tips Home Tours

Living Together In Design Harmony

June 30, 2016

It was almost a year ago that B and I moved in together; he was coming from an apartment that was as complete as you might expect from a young bachelor’s rental apartment — black Ikea furniture, brown and black bedding, a giant dog bed, a 50lb dog, and a torchiere lamp.  Am I being too harsh? Maybe, but this is what he brought with him. Recently, The Everygirl posted photos our revamped living room that showcased the change from my bachelorette pad (pre B’s arrival) — a room that underwent a big change but wasn’t a jolt on our wallet.  We turned “my bachelorette pad” into an “our pad” with a few simple steps — the same steps I apply to my clients’ homes when they find themselves in a similar situation.

Before it was “our pad”

Already, you are probably thinking, how does you incorporate items together when you don’t really relate to the others’ belongings? First, let’s remember that this is a choice you two are making (and a big one at that)! You are joining together to share a space that will be both of yours; it should reflect both of you, and you should both love it. Give yourselves, as cohabitants, a chance by creating a space where you are not overwhelmed, living on top of each other, or leaving either of you to feel like you are just staying in your own home or, worse, visiting someone else’s.

Step 1

moving imageDump it, donate it, remove it. First, if you haven’t moved yet, you both need to purge and be aggressive with it.  I don’t care what you think, there are items you both don’t need. If something doesn’t work, is damaged beyond repair, or is just a space filler in your home that has no meaning to you,  you should dump, donate, or remove it. Think of it this way, you have to pack it, move it and then unpack it, so you better love it.

Step 2

rufus on couch

Listen. This is probably the most important step. Figuring out why that weird jar collection is so important to him/her or why that tray collection is necessary will only make more sense if you take the time to find out why, rather than just deeming it ugly and not suitable. Be prepared to bend with each other and understand that while you may not understand, for example, how the other could love that creepy mask that was picked up on a trip, the other one does. Trust Rufus (above) on this.

Step 35D3_8792

Inventory. You have now purged (congrats! Feels good right?).  You are looking at exactly the items that you love and that brings you joy, spark great memories, etc. When joining items together, you don’t need to have excess stuff (4 dressers, really?).  Keep only what is needed and enjoyed. Overwhelming your space with items will only cause stress – it’s better to remove it. It will also make it easier for both of you to see what is needed for your new home. Take the time to make a list together of what you need/want in the space to make it work for both of you.

Step 4

5D3_8623Color. This is huge; color sparks different emotions in different people. Case in point, the above photo is of my beloved pink wall. I loved that pink wall; I painted that color almost as a statement to myself. I had moved into a new place, was starting fresh, and I wanted to use a color that I loved – nobody else’s opinion mattered. Well, as time went on and I met B, it did matter (and a lot), to him when he moved in. Together, we selected a color that we both enjoyed.  This was a huge step to finding our design harmony.  Paint is relatively cheap, but it’s huge on impact and emotions.

Step 5

art above couch

Hang it, lean it, switch it. Art is a personal choice, though there are two of you now so what are you to do? No, you don’t divide rooms and hang all his/her art in one little room while you get the rest of the house. Mix it up; sit down together and find a common thread through your artwork — ask youself which pieces work together in the same space? If you’re looking at personal photos, consider displaying them together.  Does he/she have family photos? Of course they do.  Incorporate these with your family photos to represent both your families and the ones you love.  If they are color photos, try using the same finish for the frames to unite them, or, if you have all types of frames, change the photos to black and white giving them a common thread. For my tips on creating a gallery wall – see here.

Step 6


Rearrange and re-imagine. It’s not easy on the wallet to simply go out and buy all new furnishings together, so re-imagine your place from scratch. Would you still put that sofa or chair where it sits now? If you have gone ahead and painted the walls, there is a pretty good chance that you will need to relocate a few things. For our home, I simply relocated the blue sofa, which is a pull-out, to the office, where it is perfect for turning our space into a guest room when needed. We then brought the coral sofa into the living room; it gave so much life to the room and is a piece we both enjoy.

Step 7

Before %2F After Shelfie
Work it. Small items such as accessories and textiles can be moved around the space. Recreate the perfect shelfie by including his or her treasured items to give the space a whole new look which is completely budget friendly.

Step 8

guitar image

Personality & balance. Bring in items such as B’s guitar – it’s a “him item” – not mine. Just as the polka dot gold pillow is a “me item”.  I’ve mixed these together; there is no reason to remove everything you own in order to live together peacefully and in a place that reflects you both. We don’t need to display every guitar he owns, just as I don’t need to display each gold pillow I own. Play with the items and rearrange until you BOTH are satisfied with the end result.

Step 9

Before & After

The new item. I encourage you to select at least one piece that you both love. Maybe it’s a piece of art, a table that you will sit around for many home cooked dinners to come, or, maybe it’s a record player since you both love listening to vinyl. Whatever it is, make it a priority in your home – something you both want for your space together. For us, it started with a new rug, as a white shag rug is not great for a dog or for a heavy traffic flow.

Step 10

Before %2F After TV room

Embrace it. This may be the hardest one of all. For me, it was the big black box. I never made the large, state of the art tv a high priority item on my list — however, B did, and with his move came his large tv. It seemed silly to keep my old, smaller one that brought him physical discomfort (this was very clear), so I simply embraced it and told myself, it’s OUR place (again, and again, and again). It may be a big chair, a guitar collection, a somewhat scary poster – whatever it is, keep in mind there may be a few items you will simply have to bend to. Because, after all, every relationship is a give and take.

Struggling to merge your style with someone else’s? I’d love to hear about it! Message me or comment below.

I hope you find your design harmony together in your manicured home.

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