After our first apartment together was featured on Apartment Therapy, I got a lot of questions about how Ryan and I combined our two previous apartments into one cohesive space. Our blending of two styles and an odd mix of new purchases, Ikea budget items and hand-me-downs was a challenge that I loved tackling. I started to write up some tips that helped us, and then invited Ryan to share his point of view as well. Feel free to share your own tips in the comment section below.
We’ll be posting in two parts. Part one (yesterday) was about getting on the same page and clearing the decks. Part two (today) is about adding in pieces and choosing decorations.
1. Buy Balanced. Maggie: After part 1 yesterday, you should have a good idea of the kinds of pieces you both like. We happen to like traditional/funky (me) and mid century and modern (Ryan). Luckily, it makes more sense to buy a variety of styles of furniture rather than ordering everything from one catalog or something. So a mixture of pieces is an appropriate goal. For each piece, consider balancing it with the other’s style. So, a traditional sofa gets a more modern coffee table. A mid century table gets more formal seating. A console in the same room might be funky but get a modern lamp. That way both people’s taste is represented.I actually think our tv is HUGE but Ryan thinks it’s on the small side – we compromised, and I like coming up with ways to distract your eye (like our new bookshelves).
Ryan: Another possibility is to try and find pieces that blend a bit of both of your preferences. When it comes to sofas, maybe find a shape that leans towards one person’s tastes, and then choose a fabric (or some throw pillows) that is more in line with the other’s. For a dining table, you could find something that mixes modern lines with more traditional materials. What’s important is to remember to make sure you both are happy with how your home looks. The last thing you want is a room so dominated by your choices to the point where you partner doesn’t feel comfortable living in that space.
2. Add girly things with a light hand, and add a masculine twist when possible. Maggie: I love florals and I love fabric. I was dying to put floral drapes in our living room. After searching through options, I knew I couldn’t do anything chintz or overtly girly or pink. I suggested an abstract watercolor type floral to Ryan, and a dark black and navy floral, which felt a little more “manly”. The idea is to figure out what about a girly element is appealing, then temper it. A ornate framed mirror is less girly in natural wood than in gold or distressed white. Same with “masculine” pieces – a jersey or concert poster aren’t items that I would pick out, but in a nice frame they could mix with other elements.
Ryan: Maggie, I think your being a little unfair to “masculine” pieces. Just because a picture of dogs playing poker could be considered masculine, doesn’t change the fact that its probably just tacky. There are always masculine accents you could bring into a room. Leather, brass, and dark woods can be tasteful and still temper some more feminine aspects of your design. As always, compromise is the most important thing when it comes to these issues, so don’t take offense when your better half says “No, I don’t really love that.”
3. Comfort is key. Maggie: I don’t know why, but women are much more likely to ignore comfort in furnishings in favor of aesthetics – maybe it’s because we’re used to picking uncomfortable but gorgeous shoes. Men, however, tend to value comfort (that’s why there is the stereotype of the giant ugly recliner!). Throw him a bone on this one, ladies, because comfort should come first 99% of the time (the other 1% is for fabulous one-of-a-kind antique accent chairs, FYI). The key is to buy things that are comfortable AND attractive. So take him along when you want to shop for a new living room chair. Even if he hates shopping, he’ll appreciate a truly comfortable chair down the road. And you’ll get to side-step that bulky recliner.
Ryan: I wholeheartedly agree with what Maggie says above. Every time she points out a chair to me (no matter the context: dining, office, etc) the first thing that goes through my mind is, “Does it look comfortable?” Sure, it might look nice, but if it is terribly uncomfortable you’re never going to want to use it. That said, comfort doesn’t have to be everything. There’s still a place for making sure it looks nice and fits in well with the rest of your room. Beyond a given piece, I do think comfort is key to turning a house into your home.
We’d love to hear your tips for a stylish shared home as well. How do you purchase items that reflect both of your tastes? For more tips on mixing design styles and eras, I have great ideas in my e-book, Design Demystified.