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Moving in together: How to find common ground when decorating

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Designers offer tips for making the transition a peaceful one

Carmen Troesser

Whether you are married or just roommates, transforming your space into a dream oasis requires compromise. Taking on a joint design project improves communication by forcing you to provide your input. At its best, that honesty will spill over into other parts of your relationship. Without it, you’ll end up living in a space that neither of you loves. This makes open dialogue about even headboards and doorknobs critical.

However, blending styles and avoiding hurt feelings isn’t always easy. If you want your relationship to survive any decorating project, consider the advice of these interior designers.

Ask the right questions

Lauren Riddiough Clement of Lauren Nicole Designs believes that being open from the start eliminates the need for confrontation and stress during design projects. To avoid any personality conflicts consider asking: What’s important to you in this space? What colors make you happy? How would you like this space to feel? Taking this approach ensures that you design a space that combines your styles, likes, and dislikes.

Unify the space

If the styles of your furniture contrast, find something to unify them, such as a color or a pattern that creates visual unity,” says Mark Cutler of Mark Cutler Designs. Interior designer Charmaine Wynter agrees, “One way to blend styles and keep the peace is to focus on commonalities. If you both like cool colors or warm tones I suggest using those hues more frequently throughout the home. Allow each partner their design style preference in their private spaces and select neutrals for common areas.”

Set ground rules

Begin by minimizing tension, suggests Liat Tzoubari of Sevensmith. “Starting your home décor mission by knocking out elements neither of you cares much about, such as faucets, shower curtains, throw pillows or drawer handles, makes it easier to compromise,” she adds. “The collaboration will flow more smoothly, and you will both feel a sense of relief about your design decisions.”

Treat your partner like a client

Justina Blakeney of The Jungalow suggests providing your partner with several options that allows you to agree on a favorite. If one party objects to, say a pendant lamp, explain the objection then use the feedback to pick something you both can live with. An open dialogue creates a space of tranquility.

Start with a blank slate

When it comes to living shared space, creativity is paramount. Bridget Hamilton of BNID advises starting with a grounded color sofa in cream, white, gray or brown. “The sofa should not be patterned–keep it basic but comfortable.” Adding throw pillows and throw blankets instantly changes the couch’s look.

Find common ground

Though you may not agree on everything, it’s likely that you and your partner will have at least a few similar opinions. Wynter recommends creating two separate Pinterest boards and comparing your selections. You’ll be surprised by how much you actually have in common.

Kathy Kuo of Kathy Kuo Home’s shares the same sentiment. She suggests using the “pre-move purge” to get rid of items that you find unappealing. “Don’t force your partner to be stuck with something they hate just because you’re a creature of habit,” Kuo says. “Treasure sentimental belongings and high-quality items recently purchased, but use this opportunity to buy new and buy together.”

Repetition creates style

Can color reduce design conflicts among couples? Designer Josie Abate of Ambience Design group believes so. “Most people can live with colors found in nature,” she says. “Green and taupe are neutral choices that satisfy one’s need for color without leaving the other feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable.” But if you find that you want that exotic pop of red in your dining room, she suggests an accent wall.

Repetition is essential for bringing a space together, says Jennifer Fisher of J. Fisher Interiors. “Stick to a color palette and run with it,” she says. You want to keep the eyes focused and not overwhelmed with too much information. Design harmony happens when personalities are reflected in the space.