We just moved in together! How can we create a space that feels comfortable to both of us?

August 17 |
His & Hers © by Looking Glass, used under Creative Commons license.
My fiance and I just bought our first home. Until now, we have lived with his mom in his childhood bedroom; i.e. we have never had to decorate a space together. Now that we are moving in together, it is becoming very apparent that our tastes do not match.

I am very design minded; I love color, pattern, unique objects, upcycled decor and fun random weirdness. He just wants it done with the latest and greatest; new couch, new floors, one color and done (plus, as manly as possible).

My question being: how do I live with this boy, and still be the girl I am? What do I compromise on and put my foot down on? How do I figure the difference?
-Grimmgirl

We're going to turn this question over to our trusted Offbeat Homies! Newlyweds and newly-cohabs, how do you find decor compromise with your partner? How do you create a space that feels comfortable to both of you?

  1. When my boyfriend and I first moved in together, we had a similar issue. What really solved it was Pintrest. We both pined a bunch of ideas and DIY projects that we thought would make the house look better, and after 2 weeks of aggregating we sat down with some wine and talked it out. He used SketchUp to render the house in 3d, and then we would go back and forth coloring a wall or adding an element we wanted. Then we agreeded to try and do this as cheaply as possible, so where he wanted hardwood floors, we compromised with bamboo. Where I wanted a bight orange wall, we compromised with a bold blue. Plus he got one room that was 100% his to decorate, and I got one that was 100% mine to decorate. – We have an attack plan. It showed us that we could blend our styles, we could talk like adults, and we were able to mesh together our ideas. The next step is just doing it. :P Hope this helps!

    23 agree
    • That is a really good idea. The problem is getting him to devote enough time to it right now. We are three weeks out from our wedding and have guests going in a matter of days. I feel like a lot of our decisions are rushed, and changing them later will be difficult/expensive.

      2 agree
      • I would suggest not worrying too much about guests coming in (unless you're having the wedding at your place).

        Everyone knows it takes time to settle in a decorate a new house, and you've bought it at the same time you're busy planning a wedding.

        Take your time, and do it right the first time. :)

        13 agree
        • Totally THIS. You bought this home, so presumably you'll be there for a while. Let the decorating take a backseat until after the wedding, and then take it slowly as your schedule and budget allow. I love to fantasize about having a "fully designed" house, ready for a magazine photo shoot but the reality is that it's a work-in-progress basically forever. If it's never "finished" that's ok. Using the Pinterest idea or just evolving discussions with your mister can lead you into some fun, unexpected places, design-wise. I like to think of decorating in terms of the journey, not the destination.

          And here's my mom's sage wisdom regarding paint color choices: Remember that they're not permanent. If you don't like it, repaint it. You don't have to pick one color to look at for the rest of your lives!

          3 agree
  2. One of the most important things we did was to split up the choices. I let my fiance figure out the things I wasn't as interested in, and I took the reins on stuff that mattered to me. So the posters in the computer room were entirely his call–he works in there more than I do. But the bedroom furniture is arranged to make it easier for me to get ready in the morning while he's still in bed without disturbing him. I made a bathroom rug that I like better than his old one, and he decided to use an old trunk for a coffee table until we get a new one. Of course we're not very "decorative"–we haven't painted, and we're still figuring out where to hang things on the walls (and we've lived here for 3 months), so I don't know how you can negotiate that.

    2 agree
    • One of the most important things we did was to split up the choices. I let my fiance figure out the things I wasn't as interested in, and I took the reins on stuff that mattered to me.

      This sounds like the advice we always give on Offbeat Bride! :) :)

      6 agree
      • I'm sure reading OBB and pre-planning my wedding has made me much nicer about compromising with him!

      • And this situation is a pretty perfect example of why people keep saying planning the wedding together is perfect practice for planning the rest of your lives together.

        • My biggest problem is that when I suggest things, he says "That's fine," "I don't care," or doesn't give imput at all. Then, when it's done and I've spent time and money, THEN he has an option and wants to change it!

          7 agree
          • We recently had the same argument! Over and over for a year! What we agreed on is that if I ask him, and he says he doesn't care, then he doesn't get to hate whatever it is that he said he doesn't care about…oy. This should be interesting! I am trying to take what I know about his taste into consideration so he hopefully will love the things that I get! If not, I'm hoping that it'll encourage him to be more involved in future purchases, cause we can't afford to decorate twice!

            2 agree
          • Sometimes, I really think I don't care, until I see something/something happens/a specific suggestion is made and then I either love it or hate it.

            Take for example: "What do you want for dinner?" "I don't care." "Ok, how about [fancy fish restaurant]." "No! We can't afford that and I'm not really in the mood for seafood. Burgers?"

            I think sometimes it's just a matter of how the decision is being made. When I have to decide between "ALL THE CHOICES IN THE WURLD EVAR!" It's overwhelming and easier to tell myself I don't care (or think I don't care, I'm not saying it's all conscious thought about deciding not to care). But when the choice is narrowed down to "yes/no/still don't care" on this one thing, that's an easy choice!

            But I agree, if I say "what do you think of this," and my partner says "I don't care," and then we get to the fancy fish place and one of us is whinging about "I didn't want to come here to begin with, I only did it because I thought that's what you wanted!" Well, whoever didn't care can shut up about it and so can the person who made the decision even if that's not what they wanted to begin with. Ask if you can paint the living room barn red, I'll probably say yes. But once it's done, if I don't like it, I'm not going to say I hated the idea all along, I'll definitely say, "huh, that doesn't look as nice as I thought it would. This color is a bit different on a wall than a paint chip. I'm not sure that's working in here."

            3 agree
          • That's also why I like the home depot paint samples. If you have time, you can put a larger swatch on the wall without buying the whole gallon.

    • Don't worry about taking a long time to hang things up and "decorate". Most people don't really notice a LACK of decorations. They may notice once you have, but that is only a positive! We have lived in our house for over a year and only recently hung up 3 pictures. The rest of our walls are still bare. But it doesn't look empty, it just looks "clean" or "uncluttered". :)

  3. Lots of compromise. Would our house look very different if I were single, Yes. Same for him. We had to meet in the middle on a lot of things particularly paint colours. We can't have green any where because we can not agree on green at all. He hates the chairs I had from before we met but we also don't want to put out more money on furniture right now, so guess what, the chairs stay.
    I love the idea of pining ideas and then you can talk it through, you may be surprised by the things that you both like.

    1 agrees
  4. We have always been in rentals, so we haven't dealt with major remodel things like flooring, but we've still learned one another's tastes and where they overlap over the years of living together.

    I try to remember that not everything has to be bought and perfectly arranged right away. Our unspoken rule has been that if we don't like a paint color, the placement for a piece of art, the same couch, etc we don't go with it. Period. This might sound frustrating, but for us it hasn't been at all. It's allowed us to see where our styles meet and bond over the excitement of purchasing something we both love.

    Slowly, as a room comes together, it becomes easier to figure out what it should look like and what's lacking. This way, we're always partners in creating our home – never battling in favor or against xyz. This also encourages us to buy pieces that we know we'll want for a lifetime, or for a long time (and maybe get a cheap or used necessity for a few years until the perfect item or the finances show up).

    Often while waiting, one of us ends up reconsidering what the other person suggested as well. Inexplicably, my partner's crazy idea about putting a painting in the corner starts to sound not-so-crazy, and my idea about not needing an entertainment center isn't blasphemy.

    So I guess my advice is to see the commonalities, remember you're partners, don't be frustrated by waiting because you'll be more frustrated if something better shows up in a year, and see what your particular house says to you. I hope this doesn't sound preachy. Everyone has a different approach – this is just what worked really well for us.

    2 agree
    • This is my experience with my husband.
      However, for me it's been made easier by the fact that his mom would redecorate the house semi-annually, and so he learned that anything that is up now can (and probably will) be changed. So he doesn't sweat the decorating too much.

      1 agrees
      • Right now, it all just seems forced. I'm hoping after the wedding we can actually take the time to do this!

      • I am just like his mom! I love re-arranging furniture, and have re-designated entire rooms before just because it made sense at the time. My partner got used to me re-arranging everything in our apartment, and now it's driving us BOTH crazy that his parents refuse to move furniture that hasn't been moved in 9 years. I don't know what they think is going to happen when we re-paint next year, but if they think the bookshelves aren't coming down from their earthquake anchors and getting re-arranged, they have another think coming. Their lack of symmetry and ridiculous placement wasting copious square footage is driving me batty.

  5. Go shopping together. Home Depot, Ikea, Goodwill, garage sales… It's easy to disagree in the abstract, but with any luck you'll come across some things that you both like, even if it's for different reasons. You can even use Goodwill as a way to try out new styles – if a chair costs $10 and you wind up hating it, you can just re-donate it. Try to communicate clearly why you do or don't like something. "I'm not sure I like that couch" is much more vague than "I don't care what it's made of as long as it's not f**king brown." Good luck!

    9 agree
    • Oh, if he would only embrace goodwill as much as I have! He seems to think that everything second-hand is dirty/broken/cursed in some way shape or form. I have tryed to fix this, but "Haunted Collector" on SYFY (while a very good show) isn't helping.

      • Have you tried going a step up from Goodwill? Sometime in the past few years, a ton of boutique-y second hand furniture stores cropped up in my city. The prices aren't Goodwill-cheap, but they're cheaper than what you'd find at Macy's/Crate and Barrel/whatever your home furniture store of choice, unless it's Ikea. Plus, there's someone to curate the collection so it's less trash and more treasure. Maybe that would feel more like a 'real store' to your fiance?

        2 agree
        • I like to go through the big store catalogs for ideas, but I have a thrift store budget and it shows in my furniture choices. Let's just say, over the last 10 years of living outside my parents' home, it wouldn't be outrageous to guess that half my furniture came from the curb on trash day. It does give me the freedom to not care if something breaks, doesn't work the way I think it will, or doesn't fit into the next apartment when I move (or has to be left behind when I move across the country). It's the things for which I paid good money that I mourn. The comfiest couch ever, the hardwood bookshelf, the velvet rocking chair, and the old kitchen cabinet that makes a fantastic dresser for my socks and underwear. Those are the things I miss.

      • Try live auctions for unique second-hand stuff. Because it's a lot of fun to bid on things, he might get into it. Especially once someone starts bidding him up, he'll realize it's not junk!

        2 agree
  6. It helped us to find a common colour (ie, one we both liked) to base our choices around. We focused on where our tastes intersected. It took a while for that to happen. If you can, maybe don't rush to decorate??
    And now that we've moved again, the new thing we can do is that there is clearly a space that is mine and one that is his (for an apartment it may be a wall, for a house it may be a room), and we're giving each other free reign to do it as we (for ourselves) wish.

    • I wish we didn't have to rush. We are trying to make a list of things that need to be done now and that can wait until after the wedding (in three weeks!). The walls had to be painted before tomorrow and they still aren't done! :-#

    • Caveat to this advice: I think that's how my future in-laws' home ended up being painted and decorated entirely in blue. Despite them buying three different colors of blue at three different times, they never noticed that they had purchased the same blue–just off enough that you can tell because they meet in the middle of doorways, but not off enough to give you any feeling other than living inside a dome in the middle of a bright blue sky. With navy blue clouds for furniture and white puffy clouds for carpet.

      The. Whole. House. Is Blue.

      Oh I'm sorry, they do have an ugly rug that once may have been considered a "gold"en brown color.

      1 agrees
  7. We ran in the same problem when we moved in together. I think the first thing to look at is the architecture/style of the new house you're moving in. After that, we discussed which items we already had and couldn't bear to part with, which items the other had that we couldn't stand to have in our house (ugly white table, I'm thinking about you!)and what was needed to make the stuff we wanted to keep mix well together. We showed the other one images we liked and went shopping together. Sure, our current place is a far cry from what we had before and from what we would choose if we were on our own, but it screams us instead of looking as if we were in a battlefield between my color and pictures everywhere is best and his just go to Ikea and be done with it style.

    1 agrees
  8. Like some of the others have mentioned, we do a lot of compromise, negotiation, and shopping together. We disagree a lot in theory, but when it comes to picking out actual items that exist it gets much easier because options are limited. Also if there is something that doesn't matter as much to one of us, the other one gets to chose. What ends up being the major sticking point for us is art, the only things we can really agree on are so far out of our price range its ridiculous. So I suggested to him that if I find something in a thrift store that I like, or if I can make something cheap and decent that those items will just be "temporary". If I reassure him that they are just cheap temporary "place holders" he is a lot less picky and actually grows to like lots of the quirky thrifted items I pick out. We went to pick out a new couch recently and he really wanted something with a leather look and I wanted anything but brown, so we picked out a brick red bonded leather couch that we both love!

    • Totally off subject, "Oread" like the bird or like "rock-chalk, Jayhawk?"

  9. ask him when he's busy playing video games – he'll agree to anything, even a bright red couch!!!
    lol

    but seriously, using photos to show him/her what you mean rather than just describing it worked really well for us.
    I said I wanted a red couch and he said yuck, I showed him the couch I meant and his response was, oh ok, actually thats really nice, not what I was imagining

    5 agree
    • I think that's the biggest problem: he doesn't vizuallize what I vizualize. Someone says "elephant" he thinks Animal Planet, I think Dumbo. We agree on "elephant" and when it's done, he either has a "Oh, that's better then I thought," moment or a "Oh, I thought you meant this, not that" moment. Like the living room: he picked a pallete of blue from the de-pot and said "I like these." So, I picked the two lightest ones and put them on opposing walls. When it's done after two days of work (without his help) he walks in and says "Oh, I meant the darker colors, not the lighter colors. This looks Purple." I told him "tough shit" and handed him the empty paint can.

      • Two pieces of advice:

        1. Use a visual tool like Pinterest to make sure you're visualizing the same things.

        2. Based on what you've said here, I'd suggest working on your communication and collaboration skills, not just with home decor but in your relationship.

        11 agree
  10. You can have your ideas in one aspect, but applied in his way (or vice versa). So find the unique up-cycled objects you love, but only buy ones in one color – like he wants. Or limit yourselves to new items -like he wants, but search out unique patterns – that make you happy.

    It's mostly about good communication to find the middle of the Venn diagram of what makes you happy and what makes him happy.

    Browsing online together helped us better communicate our tastes before going out shopping. In my case, we established that my husband is a extreme minimalist, while I love cool things. For me we have lots of interesting shapes and textures, but for him, we limited the color palate to a soothing simple black/white + one color scheme.
    We both love the result.

    1 agrees
    • I love shopping online ahead of time too! Take for example, buying a kitchen "island." I searched "kitchen island" in google and started narrowing down what I liked from the options. I still showed him options I didn't like, in order to illustrate why I liked the ones I did better. It also helped him to see what options were available to narrow down his own choices, without having to replicate two hours of online searching. In the end it meant that we could both communicate what we were thinking when we said "kitchen island," have any idea what the options available even were, and know what we wanted as priorities (drawers, folding leaves, towel bar great but not required). So when I found one on a great deal at the store, I didn't have to worry about whether it was something we'd agree on purchasing–I already knew.

  11. When hubby and I bought our unit, he was very much "we've got to paint and do the floors before we move in." I was more on the mindset that we need to live in the space before we do anything major for 2 reasons. 1. We have different tastes and 2. we need to know how we use the spaces we have, so we make decoration decisions which are right for our needs. Thankfully he agreed and saw that this was the best solution. However, we have made some purchses together that we've had to comprimise on. We bought a new bedroom set… he wanted a darker frame and furniture, while I wanted lighter. We met in the midddle and we both love it. A new dining room table and chairs. I wanted it with a glass top and fabric chairs, however, he say that this would be painful to keep clean and showed me a wooden dining set, which as soon as I saw, thought it was brilliant. I do agree about having a space which is "just yours". Mine is the kitchen as I tend to do most of the cooking and it makes it easier for me to have it set up ffor how I use it. His is the garage where he has built a kicking workbench (I'm sooo proud of him… it's just brilliant) which is set up for his use.
    I also have a simple rule for anything that is bought into our home… It needs to be be beautiful or practical. It can be both, one or the other… if it's neither, it 's just clutter, whch no one wants!

    • It's like that Ikea commercial: Her dream bedroom is completely different from his, but they meet in the middle. It just sounds WAY easier then it is!!

      1 agrees
  12. I second the trips to Ikea. They have all these rooms already done up. You can look at a room and go "love the rug and the bookshelf, but what the hell is that wall color?" You don't even have to feel bad for being judgy, cuz it's not a real person's living room! Hopefully you'll find a
    look that both of you can agree on, or at least tolerate!
    Even though The Boy and I have very different styles, we fell IN LOVE with one kitchen…from the cabinet wood to the counters to the white subway tile back-splash. Even if we argue about the rest of the house, both of us will love the kitchen!
    The other thing we did is to divide and conquer…he spends more time in the second bedroom/office/video game room, so I let him have it. I got our bedroom in return (he's lucky I'm not a gazillion pillow girl). We did compromise on the living room. I wish we could put up more pictures and knick-knacks, he wishes the couch wasn't brown. But it looks presentable for guests, and that was our first priority in that particular room.

    • Unfortunately, we don't have Ikea, but we do have Nebraska Furniture Mart. The concept is the same, and my bro works there (so discount!).

    • "You don't even have to feel bad for being judgy, cuz it's not a real person's living room!" Haha, so true! :)

      My brother and I have had conversations about what it would be like to live in an Ikea store if it were an actual house, with random bathrooms and multiple kitchens and beds everywhere. :P

      1 agrees
  13. I don't know if this has been mentioned…but go out and price things out. A lot of times budget is a huge consideration for newlyweds. We have a pretty small budget for house things so The Boy quickly began to appreciate vintage and upcycled (in his words "garage sale sh*t") over newest and shiny just because of practicality. I second the suggestions to go to stores and look online and there might be some things you both like. You can build a room around a piece that you both enjoy.

    2 agree
  14. I know it sounds like you are in the midst of pre wedding mania and that you have to get some stuff done ASAP. I agree that you should paint as soon as possible…your house will never be as empty again as it probably is now. It will probably be easier for you both (unless you HAVE to have bright bright colors) to pick some neutrals that you can both live with. It is a lot easier to change the look of a room with bright accessories than it is to paint over a paint job you've got sick of looking at.

    As far as decorating….that is a long, organic process and you aren't going to get it done in three weeks. That wouldn't happen even if you weren't in the throes of wedding craziness. You both live there, so compromise is key. And big purchases like furniture are not something that you should rush into just to be buying. Take your time and pick something that you both like, and then figure out how you can use those major pieces with little accents to create the room you want. Plus, you have to actually LIVE in your house for awhile to figure out the flow of the space and how you are going to use each area. It is much easier to figure out the routine of your daily life and purchase/make things that suit how you actually live. Plus, that way you end up with less stuff crammed in the house that you don't actually like or use. I know you want to get it done and that it's a big deal, but it's something that if you rush you'll regret it and end up costing yourself much more money and time than if you just settled on some bare bones stuff you really like and slowly build up a home around it. I've been cohabiting with my partner for 4 years now and this place is still a work in progress. Sometimes I think it always will be.

    As for your almost hubs having an aversion to used stuff: first, when you're talking about furniture and many other types of household necessities, you simply cannot find the quality of materials and workmanship new these days that you can find buying used and vintage. Not unless you've got massive amounts of money to spend. Repurposing vintage furniture allows you to customize things the way you want them, and I can almost guarantee that the quality will be 100 times better than anything you can buy at your local furniture megastore. And, as someone who has been a paranormal buff since childhood and an antique dealer for the last 10 years, I promise you, that haunted collector guy is full of bunk. He has a great scam going (wish I'd thought of it) but you've got a better chance of being struck by lightning than you do bringing a ghost back home with you from the Goodwill. Not only am I constantly bringing things from thrift stores and estate sales back into my home, but I specialize in occult, weird and creepy stuff…and in all these years, I've found ONE item that I was a little concerned about because it seemed to move itself to a different spot every day. (It was a 150 year old Masonic bible, something I doubt you are going to buy for your new place.) Tell him to relax.

    3 agree
    • To piggy back off this comment, as someone who is extremely sensitive to the energy of others and one who buys quite a bit of stuff used, a thorough cleansing with some sage (and, of course, a good cleaning of dust, etc.) usually helps clear any residual energy. Also, if you repurpose/paint/make the piece your own, it'll help with any residual energy that's on it as well.

      1 agrees
      • That's what I told him! But he still thinks that some spirits are stronger then sage (which is true, but rare) and that we will bring in a polterguist and all hell will brack loose. I even offered to bathe it in seasalt!

        1 agrees
  15. Hubby and I have very different tates/interests… but that's probably reflected in what is laying around the house. Mostly what is on the walls is painted by me, whereas, he has done a few bits and bobs of DIY here and there, and the things he buys are generally red. I suppose we don't have a 'style' as such, we just sort of let things happen. And if I embark on a project (like a wall hanging, which we did) I'll make sure he agrees with the fabric we choose, and that sort of thing.

    1 agrees
  16. I moved in with my fiance 2 months after we started dating and man was I overwhelmed. I had been living on my own for nearly 6 years and he has been living with his mom for the last 2 years. So i brought an apartment full of decorations and furniture and he brought boxes full of action figures and collectibles. That first couple months was spent trying to make all my furniture fit into our first itty bitty apartment. There were posters EVERYWHERE. He bought some shelves that were absolutely hideous (it matched the hideous apartment). I think eventually we managed to merge our tastes. We are now living in a tasteful apartment with shelves to display his collectible action figures and even some of the ones he has bought me! But along side of that we have framed some of my art pieces and put up shelves that my grandfather made for me as a child. It's eclectic but I've gotten compliments on how well balanced it is between our tastes.

    1 agrees
  17. I'll be honest, I've pretty much taken the reins on decorating our apartment, but The Musician is very concerned with functionality. We make this mesh pretty well.

    I second the idea to use pinterest so see where your interests meet a la Venn diagram. If he is looking for something clean and minimal, there is no reason mid century modern can't fit that as long as you are judicious about what you buy and keep, just as an example. Also, supposing that you have multiple rooms, you can split your sensibilities amongst them.

  18. We have very different styles so we decided that he gets to decorate the living room, I get the dining room, and the kitchen is fairly neutral since it connects the dining and living room. The bedroom is pretty much his style, the office/craft room is mine, and we are splitting up the bathrooms too. So far this has worked pretty nicely.

    1 agrees
  19. When my husband I moved in together, we were both really excited to paint the walls (we live in NYC and we finally bought a place…it had been pre-college days since either of us had lived in a painted home).

    Going over paint samples was nightmarish at first though. He kept picking out shades of brown, and I kept focusing on these bright bold colors. After a round of (not very productive) discussions, I finally figured out what his issue with color was.

    He was afraid I wanted a different intense bold color in every room, and was worried about our apartment being disjointed.

    I was annoyed that he just wanted to do various shades of brown all over, which to me, didn't seem better than all the white we'd been living with for the previous 8 years.

    Once I realized he was okay with color, we decided that we'd pick one or two (we did blues and greens) and just did different shades in different rooms. He got the continuity he wanted, and I got the color I wanted.

    This is a long way of saying…make sure you know what you guys are actually disagreeing about. You might think he hates one thing when the problem he's having is something totally different.

    2 agree
  20. We have been through that too. But what I found the most important thing is: no matter what happens I love him and building our flat together should never ever effect our love for each other. Okay I don't like everything he decided and how it looks, but its HIS taste and not mine. He should feel comfortable in this flat too. We decided on most of the things together. To imagine everything was very hard for us because we had no flat we could walk into and say: "This xxx will look great…". When I wasn't happy with one of his decision I always told myself: "You will not die because HE wants to have this photo there…".
    And another thing: don't plan too much. We are now one year in this flat and we bought some things after we moved in which weren't really neccesary before. Every room can be planned and you walk in and think "no, that's not working". That's what happened to his sister who has the flat under us. She planned a lot and had all the paintings done and realized: "no the couch here isn't working, I don't like the bed here." She painted everything again because she found the rooms were too dark. You have to live in it and to feel the vibe of a room to make it perfect. There are still things I don't like, but I don't see them anymore. I don't pass this weird picture and think everytime: "Why?!!!". It's okay now. Almost after a year of planning an deciding and living in this flat for almost a year I can say: it will take a lot of time to get everything ready and it's worth. And nothing in this world is more important than our love. Why should I argue about everyting? It doesn't mean anything. The most important thing is love in the end and NOT if your table is metallic or wooden.

    2 agree
  21. we are not only us 2 together but with 3 housemates! would really love to make this a perfect flat one day, but we're getting along ok so far.

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