By Rachel Smith
Deciding to share a place with the one you love can be an amazingly happy time. That is, until he refuses to take his ratty, hand-me-down couch to the tip – or worse, pokes fun at the floral motif you’ve lovingly perfected in the living room.
As an advice columnist, I mention the word ‘compromise’ a lot. But it’s possibly never more necessary than in the months after you and your partner decide it’s time for a fixed address. After all, it’s not just about furniture; you’re bringing personalities, pasts and memories into a shared space – which can sometimes equal a few epic meltowns heated discussions.
So if you’re at the cohabiting threshold, here are my tips for creating a love nest you’re both happy to call home.
1. Ditch, donate, sell If you’re in a small space, resist the urge to cram in all that you own. Decide together about what stays and what goes (here’s where the compromise bit comes in). Trust, me, it’ll be a lot easier making that list after you’ve bonded over a couple of really confronting Hoarders episodes.
2. Meet halfway Hard to do when you’re in a stalemate over his Samurai sword collection and seen-better-days music posters. But just changing how things are displayed can work wonders. His favourite sword over the mantle, or framing a couple of old music posters and mounting them on a bare unused wall can add interest and personality while preserving part of your partner’s history.
3. Shop as a team I know IKEA has the power to dissolve relationships in an afternoon, but braving stores together will crystallise where your styles overlap. Maybe you’ll both agree your bedroom could be transformed by a chunky teak headboard. Perhaps that bottle-green glass lamp you spotted at a vintage bazaar is perfect for the study. Agree to hear each other out and shop with a sense of give and take – the result will be rooms you both love.
4. Be open to remodeling That crappy coffee table he’s lugged from sharehouse to sharehouse and can’t bear to part with might look great with a mosaic make-over or lick of paint. Similarly, is it time to swap the summer poppies wallpaper in the bedroom for a fresh new look you both like? Get remodelling inspiration from mags, blogs (like this one!) and scouring retro stores in your area.
5. Merge styles for main areas… He digs a dark, moody bachelor look; you’re into colour. No problemo. Anchor the living room with, say, a dark microsuede or leather sofa and freshen up with colourful pillows, throws and maybe an eye-popping feature wall.
6. … But have areas just for you. If you have space, create zones in your home that reflect your differing tastes – be it a comfy reading nook, outdoor space or full-blown man cave. My hubby commandeered our spare room as his music room, creating a cool space that houses his guitars and street art collection. My domain is the study, with its rich rugs, wall-to-wall books and cosy vibe I love.
Did you have a tricky time merging styles with you moved in with your significant other? What are your tips for making it work?
Sydney journalist Rachel Smith dishes out love life advice at relationships blog Reality Chick, moderates letters at Letter To My Ex and runs media recruitment and connections website Rachel’s List. One of these days, she’s going to stop buying domain names. Probably.