One of the questions we hear often is how do you two merge your styles and live to tell about it? And to be honest, it wasn’t always so easy. (Scott’s first, over-stuffed leather couch comes to mind as a sticking point!) Over time, we’ve learned to only proceed with a project if we’ve both fully agreed to all the terms, but we understand that there needs to room for give and take. Say, for example, our recent photo ledge. Scott knows I love a good ornate frame (the gaudier, the better!), but we’ve balanced that with the clean lines of the ledge itself and by the addition of sleek, industrial curtain rods.
When Lauren from Kelly & Olive told us about their +SPACE contest (aka, Positive Space) – all in the hopes of turning a potential negative into an opportunity for creativity – we were intrigued. And since we have lived to tell our story, we turned to Lauren (the professional!) to help break it down, as well as share the details on their +SPACE contest!
Hi Yellow Brick Home readers!
I’m Lauren from Chicago based styling and decorating company Kelly + Olive. Kim asked me here today to talk a bit about decorating your home with your significant other. This is the most common stumbling block we see with clients…how to make decisions when one person says they don’t care (but is full of opinions after the fact) or, like Scott and Kim, both partners have strong tastes and unique styles they’d like represented in their place. I’ll admit, as a single lady all that compromise in my own space fills me with anxiety but, as we’ve learned after working with dozens of couples, it doesn’t have to be an painful process. We promise! Today, we’re going to give you a few tips to help you find common ground, learn to compromise and to create home where you both feel comfortable, and where the look and feel represent a bit of each of you and your life as a team.
#1 Get on the same page
Your partner says they want white and modern. That could mean this…
Decorating words and even colors are up to personal interpretation. Is my blue the same as your blue? When I say rustic do you picture shabby chic rustic or more gritty industrial rustic? Like every other aspect of a good relationship, communication is key.
Yes, I am your decorating couples therapist.
Let’s do a little exercise to help establish a common vocabulary. One friday night, put on your favorite music, order thai food in and start the hunt for inspirational images. Pics of rooms that push your buttons. Maybe you love the color of the rug, a specific furniture piece or just the overall vibe. It doesn’t matter why. Follow your gut. (Pinterest is great for finding images, as is Houzz, Decorpad, Remodelista…or take it offline with some scissors and a stack of magazines.)
We recommend that each person create their own inspiration file to start. Don’t worry about choosing things you think the other person will like. Eat your spring rolls and think about your dreamhome. After a while, (if your partner is less than enthused about this project, set a timer) it’s time to share. Talk about your choices. Notice common threads in your own pics, as well as places where your tastes overlap. This little peek into each others brains will help you visualize and plan your space with a bit more knowledge, as well as concrete examples to point to and say ‘I want this!’
#2 Start with color
First things first, what color’s going on the walls? One person wants purple, one wants yellow…who wins?
We’ve found that a neutral wall works with just about every style and, when decorating with your sweetie, it’s a great non-partisan place to start. Color is layered in later with accessories and art in a palette of accent colors…and this is where the fun begins!
Create a color palette collage together! Look at your inspiration images and choose elements that you both are drawn too. Let’s say you both picked images with charcoal grays and some piece of leather. Use those for the big elements in the room. You can be a little wilder and more eclectic with accents. Throw out a few faves each. She wants a rich dusty purple and a splash of hot pink. He picks bright modern yellow and black.
Truly, just about any seemingly random selection of accent colors can look great together…just stick to your palette, spread them throughout the space and create a base of lovely neutrals underneath it all.
(Fun fact: Our name, Kelly+Olive, was inspired by a room done in unexpected hues of bright kelly, almost leprechaun green, and rich moody olive. Beautiful, unexpected, and totally brilliant!)
#3 Look for balance
For arguments sake, let’s say she loves ornate Louis XV inspired furniture, all things fancy and feminine and frenchy. On the other hand, he wants simplicity and comfort.
The chair on the left would scare him. But the chair on the right with gray masculine upholstery retains its feminine charms but with a bit more subtlety. Any feminine pieces, like curvy chairs, tufted sofas or items with a lot of delicate detail can be tempered by keeping the color neutral.
When it comes to pattern, the same trick can be used to balance more femme designs. Guys tend to shy away from pattern, even simple stripes and geometrics can feel fussy and florals can be downright terrifying, but in the right colors, ornate patterns feel strong and simple.
Here’s a the start of our room… the Louis XV chair and an traditional side table mixed with a masculine leather couch (this one’s vintage) and boxy industrial coffee table, a patterned rug and pillow in a neutral gray, white and cream palette, and pops of accent color in a solid pillow, modern lamp, and colorful piece of art.
#4 Reframe and relax
Breath. Don’t stress. Let it go.
Your home may never look like the perfect magazine image. That idealized rustic farmhouse or atomic bungalow or boho lounge is being diluted by someone else’s grandma chic or modern minimalism or whatever.
And that’s ok! Think of this process as creating a whole new design style with a little of each of you, a one of a kind place the represents the two of you together. Besides, the most beautiful, interesting spaces are not the ones straight out of a showroom or ripped from a magazine page. They’re the ones where the idiosyncrasies, influences, and aspirations of the homeowners are on display.
Extra Credit: Give it a name
Whitewashed swedish farmhouse + guitars and screenprinted band posters = Scandanavian rockstar retreat
Ethnic patterns and global influences + florals and antiques = World traveler Grandma
Upscale beachy + midcentury modern = Don Draper goes to the Hamptons
We do this with clients all the time. Partially because it makes us giggle and partially because it’s great shorthand and can, along with your color palette collage, help you focus and act as an impartial guidepost in the face of temptation. You’re out shopping and see something you love, say to yourself…
Is this vintage schoolhouse chic? (or Alaskan glamour igloo? Or whatever your very own personal design style is called.) Does it mesh with our colors?
Yes? Get it!
Designing your space as a team doesn’t have to be all stress and anxiety. Talk it out, look at pictures, find balance, common ground, and moments of compromise. Make a plan. Oh, and have fun! After all, it’s just decorating! For more info on Kelly + Olive, visit us right here. We’re currently running a +SPACE contest where the winner receives a free custom moodboard for any room of their choice (and all entrants receive 10% off!) For rules, details on how to enter and all that jazz, stop by!
Thanks so much to Kim and Scott for having us! Happy decorating!
Thank you, Lauren! And for those living with others, how do you compromise and merge styles, while still finding a space that’s inspiring?
First photo via House to Home and second photo via Plastolux.