Home Decor 101: Decorating With Your Other Half

Decorating with your other halfHi, friends! Today I'm continuing my Home Decor 101 series with a reader question that really got me thinking. 

@jessisrad36 asked, "I would LOVE to see a post about seamlessly mixing decor styles with your significant other… I just bought a house with my boyfriend and let's just say we may have differing opinions about interior design. I'd love to hear about your experience!" 

I want to say upfront that this topic isn't just for couples. It could apply to roommates, large families or really anyone living in a home together. So if it seems like I am only discussing couples without kiddos, it's because that's what kind of household I live in–so please forgive me, k? Maybe you have a really opinionated eight-year-old. I get that. 

Decorating with my other halfSo first, a little back story about my experiences decorating with my husband, Jeremy. This summer we started renovating and decorating our third house we've lived in together. He's the kind of dude who selectively cares about decorating. I can make ten big choices in a row and he will be happy with all of them, but on the eleventh choice, he will suddenly have a VERY strong opinion, and it usually feels like it came out of nowhere. He keeps me on my toes.

Working togetherHe has very good taste, and I love that about him. But his range of what he likes is much, much, much smaller than mine. It's exactly like our taste in clothes actually. He would be happy to wear a plaid shirt from J.Crew every day for the rest of his life. To mix it up, he wears gingham. Me, no way. I love J.Crew, but I also love about 1,000 other stores and styles and I want to mix it up constantly. So we're different.

#oppositesattract

So, let's dive in! Here are my thoughts on navigating the waters of co-decorating with your partner or roommate. 

1. Choosing a theme together. 

Choosing a general style we both love, and creating a mood board is the single best thing we have done to simplify our process and nurture a shared vision. Our process started by talking about places we've traveled to, hotels and cafes that left an impression on us. Then we went through my overstuffed private pin board that I'd created. I asked Jeremy to pick out all the things that stood out to him (and I took notes). 

All you need are a few inspiration images you both love, and a place you've both been to use as a reference for the vibe you are going for! Once you have that, it's MUCH EASIER to choose colors you both love, wood stains, metals for hardware and fixtures and trends you feel you'd like to embrace or skip.

Just by having a few conversations and going through some images, we picked a theme. It wasn't hard. It honestly came really naturally. Now when we're shopping for a countertop, a floor tile or a new couch, we have a unified vision to start from. It has really simplified the process for us! 

2. Mixing two styles. 

It's important to represent each member of your family/household in the decor. The best way to do this is to imagine how the house would look if each person had it 100% in their style, then mix those different elements together. 

For us, it's a mixture of color (me) and some rustic elements (him). Our styles are good on their own, but even better together. 

The good news is that mixing styles always makes a space more interesting! So don't be afraid to really incorporate different perspectives, even if you feel like complete opposites. 

3. Mastering give + take

Decorating a house is a personal thing. Especially when you first move in. Two people might be envisioning the "perfect space" very differently.

It's important to really listen to your partner, ask questions and try to get inside their head. If you are genuinely trying to understand their vision, then you're already on the right track! 

It sucks, but you're not always going to agree on every little detail. One of you loves penny tile, one of you hates it. One of you thinks wallpaper should be a priority in the budget, but the other would rather put that money toward a new sofa. This is real life. 

Learn to be a master of compromise and always keep an open mind! In our new space we have already shifted our priorities countless times. And I'm not going to lie–it's overwhelming sometimes. The thing that has made us rock solid is compromise. I am putting Jeremy's studio at a very high priority in our budget (and that renovation is real spensive!). He knows that and appreciates that, and in return, he's been a real sweetheart about all the brass I want to do (all about that brass, you guys!). #giveandtake #compromise #soulmates yep! 

J + E OK–so, my favorite part! Your turn! Please tell me all your stories about decorating with your partner-in-crime, whether it be a roomie, a husband or a whole family! I am super excited to hear your tips. xx- Elsie 

Credits// Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • Love this! My husband & I just bought our first house together 3 weeks ago & we’ve been sleeping on the living room floor while he redoes the hardwood in the rest of the house. This last weekend we were painting, and we painted one of the walls in the dining room a kind of turquoisey color. After completely finishing, I said “don’t be mad at me, but I’m rethinking this color! I wanted something a few shades darker!” He said “I thought that the moment I opened the can, but I figured you change your mind anyway.”❤️ He gets me. Lol, remodeling & redecorating can make ya or break ya as a couple!

  • Great post! Funny, I actually just talked about this a bit today when I did a tour of my entryway this morning(http://www.modcircus.com/2015/07/mollys-entryway-makeover.html )

    My husband mostly gives me creative freedom on the decorating, of course with his input here and there, but he makes most of the decisions on the structural elements and that works for us. He was dead set on putting in recessed lighting in our living room, which I could have cared less about, but he tore out the whole ceiling, did the wiring and so on, and of course it looks amazing! He once said he probably wouldn’t even paint the walls if he lived alone, so I think we make a great team because we both get the whatever “fun part” is to each of us!

    -Molly

    http://www.modcircus.com/

  • My husband has strong opinions about decorating also! If he had his way, everything in our house would be black (including the ceilings!) And if I had my way it’d all be white! So we compromised and our house is now about 12 shades of gray. Not for everyone but it works for us!

  • My boyfriend sounds a lot like Jeremy. He has good taste but it’s very selective. We bought a house together three years ago and decorating has been mostly fun and easy, I’ve just noticed that I have to give in much more because, like you, I have a much larger selection of styles that I like. We also use pinterest to find styles that we like!

    My tip would be that decorating a room or a house is a very slow process – don’t try to rush it!

  • My husband and I are in the middle of renovating our first home. We definitely have similar taste in a lot of things but he tends to make more traditional decisions…especially when it comes to incorporating color. A pin board is definitely a great idea. I pin everything I love. Then I pick out what might work for our space. He is a very visual person. So, if I describe an idea to him, it gets me no where. But if I can show him pins of similar places, he can get on board. There are a few things that are big no’s for him. I respect that because he lets me try lots of other things. Sometimes if he isn’t quite sure, he will go along with it anyway because he trusts me. I take that seriously and try to think it through so he will continue to trust me in those times. So far, he has loved all of the end results. 🙂

  • My husband and I approach household decorating very differently: he is ALL about comfort (style-schmyle) while I think about the style part first before asking the question “is it practical.” That being said, I love that he is all about the practicality as it forces me to ask that question each time I want to add a detail or a piece of furniture. I have learned to create a balanced space that combines both style and function and that makes both me and my husband really happy in our space. As you mentioned in the post, like any relationship, it’s important to value one another’s opinions and to be willing to compromise. Thanks for your post Elsie!
    Jelica

  • I think my husband and I need to try the mood board. We aren’t very visionary people so we struggle to even decorate the way we think we want! For us, its usually something we have lying around that we find a place to hang. We will be moving in the near future so I’m thinking we should figure this out!! Thanks for the ideas!
    http://www.sweetlytattered.com

  • I think mixing styles and at the very least agreeing on a theme are essential. I like vibrant colors but I am selective with the colors that I do like. I’m attracted to things with ornate detail and intricate special nuances to them. He would prefer something more refined and simple most of the time. He likes color but to a point and he isn’t nearly as much of an out of the box thinker as I am. Still, as long as I don’t get too wacky and out there he usually likes my ideas and sometimes he just needs to see them brought to life before he realizes that he is on board. It is different for everyone but I think mixing in both personas is the best philosophy.

    -M
    http://www.violetroots.com

  • Firstly, I love how seriously you’ve taken the decorating with your other half question. I’m not much of a decorator myself, I’m only just getting into it, and it’s awesome to see you so consciously thinking of your husband. And secondly, I LOVE the co-moodboard idea, combining your styles, where you’ve been, where you’ve loved. xx Taking all these ideas to heart!! <3

  • I’ve lived with my bf in our apartment for two years now and it’s been…interesting. He rarely cares about decor except when he has a star wars poster to put on the wall or wants to display his snow globe collection. I compromise by implementing these items in the way I prefer. For example only vintage/minimalist posters and I bought him a great Ikea display cabinet for his snow globes. It’s bright green and makes us both happy.

    We will be sharing a house next year with my brother and my cousin. I’ll be the only girl!! So I’m scared/nervous about how the decor aspect will work. This post helps me a lot–I’m going to use pinterest all the time with these guys!!

  • Houzz.com has been a lifesaver over the last two years as my boyfriend and I have tried to rescue a very sad house. He comes up with lots of interesting and often outlandish ideas and being able to search for similar colors or furniture arrangements or whatever lets us see what something actually looks like so I can convince him what a terrible idea it is, or I can see that it’s not as bad as it was in my head.

  • My hubs and I have been married for 17 years and lived in 5 houses together and not one time have we agreed on anything for the house! Ha ha ha , it’s all about compromise so long as it is his idea, funny thing is I’m a professional interior designer!!! We built our current house 11 years ago and he picked out the flooring on the first floor, the ugliest most hideous tile ever, but I was like, ok, we’ll keep it for five years or so. Um, no, 11 years later and that floor causes me the greatest stress every.single.time I see it!!! Every day!!!!!So, the moral of my story is, my house will never ever ever be something I’m in love with. Ever. I will live through my design clients and you guys at ABM. 🙂 Great post!!!

  • Elsie,

    Thank you for this post! It came at the perfect time for me. My boyfriend and I just moved into our first home together a month ago and we are still decorating and deciding what to keep and what to sell or donate. It’s a process and we are complete opposites, so it is definitely all about that give and take!

    I can’t wait to see you and Jeremy start fresh in a new home and see what both of you come up with! And I loved all of your hashtags in this post haha! 🙂 #onpoint

  • LOL, my husband always threatens to make changes in our apartment when I’m not there. I traveled for 2 weeks, and while he was unpacking my luggage when I got back, I walked in to a rearranged living room. Our couches are very light, so by the time he got upstairs with my bags, I had changed them back to their RIGHTFUL positions.

    I might give him free reign eventually because he’s more into decor than I am.

  • Thanks so much, Elsie! So glad you checked it out. That means a lot coming from a decorating maven such as yourself!! 🙂

    -Molly

  • My husband is the very similar to Jeremy! Usually he’s compliant with most things I want to do/hang/refinish but then there will be the one table he absolutely won’t let me touch because he loves it. I love him too much to fight over one table, so we work around it! And then I hang antlers over our TV. Then by our beds. And buy all the brass animals (a tradition he actually started). And it works!

  • I guess my husband and I are lucky in the fact that we have pretty similar and fluid aesthetics. For a lady, I have very minimalist and masculine tastes and he likes pops of bright color. We generally agree on most things (a little his style and a little mine mixed together) but one time, he decided that he really wanted our living room to be painted “spanish dancer” aka bright orange-pink. It wasn’t my taste but I figured why not since he loved it so much and it was only paint. After 6 months we primed it white again because we couldn’t stand the color – it was WAYYY too overpowering in that room. While I might have been right about that, his push to get me to paint the kitchen walls a bright turquoise has been one of my favorite things in our house. After 8 years of decorating together, we’re still figuring it out…..but communication is he real key.

  • I love these tips! Whenever I decorate I usually do whatever I want and my husband is usually pretty go with the flow with everything but these are great tips on how to incorporate both people’s interests which I should try and do more of!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  • Oh my roommate and I are having to decorate our apartment together! We’ve been best friends for years and our tastes are somewhat different but can mesh together well. We aren’t worrying so much about the bedroom (same room, separate beds, each decorate their half), but we have to work together on the living room. I’m more into a bohemian style, she’s very into retro pastels. Luckily we both love the other style as well!

    Peace & Love // http://celestralite.com

  • My Hubby has strong opinions and very different taste. He wants everything wood, plaid, forest green and leather. I have more of an eclectic, modern taste. The last apartment we lived in together we decorated all the rooms together. After so much compromise, neither of us felt like the decor reflected our true tastes. When we bought our home last year our compromise was that I got to decorate the living room, he could take the whole basement for his “man cave” and the rest of the house we would decorate together. I still asked his input on some of the items, for example we went sofa shopping together. When he’s crabby he will sometimes bitches that he doesn’t like the living room, but he can always just go to his ‘man cave’ and feel better.

  • I’ve been learning about blending styles this past month as I moved in with my boyfriend and best friend. It’s funny, because my boyfriend was like, “do your thing! You know way more about this that me!” and has been so happy with what our home looks like, he just cares a lot about functionality. The relationship that has experienced the challenge is me and my best friend. We have super similar styles, but I had a very clear idea of what I wanted rooms to look like and most of the furniture was mine so I worry I got a little controlling. After the first few days we got a bit of a rhythm and all is well!

  • I love that you brought up this topic! My boyfriend and I have lived together for the past few years – I moved into his apartment, which he had proudly decorated to “look like a medieval dungeon.” Luckily, he really liked how I had decorated the apartment I had when we met and was happy to change things up. One thing that has helped is that when we are at a restaurant or someone’s house for a party, I always ask him what he likes or doesn’t like about the decor. We also went on a few home & garden tours and that really helped us talk about styles and ideas. I find that if I keep an open mind and really listen to his ideas, together we come up with something better than what I would have done on my own.

  • I love this, my partner is the same…he will say yes to everything apart form one crucial thing.. I found the difficult part was merging our things together, he’s big into bold graphics and lego, whereas I am into abstract and colour. But I find adding little pieces of lego around the house in unique places, and keeping his bold graphic posters in small clusters, pairs well with my vomit of colour everywhere!

  • When we first moved in my man came from a magnolia house, ugh, which is tricky cos I love colour. He’s become so much more open minded towards colour over the years and we’re now planning a bright blue Mediterranean wall in our bedroom, softly softly is my approach. Similarly I show him colour themes and suggestions and we come up with a compromise. That’s the magic word! We’re also a really good team at the practical stuff, mainly as we both volunteer in a theatre group and are so used to painting big sets that house walls are easy peasy in comparison!

  • HA! So on point. My husband and I talked about this today! We love our space, but sometimes it’s hard to get used to living in a nice beautiful place in your 30’s, when you are used to what you had in your 20’s. We work really hard at making it cozy and stylish. I just did a post on my blog today on our new Mid-Century Modern chair with a rustic twist. We built the chair ourselves, all DIY like. And it’s really a marriage of both our styles. But its so nice, and we were used to our old hand-me-down furniture! here’s a link to my post. http://www.fabricationpollination.com/2015/07/22/diy-mid-century-rustic-chair/

  • Great tips, Elsie! I’ve pretty much won the lottery with my husband. He says he can live anywhere, so all the decor decisions are up to me. I sort of like it, sort of hate it, because sometimes a second opinion comes in really handy, and I’d love this to be a couple’s thing. I always try to include him in the process, and sometimes he does have an opinion, so I’m always glad I asked. We mostly have similar taste, so that helps a lot. The only thing we disagree on is where to find furniture. I’d love to thrift everything, and fix it up on our own. He would prefer to go to a store and pick everything out, and just have it delivered. Our current money situation favors my approach, so it’s all good 🙂

  • I’ve been living with my husband for just over 2 years now, and was actually surprised at how much easier it has been to decorate than I thought. The townhouse was his, and he already had most of our furniture. So his big compromises were letting me add color to his mostly white walls and add some accessories and curtains, and my big compromises were learning to live with less clutter than I would if left to my own devices/giving him free rein on the bulk of the organizing, since that’s what he really cares about. We did pick out new bedroom furniture together, and also worked together to make a fun, colorful nursery for our one month old son. We have begun talking about what to do about housing as our family grows, and it’ll definitely be interesting to see what happens if we end up with a place where we need to renovate or start decorating from scratch, though!

  • I find that my husband often feels overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices available and the daunting task of researching them all (which I’m sort of a nerd for), so after we talk about a general idea, I’ll present him with what I think are 3 or 4 good options and we’ll (usually) go with whichever he likes best. If none of them are a hit or he doesn’t seem convinced, I’ll come back with a few more options.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I especially enjoyed your ruminations on give & take and choosing areas of priority.

  • I love hearing how other people make decor decisions with their partners! I’ll describe an idea and my boyfriend will be against it but once he sees a picture, he usually comes around. We always have the right to “veto” design decisions. I wanted to paint our bathroom deep teal and he wanted royal blue, so we bought three teal and one royal blue sample. We both ended up liking the royal blue better, so he won that one!

  • I like the idea of starting a Pinterest board and them showing it to the other. My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years now but still live separately. I sometimes think about our interior style if we would move in together. I have this amazing golden chair in which I read every day and I absolutely love it. He thinks it’s the most kitsch thing ever (which admittedly, it is). Also, I asked him the other day how he would feel about a unicorn head on his wall, haha, but it surprised me that he said ‘well if it’s a cool one I wouldn’t mind’. My biggest ‘fear’ will be our differences in stuff though. I read Marie Kondo’s book a while ago and basically threw out half of what i own. Everywhere I look in his house I see stuff that I would love to throw out :p But then again, we do build furniture together and both love the results. So there is definitely an overlap in taste as well. We’ll see with more time what will come from our eclectic mix 🙂

  • This is the second marriage for both me and my husband. I spent 10 years living alone in between these marriages. Having to consider another person’s input on the sofa we buy or the color we paint the living room is difficult for me, but I’m trying. We are beginning a major renovation of our house, both inside and out. While we’ve agreed on walls to be removed, structural problems to be fixed (we have a creole cottage in New Orleans built in 1904) and indoor and outdoor paint, I am feeling a little apprehensive about our furniture choices. He has excellent taste, but it’s completely different than mine. He’s more aesthetic/contemporary/modern; I’m more classic/spa-like/boho. We want to create spaces where we both feel comfortable and “at home.” Compromise is a big part I know, and he’s better at it than I am for sure. We did the Pinterest board, but it just confirmed how far apart we were in what we preferred. Thanks for the insight and tips. I’m always on the lookout for other fellow compromisers’ ideas.

  • This is great, because I will soon be needing to combine different styles into one home!

    I would like to point out you missed #3 and went straight to #4… haha! oops 🙂

  • I’m so excited to see the after on the Nashville house. It seems like an amazing layout and bones to work with. Will there just be a ‘final’ reveal or some behind the scenes progress posts.

  • I was just going through pin boards with my husband last night (torture for him!) so this is crazy perfect timing! We just moved, and I want a very different feel this time. I like SO many different styles, and although I’d probably lean one way if it was just me, he definitely prefers the opposite spectrum, so it forces me to choose something. We’ll see if that actually happens here! By the way, I think my favorite room of yours EVER is the most recent one, the pinkish second dining room with the heavy wood table. I love it!

  • My husband is an architect, which is a tough type to be married to because he is very picky about design. We both share the same desire to live in a certain type of home in a certain area of the city we live in, but all the houses we’ve looked at have been huge projects we couldn’t afford, or just not ideal in certain areas. He has really great ideas on how to make spaces more practical for living purposes & I learn a lot from him in that regard. We recently finished designing a house together that he drew the plans for. We kept a shared board on Pinterest & spent a lot of nights with an open bottle of wine, tweaking the drawings to suit our mutual needs. We are pricing sub-contractors currently off our finished drawings & plan to blog about the building process once it gets underway. So far it’s been really fun! Keeping the shared boards on Pinterest & having our wine-design nights have really helped keep the lines of communication open for what we both expect out of the home we plan to start a family in 🙂

  • I moved into my partner’s place in February, and we’re still figuring it out. He is a minimalist…he hates having more than one piece of art on a wall (goodbye gallery walls!), likes surfaces to be clear of stuff, and hates superfluous furniture. I like eclectic, cozy styles that appeal to my romanticism of bygone eras. Overflowing bookcases, lots of art, cozy chairs, and a table on which to set a teacup near any sitting area. So it’s going VERY slowly. So far, he has built me lots of bookcases, and I agreed to an armoire instead of a dresser (no horizontal space to collect visual clutter.) We’ve also tried to make sure that each of us has one room where we have a bit more control and that feels calm and happy. For him, that’s the bedroom. For me it’s the living room, where i have books, a desk, and where my cat spends a lot of time.

  • I grew up sharing a bedroom with my sister, so I am no stranger to mixing styles and decor-compromise!
    I’ve always been a very visual person and really care how a space looks and feels. My husband, on the other hand, is all about practicality. We just got married 6 months ago, so it has been such a fun adventure trying to make our first house feel more like a home. The problem isn’t that our styles clash and that we can’t find a compromise–it’s that he genuinely does not care whatsoever, so I can feel overwhelmed when trying to make decisions because I don’t really have any guidelines (I know, tough problem to have, right?). I want our space to be a mixture of the both of us, not just my own style, so I try my best to keep a balance. Slowly, our space is becoming a reflection of us together, which I love.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s so nice to know that #thestruggleisreal when it comes to sharing spaces with other people haha!

  • As far as the actual bones of the house goes, I generally let my husband make the final decision. I weigh in here and there but mostly it is him. Though I did request all white walls and my wish was granted.

    Decorating is completely up to me, though I keep him in mind on every decision. Over the past couple years of being together I have started to figure out what he does and doesn’t like and I make sure to consider that before purchasing something. It has been working quite well!

    Leah Faye
    Lavender & Clover

  • I love this post! Me and my boyfriend have different tastes since I love colors and he adores everything white and minimalistic. Sometimes we need to make compromises and that means that our apartment is colorful but very minimalistic 😀

  • Love this! My husband and I are in the middle of renovating our first home. There has been so much give and take so far and we haven’t really even started the decorating yet! It’s funny because I feel like my style has changed so much since we’ve been married the last couple years because I want our home to be a place where he feels comfortable and loves. I, like you, have a much larger spectrum of styles that I love to choose from.

  • Hi

    I decorated our house with my other half, and we ended up arguing about who was doing more work than the other.

    We ended up paying for an expensive decorator, as busy parents, we just could not do it all!

  • One of the biggest things I learned while decorating our 2 rentals is that my husband WANTS to be involved! Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of assumed that he would just leave it to me. On the contrary. He has artistic sensibilities and opinions, and often they are very good opinions!

    For our current house we definately did decide on a theme up front. It has made it much easier to make decisions as both of us know what realm they fit into. In our bathroom, for example, I let him pick the color, but knew it would fit into the colors we had previously discussed as fitting our house.

    It can be a lot of fun to build your home together 🙂

  • This upcoming semester I’m rooming with one of my best friends. Her room is cave-like though, and I need tons of sun. Luckily we have a two-room double, but we will still be sharing the space. This post gave me some good ideas to share with her in order to work on creating a room we both love!

  • My husband has a special place in his heart for many little things that I would rather chuck… Such as the drawings made by children we don’t know, the broken guitar and the price tag currently hanging on our living room wall, but with compromise I think we have inspired a very eclectic style, and I’m glad he is willing to share his input.

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