Moving in together is a major step in any relationship. It’s not just a matter of splitting the rent check or sharing a bathroom, you’re creating a space for two people that’s supposed to suit each of your styles. And even if you come to find out you have wildly different tastes in décor, there are some design strategies to help you cohabitate in harmony. We had Jersey City interior designer Courtney Sloane owner of Courtney Sloane Design and Sloane Square weigh in on how to merge your individual personalities with your design preferences.
Make a game plan
Before you start running back and forth to IKEA, map out exactly what you want to accomplish. This includes putting your likes, dislikes, must-haves, have-nots and financial constraints out on the table. “First, for all of us, we have to outline the deal-breakers. On the onset, it’s about being completely honest and forthcoming about what works and what doesn’t work, and not placating your partner.” She compares it to the process of coming together as a couple, which involves dividing responsibilities, budgeting and practicing open communication. While there’s bound to be differences when it comes to paint color or picking the perfect coffee table, you’ll feel better if you have an agreed upon game plan from the get-go.
Now’s not the time to purge totally, but rather do what Sloane likes to call a “pre-purge.” Take time to evaluate each other’s things and decide what should stay and what should go. Once the design style starts to come together (think weeks down the line), you’ll have a better idea of what does and doesn’t belong. Just be mindful that there’s a whole lot of emotions that can surface when sorting through personal belongings and you’ll want to approach your partner as gently as possible.
Define your style
Part of creating your style identity is being able to define what you want. What I mean is being able to accurately express whether you’re into a mid-century modern aesthetic and knowing what that actually looks like. Sloane suggests couples turn to magazines or sites like Pinterest or Houzz for inspiration and talk out what they’re attracted to and vice versa. “The neat thing is, you often find really different things out about yourself through that process. It’s a very interesting place of discovery.” Searching for that commonality that overlaps between you both can lead to a more cohesive-looking space, even if you do have to meet somewhere in the middle. Just don’t be afraid to let your partner push you out of your comfort zone.
Claim your space
You’re both sharing this space equally so you’ll need to come up with a design concept that caters to how each of you live. If you work from home, you’ll need to carve out some kind of office. Does that area have a window? Do you want a window? Are you big on entertaining? Where’s the bar going to go? Remember, it’s not just about form but how functional your new living space can be. A designated area of your choosing is also a chance for you to retain some sort of individuality, which can be a good thing within a shared space. Overall, you want to make sure that both your wants and needs are addressed.
Prioritize points of interest
When you’re ready to make purchases and start putting the place together, it’s ok if you don’t have a “theme” set in stone. Although you want to have already decided on a style you both can live with, Sloane suggests going room by room in order to figure out where each one falls on the hierarchy. If you’re a couple who likes to cook, the kitchen may be your first priority. If you can’t wait to cuddle up on the couch and watch tv, then you’ll want to start with the living room. What will guide you (and the room) in the right direction are your investment or focal pieces. “Oftentimes the more substanstial purchases, like a sofa, act as the anchor. I really suggest to start there with the larger budget items and work through what’s going to be the focus.” Sometimes, you may not even know what that special element is yet until you find it, like a cool piece of art or antique mirror.
Respect the process (and each other)
While Sloane stresses that interior design is indeed a process, she reiterates the notion that this is something that’s supposed to be fun. For some, that means limiting the number of blow-ups over bookshelves or lighting fixtures and giving each other’s style a chance. What will keep the two of you motivated and excited for the future is to make small improvements at a time that you can mutually feel good about. “It’s important to have that sense of completeness and satisfaction as you’re moving through each of the areas. You can understand and see that this is just the beginning of what you’re building. There’s a progression that needs to unfold—just like life.”
About Courtney Sloane:
Courtney Sloane has been practicing interior design for over 20 years and began her career in Downtown Jersey City taking on commercial and residential projects around the globe. She has worked with dream clients on dream projects—from Disney to homes, offices and retail spaces for celebrities and business executives. Today, Courtney is also the owner and founder of Sloane Square—a lifestyle boutique located on the ground floor of 150 Bay Street in Downtown Jersey City. At Sloane Square, they offer on-site interior design services as well as an eclectic assortment of furniture, furnishings, gifts and home décor with a focus on products made by hand. For more on Courtney and her store, check out their website.