Wednesday, May 12, 2010


There are few people who have the luxury of full reign as it relates to the design of their home.  Those that do, typically won’t have it for long.  We’re built for companionship…and with that comes the opportunity to share space and eventually the need for compromise.  I learned this lesson the hard way my Sophomore year of college when I moved into an apartment with three of my closest friends.  The two of us that arrived first had visions of transforming our living room into a Moroccan paradise, complete with areas for ground seating and netted canopies hanging from the ceiling.  And that’s just what we did.  In our defense, we thought it would be a great surprise for our roommates to walk into a fully decorated apartment, but unfortunately what we failed to realize was they had entirely different ideas of what the space should look like.  They were looking forward to a more typical college living experience with vintage couches and “conversation pieces” whereas we wanted a perfectly coordinated tribute to Pier 1.  For the most part they were good sports about it, in fact it took awhile before we realized they didn’t love it as much as we did.  After a few weeks, they lashed out in the form of a two foot wooden Asian figurine they affectionately named “Unagi”.  Unagi was, hands down, the ugliest thing I’d ever seen and our roommates loved him for it.  In fact, they tried to justify his presence in our house by saying just that- “He’s so ugly!  We just had to buy him”.  It was all pretty much down hill from there.  We’ve all remained close friends and can laugh about the whole ordeal now, but at the time our decorating woes caused serious issues in our home.  Your experience decorating a shared space may not be so theatrical (as there are few groups of people more dramatic than college age girls) but don’t be too naïve to assume that the potential for decorating drama can’t exist in your home (or that you’re not harboring a silent sufferer).  What I didn’t understand back in college was that no matter how much you have in common with someone as a person, it doesn’t guarantee you’re going to be comfortable in the same type of space.  We wanted to explore a couple situations where you may need to compromise in your decorating (or encourage someone to compromise in theirs), and offer some advice for how it can be done as painlessly as possible.  


Here’s the advice I’ve given an umpteen amount of times on Design Muse already- make a plan!  Obviously if a person owns a house and rents it out they hold the trump card, but when you’re renting as a group everyone paying their fair share gets an opinion.  If you’re just starting out you may all be making a lot of large purchases, it’s much easier to come to peaceful agreements before you buy than after.  The trickiest part of this situation is balancing the idea of appeasing someone you won’t be living with forever without spending your hard earned money on something you don’t love.  If you really adore a piece you know your roommate will hate it doesn’t mean you can’t buy it, it’s just common courtesy to keep it out of your house’s common areas.  If your roommate is guilty of making particularly ugly contributions to your living space you can do one of a few things 1) Quietly stew 2) Forward them the link to this post and hope they get the hint (somewhat passive aggressive, but effective) or 3) “Accidently” break it.  (Just kidding, although you may be tempted).  In all seriousness, a simple conversation will do.  There’s no need to be insulting or angry, just let them know you’d like to make some changes in the space.  Don’t just complain for the sake of getting it off your chest- if you’re not in a place to financially contribute to changes you may want to rethink taking your grievance public.  If you’re old enough to be renting you’re mature enough to work through the uncomfortable situations that may arise through this process.  


Marriage is a game changer for a million reasons.  There are two permanent players involved so the need for compromise is higher, essentially all area is common area and peace is invaluable.  If you’re about to get married and you’ve both previously lived on your own you’re going to have to quite a lot to sort through.  Before you find yourself ready to go to battle for an item you feel you can’t live without determine why you’re so unwilling to part with it.  Marriage is about choosing your battles, but if it’s an heirloom piece you may have reason to expend energy on the matter.  How acceptable is the item’s condition?  Can it be changed (painted, reupholstered, fixed) be acceptable to both parties?  It may require some creativity but there are so many unique ways to combine styles and pieces.  Take the time to sit down together, just look at magazines and just be honest with each other.  You may have to endure many “I like that, I don’t’” moments but you’ll eventually find a type of look that’s not too feminine, not too masculine, and totally you.  If you’re still engaged, use your registry thoughtfully to achieve your newfound look or to fill in the gaps in your design.  If you’ve been married a long time than I’m sure decorating issues are the least of the things you’ve worked through together.  Keep each other’s needs and wants at the forefront of any renovation decision just like you would in any other area.  When you’re both looking out for each other, everyone’s back is covered and your space can be filled with more than just beautiful things- it can know love!


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