So you're moving in together with a significant other and you have totally clashing interior design styles? Or maybe you're getting an apartment with your best friend and you haven't the first clue where to start on deciding what your shared apartment aesthetic should be? Whatever the interior design dilemma, this post is for you.
Earlier this year we underwent a major life milestone as we moved in together with our partner and despite the world working against us as we have VERY different decor preferences, we developed a fairly fool proof way to compromise and meet in the middle to design a space that feels like home for us both. We're by no means experts in relationships or in interior design here, so please take this all with a grain of salt, but know that this is the exact step-by-step process that we used + saw success with. For what it's worth, we're six months into living together and things have never been better, nor has a place of our own ever felt more like home - and with that, let's get started.
Step 1: Lay the Ground Rules
It should go without saying, and this is sure to look different for every roommate situation, but establishing clear communication and ground rules from the get-go is KEY. The ground rules we used were:
- Respect: Respect that every person has their own unique tastes and requirements to make a place feel like home. Respect one another's opinions + make decisions together for the things shared together. Respect that people will come to the table with different financial situations and comfortabilities. Respect that moving is often a frustrating + stressful event in and of itself, sometimes it pays to take a break from it/talking about it. No matter what you do + decide on, keep respect at the forefront of every decision.
- Value-Based Priorities: This is our GOLDEN rule (for every decision we make). When you're not seeing eye-to-eye with your partner, have one another share how important the respective outcome is on a scale from 1 (I really don't care) to 10 (if I don't get my way, the decision will stick with me for the rest of my life). Whomever's value ranks the highest, gets their choice prioritized. This sounds dramatic but it REALLY helps. For example, having a private space to do my work was an 8 or a 9 for me and only a 6 for my partner, therefore, I got to claim the home office as my own, while his desk landed in our common area. The decisions tend to all balance themselves out in the end as long as high values are distributed equitably and without selfish motives.
Step 2: Individual Pinterest Board - Gather Interior Design Inspo
Technically, this could be your step 1 and will not require any additional work for many people. Individually, you'll want to have an idea of what design styles you like, which you hate, what colors bring you happiness, what living room design is most practical for your lifestyle, etc. Though Pinterest is not the only medium for which you can save interior decor inspiration, it is the one that we've personally found the most useful and have been "pinning" home decor we love for YEARS, which made this step a breeze. However you find + define it, try to get a feel for what you want your home to look like so that you're able to enter the conversation with your needs + wants heard.
Step 3: Decide Your Living Arrangements
The timing of this step can also be flexible in the early phases and this should go without saying, but you're going to want to know where you'll be living before getting too deep into planning your decor. Different spaces will bring entirely different choices, just as room dimensions and configurations will also dictate which furniture you can bring vs. which you might need to buy. Natural light vs. artificial light totally changes a room's appearance. How many rooms will you need to furnish? All of these are important considerations that will entirely alter many of your next steps.
Step 4: Align on Which Furniture is Staying/Going
Once you know where you'll be living and what space you have to work with, you'll want to decide together which furniture you'll be bringing with you, which you might need to sell and which you'll collectively need to buy. Assuming your new roommate and you have both lived somewhere + collected furniture + decor previously, you'll have to chat about whose bed you'll be keeping, whose couch is coming with you and which furniture items you'll be parting ways with. Personally, getting rid of my boyfriend's old, smelly, frat boy couch was a 10 for me and keeping his ladder shelf was a 9 for him so those two decisions were easy. For our two bedroom place, we decided that we wanted to share a king bed for ourselves, which we would need to purchase new, and would keep his queen bed for our guest room as it was the more comfortable of our two beds. This step will ultimately pave the road for what furniture you'll need to buy and which design aesthetics will best complement the pieces you already have (for example, the previously mentioned ladder shelf was walnut + black, which totally nixed an entirely "light + airy" vibe for the apartment).
Step 5: Create a Shared Pinterest Board - Align Mutual Interests + Elements
Next, you'll want to look through each of your individual Pinterest boards or saved interior design inspiration and try to identify any common themes or mutual interests. Your absolute favorite styles may not be shared, but there will likely be identifiable similarities or features. The aesthetic for each room does not need to be completely the same, which should help build in some flexibility (i.e. modern art-deco living room, light + airy bedroom) and do your best to have an open mind + respect your partner's creative vision. Ultimately, you'll want to align on a loose aesthetic for each room in your new place and create a shared Pinterest board/Folder for you each to continue contributing ideas + looks that match, and help drive inspiration.
My preferences: light, airy, modern, beachy
My dislikes: rustic, farmhouse
His preferences: rustic, masculine, industrial, dark + moody
His dislikes: all white + colorless
Our Shared Pinterest Board: light, calming with industrial elements
Step 6: Align Top 5 Options for Each Item Needed
Taking into account your newly combined interior aesthetic, the furniture you already have to work with (and how it matches said aesthetic), and what decor + furniture items are still needed, you'll want to start narrowing down what pieces will actually make it into your home. Though this step can be tedious, it's an important one: work together to create individual folders/boards that house your top 5 options for each item needed (starting with a larger amount and narrowing down as needed, but you'll want to land on 5). Utilize the golden rule here as required to help sort through options and be sure to take into account things like cost, shipping time, delivery easy, practicality, quality, etc.
Ours ended up looking something like this:
You'll notice that most options we saved touched on at least one shared quality that we identified in earlier steps: industrial features, modern, walnut (like the ladder shelf) or neutral (all glass)
Step 7: Individually Identify Your Top 3 Options
Now with your top 5 choices in mind, you'll each individually and separately need to decide which top 3 options you would be okay with. Once you've each decided for yourselves, you'll want to share what these top 3 options are. Doing so this way guarantees that you'll each have at least one option in common and as a happy compromise that you can both agree on. In many cases, the final option will not be either person's top choice option, but always one that's suitable, which helps with any one person's style choices dominating the process. If you end up with multiple shared options, then you can use cost + the consideration of complementing pieces to help narrow down, or jump to step 8.
My Top 3 (in order):
1) The White Squiggle + Glass Table
2) The Walnut + Glass Table
3) The All Glass Table
His Top 3 (in order):
1) The Walnut + Black Table
2) The Walnut + Glass Table
3) The All Glass Table
We ended up going with our shared number 2 choice for our coffee table, but after a month of shipping delays we ended up cancelling the order and purchasing the third option, all-glass table instead and we'd now argue that we couldn't imagine it being any other way, so it all works out for a reason.
Step 8: Digitally Recreate Your Space
This step is totally flexible to use at any point + throughout the entirety of the process but we cannot recommend it more. Essentially you'll want to digitally recreate the spaces you're designing. Doing so will help you to really visualize the different elements that you're bringing together and understand what works and what doesn't work . Without doing this step we would might have ended up with a white couch, white table, white walls and white rug and it would have 100% felt sterile and overwhelming. Instead, we spotted this flaw in the individual pieces that we liked and incorporated different mediums and complimentary colors to come up with an end results we LOVED. Though you'll need a Canva Pro membership for best performance, they have free trials + discounted membership opportunities so it's 100% feasible to do at low/no cost. Alternatively, we imagine you can also use Photoshop, Procreate, or a similar photo editing software as all that you really need is a background remover tool, but we can only speak on the Canva experience. You'll just need to upload pictures of the items you're working with, remove the background and layer together to recreate the space online. 100000/10 recommend.
Step 9: BUY, DIY + Have Fun Making Your House a Home
Decide on your final looks, purchase your items + start having fun making your house a home! Moving in with someone is an exciting life event and shouldn't be made more dull by the logistical details - have fun with it, celebrate with pizza on the floor + bottles of wine your first night. Don't be afraid of DIY projects like artwork or decor. Be OK with admitting when you don't like something or need to readjust. Keep in mind that none of this is permanent and there will always be an opportunity to redesign in the future, so let yourself get lost in this experience now. And last but not least, be patient and remember the golden rule.
It took us 6 months and MANY shipping delays and headaches* to land on our end result and we truly LOVE it and never want to leave home. It feels like a good balance of both of our styles and needs, and most of all it feels special and like something that we created together, as opposed to walking into someone's space and trying to make it feel like your own. We truly put the disco in the details of our home + hope that this post helps you find a way to do the same!
*(After 7 months of waiting, terrible customer service and a filing with the Better Business Bureau, we never got our Feathers Sectional from Valyou Furniture and instead settled on the Thomasville Lowell 8 Piece Sectional from Costco, which ended up surpassing our expectations in every way. We could not recommend it, or the service that accompanied it, more - this is not sponsored FYI)