How To: Decorate When You Share A Home
It's the dream, isn't it? You and your beloved, poring over paint charts, wandering the aisles of IKEA, flicking paint at each other atop a ladder, laughing smugly at your own pure fabulousness and good fortune.
Creating a home together sounds simple, but in reality it takes more thought than you might first realise. After all, you're attempting to merge two people, two lives. That's two lifetimes worth of belongings, memories, experiences, personalities - and ideas of what 'home' should look like. And however compatible you are in every other area, your home is such a personal thing, that it's bound to get a little tricky trying to compromise every now and again.
Lewis and I are lucky that our tastes are very similar, but that's only become the case after eight years together, with just over seven of those living together. Back in those hazy first days of renting, circa 2010, I wondered how on earth we'd both be happy with the way our home looked, one distant day in the future. My taste was very Cath Kidston/vintage tea room, with floral bunting, vintage china and knick-knacks everywhere, whereas Lewis was heavily into band artwork, guitars everywhere and bold, big furniture.
These days, things are much more aligned. Our joint taste has evolved, and now we're usually very firmly on the same page when it comes to interior design. We both like 1960s style, cool colours to create a very light feel, and limited clutter, with interesting pieces scattered about. I mean, you could never call either of us minimalists, but we're definitely less into knick-knacks these days. Less is more and all of that... We're very into the idea of 'the beautiful and the useful', and try to apply that where we can with what makes it into our home.
Our taste managed to progress together, which is handy given that our current flat is the second home we've bought together, and the eighth flat we've lived in together, in total. I mean, we have the odd sticking point here and there, but one or the other usually comes around to the other point of view and sees that actually, it's a pretty good idea - neither of us are afraid to back down if something looks good! We are all about the aesthetic, guys.
But it's not always so easy, so I wanted to share my top tips to make sure that joint interior design is more of a dream situation and less of a disaster zone...
BE PREPARED TO COMPROMISE
This is the key, and the thing you need to accept before either of you even glance at a paint chart. Your home, whether purchased or rented, is a big investment of both money and emotion, and is something that's very personal. Giving up a long-held dream of how you imagine it to look might feel tough at the time, but you have to remember that it's not just 'your' home anymore.
TALK IT OUT AND DECIDE TOGETHER
Make sure you're both clear on what you'd like from your home, so that the other can understand, and together, you can start to build a picture of how you'd like your home to look. You should aim for something that represents you both; an equal mix of your tastes, so that it doesn't look like one of you just happens to live there, amongst all of your partner's stuff.
CREATE A JOINT PINTEREST BOARD
This one was so helpful for us, back when we bought our first home in 2015. Having a joint Pinterest board to spread ideas out on helped us to weed out which ideas we couldn't compromise on, and introduced us to ones that we might not have even considered. It's a great way to strike a balance, and find inspiration for ways to blend your tastes in a cohesive way, that still feels comfortable for both of you.
TAKE IT SLOW
When you first move into somewhere, there can be an overwhelming urge to do it all now and make it 'yours' instantly. I've heard that this is especially the case with doer-uppers (we've been lucky enough that neither of the flats we've bought needed anything other than minor cosmetic work, no major DIY!), but I would urge you to take it slow when it comes to the decor, whatever the case or condition of your home.
Rushing into big decisions is never a good idea, and this is true with your home too. Take it easy, take time to work out how you both live within your space and what you need from it, before you make big, expensive decisions or purchase big, expensive items.
DON'T BUY ANYTHING BIG WITHOUT CHECKING
This comes back to that compromise section above. Yes, it's your home, but it's theirs too, so be considerate, and don't buy anything 'big' without checking with your partner first.
Whether it's statement pieces of furniture, kitchen fittings, big rugs or even artwork; if it's going to be a noticeable part of your home, make sure they actually like it too, before typing in your PIN number.
Allow each other the flexibility and the trust to buy pieces at will, like small pieces of art, frames, or little decorations, but with the bigger decisions, just remember that it's not entirely your decision to make. Plus, it's no fun going sofa shopping alone - make the big decisions something you can enjoy doing together.
DON'T WRITE OFF THE OTHER'S IDEAS
Just because it's not what you had in mind, doesn't mean it's a bad idea. If your partner proposes something they're passionate about, hear them out - remember, there's nothing ruder than laughing at someone else's idea of what's nice. Compromise is all about finding something that works for both of you, so take the time to listen to their ideas, find examples that show how it would work, and discuss it to find something that suits the both of you.
Trust is key. Sometimes you might be unsure of an idea, but if your partner truly believes it will work (and they've usually got an eye for this kind of thing!), then trust them on it. If it doesn't work - then you repaint, or you take it back. Worst ways - you learn to love it.
Our living room is a good example of this; I wanted to paint the white room grey, I was convinced it would be perfect. Lewis wasn't so sure, and thought it might be too dark and feel cramped, but he let me have my own way - with a compromise on a lighter shade of grey than I was initially proposing. But now our living room is a gorgeous, warm, cosy grey and it looks exactly as I had imagined it, and he loves it too - you just need to trust the other's instincts sometimes.
So there you have it, my advice from seven years of co-habiting, two of those as a homeowner. Creating your home together should be fun and fulfilling - you're creating memories, so make it enjoyable. But remember, it's not the most important thing in the world, and if there's bumps in the road, laugh it off and try again - it's an adventure that doesn't need to be stressful, it should be something to cherish.