Marrying Styles


Getting married means blending lives and merging households. Don’t let differing tastes bring trouble to paradise. Just take your time, talk it over and follow your heart as often as your head to find a look that’s totally (both of) you.

You knew before you got married that your fiancé had a black leather couch and a recliner so big it should have its own zip code. What you might not have expected is that he would want them to accompany him into this new stage of life. And imagine your surprise when he balked as you hung your grandfather’s first foray into oil painting above the dining room buffet or rebuffed your suggestion of using your heirloom bedroom set instead of his platform bed and assemble-it-yourself dresser.

Don’t worry. Whether you’re jointly outfitting your first home or your fifth, any couple is going to have some design differences. You can live happily ever after even if your couch clashes with his coffee table. Here’s how.

Break the Rules

Just because you have a casual slipcovered style doesn’t mean his Eames lounge chair will look out of place. It’s your home, not a catalog, and there are no points lost if you mix new and vintage, antiques and cutting-edge custom pieces. You can put like with like, resulting in a casually comfy family room but a more retro and masculine den. Or you can be eclectic in grouping by color, shape, texture or pattern regardless of style or period, says interior designer Amy Radspinner.

No matter what, remember you’re cultivating your own style, and sometimes the most unexpected pairings are the most refreshing, inspiring and downright cool. “That’s what design is,” says interior designer Lori Gammon. “It’s taking what you love and making it work with whatever style you have.”

 Do Your Homework

If you’re building or remodeling, spend some time poring over shelter magazines. Tear out pictures that each of you likes and talk about what appeals to you and what doesn’t—each is equally important to identify. This gives you a good starting point for discussions with a designer but leaves enough room to consider fresh choices you might not have come across in your research.

Know What You’re Talking About

Communication is key, says interior designer Stacy Montague, but don’t get hung up on terminology. “Some people think they like contemporary, but what they like really isn’t contemporary,” Montague says. It’s more important to know that you like light woods and minimal trim or that you prefer heavy paneling and intricate molding. Your designer will figure out whether you’re leaning modern or more traditional.

Don’t Settle but Do Compromise

When you reach a sticking point, the goal shouldn’t be to convince your spouse that he is wrong or that she actually likes what you like (and just doesn’t realize it yet). The goal is to find choices that you both like and to incorporate elements that you both love. Montague says that sometimes means giving up painted cabinets in the kitchen but then using them in the master bath. Or let him fashion his dream bar in the basement and give her free rein on the main level. “There’s always some common ground,” Montague says.

Hire a Professional

You thought you didn’t need a designer, but if you’re stuck at an impasse and the arguments are growing more heated and personal, it might be time to call in help. “Typically, [problems] are solved by a space plan,” Radspinner says. To create a space plan, a designer measures your rooms and your possessions to determine what fits best where and what else you need to complete a room. Once the plan is in place, what to use, save or buy becomes clear. Radspinner says that it often takes just a few hours (at around $60–$100 per hour) to work through conflicts and find a solution that neither of you could see before. “For $200,” she says, “you could save a marriage.”

Jennifer Garrett is a contributing writer for Madison Magazine.

Madison Magazine - May 2008
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