How to Marry Design Styles with Your Significant Other

It CAN be done without conflict.

Moving in with a significant other brings excitement, curiosity and difficult conversations (Who pays what bills?). But along with all of that comes the ultimate task of blending two different decor styles into a functional, inviting home. Oh, and you have to sort through massive amounts of stuff you've both accumulated over the years.

For those of you in the transition process, I'd like to share some tips I learned from moving in with my husband. 

Traditional Bedroom With Soothing Neutral Palette

Traditional Bedroom With Soothing Neutral Palette

Symmetry is key in this classical designed bedroom with a hint of nautical theme. The slipcovered bed is flanked by matching sconces and sage green nightstands. Gingham curtains add to the traditional look, and a curved sofa is the perfect spot to relax.

Photo by: Michael J. Lee

Michael J. Lee

 Compromise and communication are key.

I'll start with this, because without communicating and compromising, you won't make any progress. Discuss how you each want your home to look and feel. Be open about which items contain sentimental value. Explain what's most imporant to you, like having a quiet workspace or a place to entertain and watch TV with friends. Accept that some compromise is necessary. For instance, I painted an abstract painting on canvas using only pink paint. My husband wasn't crazy about a bright pink painting hanging in the living room, so, I hung up it up in a guest bedroom instead. Problem solved! 

White Contemporary Living Room With Gray Armchairs

White Contemporary Living Room With Gray Armchairs

The beautiful accent pillows were made from vintage textiles. Keeping them within a similar color palette allows them to be mixed and matched with stylish flair.

Photo by: Becki Owens

Becki Owens

 Don't knock it till you try it.

At first, everything will look awkward and misplaced. But before throwing out everything and starting from scratch, move it around; try furniture and wall decor in different rooms; and keep items in place for a while. I was surprised at how quickly I grew to love and enjoy tchotchkes and furniture that belonged to my husband.

Ian Brennan's Eclectic Living Room Mixes Styles For Personality

Ian Brennan's Eclectic Living Room Mixes Styles For Personality

Glee creator Ian Brennan's living room was redesigned by HGTV Design Star winner Emily Henderson, as seen on HGTV's Secrets From A Stylist . For the bungalow's decorative makeover, Emily deliberately combined three distinct design styles to reflect Ian's personality. Starting with a '30s masculine look that she's calling "FDR Chic," she then layers two more styles: a fun '60s element called "British Invasion Mod," and furnishings from Ian's travels called "Backpacker Traveler."

From: Secrets From a Stylist

 Make purchases together.

You share a home now, so it makes sense to buy furnishings and decor as a couple. Shop together so that one partner's style preferences don't dominate the home. Plus, any item you buy together will carry much more meaning than one you bought on your own. The best, most-rewarding purchase my husband and I made together was our beautiful, customized Chesterfield couch. We love sinking into it at night after a long day at work. It was a big purchase, but we plan on passing it down to our children one day.

Eclectic Black and White Bathroom With Rustic Wooden Vanity

Eclectic Black and White Bathroom With Rustic Wooden Vanity

This lively bathroom features black hexagon wall tiles paired with bright blue and white floor tiles that have been arranged into a geometric pattern. A wooden vanity adds a rustic vibe, while brass fixtures provide a finishing touch. A painting of a man with a pipe hangs on the wall.

Photo by: Caitlin Murray

Caitlin Murray

 Embrace eclecticism.

This design style is your new best friend. Mixing metals, textures, patterns and styles helps create a lived-in, unique look. So what if you love brass and copper accents while your partner prefers dark woods and leather? All of those elements can work together. Combining light and dark, soft and harsh, neutrals and bright elements make for a well-balanced living space representative of both masculine and feminine styles.

Ideas for Creating a Gender-Neutral Home

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Instead of artwork, architectural style framed mirrors play with scale

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn


Crystal combined a balance of masculine and feminine design elements into the decoration of her living room.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn


To take the focus off the small bathroom, the walls were painted with 4-inch black and white stripes.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Eclectic Bedroom With Gray Upholstered Bed

Eclectic Bedroom With Gray Upholstered Bed

A gray upholstered bed is adorned with a fur throw in this eclectic bedroom featured in a townhouse. A blue piece of art hangs on the wall giving the room an eclectic feel.

Photo by: Caitlin McCarthy Design

Caitlin McCarthy Design

 Be kind.

Think twice before insulting that puffy leather chair or dingy shower curtain. Don't throw out items just because you don't like them. Ask your S.O. if there is sentimential value attached to an item and, if not, make the decision as a couple whether or not to give it away. Of course, it's unrealistic to go through this process with every. single. thing. But, remember, it's all just stuff. Will your world come crashing down if your partner feels deep attachment to a kitschy lamp from childhood? Probably not.

White Transitional Family Room With Sectional

White Transitional Family Room With Sectional

This friendly family room was designed with everyone in mind: The large, custom-made sectional perfectly fits this family of six and the built-in entertainment unit houses toys in the drawers and books and objects on the shelves. Womb chair: DWR; Crane floor lamp: CB2; Spider chandelier: Cisco Brothers

Photo by: Dustin Halleck

Dustin Halleck

 Flex your creative muscles.

In other words, try to make the ugly stuff that you hate blend in with the rest of the decor. Approach the situation optimistically. This is an opportunity to create a brand new style that represents both you and your S.O. For example, my husband had a collection of Hatch Show prints hanging on random walls throughout the house. I suggested hanging them all together to create a more visually striking gallery wall. Bonus: Now it's a conversation piece! 

Tiny, Eclectic Living Room & Kitchen

Tiny, Eclectic Living Room & Kitchen

Kim Lewis Designs seamlessly blends the living area and kitchen together in this tiny home in Texas. A chic black-and-white color scheme ties the two spaces together with color accents and patterns that aren't too loud.

Photo by: Molly Winters Photography

Molly Winters Photography

 Be patient.

Creating an inviting, personalized home takes time, so much time. Resist the urge to buy everything from Ikea or Target. Let your home evolve naturally. Scour flea markets and estate sales. When offered, accept furniture from family members. (Seriously, more than half of our house is made up of items handed down from parents and grandparents.) When you fill your home with items that bring you joy, evoke a memory and posess meaning, it makes the process worthwhile.

Get Inspired by This Real-Life Couple

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The Happy Couple

When Brittany Flowers bought her Washington, D.C., row house, she hadn’t even met her husband-to-be, Jim. Eager to put her stamp on the historic 1890 home, the former food editor, who now owns a textiles and soft goods company, reconfigured the kitchen, painted the wood trim glossy white, and brought in her favorite furniture. Less than a year later, the two started dating, and got married in 2013. A diplomat who has spent much of the past decade in the Middle East, Jim had his own collection of prized pieces. The couple combined their stuff, eventually landing on a cozy mix of dusky colors, warm woods, and patterns that makes them both happy. "As we buy things together, we merge our styles more,” says Brittany. “It’s a work in progress, but we’re figuring out how to meet in the middle."

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)

Living Room

The couple happened upon this rug at an antiques shop. In deep reds and blues, it complements the traditional roll arm sofa from Lee Industries that Brittany had reupholstered in velvet. To keep the space from feeling stuffy, she painted the Victorian-era mantel in the corner the same color (Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore) as the walls. The coffee table is by Nate Berkus for HSN. His: a framed antique map of Texas, the couple’s home state. Hers: one of a pair of tufted armchairs nabbed for $400 at an auction

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)


Painted Mozart Blue by Benjamin Moore, the 1,800-square-foot row house with a blue-black door stands out from its more subtly hued neighbors. But a portico, columns, and the original nine-over-one windows help preserve its historical appeal.

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)

Dining Room

After Jim begged Brittany to toss the decrepit caned chairs she used to have in this room, furnishing it became a “combined effort,” she says. They got the antique dining table and buffet after getting married and filled the shelves flanking the window with wedding gifts. Although Jim didn’t pick out the replacement chairs—a mix of antiques and Craigslist finds that Brittany upholstered in drop cloths—”he’s much happier sitting in them!” she says.

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)


With its cramped layout, the kitchen topped Brittany’s list of redos when she bought the house. She moved a pantry to fit a pro-grade fridge, then added storage via IKEA cabinets and pine shelves from The Home Depot. Tearing up the linoleum floors revealed hardwood, but it was beyond refinishing, so she coated it with deck paint (Antique Silver by Glidden). Hers: an industrial-inspired pendant from IKEA. Hers: half of a vintage runner; Brittany’s friend has the other half in her home.

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)

Reading Nook

Mounted on a living room wall, this intricate house door that Jim found in Saudi Arabia serves as a large-scale work of art. Its weathered wood makes an unexpected backdrop for Brittany’s bergère chair, which she bought at an estate sale and had upholstered in a modern IKEA fabric. On the pedestal table rests a (still working!) vintage radio Brittany discovered in the house when she bought it.

Photo By: David A. Land. (Styled by Heather Chontos)

Gallery Wall

"This is one of the best examples of how we’ve merged our stuff," Brittany says of her and Jim’s collection of photos that line the hallway of the top floor. They all have metallic frames, so the images look like a cohesive set, even though they depict different time periods—and families!

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)

Her Office

While she tried to keep most of the house from looking too feminine, here Brittany embraced her girly side full tilt. Drapes, which her mom stitched from Cole & Son fabric, frame a leggy campaign-style desk, a $300 Craigslist find. The finishing touch: a vintage gilded chandelier. Hers: a vinyl and wood chair bought for $15 at an "antiques junk shop".

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)

His Study

A voracious reader, Jim keeps his extensive library in stacks and on modular shelves in this converted bedroom. His mom had the navy armchair made to replicate his dad’s favorite one. By Jim’s feet sits a wood war chest from Pakistan, and on the floor is a Turkish rug—one of the few that made the move with Jim to the row house. His: a painting on a piece of old stationery, from South Asia.

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)


This room’s airy blue-and-white color scheme and layers of textiles may be all Brittany, but "Jim insisted on upgrading from a queen bed to a king," Brittany says. She found the linen headboard and the sconce at Restoration Hardware. Brittany co-opted the area next to her side of the bed for a dressing table. She DIYed the table’s skirt from a piece of linen hung with white thumbtacks, then added a vintage stool and salvaged mirrors. Hers: a quilt from Bushel & Peck, the Indian textiles company Brittany founded.

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)


Navy walls (Rue Royale by Ralph Lauren Paint) make this small space worth a second look. To put more emphasis on the deep color, Brittany chose lots of wall-mounted storage, including a wire basket from Anthropologie. The monogrammed hand towels are from West Elm. On the wall next to the sink is a painting left over from a photo shoot, from Brittany’s magazine editor days.

Photo By: David A. Land (Styled by Heather Chontos)

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