When Decorating Styles Clash

By Michelle Higgins, NY Times

Whether you’re taking on a roommate or moving into a new place with your significant other, combining different styles can be challenging — especially when the people involved have strong opinions. But some of the most interesting spaces, designers say, integrate a variety of influences. Here are some suggestions for creating an environment that’s cohesive, not clashing, and preserving your relationship along the way.


“Taking everything out of a room, and then deciding together what goes back in, can give a couple a fresh start without starting from scratch,” said James Tabb, an interior designer for the online decorating service Laurel & Wolf. Then you can go shopping together to bridge any gaps. To get a better sense of each other’s style, create a Pinterest board to share images of rooms and furniture you like.


“I think a big mistake couples make when designing is that they feel everything needs to match or be in the same aesthetic,” said Will Saks, a designer based in Brooklyn. He recommends going in the opposite direction: “Use furniture pieces from different design periods, layer in fabrics and textiles that are varied in pattern and color, hang artwork and pepper in accessories that are interesting and meaningful to you both. The ultimate goal in designing is to have a space that feels curated and personal.“

To achieve that effect, in the Brooklyn apartment of Carrie Carlson, 36, a publicist for lifestyle magazines who loves pinks and patterns, and Ben Blickle, 34, a Ph.D. candidate who prefers blues, greens and leather, Mr. Saks juxtaposed unexpected textures and colors, pairing a green leather armchair with a vintage pink velvet footstool and covering two antique wingback chairs in patterned upholstery. Photographs of family members, mementos from the couple’s travels (including a menu from a restaurant they visited on their honeymoon) and colorful artwork hang together in the living room to create gallery walls. “To me, this design works because every element in the space has touches of both Carrie and Ben,” Mr. Saks said.


“Find something you both love — like the color blue or the outdoors — and incorporate that into the room in small details like a piece of art or a custom-painted dresser,” said Taylor Spellman, a Manhattan interior designer. She’s also a host of the Bravo show “Yours, Mine or Ours” with Reza Farahan, a real estate agent, helping couples who live under separate roofs figure out how to share a space.

For clients of Becky Shea, an interior designer with the online service Homepolish, the inspiration for their shared residence turned out to be an imaginary vacation home. “They were having a tough time finding a happy medium that wasn’t overly masculine/feminine,” said Ms. Shea, noting that the husband’s “masculine monochromatic” tendencies clashed with his wife’s love of animal prints and “Old Hollywood” glam. “The balance came once we started talking about travel. They both love the Hamptons, so we wanted to integrate that style into this home.”

The kitchen was redone with white Shaker cabinetry, a white Carrara marble backsplash and Thomas O’Brien pendant lights. “Once we started conceptualizing the kitchen, which would carry over into other areas,” Ms. Shea said, “we found that a clean look would bring both of their worlds together, and the personal characteristics would be represented through accessories” — blush chairs, brass finishes and a black-and-white stair runner in a design called Pony by Alexander McQueen. “The foundation is very much both of them: timeless, clean, updated traditional meets modern tradition,” she said.


That’s what Jyothi Chandra, 32, a director at a communications agency, and Max Newlands, 34, a software engineer, did when they moved to a new condominium in Park Slope South, Brooklyn, last year. They found themselves struggling to blend Mr. Newland’s affinity for clean lines and minimalism with Ms. Chandra’s love of bright colors, loud patterns and eclectic art. “We had a hard time balancing some of our preferences — and the years of hand-me-downs and Ikea furniture didn’t help,” Ms. Chandra said. “We needed a fresh look to go with our fresh place.”

Working with Megan Hopp, a designer with Homepolish, they started with white walls and contemporary furniture as a foundation for playing with color and accessories. In the master bedroom, abstract aquamarine wallpaper creates a colorful backdrop for a low-profile bed, while a hand-woven duvet adds texture. Black-and-white geometric wallpaper adds interest to the dining room, while a red-wire hat rack in the shape of a moose is a pop of color in the entry. In the living room, a white credenza from CB2 is paired with a shaggy Native American wool rug; a midcentury-style bookcase is packed with colorful books and knickknacks; and whimsical throw pillows sit on a modernist sofa.

Ms. Hopp, at times, played the therapist. “I would do a lot of reassuring: ‘I know this copper mirror might seem wild and crazy to you, Max, but we’re on the right path; Jyothi, I promise this white console will not be boring, and when paired with the lamp, it won’t feel sterile.’”

Read more at the NY Times here »