A Happy Medium

By Tim Torres

April 18, 2008 4 min read


Merging different decor may be easier said than done

By Tim Torres

Copley News Service

When Venus meets Mars, somebody's furniture is gonna get eclipsed.

It's simple physics, really. Two households now have to fit in one abode. Two decorating styles are going to have to come to some sort of agreement about taste and function. Didn't the marriage counselor mention this? They should have.

It's not as tough as you may fear. You can start toward a happy home by estimating how much space do you have to fill and taking stock of what you have.

If the styles are close, maybe you can find some common ground about form and function and work from there, one expert advises. Can you incorporate some of "his" stuff with some of "her" elements?

Or, how about designating "his" and "her" areas that each can decorate as they please? Perhaps he wants to focus on the TV room, while she focuses on the home office or the bedroom. Success in all this depends on the personalities and just how deep the disagreements are allowed to go.

Get ready to compromise, says San Diego psychologist Rosalie Easton. If both people are involved in the decorating and are going to blend styles, "be prepared to give up the most extreme version of your style," she says. If you're not prepared to do that, you're going to fight - about this and other issues in the future.

Interior designer Marsha Sewell of Marsha Sewell & Associates in San Diego has a simpler suggestion. Just start over, she says.

"If they are starting a life together, they should pick a style and work toward that." If they can't hire a professional to help, there are plenty of floor plan models on the Internet to go by, she says. A formalized plan worked out together will get you off to the right start.

If you want to try for an eclectic style, "just throwing stuff together doesn't work," she says. An eclectic style must still consider the rules of matching scale, achieving balance and using colors that complement each other.

Whatever you do, don't bring in a third party to mediate this dispute, says David Peters. "We refer to that as 'triangulation' ... it always leads to greater conflict." If a couple is that gridlocked in their disagreement to the point that they have heated arguments, they should consult a licensed couples counselor, says Peters, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Diego.

"Decorating is a relatively minor issue compared to much larger challenges of marriage, such as raising children and managing a financial future", Peters says. "Merging your different styles is good practice for these big challenges. We all need to learn some necessary skills for a committed relationship." These include truly listening to your partner, keeping yourself calm during a disagreement, and forgiving your partner's failings.

Practice compassion, he says. That means to "purposely hold feelings of caring, respect, and forgiveness as a way of managing all conflicts. It doesn't mean giving up your opinion. Sometimes one partner can honestly admit that they don't have much skill in decorating, and they would do well to step back and let their spouse take the lead."

And remember, some people hold onto old objects and furnishings as a way to avoid losing their identity, he said.

And some just have poor taste.

Overstuffed leather chairs, strange lampshades and wagon wheel coffee tables come to mind. And have you seen www.casketfurniture.com?

It's always the men who have the terrible furniture, Sewell says with a laugh.

Take heart, bride, she adds. "At least water beds are gone."

? Copley News Service

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