The number-one mistake couples who are about to move in together make? Fighting about it.
“At the end of the day, the neon beer sign shouldn’t make or break the relationship…but it can find a new home in the garage,” says Yelp’s home editor (and accomplished interior designer/general real-estate guru) Lauren Makk. “It’s really important to be considerate and honor each other’s desires, because you both have to feel like you belong in your new home.” Spouse before house, right?
While sacrificing your relationship in the name of keeping your sentimentally significant dinnerware is never recommended, the process of moving in with someone whose taste is wildly different from yours isn’t about surrendering your belongings to compromise. “I know how it feels to want to start fresh with new things as you merge your lives. But buying all new things after the many recent moving expenses can really break the bank,” points out Makk.
It’s a tricky transition, and given that she’s helped tons of clients navigate it, we figured Makk was the perfect person to share some pointers. From knowing when to be realistic to the power of the veto, here’s what she had to say:
Take Stock of What You Have
“Before moving in, take an inventory of what each person is bringing to the space,” recommends Makk. Having a clear idea of exactly what you have and what you still need will help avoid arguments down the road. Then you can decide what to do with duplicates before you start packing up your home. You don’t need two sofas, after all.
Don’t Buy Everything New
You don’t have to throw everything out to start fresh; it might be as simple as picking out some smaller accents together. “Consider hitting up your local bargain retailers for fresh kitchen accessories, bathroom decor, rugs, and even some new art,” offers Makk.
Use a Voting System
Maybe it’s an offending collection of Beanie Babies or a Pinterest-y motivational poster; there are some things that are simply beyond compromise. The solution? “Give each person one ‘veto’ to ensure the design feels like a true compromise,” suggests Makk. Fair is fair.
Make Exceptions for Nostalgic Pieces
By the same token, you might not understand why your partner is clinging for dear life to a novelty lamp—but if it turns out that item has sentimental value, understand that you might not win this particular battle. “Be considerate when there are certain heirlooms or hand-me-down pieces that may mean something to your S.O.,” cautions Makk. “If it’s your grandmother’s old hutch that you really want, or his grandfather’s stuffed deer head, find a way to work it into the design.”
You might hate your partner’s dingy old sofa, but if it’s the only one you currently own—and you don’t have the funds to splurge on a new one—make due with it and other less-than-ideal pieces for now, and start saving. “Create a small fund to buy new furniture together so no one feels slighted if their furniture doesn’t make the cut,” says Makk.
“The neon beer sign shouldn’t make or break the relationship…but it can find a new home in the garage.”
It’s only fair that you get rid of as much furniture as you expect your partner to. “The exception to this rule? If there’s a clear difference in quality or condition. If one of you just purchased a new couch, consider keeping the new piece,” says Makk.
Think in the Abstract
If you’re having trouble reconciling two startlingly different personal styles, look at the bigger picture. “Discuss the function and mood for each room together,” says Makk. “If you want a warm, relaxing, and informal living room, pick pieces that match that.” Rather than designing by style, try designing by feeling. It may end up making the most sense.
When All Else Fails, Ask for Help
If designing your new space is in danger of sending you to couples counseling, it’s time for a reality check and some deep breaths—after all, it’s only furniture. Makk recommends seeking out an interior designer to provide an unbiased opinion. At the very least, they’ll be able to find a way to make that retro end table your partner insists on keeping look stylish. Small victories.