FIND COMMON GROUND
“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.
CONSULT A THIRD PARTY
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.’”
PICK YOUR BATTLES
“Letting him keep his framed sports jersey now will give you the ammunition you need later for the fight over the pink velvet sofa,” said Mr. Tabb of Laurel & Wolf. It’s probably not worth taking a stand over that beat-up old armchair you picked up at a garage sale, but maybe you don’t want to let go of grandma’s favorite teapot just yet. Think about what matters to you most and let go of the rest.
When Ms. Chandra and Mr. Newlands butted heads over a piece of abstract plywood art that she had found in the street, Ms. Hopp of Homepolish stepped in with a solution. “She would have wanted to hang it in front of the dining table,” said Ms. Hopp, who suggested placing it in the second bedroom instead, with a plant in front. That way, she noted, “Max doesn’t have to look at it.”
PRESERVE SOME PERSONAL SPACE
“It is healthy in any relationship to preserve alone time and space,” Mr. Tabb said. “Setting up a cozy reading nook for yourself, or understanding that someone’s desk is completely their own domain, can be a small yet relationship-saving strategy to retaining your sense of individuality while still living with someone else.”