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5 Decorating Tips For Couples

Shacking up with your sweetie is an exciting milestone, but decorating your love nest can be challenging, especially if you have different definitions of “decor.” We asked Tonya Olsen, interior decorator and author of Room Recipes: A Creative and Stylish Guide to Interior Design, for tips for couples looking to spruce up their space.

1. It’s All About Compromise: You probably know this already, but being in a relationship requires compromise from both parties, and it’s the same story when it comes to choosing carpeting and throw pillows. Olsen works with couples every week and says that the main challenge for these clients is learning when to give and take. A wife, for example, might give in to her husband’s insistence that they have swivel bar stools in the kitchen, as long as she can choose the flooring. And if you simply cannot agree on an entryway light, then you’ll have to learn to live without one — that hole in your ceiling an unsightly reminder of your mutual stubbornness.

Display old family photos in your mud room. Image by Sara Boulder.

2. Break The Rules: “I don’t follow rules,” says Olsen. “The way I design, and the way I encourage my clients to design, is a little more organic: Choose the things that you like and break the rules.” Olsen’s book — which will be published on August 13, 2013 and is currently available for pre-order from Amazon — is a great resource because, much like a cookbook, it gives readers instructions for how they can recreate the beautiful rooms shown in the book, while also encouraging them to add their own “spice” to the recipe.

3. Start With Neutrals: Olsen advises her clients to start with a neutral base when it comes to big-ticket items, such as flooring, counter tops and large furniture. You can easily update your look with accents, like throw pillows and rugs, if you’re craving a splash of color. “Accessories are the easiest way to make a big change in a room,” says Olsen.

4. Hire A Designer: Paying for a consultation with a professional designer can actually save you money. “It seems hard to justify because you’re paying for a service,” admits Olsen, “but in the long run, you really do save money.” A designer will come into your home and give you a road map with direction for what you need in a given space — height here, scale there, etc. Rather than buying a random collection of accessories that don’t work together, you’ll be able to purchase items that you’re confident will work in your space.

Black, white and gold accessories. Image by Sara Boulder.

5. Do Your Homework: If you decide to book a consultation with a designer, you’ll save everyone time — and headaches — if you come prepared. “It really is more helpful if [a couple has] communicated and talked beforehand,” says Olsen. Take time to look at decor magazines and blogs and discuss your preferred style together before you meet with the designer. What are the things you can agree on? Are there things you’re not willing to compromise on? It’s better to work this out beforehand because, remember, this is an interior decorator, not a couples’ therapist.

Image(s): Sara Boulder

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