Q/A with 1021 Home – Advice for Couples That Design Together

John and Megan give their advice to design couples on how to keep the peace.

We recently worked with Rug USA (rugsusa.com) and they asked us to answer some questions about how we, as a designer couple, work together. You can check out their blog post here, but we thought you might like to see the full monty of our design advice, so here it is!

What advice do you have for couples who are decorating a home together?

Megan: Be patient and listen to one another! It will be a home for both of you so try to find a way to compromise if you have conflicting styles – communication is key!

John: Be respectful of your partner’s style and don’t shut down their ideas or product suggestions right away. Some of my favorite pieces that we have bought together are ones that Megan showed me and I said no to, but eventually caved. Your partner may see something in an item you don’t, and trusting in their judgement can sometimes be hard to do, but may pay off ten fold in the end!

For couples who are moving in together for the first time, what advice do you have for navigating whose things you keep?

Megan: I would first look to see if any of the items have sentimental value, from there I would try to prioritize what to keep by the quality of the items, cost and then style.

John: For the guys out there, just go into this endeavor knowing that you will probably only keep about 15% of your stuff. Before I met Megan I had a very modern, bachelor-esque style that I loved, but over the years, all of those items have been replaced. And that’s ok – I can’t imagine having a low platform bed now that we have kids – those sharp edges and corners would be a nightmare! But man, that bed was cool…

Some couples have drastically different styles and ideas of what a home should look like. How would you recommend coming to a compromise and blending styles?

Megan: There is so much access to content these days on Instagram, Pinterest and other platforms. I would try to source example images or photographs of similar styles blended and use those as inspiration on how you want to design your spaces moving forward!

John: Having spaces that are dedicated to each partner can be helpful in these situations, where each can have their own style and décor and have more freedom to do what they please décor-wise. For the more public spaces in the house, it has to be a blend, and that may lean more towards one partner’s style over the other. Compromise is key, and rock-paper-scissors can be a great tool to settle design arguments!

Often one member of the couple will have a little (or a lot!) more design sense than the other. Do you have any tips for helping the less-design-savvy party get more on board with the process?

John: Yes, sometimes I feel sorry that Megan is not blessed with my superior design sense…

I’m sure to be in the doghouse for that comment! And of course, it’s totally the other way around, but each of us brings something different to the table – she has a better handle on selecting the décor and furnishings, and I like to think I bring my knowledge of functionality, construction, and simplicity to the table. It’s a mix that has worked great so far, and overall, we balance each other out. Finding that balance is hard to do, but with time and good communication, it can be achieved.

Say one person has a piece of artwork they love, but the other absolutely hates. What should they do to compromise?

Megan: If you already own the art then I would figure out a good place to hang the art that is not in one of the main living areas. Possibly a guest room, basement or bathroom!

John: Art is such a touchy subject for couples because it is incredibly personal, and if it’s placed in your home where you will see it many times a day, you want to make sure you are both on the same page and select a piece you like. Giving yourself enough time to explore all your options is helpful – being rushed when making an art purchase can be a costly mistake. If you don’t like an art piece, tell your partner exactly what you don’t like about – being specific can help in honing in on a piece you both love.

What major mistakes do you see couples making when moving in together? What would you do to solve these issues?

Megan: We have seen these mistakes and lived them. When we bought our first apartment together we felt the need to furnish the entire thing at once with cheap furniture before giving ourselves time to figure out how we actually wanted to use the space. I would recommend taking the time to furnish and also save and invest in more quality pieces.

John: For the younger couples that are moving in together, we recommend doing as much homework as possible about design concepts and furnishings that you like. Show these to your partner (hello Pinterest boards!) and talk about them. It may take many years for you two to define your style, so know that the process takes time, your style may change, and depending on what stage of life you are in (or plan to be in soon) can alter your design decisions. For example, even though you may be drawn to modern, contemporary design, if you have kids or plan to shortly, you don’t want all those sharp corners and glass edges around. Your design style may have to shift, and that’s OK!

Let’s talk about the shopping and decision-making process! Do you have any advice for couples who are out shopping for home items together, or are searching for them online? We know sometimes it can get tense in the moment!

Megan: If you plan on going out to shop for décor or furniture, make a game plan! Agree on the store(s) you will be going to and create a list of all the items you are hoping to get. Usually John has a short attention span when we go shopping for décor and can get easily overwhelmed and frustrated (I might have well brought one of our toddlers) but we have found going in with a strategy helps! If you are shopping online, make sure you narrow down your selection of products to no more than 3 possible items to choose for with explanations on why you like them. If you don’t go into the decision with confidence, your partner will also find it difficult to solidify a decision.

John: It’s easy to spend a fortune when you are in-the moment. When Studio McGee drops a line at Target, Megan will load up the shopping cart within a matter of minutes. But as we go through the rest of the store, she thinks about the items and always seems to say “you know what, we don’t really need this”, and we put several items back. I like to buy things for a specific purpose or place, whereas Megan will buy things just because she likes them and finds a place for them later. That’s where our shopping styles differ, and I’m sure that’s the case for many couples out there. If I could give advice, it would be to make sure the store where you are shopping has a good return policy – if you buy something and end up not liking it or realize you don’t really need it, you can simply return it!

Now let’s talk money and cost. Decorating a home can be expensive, and we know that can be a big point of contention. Do you have any tips to help couples get on the same page? How long have you two lived together, and how would you each describe your respective styles?

Megan: What is a budget? Just kidding. When it comes to decorating your home, do your best to live in it for a while to figure out how you plan on using the space. We have a giant living room that I have already planned out in my head with luxurious sofas and a grand piano, but our kids are still so young that it currently serves as a room for train tracks and a bounce house – and I would not have it any other way! So in the meantime, I am continuing to design and budget for the things I want to occupy the room when we are able to declare it ours again!

John: We have lived together for 10 years now and our styles have definitely evolved over time. I gravitated towards modern furniture and design, with clean edges and minimalistic decor. She still jokes on me for my low, deep couch and the coffee table that was 8” off the ground. “I’ve never met such a tall person that prefers such low furniture!”. Megan’s style was more “homey”, as we call it, but she also liked to keep her designs clean and uncluttered (thank goodness!). Our style has evolved both over time and through our various homes. Our first home was more “farmhouse”, and we renovated and decorated it accordingly. Our current home is more formal, and we have renovated and decorated it to incorporate both formal elements and casual decor. As for money and cost, I definitely am more concerned with price when looking at an item than Megan is. I often time cave in for certain pieces, but these items add up quickly, so just be mindful about your monthly spending and delay purchases to keep from going in the red each month.

What has the process been like for you two when decorating your home, or working on any other projects? Do you split up certain tasks at all?

Megan: After having been together for over 10 years John and I definitely know our strengths and weaknesses. I have a strength for the design and John for the construction. I enjoy sourcing furniture, lighting and decor and combining fabrics, colors and textures to complete a space and John loves the challenge of engineering and building. However, it took some time for us to figure out a process and refine our ways of communication. I have found that showing John visuals whether it be actual products or building complete design boards is the best way to express what is in my head and John has taught me so much of all the small details of construction and the time and steps it takes to execute it professionally.

John: When designing a space, Megan will usually queue about 30 tabs in chrome of possible items. She will then sit down with me and we will go through each and eliminate most of them. The ones that are left, we will consider style, price, and availability, and will order what we like the best. If there is any construction skills required in the space, I will let her know what we can and can’t do, or the level of effort of a task. For example, she once talked about having drawers for our shoes when we were designing the mudroom. I said yes, we can do that, but having drawers custom made to that size will add an additional X amount to the project. Is it worth it? Then we will decide if the juice is worth the squeeze. We both do a good job of running everything past one another for approval before we execute anything. That way we are both on the same page and we know what to expect for each space. One area that we still struggle on is the actual construction process. I usually have a very clear process in my head of what all needs to be done for a certain space, but I don’t do a good job of conveying that to Megan. This often leads to her feeling a bit “out of the loop” or can cause stress during the project with moments of “I didn’t know you had to do all of that…how long will it take?”. Again, communication is key, but is something we (mainly I) still need to work on!

Can you tell us about a time you disagreed on something regarding home decor, and how you came to work it out? It doesn’t have to be anything serious – feel free to keep it light! Have you ever had any clients that are couples that couldn’t come to an agreement on what they wanted? Tell us about that, and how you helped them come to a compromise.

Megan: We lived without any window treatments in our home for about a year when I finally told John that we really needed to add something to our master bedroom. It had become difficult to sleep-in (and I use that term loosely because we have 2 young boys who are our alarm clocks every morning) and I was tired of the sun blasting our face at 6am during the summer months. The issue was, we could not agree on whether we wanted blinds (John) or drapes (Megan). I felt pretty passionate about adding drapes and felt that they would be both functional and also warmth and character to the room to give it a more cozy feel. I decided to mock up a design board to show John what the room would look like if we added drapes. Mission accomplished! Once he saw the design board he was on board – haha! (Added 2 photos to support this point)

John: I can’t think of a time where we could not come to an agreement on something. If I really don’t like something, Megan will respect that and not purchase it, and vice versa. If she shows me something that she likes and I don’t like it but also don’t hate it, then we will keep it as an option. It may grown on me, or I may trust her judgement and approve it. More often than not, I end up liking those items once they are in our space. Sometimes just trusting in your partner’s vision is the best option – just make sure the store has a return policy though!

And anything else you want to share that might be helpful for our readers and followers!

Megan/John: Design needs to cater to both you and your partner. If it sways too much in one direction, the other person will not feel at home or may hold resentment, which can build and escalate quickly. Find the balance between you two and understand that it may take several years, and may change along the way.

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