Interior Design Therapy: The 5 Most Common Design Struggles for Couples and How to Overcome Them

A common conundrum among Modsy customers is how to combine design styles with a significant other. (Or roommate, for that matter!) When you decide to move in together, you’re bringing two different people’s design preferences to the table—and it can feel impossible to find common ground! But we promise you this: it’s not impossible. In fact, our interior designers are experts at combining different interior design styles for a look that feels cohesive and unique.

In fact, today we’re having our designers break down the most common design struggles couples face when trying to combine styles and spaces—from how to mix together elements from different interior design styles to how to make a space flow with seemingly competing styles. Plus, our designers will offer plenty of tips for how to overcome these challenges!
how to combine design styles

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The Struggle: Our Design Styles are Polar Opposites!

This is one of the most common struggles we see among Modsy customers who are moving in with a partner. It might feel impossible to design a home that merges seemingly opposite styles—but we promise you, it can be done!

The Solution: Find Common Ground

“Merging styles was actually a struggle my husband and I faced! The way we merged our styles was to find common core elements of design. With color, if we couldn’t find two or more colors we both liked, then we stuck with a neutral color palette and just added small elements that brought in one color that we each liked.  For the layout, we had to agree on what was the main focus or purpose of the room and we centered our furniture layout around that. Finally, for style, we both separately collected different images on Pinterest and then brought them together.” –Sarah M., Modsy Designer

“If you’re struggling with seemingly competing styles, start simply by determining the color palette and finishes you like. This might be easier than thinking so largely about overall design styles. You probably have more common interests than you think!” –Morgan P., Modsy Designer

“Understanding style is like discovering a new recipe. Imagine you want to cook something you’ve eaten before but are not quite sure of how to make it. You’ll probably start thinking, “What ingredients I will use here? How can I create this flavor? What brings this color or texture to my food?” My suggestion is to explore your design style recipe together, just like cooking. Together, ask: “What are the main design elements we like? What are the details we like? What color are we drawn to? Make a list of elements and materials you like and dislike, and let the design tell your story.” –Marina P., Modsy Designer

grey bedroom with modern platform bed

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The Struggle: I’m a Saver, They’re a Spender.

Budgets can be a point of contention for many couples—especially if one person is a saver and the other wants to splurge on interior design. Fortunately, our design packages are competitively priced for the budget-conscious, and we carry a multitude of brands at a variety of price points!

The Solution: Establish a Budget

“Discuss a realistic budget first—because one person might want to splurge on an item that the other doesn’t. Agreeing on a budget at the beginning of a project will save you from disagreements down the line. And it will help you figure out what pieces you’re both willing to splurge on and where you can save some money.” –Andrea S., Modsy Designer

Read This Next: Should You Skimp or Splurge on a New Sofa?

light and airy living room with blue sofa and shibori print accent chair

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The Struggle: We Have Totally Different Opinions on How Our Space Should Look.

When opinions and preferences are clashing, it helps to bring in a neutral third party who can help you merge design styles, like we mentioned above. But our designers can also help you find the common ground you need to make your home design (and relationship) feel more harmonious.

The Solution: Flexibility and Compromise are Key

“One struggle I typically hear is that one person wants an uncluttered and industrial space while the other wants soft color and texture. Or that there’s a favorite chair that we have to work into a new design, which often presents an aesthetics challenge. I always like to remind couples that compromise is key! If you and your partner are both willing to give a little, then it makes the process of combining your unique looks a lot simpler and with less frustration. “ –Victoria M., Modsy Designer

Read This Next: An Unlikely Pairing of Industrial and Glam Style

“Allowing for some flexibility in either finish or silhouette can help meld two styles, as well as allowing each person to have a vignette that might be more tailored to their personal style.” –Brielle M., Modsy Designer

how to combine design styles

The Struggle: We Can’t Agree on a Color Scheme!

Color in interior design is a major form of self-expression. So, it can be challenging when two people have two very different viewpoints on how to express themselves through color. But that doesn’t mean that one person has to give up all their preferences while the other person gets everything they want.

The Solution: Go Neutral With Your Foundational Pieces

“Pick more neutral bases (sofas, bed frames, tables, etc.) and play around with different styles when it comes to decor and accessories. It can be really fun to mix and match styles to create an eclectic space, but using smaller decorative allows you to be more flexible and stops you from committing strongly to one style or the other. Plus, this helps make sure both partners’ styles are represented in the space.” –Mina K., Modsy Designer

iron bed with vintage style rug

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The Struggle: I Have Strong Opinions on Design—But I Want to Make Sure My Partner Still Feels Represented.

When one partner has all the opinions, it would be easy to design a space that solely relies on their design preferences. But including small pieces of your partner’s interests—even if they haven’t asked to be included—is a great way to create a home, you both love.

The Solution: Pull Inspiration from Outside of Your Home

“I’ll often ask if they have a favorite restaurant or boutique hotel that they both really like, and take inspiration from the interior design of those spaces, so they both feel represented. Or I’ll ask if each partner has a hobby or favorite sports team that we can incorporate into the design. That way, even even if there’s more color than one person would like, it’s the color of their favorite team. Or, if one partner loves to sail or go hiking, we can find artwork and decor that’s representative of those interests. It’s a way for each partner to feel represented.” –Hope C., Modsy Designer

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Moving in Together? 5 Decorating Tips for Cohabitating Couples

couples design tips

So, you and your partner are finally taking the plunge and moving in together. Congratulations! Cohabitating with your SO is a major milestone in any relationship and, as such, comes with a host of exciting new changes and challenges.

And while the hardest part of moving in with your significant other might seem like sharing a bathroom, for many couples the greatest (and most unanticipated) challenge is actually designing their new shared space.

Moving in with a significant other is a big life event, so it’s understandable that it might stir up some anxiety. Couple that with the stress of purchasing furniture that meets both of your styles and budgets, and you really have a recipe for potential conflict.

Before you spend a miserable afternoon fighting over a rug in IKEA, read these 5 design tips for couples from Modsy’s VP of Style, Alessandra Wood. We’re talking about ways to combine design styles peacefully and create a space you both love.

1. Plan to Purge Equally

Once you move in together, you’ll likely discover you have double the furniture you need. That means you’ll need to decide what to keep and what to toss. And while you might have better taste than your partner, they might think the same things about your choice of furniture as well.

Instead of hashing out whose stuff moves into the new place and whose gets posted on Craigslist, one of our favorite design tips for couples is to agree to purge equally.

This can mean going through items piece-by-piece and deciding whose is in better condition or will work better in your new place. Take a critical look at knick-knacks as well, and consider only displaying the ones that are meaningful to both of you. Or, consider scrapping it all and only taking what you absolutely need to furnish your new place for the short-term.

This is your opportunity for a fresh start, so the goal of your purge should be to take what works, and leave the rest behind so you can begin to design a space that both of you love.

2. Align on Your Shared Vision

Before you get caught up in the design details, have a conversation with your partner about what each of you values in your home.

What do you want to use the space for? What are your must-haves and your hard-nos? And where are you willing to compromise?

Hash out these big-picture ideas before you talk specifics, and find the points that you both agree on. Starting from a place of mutual understanding can be super helpful before you begin to make style and purchasing decisions.

3. Explore Your Styles

Once you’ve cleared away your old furniture, you can begin to explore what interior design styles you want for your new home together.

Take a tour of your Pinterest boards and explore the possibilities for your space together. We also recommend to couples is that they take our Modsy Style Quiz. This will help give you an understanding of each other’s tastes and can help you think about how to merge them together into one look (yes, we promise it is possible!).

4. Find Ways to Merge Your Tastes

You like mid-century modern but your partner likes industrial? Try looking for pieces with a modern shape but in raw materials, like leather and metals, to satisfy you both. Their style is glamorous but yours is minimal? Maybe stick to a neutral color palette but incorporate chic materials like velvet and gold.

There are so many ways to mix and match even the most opposite of styles. Find what you both like and where you can start to merge your tastes together.

5. Show off Your Ideas

Sometimes the best way to convince your partner that a certain style or piece of furniture will look good in your space, is to show them.

Create a visual representation of your ideas to show your partner, be that a Modsy 3D design of your actual home, a moodboard, or ordering fabric samples and paint swatches.

So many of our customers tell us that they were able to get their partner on-board with their vision after showing them exactly how their idea would look before committing. So whether you want to try a bold wall color, velvet sofa, or a totally new layout idea, we can help you see it come to life before it comes to life.

Visualizing your ideas can help you both feel more confident about your design choices, which in turn helps relieve the stress of making big-ticket purchases.

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