Sharing a space is difficult in any circumstance. But when you and your partner are on opposite ends of the "stuff spectrum" — when one person is minimally minded and one person loves an eclectic look, combining stuff in a small space is a challenge. Marni and Laine meet that challenge beautifully in their 570 square foot "Atomic Safari" California apartment, and have answered some of my questions on how they manage to do it:
What were your initial thoughts about the other person's decor style?
Laine: When I met Marni, she lived with roommates, and I was struck by how fashionable and adventurous she was. She got me into Apartment Therapy. She asked me to put up Hollywood Regency wallpaper on an accent wall in the living room with her. It was Moroccan Squares, and we watched YouTube videos, and bought a squeegee, and we were up on ladders and everything.
Marni: Laine was living in this cute 1920s four-plex in Silver Lake. It was impeccably clean for a bachelor — anyone, really. I will never forget the very striking burnt orange mid-century style couch he had. Or the framed t-shirts on his living room wall — old political shirts from campaigns Laine had run or participated in. There may have only been about six items total in his living room (furniture and decor included) but I remember thinking, even as a minimalist, Laine had a clear sense of fun in his style.
"I'm definitely a lets-display-all-the-pretty-things type of person. So I think we compromised with regard to concentrating and paring down some of those displays."
How did you guys learn to compromise when it came to stuff?
Laine: I am a minimalist and a planner and my motto is "when in doubt, make a spreadsheet." Marni likes being surrounded by beautiful things and her motto is "sometimes you have to leap before you look." We compromise, take turns, and teach each other. Marni won out on having a kitchen "everything drawer" and introducing colors and old typewriters and cameras and other objects into our decor. And I love it. (Mostly — not the everything drawer.) I won out when we initially moved in together, with my starting-from-eight-weeks-out plan for multiple trips to Goodwill, listings on craigslist, and garage sales. Now Marni loves spreadsheets.
Marni: I'm definitely a lets-display-all-the-pretty-things type of person. So I think we compromised with regard to concentrating and paring down some of those displays. Our bar cart, for example is one place where we've concentrated a lot of that. It has my old typewriters (there was originally a third typewriter but we gave it a new home with a friend) and some of my grandma's vintage glassware. But there is also a lot more you don't see that is stored away in cabinets and bins. There also may or may not have also been an episode with a framed, autographed Barack Obama "Change" poster that we've yet to hang up. Laine loves this poster. Like, a lot. It's really cool and unique — except it's in a horrible, chunky college diploma style picture frame that I don't love. Until we get a better frame, I think I've won out on this compromise.
"Our best trick is our shared love of moving furniture and decor around. I can come home from walking our dog Fitz and find Marni got a burst of energy and has entirely reversed the living room furniture."
What tricks/methods do you guys use to combine your different styles?
Laine: Our best trick is our shared love of moving furniture and decor around. I can come home from walking our dog Fitz and find Marni got a burst of energy and has entirely reversed the living room furniture. I go to sit down on the couch and it's on the opposite side of the room from where it was 20 minutes earlier. Furniture moves between rooms. Shelving comes out of the closet and is now exposed kitchen storage. Same with an oversized Louis Vuitton bag Marni's mother bought in the 1970s, which is now doing double duty as decor and storing our bath towels. We went through a period of flea markets and garage sales and hunting on Craigslist for treasures. But our real love is rearranging the treasures we already have.
Marni: We both respect each other's tastes even if they're not necessarily our own. There's always a genuine interest to learn about them from the other person. When I was studying my masters in Historic Preservation, Laine always wanted to learn about the architecture and design styles that I was influenced by, and writing about. And before we met, I think it's safe to say my interest and knowledge about mid-century design was limited. But I've been interested to learn about it from Laine and now have a real appreciation for it, and it's actually influenced a lot of what I write about when it comes to my work in architecture journalism.
"Our shared rule is no renting storage space. If we can't fit it in our home, we don't want it."
Do you guys work together to control the influx of "stuff" into the house...or is one person sneaking stuff in or out when the other isn't looking?
Laine: Growing up, I put one toy away before playing with the next. I'm the same way today. Buy a pair of jeans, throw out a pair of jeans. I am mindful that this is my issue, and try not to force it on Marni. Our shared rule is no renting storage space. If we can't fit it in our home, we don't want it.
Marni: Neither of us have a shopping compulsion, so that's never been a worry. Mostly when there's an influx of "stuff" coming into the house it's because my parents unloaded another long lost box from storage with family treasures in it, and sent it our way. I can't tell you how many times I have called my mom and said, "Thank you, but um, we literally have nowhere to put this."
What one thing of the other's would you like to throw out?
Laine: Not a thing. There was a period, in our last apartment, where Marni bought a rug for the living room, also with geometric patterns, from Overstock.com. Marni loved it, and our last dog threw up on it almost immediately, and we threw it out and Marni bought another one. The dog did the same thing a week later, and we threw it out and Marni bought another one. It happened a third time in as many weeks. It was a stylish rug, and reasonably priced too, under $200, but it was getting out of control. I was like, we've got to go back to wood floors Marni. (For the record, that dog was nicknamed "Princess Throw-up.")
Marni: The frame from his Barack Obama poster. No, but all kidding aside. I can't really think of anything.
See all of Marni and Laine's home:
And take a walk around their neighborhood: A Well-Designed Day in LA's Highland Park Neighborhood