How to Blend Two Different Decor Styles in One Home, According to Designers Who’ve Done It

published Dec 3, 2020
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Living room that's green with a beautiful arch and a blue velvet sofa

Whether you live at home with a few opinionated teenagers, share an apartment with a roommate, are shacking up with your parents again as an adult (hello, pandemic!), or are talking cohabitation with your significant other, combining your decorating taste with someone else’s can be complicated. However, in order for a house to feel like a home for all members involved, it needs to be a reflection of each person living inside it. Easier said than done, right? That’s especially the case when your partner insists on bringing along the refrigerator he won during his college frat days… not that I’m speaking from experience or anything!

Lucky for you and me though, there are plenty of talented design pros to turn to for advice on merging your decor vision with someone else’s. Perhaps no one understands combining decorating styles better than these four duos, who are partners in business and—to some extent—in life. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to creating an environment that your whole crew will love because yes, it’s totally possible to blend two or more decor styles into one home.

Define what comfort means to you

The idea of “home” means something different to everyone. Maybe you sleep best in a serene space, while your roomie prefers a home packed with energetic color. Perhaps you’re all about mastering minimalism, and your partner has never met a tchotchke they didn’t want to buy. Whatever your vision, it’s important to identify exactly what makes a home comfortable to you and those living with you.

“I think part of feeling welcome in any space is all about having comfortable places with clear purposes,” says designer Grace Start, who creates interiors alongside her mother, Jean Stoffer, at her eponymous design firm, Jean Stoffer Designs. “Is there a place to dine where you aren’t scared to spill? Is there a place to lounge where you aren’t afraid to kick your feet up? All those questions are important when determining how to make a space comfortable.” 

Figuring out what “comfort” means to all parties under your roof will essentially act as a road map for all design-related decisions made in your home moving forward. Think of this as your design mission statement, if you will, and write it out—literally. Take the time to sit down with the other members of your household and work on crafting something that feels representative of everyone. Keep this sentence or phrase on your phone, in a notebook, or even on a shared Pinterest board so you can reference it each time you’re looking to make a change in your home, whether it’s a project or a purchase.

Design for how you actually live

For many people right now, home is no longer just a place you return to at the end of the day for a few hours to eat and sleep or and hang out on weekends. Home means so much more now. The takeaway? To do all that, you need a space that actually reflects how you and your crew live—not an Insta-perfect life you wish you had. 

“When the pandemic hit, I began dismantling rooms in my house and turning them into completely kid-centric spaces to allow for more room to run and play when my children couldn’t be outside,” explains Susana Simonpietri, who owns the New York-based design firm Chango & Co. with her husband, Josh Kay.  “The original design intent for those spaces no longer applied to our lives, so we had to start from scratch and create something more fitting for the current times. For us, nothing is more important than our individual comfort, the comfort of those around us, and living happily together.”

First, analyze your home from a functionality standpoint in order to ensure everyone that lives there has their needs met by the space before moving on to redecorating or designing it. “Functionality is always the first thing to consider,” says Catherine Williamson, who runs a design firm, Mix Design Collective, and a blog, Beginning in the Middle, alongside her husband, Bryan. “Think about things like whether your children will need a creative space for virtual schooling or what rooms can be closed off from the rest of the house for complete quiet if necessary and address those needs first.”

Audit your belongings

When it comes to combining households (in the case of cohabitating with a partner or moving back in with your parents), you’re bound to have a surplus of decor items that you each individually cherish, and chances are they probably don’t go together. The solution? Do a furniture and decor audit, giving each person a chance to plead their case for the pieces they love. “Have each person write out a list of the pieces that are important to them,” says Stoffer. “Be willing to give an honest assessment of the condition of each piece. If more than one person has something that fits a need and one is better quality or in better condition, you may have to be willing to part with your piece.” 

Austin Carrier and Alex Mutter-Rottmayer second that sentiment. The duo, who are partners in love and business (they run the Cali-based design firm Hommeboys together) had a similar decor reckoning to deal with when they moved in together years ago. “We each had certain items we loved and certain items of each other’s we hated,” says Carrier. “Creating a home is a constant evolution—if one person really loves a piece but the other doesn’t, allow it to be in your space and give it time. You may be opposed for the wrong reasons and find that your design style has evolved to like it in its new setting.”

Embrace the mix

Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, the same goes for your home. By embracing the dynamic mix that multiple outlooks and tastes can bring to the table at your place, you’ll ensure you end up with a home that not only reflects its residents but doesn’t feel too prescriptive or boring. “It is absolutely possible to blend styles beautifully,” says Stoffer. “In fact, I feel that mixing styles creates a timeless, collected look that almost always ends up looking comfortable and warm. Plus, it makes each person feel at home in their own home.” 

Look for commonalities between styles like overlapping color palettes, similar textures, or universal furniture shapes like clean lines, which can help unite the disparate decor throughout your home in a way that suits everyone’s styles. You don’t have to start with a total blank slate, but you may find it helpful to buy a few pieces together that speak to this new fusion of all parties’ styles, after you sell or donate the items you’ve collectively decided to part with first.

Be prepared to compromise

When it comes to creating a home you and your loved ones all feel comfortable in, try to find a middle ground—at least a few times—throughout the decorating process. “Generally, you’re not always going to get everything you want in a space when there’s more than one person involved,” says Simonpietri. “Find a way to combine your priorities with your partners, and hopefully, that mixture will yield a really beautiful outcome where both people’s preferences are embraced and everyone’s happy.”

Try to avoid trading off rooms, say, where you decorate the bedroom, while your partner gets to call the shots in the living room. This strategy sounds like a great idea, but it can lead to a design scheme that doesn’t really hang together. “The whole ‘You take a room, I take a room’ approach is really not one we recommend,” says Bryan Williamson. “It can lead to a hodgepodge feel throughout a house. That said, consider trading off ‘wins.’ If one person gets their way on a selection in one room, it’s only fair that the other person gets preference in another space.” 

When in doubt, turn to the pros

If you find that you just can’t seem to compromise on your decor, it may be time to call in reinforcements. Like any good mediator, hiring an interior designer can help clarify your vision and facilitate any tough conversations about decor that’s maybe past its prime.  “Most clients are just not sure what they want, which is why they hire designers,” says Mutter-Rottmayer. “Designers work to highlight your likes through materials, colors, and themes and can help you see the overall vision of a space.”

Even better, designers can provide an objective expert opinion and help you synthesize your style with someone else’s; that, at the end of the day, is what they do best, and it might be worth a consultation—or a few hours of a designer’s help even—to keep the peace at your place.