How to Make a Space “Ours” When It’s Already Full of His Stuff?

updated Dec 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Q: I promise this isn’t a relationship issue! I’m moving into my boyfriend’s massive Harlem apartment. It’s a big one bedroom with a spacious living room and lots of light. He has a ton of great art, furniture and… stuff. More stuff than he needs (he’s a music photographer and he has a tendency to just acquire stuff). I don’t want to force him to get rid of things (okay maybe some), but something about the place doesn’t feel home-y enough to me. We have the same taste and have agreed to making the place “ours” but I’m having trouble formulating any ideas at all…

There’s too much clutter and too little cohesiveness, if that makes sense. There’s a ton of space but almost TOO much for me to know how to handle. It’s also hard to imagine how I would decorate the space when there’s already so much there. How do I make a space ours when so much of his is already there? Hard to visualize anything when the slate is full… -Sent by Caroline

Editor: This is an excellent question, Caroline! It’s tricky enough when a couple moves into an entirely new home together (especially if one member of the couple insists on displaying a New Year’s Eve 2005 “tavern” poster), but it’s so much trickier when one half of the couple is already totally ensconced in the home in question. In an ideal world, you’d be able to empty the place out and start from scratch together, but in the real world, what should Caroline and her boyfriend do? How can he best edit his possessions to both make room for hers and create a more attractive, less cluttered home? How can she navigate the tricky waters of streamlining what sounds like an overly-full apartment (and that’s before she’s added her stuff!)? How can they get a sense of design when the place is already full?

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