How to Make One Space Suit Two Different Design Tastes (And Still Look Cohesive)
Finding your own style can be tricky enough, let alone adding someone else’s into the mix. But when we’re sharing a space — be it with roommates, significant others, or family members — that’s exactly what we have to do. While mixing modern with traditional or boho with industrial may sound like mixing oil and water, there’s a way to do it that lets everyone feel at home. And it can actually be fun, too.
As is so often the case with these sorts of collaborations, it helps to have a third party weigh in. That’s why we tapped two professional designers and New York School of Interior Design alumni for their advice. With undergraduate and graduate degree tracks, as well as shorter certificate programs and one-time classes, NYSID can help you jumpstart a new career path or simply grow your personal design know-how. Here’s what the pros suggest.
Be a Good Listener
As a principal designer at Ageloff & Associates, Erin Wells often plays referee to help people with different preferences find common ground. “NYSID taught me that developing good design is a journey,” Erin says. “In the best of all worlds, it’s a collaborative effort where participants share their thoughts but are open to possibilities. All parties want to feel like they’ve been heard.”
You can bring this approach home by staying curious about each other’s perspectives. There’s probably a creative way to keep everyone happy. Case in point: The client who loved their dining chairs as much as their partner hated them. Erin gave the furniture a brand new look by ebonizing the frames and reupholstering the seats. “In the end, they became a favorite element of both clients,” she said.
Ask What the Space Wants
Have you ever moved into a new place only to discover that the decor you once loved no longer felt right? Your stuff and your space were probably at odds. “Talk about what the space wants to be, not so much about what things you like,” says Robert Kaner, of Robert Kaner Interior Design. “As a designer, I don’t get attached to a single chair — even if I love it — because I know there are ten more chairs that will work in that space. The overall design is more important.”
Especially if you’re moving into new digs, start by considering the space on its own terms. Use its unique details and personality — the architecture, light, function — to craft a vision that works for everyone. “Start with the small things: colors, materials, style flourishes,” Robert says. Finding common ground there can go a long way. “Then build off what the room ‘wants’ to be based on its architecture, uses, and limits.”
Let Yourself Be Surprised
Anyone who loves to play with fashion knows that pieces don’t have to match to work together. The same rules apply at home! Experiment with juxtapositions and you just might discover something delightful — especially if your and your housemate’s styles seem like polar opposites. “You can create some interesting design dialogs,” Robert says. Like the 1920s Colonial-style home Robert designed for a client. “We did a very modernist interior but used a lot of Italian mid-century pieces informed by classicism. There were some wonderful resonances.”
Artwork can also inject different energy into a space. “In a case where you’ve created a cool edited interior, some unexpected punchy art pieces can add excitement and joy,” Erin says. “Artwork is also a great way for roommates or partners to have their own voice in an interior.” And if you purchased those pieces together on vacation or gifted them for the holidays? Even better!
Inspired to do more than just revive your own space? It’s always the right time to learn more about interior design. (Fun fact: Before Robert attended NYSID, he was a successful lawyer!) Whether you want to start a new professional journey or just learn more about how design works, NYSID can help you expand your skills. Visit NYSID.edu for a complete list of degrees, certificates, and continuing education courses.