When I first met my husband and would visit him at his apartment, it felt like I was hanging out in a college dorm room. He was very neat and tidy and everything had its place (thank goodness), but we were surrounded by "Kill Bill" movie posters and the bedspread reminded me of Zack Morris' from "Saved By The Bell" circa 1992. When we decided to move in together, I wondered how this worked. As a diehard design enthusiast who cared greatly about the aesthetics of my home, was I going to be able to live with his "stuff," and, more importantly, how was I going to manage to convince him to (ha!) get rid of most of it?
Lots of Brown
The first iteration of our new living room was basically an explosion of bad brown choices: a brown leather reclining sofa, a brown leather ottoman, a brown faux-marble dining table with brown leather chairs.
I should point out that there's nothing wrong with having a brown leather reclining sofa, but ours happened to be super uncomfortable. He'd had it for a long while, so the leather had become worn—not in a cool, distressed, vintage sort of way, but in a way that reclining on it meant laying on the actual hard surface of the recliner mechanics. The seat cushions didn't have much depth, so you couldn't really lounge on it except when you were using the uncomfortable recliner. And the back cushions were so overly stuffed that they catapulted you forward when you tried to lean back on them.
It literally took four years of convincing and it was only when he could no longer deny his physical pain that I was able to make him see it was time for a new one.
...and More Brown
Slowly but surely, we worked in a broader color palette throughout our home, and now whatever brown pieces are left feel deliberate. Instead of the brown leather reclining couch, we finally have a big, super comfy gray fabric sofa that we can both lounge on at the same time. Our new dining table is still brown, to satisfy his love of the color (because that hasn't gone away as hard as I've tried), but instead of brown faux-marble, it's natural wood. And any time you can incorporate natural wood or any earthy, organic element into your décor, it's a win. We still have the brown leather ottoman, much to my chagrin, but it's topped with cream-colored pillows and rests on a beautiful lilac silk rug that I found for a great price on Rugs USA. The only other brown comes in the form of his guitars that are adorning one of our walls (which I happen to really love).
Which brings me to my next point: I've expanded my horizons in this process, too, and have come to acknowledge that concert posters are actually art. My husband has collected one from nearly every single concert that he's ever attended. And he's attended a lot of them. And though going to concerts has become a special activity that we enjoy doing together, I still had a hard time with him framing each and every memento and hanging it up as part of our décor.
But eventually I realized that they're created by artists, and they're actually cool. A lot of the ones we have are even hand-painted. So we pared down to the ones that had meaning for us both, to the ones that had more of an artistic lean rather than simply being memorabilia. We even framed a large black-and-white photograph of Black Sabbath and hung it up next to an equally sized, framed black-and-white watercolor wallpaper sample, so now there's something for him and something for me, and they both complement each other perfectly even though they're complete opposites—sort of like my husband and myself.
He also wanted to frame prints of "Star Wars", "South Park" and a Game Boy, and I acquiesced under the condition that he use only white frames (I thought it would make the pieces look fresher). He disagreed but I held my ground, and now they're modern instead of feeling like we're back in his old bedroom. And everywhere you turn, you might see my candles or woven accent pillows or a pretty pink throw, but you'll also find his collection of amps and vinyl records and those aforementioned guitars (he has seven of them). Plus, we've made it a point to purchase some art together.
Cohabitation is a Collaboration
The moral of my story is that it is possible to cohabitate, to merge your differing styles and still maintain your identities. It's clear to anyone who comes over for a visit that we both live there, that there's something in every room that we both like, and that neither my husband nor myself had to get rid of anything that meant something to us. It's only taken five years, but our home is finally a reflection of him, of me, and of the life we share.