Decorating Your First Home Together

So you take them for richer or poorer, for better or worse, but does that include his corduroy recliner or her antique mahogany dining table? Time was newlyweds moved from the parental hearth—or at most the college dorm—directly into their unfurnished first home. But these days there’s a much better chance you are combining households as well as lives. Today’s couples are marrying later, bringing often divergent tastes to the altar.

You crave antiques, she thinks Bauhaus is boss. Is this merger of design styles headed for a collision course? Not necessarily. The art of compromise is important, along with a healthy sense of humor. Luckily, today’s interior design thrives on eclectic—a great catch-all term that means anything can go with anything as long as you love it.

Eclectic is the true mix-and-match. Often seemingly disparate looks have something in common. Although Shaker furniture is considered classic country, there’s an element of contemporary in its design. Shaker case goods look terrific with a contemporary leather sofa.

Marriage is all about melding two styles, so meet each other halfway. Slipcovers can hide a multitude of sins. That might be just the thing for that corduroy recliner. You could recover a midcentury modern sofa with vintage kilim scraps, blending two cultures and time periods in one piece. Remember, opposites attract. Arrange classic metal garden chairs around that traditional mahogany dining table inherited from Grandma.

Once the major pieces are in place, over time the addition of rugs, curtains, antiques, accessories, and occasional pieces will tie it all together. This is the really fun part. Saturday afternoons exploring the shops at 45th and State Line or the West Bottoms can be inspiring for both of you, a terrific way to define developing tastes. Your home will truly be a collaboration, merging individual visions to create a style that is more than the sum of its parts—a true marriage of the minds.

Decorating your first home together? Here are a few things we think you can definitely agree on.

Starting Point
Many interior designers advise starting with the rug, and with something as vibrant and graphic as this 100% wool Khotan handwoven in Afghanistan available at Knotty Rug, inspiration comes easily.

Pillow Talk
If a sofa purchase is out of the question for now, throw pillows=instant makeover. Antiqua pillows from Coveted Home are handwoven by artisans in Guatemala.

Sleep Softly 
The subtle geometric diamond pattern on these Peacock Alley sheets from Terrasi Home and Scandia Down is both colorful and fun, yet timeless.  The sateen sheets are 300 thread count 100% long-staple cotton.

Local designers weigh in with their best advice for newlyweds in their first home.

While newlyweds may combine various household pieces (hopefully without causing post-bliss arguments), the one new piece should be a bed. Leave the old bed(s) behind. Create an intimate atmosphere and a new beginning for the two of you. A great mattress is essential, along with beautiful sheets (at least two sets) and a sleek/sexy comforter.”
Alejandro Lopez, Alejandro Design Studio

“Make it fun. Put together an ‘items of interest’ page that you both can contribute to. Make it something you can have fun doing together, and then prioritize it so you don’t start bringing home impulse buys. Once you’ve agreed on what you want to purchase, buy the best quality you can afford—even if you need to wait a few months. It’s worth the money, especially in upholstery.”
Patrick Madden, Madden McFarland

Many new couples need to learn an important lesson on compromise, and it begins with what they want to bring into the new home. Naturally there are duplicates of things, so it’s best just to keep the best one of each item. The harder choices are with personal and family possessions. You can make decisions based on: Is it in good condition? Is it something that will have a function in our new lives together? Try really hard not to “save” things that simply begin a lifetime of being stored in a basement or attic.”
Alan Karlin, Alan Karlin Design

“To ensure your home becomes a reflection of both your styles, invest in pieces that you pick out as a couple. This could include art, furniture, or even a small décor accessory.  As you begin married life, it’s important that your space reflect both of your aesthetics.”
Sarah Chaffee, Weltner Interiors

The couple should live in the home for a period of time before making any major changes. Having every season at least once helps guide a thoughtful and informed decision. Some things may be obvious, but as you live in the space you may be surprised by what ends up being the priority. Take an inventory of everything and create a priority list based on what needs to be upgraded, holes that need to be filled, and priority spaces. I tend to start with shared spaces like the kitchen and the family room.”
Katy Sullivan, Katy Sullivan Designs