The holiday season is upon us and with it comes the coupling (or cuffing), season. Congratulations if you are finally cuffed and are about to take the bold step of moving in together.
Developing personal taste
Moving in with a partner can be both exciting and nerve-wracking.
When décor enthusiasts move in with someone, it is challenging to let go of personal spaces and adapt to someone else’s preferences, but it could also be a fun experience.
Ann Wanjiku, a digital marketer and part-time interior decorator, went through the process earlier this year. She takes us through the décor process she employed when she moved in with her partner.
Growing up, Wanjiku, had an eye for well-designed spaces.
“I watched a lot of home makeover shows, and some were quite extreme,” she recalls.
It is then that she fell in love with design and décor. But she only got her first opportunity to decorate a space when she got her first job and moved out of her parent’s house.
“My first space was a studio apartment. I started saving and buying accessories way before moving out,” she narrates.
Her idea of an ideal home was obviously defined by the home makeover shows she watched, but with an entry level salary to work with, she had to find ways of making her rented apartment feel homely.
During her free time, she researched on “ways to make a small space feel big”. By the time she moved out, she had settled on three décor colours; turquoise blue, white and gold. White is perfect for a small space because it creates an illusion of ‘spaciousness’, while blue adds a pop of colour to a predominantly white space. Gold works well as an accent colour and Wanjiku used it on small accessories like vases and picture frames.
The power of a good couch
This big move was significant in cementing her personal style and taste. She uncovered her priorities when it comes to personal space. A good couch for instance, is a must have.
“When you get home after a long day at work, you just want to sink into a comfortable couch,” she says.
A good couch should be able to soak in all your stress without complaining. In fact, a couch was so important for Wanjiku that she had to revamp the first one she ever bought to make it plushie.
She also realised that bright colours that have a close proximity to white appealed to her. And lastly, wall colour is very important to her.
“I like to have all-white walls because they are easy to style. They blend in with any furniture. Landlord green is the least appealing wall colour to me,” she says.
Through the years of living alone and sharpening her style, she fell in love with her personal space, but earlier this year, she and her partner decided to move in together and it was time to bid her space goodbye.
Lookers, touchers and listeners
Wanjiku points out that it is important to have a conversation about each other’s expectations when it comes to the shared space. There is a common assumption that men do not care about interior design and décor.
This cannot be further from the truth. International keynote speaker and communication expert, Lynn Franklin, classifies people into three categories: listeners, touchers and lookers. Lookers perceive the world around them through images and visual communication.
Visual appeal is highly important to lookers - they make up 75 per cent of the population.
Then there are listeners who make up 20 percent of the population.
Listeners are receptive to sounds and words. Appearance is not really important to listeners. One fun way to identify a listener is by listening in for random mumbling or lookout for repetitive clicking of pens.
Lastly, touchers make up 5 percent of the population.
Tactile appeal is very important to them. They may not be the most stylish people, but they value textures and general feel of fabrics.
Franklin’s classification is not necessarily evidence based, but theoretical, but it suggests that a majority of people in the world gravitate towards visual appeal, whether men or women.
Having a conversation with a partner about their décor preferences will help establish what’s important to them in a space.
A toucher will be more concerned about the fabrics. They want to feel warm and cosy every time they walk into the house.
A listener may pay more attention to the location and its tranquillity. They probably want to hear birds chirping in the morning or soft music playing in the evening. Needless to say, a looker is all about appearances.
They are concerned about colours, shapes and patterns. Compromise and respect
Before moving in together, Wanjiku and her partner talked about their likes and dislikes. They wanted the shared space to be a home to both of them.
During that conversation, they realised that their colour preferences for instance, were on extreme ends of the spectrum. On one hand, she gravitated toward bright colours, and on the other hand, her partner would settle for black, navy blues and dark greys. This meant they either meet in the middle or one of them would have to compromise.
Compromise is not only important when redecorating but also in the course of the relationship. You have to respect the other person’s opinion and listen to their reasoning objectively.
In Wanjiku’s case, they came up with a colour scheme that worked for both of them. Rather than mixing up the colours, a scheme helps create cohesion.
There are many downloadable schemes from Pinterest and paint companies. You could also consult an interior designer and request for renderings. On some freelancing websites you can get renderings for as little as Sh1,000.
In Wanjiku’s case, they settled on a scheme with both dark and light shades. Large furniture, especially the couch, would take a dark grey shade, but they found ways to accessorise with light shades on throw pillows and other accessories. They also agreed to repaint their walls white, to make them more versatile.
“After house hunting, we settled for a house that had cream-yellow walls. We worked on the wall together. Though the painting job was a challenge, it was also a wonderful bonding experience,” says Wanjiku.
On accessorising the space with decorative items, her partner was appreciative of her décor skills and allowed her the freedom to infuse her style into the shared space. She took the lead on items that require attention to detail such as curtains, sheers, carpets and rugs. She also created a gallery wall just as she had done in her personal space. At the end of it all, it was a win-win for everyone.
Another dilemma that couples face involves picking furniture pieces to keep and those to give away or discard, in a scenario where both parties had amassed a lot individually.
Moving in with everything can result into one big uncomfortable hoard. Wanjiku and her partner decided to sell most of their pieces to second-hand merchants.
Selling is a great way to increase the budget for new pieces. When selling your household items, however, Wanjiku says, “You should expect the merchants to buy at a throw-away price if you are selling off-line. There are online commerce sites that offer to buy and transport but the process can be time-consuming and cumbersome. Besides, it is hard to trust online transactions.”
To get through the process, avoid getting too sentimental and accept the process as a gateway to new beginnings. Also learn to negotiate. Second-hand buyers know you are desperate to discard your possessions and they will always quote the lowest prices possible. Do not accept the first offer.
As fun and simple as it sounds, decorating a shared space has its fair share of challenges. The process requires both parties to be interested. The leg-work involved, as Wanjiku explains is exhausting. This is the perfect opportunity to embrace team work by ensuring each contributes to the process.
There are many ways to approach the process. You may divide the tasks, by allowing each one to take a lead on what they are good at, or work together in every process and learn from each other along the way. You also have to make tough decisions, such as whether to create room for a future child.
This could mean moving into an apartment with an extra bedroom and buying furniture that could accommodate a baby.
Wanjiku advises striking a balance by moving into a space that is just enough for the two of you, with spacious rooms that could probably fit a crib. After all, paying for an extra room you are not using is not cost-effective.
Lastly, keeping shared space organised can be a challenge. Unfortunately, many apartments will provide one closet which may be insufficient for two people. Wanjiku suggests investing in furniture with hidden or extra storage, such as a footrest that can accommodate extra bedding for guests or a bed with drawers to store clothes.
You should also have a conversation about staying organised. Some people thrive in cluttered spaces and a messy room symbolises a “lived in” status. If you are a neat freak, such status may get on your nerves, hence create boundaries from the onset.