Battle of the Sexes | Sharing Decor Choices with a Guy, Plus 3 Examples of How to Do It

Decorating.  It's all butterflies, Persian rugs, crushed velvet, French Provincial furniture, vintage trunks, floral patterns, Gone with the Wind art, chandeliers, and cute little birdies... until your guy moves in.  No! It's not happening to me. I've never lived with a boyfriend.  And being the single girl that I am, I get my lovely bedroom (birdies and all!) to myself.  

Recently a few of you have commented or emailed on a topic that I've overlooked when it comes to design advice.  Most of the decor inspiration I post assumes that you are decorating for yourself, or possibly sharing a space with a roomie.  And now some of you are asking how to decorate when you share a space with your boyfriend or husband.

Some guys don't have a design bone in their body and won't care what you do with the space as long as there's a comfy couch and big tv.  But a growing number of guys actually have a defined sense of what they like in a room.  Like this handsome, suited gentleman who is going to play my stand-in bf for the post (haha).  He likes neutrals, nothing too busy, stripes, leather furniture, typography, clean lines, masculinity, and photos of urban architecture.  Pretty classy guy, right?  But obviously he's not going to feel at home amid the eclectic, bohemian, ultra-feminine things on my side

So can you just roll some tape down the center of room, each take a side, and call it good?  (If you think so, maybe you should reconsider moving in with that bf.  Or even worse, why did you marry him?! Haha.)  But all jokes aside, it's all about compromise.  So let's tour three stunning examples of compromise, shall we?

Mid Century Modern Meets Comfortable Contemporary

He likes neutrals.  You like bold color.  
 not to mention
He likes contemporary.  You like retro. 

The Problem
Okay, so he turned his nose up at your gorgeous olive sofa.  First, he says it looks like something off of Mad Men.  (Umm, duh! Mid Century Modern is sooo in.  That's why you want it!)  ...And then he has the nerve to say the color is hideous.  After those two attacks, you're still holding on to that couch with all your might.  So how can you make it an inviting place to curl up with him for a movie?  

Give & Take
In this decor board, I built the room around warm neutrals: black, charcoal, beige, and cream.  Major pieces (the rug, chair, side table, desk, coat tree, curtains) all stick to this color scheme.  Mixing and matching furniture so that it isn't all retro or all contemporary ensures that neither of your styles overwhelm the other.  The sofa, round side table, desk chair, and pendant ceiling fixture give off those 1960s era vibes you swoon over.  While a classic chair, traditional desk, modern floor lamp, and ladder-style bookcase adhere to a look he's more comfortable with.  

Coming Together
The trick on pulling it all together?  Adding unexpected pieces that don't fall under either category, but that you both like.  For instance, the large round coffee table is neither retro nor modern... but more rustic and even a little exotic.  The desk lamp, wire file holder, and pipe-like curtain rod are industrial, while the coat tree is a little whimsical.  An eclectic array of art creates an eye-catching gallery---he likes typography, you like vintage illustrations.  Same thing with the pillows and accessories on the bookcase---the more eclectic, the better. 

 Rustic Industrial Meets French Country Cottage

You're a little bit country charm, he's a little bit rock-n-roll metal.

The Problem
He thinks your shabby chic finds should be put out by the dumpster.  And the floral prints you want to drape all over the apartment make him dizzy.  But if he had his way, the place would be decked out in cold metal, leather, and weird things that he found at the architectural salvage shop.  How can you bring in his galvanized objects and still maintain a cozy, home-sweet-home kind of feel?

Give & Take
First, figure out what you like together: the classic things.  Make sure that the major pieces in the room have that classic, mutually beloved look.  Like a great, contemporary sofa in soft gray.  A big, modern black desk. Then, let one another choose a few major pieces in their area of specialty.  You might bring in a pretty pair of red-and-cream floral-patterned curtain panels, a shabby chic bookcase, and red farmhouse chair.  So let him bring in a neutral striped rug, leather arm chair, and salvaged pallet wagon to use as a coffee table.  Keep the color scheme in the neutral zone, accenting with one main color---such as pulling the red from the curtains.  

Coming Together
Just as in the last scenario, the key in having a mix-and-matched look that really works is upping the eclectic factor.  A chic, shiny black pedestal table adds glamor.  A fun red leather poof adds extra seating.  Outfit the bookcase in an array of interesting objects: a British-flagged sailboat, antique clock, vintage radio, retro telephone.  Also, to help balance out the feminine florals with masculine metal surfaces... bring in natural materials: wicker containers on the desktop, linen memo boards over the desk, a woven basket for trash, and a burlap pillow.  It'll quickly become apparent that the country cottage and salvaged industrial looks compliment each other quite well.

 French Provincial Princess Meets Renovated Loft

You're the beauty, he's the brain.

The Problem
You love everything feminine, trendy, and pretty, but you're worried your decor might make your man feel emasculated when sitting at a French Provincial desk.  His style just seems so simple, understated, and... well... his books are all over the place.  How can you tone down the glitter, lace, and velvet in lieu of a slightly more man-friendly abode?

Give & Take
You can have the graceful, curvy lines and feminine decor without looking like you stepped into a Disney Princess' room.  Just don't go overboard.  You want a long, low, velvet, tufted sofa?  Go for it, but opt for a neutral hue rather than bright color.    Have a thing for winged chairs?  Same thing.  Pick one in a more muted shade with a mansion library feel.  Balance out the sofa with a modern coffee table in a dark, warm wood tone.  Rather than decorate the top of your French Provincial desk with a glitzy lamp, choose an industrial schoolhouse style one. Pull a modern ghost chair up for a lovely, mismatched effect.  Keep prints and patterns to a minimum and sway in favor of anything vintage.

Coming Together
In this scenario, it takes more to balance out those feminine pieces of furniture than just the details.  It takes something big, something bold.  Go for a loft look!  If your space looks like a renovated urban loft in all its exposed brick glory, chances are your guy won't even notice how ladylike the couch is. Don't have the exposed brick?  If you can, wallpaper or paint the walls to look like brick.  Industrial lighting adds to the old-factory-turned-apartment look.  Incorporate artwork that might feel a little educational or scientific: a big map over the sofa, an eye chart, a butterfly collection poster.  Also get eclectic with storage solutions: mix and match wire and wicker baskets under the coffee table, and then a shiny antique copper tray up on top.  Leave books out in the open and hang a chalkboard over the desk for a slightly schoolhouse-inspired atmosphere. 

Final Word
Whew! Compromise can be so difficult, but when you look at the results... it's totally worth it!  It's really about bringing things that you both love, and then adding a third style that you pick out together.  Eclecticism is key.  Don't be afraid of going out on a limb.  Even in decor---maybe even more so in decor---opposites really can attract!

Which of these two-styles-become-one looks is your favorite and why?  What problems have you had trying to decorate with a boyfriend, husband, or even just a male roomie?  Or even better, what do you think of my handsome, suited-up, stand-in boyfriend?  Haha.  Lemme know if you see him out and about---and be sure to send him my way! 


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this!

Nick Klaus said...

As one of a handful of young guys who actually read interior design websites, I can say that all of those three options are guy approved.