By Design: Different Decorating Styles, Happily Ever After

Valentine’s Day, come and gone, until next February.

I appreciate Valentine’s Day as a time to celebrate all those we adore, but we all know that it’s widely accepted as a ‘holiday of love’ for couples.

As an artist and designer specializing in redesign, about 80 percent of my work is with couples. Redesign is the art of utilizing mostly what the client already has, by transforming spaces through furniture arrangement, and trained application of display of art, color and accessories.

While I earnestly enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of my profession, I find that working with couples presents not twice the effort and consideration, but three times; the third being the endeavor to unify individual tastes and preferences.

Typically, it is not the client’s lack of creative ideas that brings me to a design job, but the gridlock of each partner stuck in his or her preferences. Part of my job is to convince the couple that I am not the “hired gun” to take sides, but to mediate a blend of creative solutions from their ideas.

Sometimes, early in the consultation, I find that one of the couple is attempting to railroad the other, and may even argue that the other has no taste, or poor taste. Sometimes, it’s a matter of one person wanting the house designed entirely that his or her way.

One person may love wallpaper; the other may not. Success comes with compromise. Photo courtesy of David Wright.

Other times, one of the couple declares that they could care less, and wants nothing to do with design decisions. I even find that those accused of poor taste are willing to sit silently while the other makes all the decisions: Acquiescing is better than risking ill-favor with my partner, or in making our home look “bad” with what I like.

The question, “Who lives here?, seemingly, should be easily evidenced by the décor of the home scheme – and ideally, a combination of both people.

Is there indication of each person’s personality and preferences in balance of detail in art, furnishings, accessories, color, textures, collections and themes? Sometimes, one of the couple’s styles and tastes is predominant over the other. Perhaps the “silent partner” is even pleased with the result, especially if the home presents as a showplace of design.

Another aspect could be the neutrality that comes from reproducing every detail straight out of a Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware catalog, lending little indication of the dwellers of that home.

That said, I enjoy being inspired by various publications, and admire their artfully arranged rooms, but I ardently believe in leaving room for ample expression of personal style.

The Valentine’s Day-romantic-designer-side-of-me argues the case of a couple integrating design opinions as an expression and enhancement of their relationship.

This process of mediating design decisions needn’t be uncomfortable, instead, it serves as an effective exercise in compromise – big or small – and not merely limited to design, throughout your life. Share, and share alike, is the foundation of operation. Express to your partner your likes and dislikes, and listen as your partner does the same.

For example, let’s say you absolutely have to have a green wall, and your spouse insists on blue. One solution is to consider blending those two hues for a custom color, or painting green and blue on separate walls.

Check online, and through magazines and books for inspiration and ideas of styles that appeal to you. Pay attention, when you see rooms you like on TV, movies, or in your travels, that appeal to you. Ask yourself what it is that you find so attractive.

You’ll soon find that themes will emerge. In the end, you’ll achieve a marriage of style and substance in your home that’s a balanced blend of you both.

Shelly Shively lives in Redding. She is IRDN (Interior -Re-design Network) certified.  Among her specialties are real estate staging, furnishing vacation and new homes, and the art of interior “re-design” – where she transforms and refreshes clients’ living spaces using their existing belongings. Shelly is also a freelance artist, illustrator and muralist.  To inquire about a consultation, she may be reached at  530-276-4656 or leinanishively@gmail.com

Shelly Shively
Shelly Shively lives in Redding. She is Interior re-design network certified. Among her specialties are real estate staging, furnishing vacation and new homes, and the art of interior re-design where she transforms and refreshes clients living spaces using their existing belongings. Shelly is also a freelance artist, illustrator, muralist, Whiskeytown kayak volunteer and curator at O Street Gallery. To inquire about a consultation, she may be reached at 530-276-4656 or leinanishively@gmail.com
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3 Responses

  1. Avatar tea4katie says:

    Love how you've related relationships to decorating!! Lots of truth in your wisdom!!

  2. Shelly, A well written article!
    Your article is very timely for our situation, right now. It does take the ideas, and decisions of both partners to make a house, a "lived in" loving home. A bit of give and take, goes a long way in making the projects unique and special to the people that really live there, and not just a duplication of a page torn out of a magazine. Little by little, our tiny little house feels more like a very special place for the two of us and our future together. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Avatar Shelly Shively says:

    Thanks for your responses, Kate & Kevin ! I’m glad that this article gives new perspective to a timeless issue.