Uncategorized over 11 years ago by Liz Adams

Building Your Space

In September, my boyfriend and I will be moving in together {woahhh!}. Actually he is moving into my current apartment that I share with my best friend, and together we have to make the space ours {not mine}. The idea of this sounds a bit difficult because throughout my styling history and general idea of what my personal style is, I have never had to worry about my feminine sense of style affecting a boy. So now we have to join our things and make them collectively run together in some sort of furniture and styling matrimony. But how does this work? 
So, I am asking my sweet readers to give me some advice. Do you have any tips for decorating with a boy? Any unisex styling strategies to make both parties happy? I am going to try and not be influenced by the fact that I am constantly surrounded by style and allow the two of us to creatively work together. But, this can be tough because sometimes boys just don’t get it. I’m thinking lots of gallery walls, stacks of books, and secret purchases while he is at work. 
What do you think? 
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  1. Ha! Boys don’t get it. While he is moving into your space, it is important that he feel at home there. I hate to say it, but it truly is all about compromise. For example, my husband has a painting he LOVES- it’s a hunting scene with geese over a field…. so we compromised by framing it in an ornate gold frame. Don’t love the picture, but do love the frame. Little things like that make decorating for both do-able!

  2. This might be bad advice, but sometimes just putting the space together without consulting him too much is the best route! hahaha 🙂 when i show my husband a piece of furniture or a pillow he ALWAYS objects, says its ugly, or just says we don’t need it(probably right on that one). But when I just put things together he always comes in and loves it. My living room has an awful lot of girly touches and he still doesn’t seem to mind, or notice…


  3. I have to agree with Emily as well though! Its important to make him feel at home and feel more than welcomed, things ugly posters nick nacks and all…
    when Cam first moved in with me while we were dating i had a mini heart attack watching him move boxes and boxes of STUFF in. but we compromised on a lot and I made a point to make him feel at home and give him spaces for himself. Slowly I started decluttering, both of our stuff, and got rid of a lot and over the years i have added in others. Its all a compromise! But don’t stress too much, in the long run men don’t notice or care all that much. Cams has a nice home, so he is happy – a pink pattern on a pillow or a gold bamboo table doesnt bother him too much or ruin his day, where as a beer poster and a black leather sectional recliner would ruin my life (LOL) and he understands that side of me, what makes me happy, and we compromise.

  4. Honestly, I don’t think boys care that much. I try to get my husband involved but he always tells me that he loves my taste and that he trusts me. He rather spend his time doing other things and I’m glad he lets me do what I want because spending hours shopping at home stores is something I enjoy. Of course, I would never come home with pink and sparkly items because I do keep in mind that I life with a boy.
    My advice: ask him what he likes/doesn’t like and allow some of his personality to come through somehow (a photo of him and his friends, a favorite blanket, etc).

  5. Everybody is different but, for the most part, I think that the guys just want to feel like you considered them and not just yourself in your decorating decisions. I made the mistake of going off and buying a couch behind my beau’s back last November. I had WARNED him I was going to do it but did not show him any photos, discuss the process or ask for his opinion at all. We got in several tiffs about what I had done but his point was that this piece would be something we’d hopefully own together for decades and he just wanted to be included in the big decision. He was actually being much sweeter than I was and I felt so guilty! I learned that lesson the hard way and now try to go over changes with him. Usually, I get my way regardless but at least Geoff feels like it’s his house too.

  6. I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised with my husband’s help and taste in decorating. Granted, he does pick REALLY bad stuff sometimes, but overall it’s pretty good. I would say ask about colors for paint, bedding, etc, because that has helped me think outside the box and mix stuff up some. Also, you can always add something as a small accent color even if it’s not your favorite thing. Yes to gallery walls, mixing your stuff and his. Also, ask about furniture, especially the couch, because men don’t like watching sports in a chair that isn’t comfy 🙂

  7. I just got married and my husband and I almost never agree on decorating. Our compromises have included a gender neutral master bedroom (meaning absolutely no pink, it is currently a soft yellow and navy), a girly guest bedroom because he never has to go in there, and every other space can have “girly” colors as long as they are accompanied by a neutral. As for my sparkle addiction…well we are working on him accepting it!

  8. I just moved in with my boyfriend. He cares about everything and has a very distinct sense of style. Right now everything is gray or some variation of it because it is all we can agree on!

  9. I hear ya! My bf is moving in in a couple weeks and we are going to be sharing a 400 sq ft apartment. Did I mention he’s 6’4″? And an athlete? And all boy? And I am all girl. When he visits, it’s like a bull in a china shop always knocking my little girly knick knacks off their pretty perches. After years of long distance and living alone, I’m worried about making the space ours not “mine.” It’s a big transition! And some of his suggestions like, “oh we can just store my sneakers on top of the kitchen cabinets” make steam come out of my ears. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably set in your ways with where things go and how things operate in your home. But at the end of the day, you love the person and you want to make it a home that makes both of you happy and that is a combination of both of your styles & opinions. Someone told me recently that when moving in with a significant other, you must choose your battles and only bring up 10% of the space-sharing issues and dismiss the rest. Sounds smart! Anyways, I look forward to hearing any advice on both decorating and living together. I would start by designating “his” & “hers” spaces. 🙂 http://www.littleladyinthebigapple.blogspot.com

  10. My fiance has some serious opinions, who knew? My fave quote “I don’t really care, I just want approval on everything.” Definition of caring, no? My best tips for manliness are: distressed leather anything, animal head/antlers (glossy white finish, small scale it is not as scary as you would think!) and distressed unfinished wood. Swapping out some lucite and white things for a big tough wooden coffee table has a serious Man-effect but looks awesome. And it’s way better than a Call of Duty poster as a focal point in the bedroom (true story.) If he has opinions listen, and even if he says he doesn’t ask for them anyway, because he’s lying 😉

  11. My boyfriend only cared about one thing when we got a new place together, just don’t let the bedspread be too girly. That was it, literally everything else could have been pink and he was okay with it but the bed had to be gender neutral. (I ended up getting a grey color and lots of accent pillows and he was happy with that)

  12. First off, so exciting that y’all are moving in together!!! Second, I was lucky because my husband barely had any furniture and I had everything. Honestly, I do what I like, but try to make it a little less girly and it may take a few days for him to get used to it, but he always comes around. Like others have said, grey is a great color to use! But don’t overdo it like I made the mistake of doing! Blues obvi are great too! xoxo

  13. I have lived with my boyfriend (now fiance!) for almost 3 years and he also does not appreciate my love of girly home decor. I have found that the New England cottage decor has worked very well for us as a happy balance. I love how clean, simple and cozy a New England look as and my fiance loves all the blue/reds/taupes look of it all. I think Pottery Barn does a great job of meshing the two as well – I would start there.

  14. Congratulations… so exciting!! I moved in with my bf last September, and it was a little challenging at first – simply because we both have strong opinions! We learned that there is definitely a middle ground and have slowly found pieces that we both truly love. We are still in the process – it takes a long time, building our space together. I really recommend (if you can,) enlisting a 3rd party’s help. This makes it so much easier – having an unbiased opinion really helps. (That’s how I convinced my guy to paint the walls white – they were royal blue, before!)

  15. i generally stick with white, grey and navy. my boyfriend likes dark wood so all my main furniture pieces are dark. he basically is happy as long as he has a comfortable place to sit. i try to show him all the things i am thinking about and he just likes being consulted about bigger things.

  16. Ugh Liz. I mean I am so excited you guys are moving in together…but it is REALLY hard to coordinate on decorating styles. Matt likes dark wood and reds and those ugly leather office chairs from the eighties. So yeah. Good luck I guess. 😉 But on another note…it’s pretty awesome living with the person you love!

  17. Boys tend to be pretty easy going on the style side of things, BUT you want to make sure he isn’t a slob kabob! You’ve got a step up in that he is moving into YOUR space as opposed to the other way around {which is what happened with me!}. It’s harder to transform a boy space into something acceptable than accommodating his style into your space. Congrats!! So so exciting!

  18. So excited for you, Liz! I think sticking with a neutral color palette will help, and bringing in pops of a color you both love. Fusing two different design tastes isn’t easy, but typically guys are pretty easy going about these things.

  19. As long as I don’t paint the walls pink, he’s pretty much down with all my decoration decisions. He doesn’t get most of it, but quite honestly, I don’t think he really cares, unless of course we’re buying stuff for the kitchen. He’s the chef you see.
    I most definitely agree with the strategy of secret purchases. That’s what I do. 🙂
    And congratulations on this important step you’re taking. 😉
    Diana from http://thegirlwhocouldntbeafashionista.blogspot.ie/

  20. If there is room make sure he has a space to make own (man cave). Even if it is a tiny corner of a room. My boyfriend and I live together and I do all of the decorating but he has a small office that I have no say in how he chooses to use or decorate the room. If I am ever undecided on colors or furniture placement I ask him and have him play around and move things with me, that way he feels involved in the process and the space feels like he was part of the creation process. Bisous!

  21. I think decorating with a boy is fun. My fiance and I have enjoyed working on our house together for three years now and the big thing I think is just to include him in everything. Sometimes he won’t care, but occasionally he might say something and you should really listen to it – see: dark blue bathroom, yes. Soft pink guest bathroom, no. So I took that for what it’s worth and listened. That is my advice. Have fun with it!

  22. amen to secret purchases! i (stupidly) asked the boyfriend about getting a fabulous vintage bar cart on craigslist (brass with lucite wheels for a mere $200!) and he vetoed because it was “so expensive!”

    they know not what great pieces really go for! other than that, whenever large decisions loom i try to pre-select a few options and let him make the final decision! controlled chaos 🙂

    good luck with your move!

  23. Congrats lady! I just moved in with my bf… two weeks ago… and we are still letting the dust settle before we start making any major changes. But in my mind, just how a tough leather jacket totally MAKES a flowy chiffon dress rock, some tough furniture decisions feminized with soft fur throws, and muted colors can be a great marriage of two different design aesthetics! Good luck

  24. I was very surprised how involved David wanted to be in decorating.. he seriously loves it which is a tricky because I was not used to having to listen to someone else’s opinion. However, if you work together and both get the things you LOVE and have to have you can make it cohesive. It is all about compromise. If he didn’t care at all I think I would have interpretated that as him not being excited to move in together so I think you just learn to compromise and it will all work for the better!

  25. I just went through (and am still going through) this exact situation! My biggest concern was that I have always been drawn to extremely feminine pieces. How in the world was I going to alter that to be man friendly?!

    Things have gone good so far and this would be my advice:
    – Be open to his ideas. I’ve learned that when my boyfriend speaks up about a decorating idea, he feels passionately about the piece and has a great point of view. Otherwise, he usually sits back and lets me make decisions. I think it is important for the man to feel like they have been a part of the process (even if it isn’t every step along the way).
    – Look at it as a way to grow your own style. Never would I have thought black & gray would be dominant colors in my home, but now I absolutely love it. Also, I’ve played down the pinks and have substituted them for red…a more masculine take on things.
    – Incorporate some of your style into every room, just remember it doesn’t have to be the dominant piece.

    I hope this is helpful. I’m looking forward to some pictures from your newly decorated (and man friendly) place 🙂

  26. Trying to find a balance to create your own style as a couple is soo tricky- I moved in with my bf a year ago, and I still don’t feel as though our apartment is ‘complete’. My biggest piece of advice, which is slightly removed from decorating – for both of you to do a major clean out of your possessions before combining, You would be amazed at the stuff boys mindlessly hold onto!

  27. Thankfully, this isn’t as hard as it may seem. When I moved in with my husband, I started to think about all of his hobbies, favorite teams, his line of work, and where he’s from — he’s an Air Force pilot from Missouri, who enjoys cycling, hockey, hunting, etc. I incorporated some of his pieces into our house and displayed them in bookcases and on shelves. I used an old duck call and placed it on top of a stack of my design books. I framed old family photos in newer modern frames. I found a sterling silver plane at Pottery Barn and displayed it with my girly knick knacks. Sometimes the juxtaposition of the masculine and feminine, classic and quirky, can really add the right personal touch to your home. I also searched Etsy for pieces I thought would be a fun way to mesh his interests and mine — vintage signs and knick knacks. For awhile, my mom would use birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, as an opportunity to give us “home decor” items that suited his interests and mine. We both liked these sorts of gifts.

    Now don’t get me wrong, a lot of his stuff has ended up in Rubbermaid containers in storage, but I slowly worked my way into incorporating his things and mine. He’s actually really happy with the way it looks and doesn’t feel like it’s just my style. It took some time and some give and take, but you’ll find a balance that works for you. Don’t fret! I’m sure you’ll do a great job at it.

  28. my tip is to seriously ponder subtraction rather than addition or rearrangement. every single friggin time i clear out a room, my husband will remark on how much he likes it and how it feels more comfy. i am a fan of spare too, so we live pretty simply this way (and then bring some stuff out when we entertain so people don’t worry we are freaks). except we kind of are.

    smiles and good luck on your venus mars collaboration!


  29. My roommate is a guy and one of my closest friends. But since we’re not a couple, I think I get away with a lot more things than I would living with a boyfriend. I still try to stay pretty gender-neutral though — our apartment is a lot of neutrals and bold graphic prints. My favorite thing? The gold spray-painted toy dinosaurs on the living room bookshelf. Kind of seems like the perfect compromise.

  30. I’ve loved reading all these comments as I just moved in with my boyfriend! Luckily he’s in a creative field and has a great eye so I don’t have some of the ‘Call of Duty’-style issues…but on the downside he’s way more opinionated than I would’ve guessed! So far what’s worked for us is compromise. Last night we literally had a conversation where he said, “You can pick the bedroom wall color as long as you get rid of that flowery pillow.” Deal! I think ultimately just remember you’re moving in together because you love each other and want to spend more quality time together….and arguing about decor doesn’t fall under ‘quality time’ in my book 🙂

  31. Yay! Congratulations :). Such funny timing! I actually just posted an inspiration board of a bedroom that I created to marry masculine and feminine attributes to make it unisex friendly on my blog today! Feel free to take a peek if it strikes your fancy: http://www.reverieblog.com/2012/06/open-for-business.html

    Generally, I prefer to keep the main pieces masculine, and accent with feminine details. It’s all about balance, of course! And definitely making purchases when the boy is away ;).

  32. as we are about to celebrate our 25th anniversary…..i think back to the day i moved in with my boyfriend, now husband. lots of frustration from my mom to “not” live together….but in today’s world, things seem so incredibly expensive. first have your finances in order. really get things down on paper…..and remember it is all about give and take. love should be your driving force so remember to love how you live and what you live with! 🙂
    good luck.

  33. How exciting! My advice would be to let him keep a few of his favorite things on display in the space. May not be the best for decor purposes..but it makes them feel like it’s their home too. I’d say neutral colors with little feminine pops here and there are just right.

  34. Congrats! You are definitely in for one of the most exciting, yet challenging times in your relationship. Some tips that worked for us… equal closet space (even if you have more clothes); no secret purchases because as much as I like to think they are completely oblivious to decor, they surprisingly notice; make him feel like you value his opinion. Finally the biggest thing is teamwork/ play to your strengths… (read more about what I mean here (http://www.julipmade.com/2012/02/blogger-confessions.html).
    Good luck with this exciting time in your life lady! xo

  35. YAY!! So exciting!! My tip for decorating with a boy is you get to make most of the decisions but they have veto power (its seemed to work for us)!

    Our apartment is still more on the feminine side but nothing tooo too terrible.

    That is seriously sooo exciting!!

  36. From someone who has lived with their boy:

    Just do your thing. Create a beautiful space that isn’t too girly, and he’ll be fine. It doesn’t matter to him nearly as much as it does to you, so don’t give him too power to veto beautiful ideas he simply can’t envision. Also, it sets a precedent that you’re in control of decor now for later when you marry and have a house together.

  37. definitely make purchases while he is away and have them out and set when he gets home. sometimes my husband doesn’t even notice. he cares a lot more about spending the money than the actual decor.

    in our last house i wanted a moroccan lair for a bedroom and he let me go with it without a peep. it was amazing. i think having a room that you can go with (like an office or guest room) without boundaries helps for when the common areas require some compromise.

    he obviously knows this is your thing and will hopefully respect your need to be the decorating captain. just don’t forget about him and have something that speaks to him in each room. and then pray he just keeps his mouth shut when you want/need a pop of pink.

  38. I’ved lived with my boyfriend (who I affectionately call ‘The Roommate’ on my blog) for a year now, and my biggest challenge was dealing with the cleaning chores. Things like doing dishes before bed and vacuuming aren’t really on guys’ radar, so I did all of the housework in the beginning and just felt like the maid. I resented him for sitting on his butt, but I was never willing to speak up and ask, ‘could you clean the bathroom this time around?’ In our new apartment, we have specific chores that we both handle so neither of us has to nag the other to pull their weight. He does laundry, trash, and unloading the dishwasher. I cook, clean the bathroom, change the sheets, make the bed in the morning, vacuum, and just tidy up. I would have saved myself a lot of frustration if I’d created a system when we first started living together — you should definitely talk this over with him before y’all move in together!

    As far as decorating, my trouble was how do I tactfully communicate that I want to exile his dining chairs to the storage basement? Thankfully he volunteered to take all of his sports memorabilia (5 foot wide photograph of UGA’s Sanford Stadium anyone?) to his office. WHEW! Crisis averted. My advice would to just be honest and not buy things behind his back, at least not at first when he might feel particularly sensitive about the topic.

    It’ll probably be touch-and-go in the beginning, but it’s going to be SO WORTH IT! Living with my boyfriend is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!