photography and article by Amanda Roelofs
The velvet Victorian chairs I recently inherited from my grandma, the ones I have loved all my life, are bumming out my husband. To me they’re priceless, part of my childhood and pretty much non-negotiable in regard to having them in our house. To him, without that emotional attachment, they’re fussy and old-fashioned and do not square with his pared down, more masculine decor preferences in our mid-mod ranch house. As nesters, women generally care more about decorating, but whether you’re blending households or just trying to respect your partner’s opinion, it takes effort and a few tricks to create a space that feels comfortable and uplifting for everyone. Keep in mind the following topics when negotiating with your man about décor:
Decide which pieces are most important to each of you and where you’re willing to compromise. Determine together when comfort or function should be paramount and where uniqueness and beauty can be more of a focus.
If his duck decoy collection isn’t your idea of “sanctuary,” maybe it’s not meant for the living room, but an office or other area you spend less time in. Collections are tricky, but they can make a unique statement if displayed as a tight unit and don’t overpower a room. Be willing to edit. There may be a great place for half of those ducks and isn’t it better to enjoy the favorites rather than having the whole bunch packed away? Ditto for sports memorabilia. Elevating a few meaningful pieces to a place of importance and conversation is much more rewarding than having a basement lined with trophies no one ever sees.
Agree on a cohesive “house palette.” It will help focus your decisions and provide a way to unify even the most disparate pieces. A few main anchor colors, both light and dark, combined with a couple bold accents to thread throughout the house will provide a roadmap for choosing large pieces and filling in decorative accessories.
The most comfortable homes are those that feel pulled together over time with a mix of styles. To find a balance, stick with classic, neutral and timeless shapes for large foundational pieces. If the sofa has a masculine square silhouette, contrast it with curvy end tables or a coffee table in a bright feminine color or metallic finish. Conversely, a tufted chair is more feminine, so upholstering it in a masculine fabric, or choosing a companion leather ottoman, helps the room feel inviting but not girly.
Dark woods, industrial metals, leather and deep colors feel earthy and masculine. Mixing those elements with more feminine shaped furniture or light fixtures, curvy patterns and bright, glossy accessories will soften the edge and create harmony. It’s also very calming to have a balance of wood, metal, fabrics and glass in a room. A wood-paneled den needs the contrast of stone, metallic or lacquered finishes and curvy upholstered pieces to keep it cozy and not too dark.
Tables, lamps and other non-upholstered decor are easy and less expensive to fold into your overall scheme because there’s no worry about the condition of upholstery. Unique statement accessories are great for filling in those masculine and feminine deficits, and will command attention away from a ho-hum leather sofa that you’re “making do with till the kids get older.” Buying vintage allows you to get the size, shape and feel you want inexpensively enough to customize the fabric or color without too much of an investment. Plus, vintage pieces just have heart!
Speaking of vintage, after much discussion, there is a plan for grandma’s Victorian chairs. Curvy, carved and very feminine in a boxy kind of way, they’ll be re-upholstered in a more masculine blue and green wool plaid that is actually a family tartan in my grandma’s line – honoring their heirloom status. I’m thrilled to be able keep them close, and this fix will transform them from stuffy parlor chairs to more of a preppy club chair, an aesthetic our mid-mod architecture and my husband can happily embrace!
Amanda Roelofs is a Grand Rapids based interior designer with her own firm and a former televison art director. Find out more at www.amandaroelofs.com