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Yours, Mine…and Ours!

Combining two personal styles into one beautiful home

Design and styling by Olga Adler Interiors

photographs by John and Bernadette Queenan

Saying “I do” is great but living together can also mean trying to merge a collection of sports memorabilia with a pink silk headboard. Sounds scary? For many people who are about to start decorating their first place together, it just might be. Read on for some survival tips!

Combining households isn’t simply about “stuff”. The things we own bring back memories. How do you deal with pieces that do not fit the other person’s vision for the new home? How do you build a shared vision – the foundation of shared memories?

First, each of you has some homework to do. This is the Inventory Phase. Start by making a list of everything you own. Evaluate each piece. Be brutal with yourself. Ask, do I really need this? Is it something that really matters, or am I just hanging on to it? If the item is relatively new it should be in good shape with the potential to last. Let quality be your guide.

Both of you should finish this phase by deciding exactly what to keep, and what can go. Now you are ready to start working together – and to begin to compare notes. This phase is called Dialogue and Compromise. And it is the hardest part.

Olga Adler

The idea is to have an open discussion about what matters most to each of you. Acknowledge that it is not easy for the untrained eye to mix styles. In terms of process, neither should be totally in charge, but it is fine to recognize that each of you has particular strengths. Perhaps one takes the lead with interiors and the other focuses on landscaping, or vice versa. Whatever works for you!

What happens if the discussion doesn’t go easily? OK…it hardly ever does. Perhaps the conversation degenerates, and you end up sitting there thinking, “I just can’t believe the person I care about actually expects me to put THAT in my house!

Olga Adler

Let’s take a look at some common issues and solutions.


That’s a tough one. People have a natural desire to collect things. Unless we are talking fine art here and you can’t agree on it, there is a place for those kinds of beloved displays – behind a closed door of a home office or basement playroom. You do not have to see it. Just keep the door closed.


If your partner is not in love with that table your grandmother gave you, it does not mean he rejects your grandmother – to him it is just a piece of furniture that does not fit his vision for the new dining room. Try to compromise. Let him keep a piece that is important to him– assuming he lets you keep your table.

Trade Up

What to do with pieces that you let go? Sell them. There are consignment stores that accept furniture of different provenance and value (not necessarily traditional or antique) that may come and pick up your stuff.

When the time comes to blend houses, let’s hope you are not looking at two moving trucks filled with enough stuff to fill two or more houses. In that case, go back to the Dialogue and Compromise Phase. Two of everything is for arks, not households.

But if your possessions are nicely condensed, you might find yourself in the position of actually needing to buy things. Congratulations! Life is about to get a whole lot easier, especially if you can make the next decisions together.

You are now in the Ours Phase. Here’s what to do next:

  • Make an inventory of all that you’ve decided to keep, noting what is useful as-is versus what needs refinishing or reupholstering.
  • Make a list of what you need to add.
  • Look for versatile pieces that could “travel” from room to room and  ultimately from house to house.
  • Make your place unique by bringing in pieces that mean something to both of you – travel mementos, flea market finds and  interesting art. It won’t feel like home until you make it yours.

To couples everywhere, just starting out – good luck, and have fun decorating!

Olga AdlerOlga Adler is a fashion-loving and world-traveling interior designer. Known for her fondness for simple forms, love of color and unique accessories, she has won acclaim for her refreshing approach to classic design. She is the author of “Distinctive Interiors of Fairfield County” and recipient of 2010 Fairfield County “40 UNDER 40” award.

To contact Olga visit her website: www.olgaadlerinteriors.com or call 203-438-4743