When Two Combine Their Tastes in One Household

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

Sometimes when two people decide to get married or live together, the going can be tough in combining tastes for furnishing and decoration, especially among those who have lived on their own and established individual preferences.

Most people would agree that men let their wives take the lead in decorating their home. It just seems to be the natural order of things, right? Not so with my wife and me.

I think one of the reasons my wife decided to marry me was that she was impressed that I had decorated my bachelor apartment so well. The furnishings inventory of mostly 18th century reproductions and some originals, influenced by my having grown up near colonial Williamsburg, was impressive for a single guy, as was my debt to various department stores and antiques shops. While not originally to her taste, which was strictly modern, my wife adapted to the early American style, maybe because such a great investment had already been made in it.

She came to the marriage with her modern bedroom set and a good copy of the tulip chair designed by Eero Saarinen. However, when we bought our first home in Brooklyn Heights, built in 1826, those modern things disappeared because they looked out of place. I reigned supreme as the decorator for some years to come.

By the time we settled into a new condo building three years ago, I had conceded to my wife’s preference for a more casual, modern look again. I was ready to be casual and comfortable.

So, we’ve been a good match in combining tastes, even when they change. In all these years, there has been only one disagreement about our décor – and it happened very recently. Enter the issue of the large Staffordshire figurines, two of which I liked and she hated.

Some years ago, I made a good buy on these figurines, the mainstay of Victorian mantelpiece decoration, and displayed them in a big English oak cabinet in our dining room. Little did I think they would become our one and only point of departure in taste. I share the story here because it may demonstrate how compromise works.

At our broker’s open house when it was time to sell, we got busy de-cluttering and creating more open space on our tables and shelves, as I advise seller clients to do. In the process, I noticed that the two Staffordshire pieces had disappeared from the haunts they had long occupied. When I asked my wife where they were, she said, “Oh, I don’t think we should display them. I never liked them, and you did say to de-clutter.”

My precious Staffordshires relegated to clutter?

She offered no hint about where they might be, but I knew that her favorite hiding space was in our kitchen’s lower cabinets. Sure enough, I explored and found them tucked in between the mop bucket and the Drano, no less.

I returned them to their rightful home without saying anything. They remained for a couple of days, then disappeared again. And again, I retrieved them. Left in the dining room for a few days more, I was satisfied that my wife had given up trying to classify them as clutter.

The morning of our open house was quite busy with last-minute details. I didn’t notice anything unusual until I set out on a personalized tour and entered the dining room. Darned if the figurines hadn’t disappeared again!

Even though there were many realtors in the kitchen, like a man obsessed, I actually moved a couple of people aside to access the regular hide-and-seek place. But surprise, surprise, the figurines weren’t there. I then opened every drawer and cabinet in the kitchen, but they were nowhere to be found. I gave up.

A home stager with whom I worked regularly told me how to combine tastes peacefully.

“I find that since people are getting married later in life and they have already purchased pieces of furniture that they love and have grown attached to, the problem is that once they have found that perfect person they too come along with their own pieces that don’t necessarily coordinate. His, mine and ours is how I refer to it. Usually it takes a little psychology, negotiation and compromise to dig a little deeper and combine their likes in decor so they complement each other.”

I’m all for psychology, negotiation and compromise but it is very telling that when we had sold the house and packed up to leave, those Staffordshires were left behind for the new owners.

Bill Primavera, while a publicist and journalist, is also a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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