Home & Garden

Combining households — and design styles

A combined household incorporating a husband’s desire for minimal furniture with a wife’s desire for natural wood elements.
A combined household incorporating a husband’s desire for minimal furniture with a wife’s desire for natural wood elements. MCT

You’ve decided to take the plunge and purchase that home together. Now what? Whether you are a newly married couple or two people who have decided to simply live under the same roof, combining households can be an overwhelming task.

How do you begin? Start with each person determining his or her own personal design style. This may mean ripping images from a magazine and using them as inspirational images for your new design. The key is that the home needs to appeal to both occupants of the space.

Identify your personal style. I find that nearly everyone’s design style falls into one of these four categories, and then there are sub-sections from there: country chic, contemporary, modern or global.

After identifying a basic design category, it is time to narrow it down a bit more and define one’s style more specifically.

From here, I always suggest that each person select one signature piece that they feels defines them the most. It can be an area rug with a big, bold graphic pattern or a fabulous piece of artwork or a gorgeous chandelier. Whatever piece they choose, it will serve as the anchor for the room and help to fill in the rest of the blanks of the decor.

Selecting a single signature piece that is special to each person helps ensure harmony and serves as the foundation to build a design palette that will appeal to both.

Purchase large pieces first, then accessorize. Once you have selected signature pieces that best represent each person’s personal taste and style, choose your largest pieces first, then your accessories. Remember, your furniture enhances the space, and the accessories enhance the furniture.


Instead of photos of one family dominating the other, I suggest the individuals who will live in the newly designed home together purchase pieces of art they both can agree on and love.

Great art doesn’t need to be expensive. When my husband and I were decorating our first apartment together, our first purchase was a piece of art, as opposed to a piece of furniture. We bought it from a small gallery and it wasn’t very expensive; it was unique and an original, which is what I love about art.

Consider purchasing artwork from street artists, small galleries or art students. Purchasing artwork from art school graduates is a great, affordable way to buy one-of-a-kind art.

Each spring, graduating students from area art schools hold shows displaying their artwork, usually as part of their senior thesis presentations. Go and look at what they have on display and reach out to the artists personally. My husband and I did this when we were looking to purchase our first piece of art, furnishing our home together. More than a decade later, that piece of artwork is still one of our favorite decor items.

Cathy Hobbs is an Emmy Award-winning television host and interior design and home staging expert. Contact her at www.cathyhobbs.com.