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Decorating Tips for Newlyweds

Interior designer Kelley Proxmire shares her advice for turning “yours” and “mine” into “ours.”

Photographs by Geoffrey Hodgdon.

The wedding was perfect. The honeymoon was bliss. And now you’ve got another exciting project to plan: decorating your home.

For many newlyweds, outfitting a home together is the first time they’ve had to merge styles, and it can be a tricky task figuring out how to turn “yours” and “mine” into “ours.” But Kelley Proxmire of Kelley Interior Design says the scenario can be simplified with a little old-fashioned dialogue.

“Communication is necessary in all aspects of marriage, even interior design,” she says. “Discuss your ideas and visions and make sure you are on the same page as far as design.”

Proxmire recommends having images of what you like as a couple that you can take to your designer. Usually the designer will be able to spot a recurring theme that will help when creating a design plan. You can find your style with the help of websites such as Pinterest, or by dog-earing pages in shelter magazines.

If your better half isn’t as interested in the decorating as you are, you can still involve him or her by narrowing down what you like to two or three choices and letting your partner choose. Don’t overwhelm your spouse by involving him or her in every single decision. Proxmire suggests trying to agree on bigger items, such as a sofa, that may be in the home for ten-plus years. And remember to compromise; after all, you both should feel comfortable in the space you share.

Even after 32 years of marriage, Proxmire still compromises with her husband on decor, but she has learned a few tricks of the trade.

“‘Let me just try it, and if you don’t like it, I’ll take it out’ is a phrase that can do wonders,” says Proxmire. “It makes him feel involved in the design process and reminds him that decor can always be changed.”

Typically, conflicts over design stem from adhering (consciously or not) to what you grew up with, says Proxmire. She’s noticed, for instance, that people who grew up with Oriental rugs in the house tend to think that’s the only way to decorate when it comes to carpeting. Her suggestions for that scenario would be to compromise by using Orientals in one room only, like the library, and for both partners to have their own space in the home (read: man cave) to decorate to their liking.

Proxmire recently had a chance to put her newlywed decorating advice to the test, as she worked with a couple near and dear to her heart: her son and new daughter-in-law.

Brocky and Lauren had been dating for five years before they were married on April 29, 2011. As a wedding gift, Proxmire offered to decorate the couple’s first home together, a 900-square-foot apartment in DC’s Cathedral Heights. Lucky for Proxmire, Brocky and Lauren were very compatible when it came to design. Their main goals were to find a color scheme they could both live with (he loves blue and she loves red, so they compromised on green) and to have a space conducive to entertaining.

Proxmire knew the couple wanted a bar, but she was working with a small space and didn’t want to take too much room away from the seating options in the living room. Instead she used an old armoire refitted with mirrors and painted lime green inside to serve as the bar.

“It is very practical in its space use, while remaining decorative and cohesive with the color scheme,” she says.

The armoire turned bar instantly became a favorite piece for both Brocky and Lauren.

One of the biggest challenges most newlyweds face when decorating is how to fit everything into a smaller space, and Brocky and Lauren were no exception.

“You accumulate so many new things in the process of a wedding, and it can be hard to fit it all into an apartment,” says Brocky.

Simple tricks—adding a skirt to the dining room table to allow for hidden storage space, and maximizing a plain wall by adding a corkboard to hang pots and pans—helped Proxmire make the most of the space. Making sure everything has its place gives a home a tidy but larger feeling, she says.

“Look for inventive ways to store things,” says Lauren. “We did, and we love our new apartment!”