How To Work Together With Your Other Half To Decorate An Apartment

David is a bit apprehensive (read: terrified) about projects that involve color and design. Science is his realm, and for a long time, the concept of color theory was about as legitimate to him as unicorns and leprechauns.
Publish date:
August 21, 2013
furniture, DIY, moving in

I'm giving up a life of solitude to move in with my man. I'm definitely in love, but I had no idea how much of an adventure preparing to shack up would be.

Wrangling over rugs, impromptu lessons on the the color wheel, and an ongoing dispute over a plastic bone. What followed were lessons on trust and teamwork, high-level negotiations, and what it feels like to finally see your first home together actually come together.

As two helplessly-in-love yet hopelessly-in-debt grad students taking the plunge into cohabitation, my sweetheart and I realized early on that trying to buy brand new furniture would be ill-advised, and, well, just plain stupid. So first let me tell about this table:

After months of anticipation, weeks of planning, and hours of labor, my other half stepped back and marveled at the beauty we’d created together. Our brand-new dining table.

Okay, so “brand-new” might be a misnomer. Since the day we signed our new lease, we’ve been assembling a hodgepodge of thrift store finds and neighborly hand-me-downs to furnish our place: the coffee table from a childhood friend; the nightstands from a mom-and-pop antique shop; and that dining room table, a sturdy, wood throwaway from a neighbor who was moving.

Wonderful, generous finds indeed, but yeah, if you know anything about Veronica the Fashion Student, you know my aesthetic is quite the opposite of Shabby Hipster Chic. Everything would have to coordinate, beautifully, for this color-obsessed designer to be happy in her new home.

"We’re going to have some projects ahead of us,” I warned David. I didn't care how free the table was -- if we couldn't get it to match my painstakingly crafted “land-and-sea” color story, it wasn't coming home with us.

But the thing is, David is a bit apprehensive (read: terrified) about projects that involve color and design. Science is his realm, and for a long time, the concept of color theory was about as legitimate to him as unicorns and leprechauns. The dining table project, the first of several refurbishing efforts, began with a healthy dose of his skepticism:

“Yellow legs for the table?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Wouldn’t that be really bright?”

“Not if we pick the right yellow.”

“There are different yellows?”

He was unconvinced, but went along with it anyway. And so we spent a sunny weekend prepping for the project -- him sanding the table, me choosing the perfect golden yellow paint -- and took turns attacking the table with brushes. I handled color while David handled staining the wood. After two coats each, we took a moment to take in the efforts of our teamwork.

“This table looks damn good,” David said, beaming.

“I know!” I jumped around. Visions of small dinner parties with colorful plates danced in my head.

But our work wasn’t finished. Every great table needs a great set of chairs. So we set off to my friendly neighborhood thrift store. It wasn’t long before we spotted a sturdy set of four chairs with a dark, red wood finish. Knowing we’d be reupholstering them, David chose his favorite out of one of my textile design collections for school. Then I had the desgn custom-printed at Spoonflower. Teamwork!

At $60 for two yards of heavyweight twill, our custom-printed upholstery fabric is the second most expensive item we’ve acquired for decorating our apartment (the first being a $99 rug from Ikea). Yay thrift stores!

As this process progressed, I noticed that David had taken on a new perspective -- he started to become intrigued with color schemes, and my color wheel was no longer a device to be regarded with suspicion. He now had strong opinions about what hues our bedroom should have -- deep purple and gray. He even started sending me links to coordinating rugs he’d found online.

This was a good thing -- since my work schedule kept me in the office in the days leading up to the move, David would have to repaint the nightstands on his own.

Still a bit nervous about color, he asked me to choose the paint online so that he could just pick it up at the store. But of course, on that particular day, that particular shade of grey was out of stock, and David was left to his own devices.

That afternoon, I got a surprise in my inbox:

“I decided to be creative and give the night stands a two-toned look. I think they look nice. Don't hurt me!”

Imagine my surprise when I saw that my formerly color-averse scientist had jazzed up a pair of grey nightstands with a splash of deep red. Has he been watching HGTV without me?! I wondered. I was too thrilled to dwell on the fact that he’d effectively changed our agreed-upon color scheme.

“That is NOT purple!” I wrote back, “but I love it!”

They say teamwork makes the dream work, and it certainly does -- especially when that dream involves furnishing a first apartment on a ramen-noodle budget. When we’re on the same page, rehabing a table or picking out nightstands is a breeze. When we’re on opposing sides though, watch out.

Negotiations become a whole ‘nother animal when you decide to shack up. And I had no idea. Stay tuned for "the dining room debate" and beefing over a plastic bone. Seriously.