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How to Design a Room That Works for Both You and Your Partner

Because who really wants to compromise in the bedroom.

Sep 25, 2020

The bedroom is a highly-personal place—a space to recharge, be sensual, and express yourself. But what if your partner has different tastes or needs than you?

It’s natural that couples don’t see eye to eye on everything—so if you and your partner can’t agree on color palette (calm neutrals vs bright and boho) or sleeping arrangements (are pets allowed in bed?), don’t lose sleep over it. We’re here to address your biggest bedroom decorating hang-ups, to help you create a space that works for the both of you.

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Color Palette

Most of us want the bedroom to feel like an oasis: calm, restorative, reenergizing. But what that actually looks like can be very different to certain people. Maybe your partner is a minimalist, neutrals-loving decorator, and you’re a vibrant, pack-in-the-personality type. What they find calm, you find boring, and what you find refreshing, they find over-stimulating. Luckily, a couple of tricks can make the space feel like it reflects and works for both of you.

Start with a neutral base that’s easy to layer over and try out different decor as needed. Wood or concrete floors layered with a nubby rug instantly softens the space and gives you endless options for your decorating scheme. Keep the main furnishings—your bed frame, headboard, dressers, and any lounge chairs—fairly neutral, then use artwork, accent pillows, and accessories to play with color. 

This will let you try out different color combos and patterns easily, until you find something that works for your more neutral-minded partner as well. Yellow, blue, and blush are versatile accent colors you can test out with small items like a patchwork quilt, alarm clock, pillow cases, or planter


Collectibles 

Like with your entire home, both you and your partner want to see yourselves represented in your bedroom, so identify areas where artwork you’ve collected can combine, and find places to keep possessions separate. If one of you is an avid reader, carve out a little corner of the bedroom with a lounge chair and a bookshelf that houses your collection. If your partner is a low-key fashion icon, lean a floor mirror against a wall and tuck a little vanity in next to it so they can get ready easily in the morning.

When it comes to art, lay out all the pieces you and your partner have collected (separately and together) and map out a gallery wall that combines both your stories. Make sure to weave in a couple items you’ve collected together or made for each other—a favorite vinyl album sleeve, or a framed letter—to unify the gallery.


Pets: In or Out?

While there’s no quick fix for couples struggling with whether to let a pet sleep in the bed with them or not, the key to resolving your differences is simply clear communication. If you’re the partner who’s not keen on sleeping with the dog, think about why exactly that is, and express that to your partner. Are you allergic? Do you hate pet hair on the bed? Are you a light sleeper, who wakes up every time the cat walks across your leg? Do you feel awkward getting intimate when the dog is in earshot? These are all valid concerns, and may not even be on your partner’s radar or make them uncomfortable. 

According to the AKC, 45% of dogs sleep in bed with their owners. If a pet is used to sleeping in one partner’s bed prior to moving in together, consider a slow transition from bed to elsewhere, training your pup or kitty with a dog bed arranged at a similar height to your bed, then at floor level, then outside the room, if desired. Be firm with your decisions, so your pet can adapt more quickly. For cats, who don’t react well to suddenly being banned from territory, create a distraction—whether that’s a new climbing corner by a window with a view, or hiding foraging toys. 

If your partner is hesitant about transitioning their pet out of the bed, listen to their concerns as well. Maybe they feel more secure with a pet in the room, or simply crave the companionship. Talk through how you can both make space for each other’s needs. If you find you’re not agreeing after a few conversations, the problem might not actually be the pet at all, and might be rooted in larger issues with jealousy and intimacy. Regardless of where you settle, the experts agree: don’t let the pets come between you and your partner, figuratively and literally. “The snuggling and the holding and the touching is critical,” says author and relationship expert Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz. “It’s one of the seven secrets of a successful marriage. It’s more important than sex.”


Natural Light

Love waking up to natural light, but your partner craves complete darkness while sleeping? The solution’s actually quite simple. Layer white blackout curtains with sheer white drapery in your bedroom, for a look that’s billowy and soft but will block out light during the night. For the partner who likes to wake up with the sun, try using a sunrise alarm: a clock that emits soothing light at your scheduled time in the morning, designed to imitate those natural dawn rays. Once you’re up, open the blackout curtains and leave the sheer set draped gently to get some real sunlight in your space.


Written by Mallory Abreu

Mallory is a writer currently based in Des Moines, Iowa, where she works as a home design editor for Better Homes & Gardens. This New England native began her career at the Boston Globe covering music and arts beats, and has since had her work featured in Boston Magazine, Magnolia Journal, BH&G, and other national publications. Catch her playing piano and ogling old homes in her free time. View her portfolio at www.malloryabreu.com and follow her on IG at @mal.abreu.

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