Moving in together marks a milestone any couple. Going from two separate homes to one means that a couple gets to spend more time together, but it also means that they have some serious compromises to make. Navigating design and functionality choices is no easy task, especially in the bathroom.
Here’s how to help uncertain or conflicting couples merge their bathroom needs into a single space that makes everyone happy.
While you aren’t expected to play couples mediator, understanding why compromise is so important can help you support these customers’ needs. As pointed out by Nelly Reffet of Twinkle & Whistle Interior Design, finding a common vision is essential in any shared design project.
"The desire to create the perfect nest, paired with budget and timeframe constraints, means that people are often scared to make decisions and they doubt their instincts. So when partners don't share the same vision, it does result in a lot of tension,” Reffet says.
Daisy Jeffrey at Homebuilding & Renovating adds that planning the project timeline ahead of the move-in can make the whole sequence less stressful. In particular, thinking about which skills are needed can help the couple determine what they can do themselves, and what they need help with. As a showroom manager, you play an important role in helping the couple choose the perfect fixtures for their needs.
Guiding a Shared Vision
Creating a shared vision is one of the best ways to reduce conflict while making design choices. For example, everyone needs to be on the same page about what certain terms mean, writes interior designer Scot Meacham Wood. If someone references a freestanding tub, they might have a modern, minimalist image in mind while their partner may be picturing an elaborate tub with gilded feet. Showing inspiration imagery and confirming details can head off misunderstandings.
Content and design guru Alex Taylor at Lauren Conrad suggests using online vision boards for images, with one person collecting about 20 images on a Pinterest board, for example. Then, they can walk their partner through each picture and discuss what they both like or don’t like about it, to achieve a stronger understanding of design tastes. These initial vision boards can be used to create a final one, author Cate Morgan-Harlow adds. The final board represents what both couples agree on and can be brought to the showroom to guide you towards choosing fixtures that will meet the couples’ tastes.
Couples who aren’t shopping together can be a red flag, and you may want to suggest that they come back with their partner. Psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert says that he suggests to his couples therapy patients to always shop together during a remodel. It’s important that no large decisions are made without input and agreement by both partners.
To Purge or To Keep?
Purging is a necessary part of design compromise, as it’s not possible to fit accessories from two different bathrooms into just one space. In fact, design historian Alessandra Wood says that both people need to be prepared to purge as much as they expect their partner to. She also offers tips for how couples can prioritize whose stuff gets moved into the new house. High quality items and sentimental items should always win over cheap accessories, for example.
Once everyone has decided what’s being applied to the new house, it’s a good idea to prioritize where mutual agreement needs to happen.
Interior designer Melisa LaBancz-Bleasdale suggests creating a list of things that require both partners’ approval. For example,soap dispensers are less important than items like the shower and sink style, for which both people should be on board. Helping your customers have this conversation before they make any buying decisions can help them be more forgiving when choosing fixtures.
For help choosing what to purge and what to keep, couples should consider their lifestyle needs. Leedy Interiors suggests that couples discuss their daily rituals to determine what they want to keep and what they need to buy.
Another lifestyle factor to keep in mind is comfort. The bathroom is a space that gets used daily, and it’s important that both people feel safe, comfortable and happy there. As designer Jennifer Brouwer puts it, men especially want a shared room and its furnishings to feel as comfortable as “an old pair of jeans.”
Talking to the couple about these rituals and lifestyle factors can also help you figure out what fixtures they need most.
Creating a Neutral Space
Incorporating elements from both parties can ensure that everyone has his or her specific design tastes met. However, it’s also a good idea to create a neutral space by adding in elements that create balance.
Stylist Emily Henderson says painting the walls a neutral color is a solid place to start. This can ensure that the rest of the bathroom choices don’t lean towards an overly masculine or feminine theme. Henderson suggests white or gray for common shared spaces, which are classic bathroom colors that won’t go out of style.
If two people are conflicted on color, there’s usually a way to make them work together. For example, interior decorator Jodi Schavone of Decor Coach says that if someone wants blue and their partner wants gray, a blue with gray undertone can work wonders for meeting everyone’s preferences. Merging two colors isn’t always the solution (if one person wants red and the other wants white, pink likely won’t please anyone); however, it’s a good strategy to keep in mind for choosing colors as it can apply to fixtures as well.
Choosing a Shared Design Style
Another way to create a neutral space is through a design style that both partners like.
Contrary to popular belief, interior designer Jacquelyn Clark of Lark & Linen says that couples shouldn’t try to blend their styles in a single space. This can result in chaotic design scheme and accessories that make the room feel too busy. Instead of trying to force styles together, Clark says that each person should take stock of existing accessories and fixtures before moving in.
Looking at the things that each couple decided to keep for the new home can lend insight into which design style might work best.
Almost every home falls into one of four main design styles, VRA Interiors explains: traditional, contemporary, modern and global or eclectic. After one of these overarching styles is chosen, the couple can then move onto thinking about sub-elements and design specifics.
If conflict still exists, upcycling or altering existing pieces can be an interesting way to achieve compromise. Interior designers Betsy Burnham and Laura Burleson use the example of a couple who disagreed on a set of chairs. The solution was to paint the chairs to match an existing table. In a bathroom scenario, existing shelves or fixtures could be painted to match a well-organized vanity.