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War of decor: Family room edition

Your family room (or perhaps you call it the living room) is about just that — family and living. It’s the room where you want everyone to gather comfortably and happily. It’s the room that should reflect both your spouse’s and your tastes. What to do when those tastes seem completely unable to coexist? Here are some ideas.

Living room by

Photo credit: Jessie Kok,

Start with specifics

Don’t just ask, “What colors do you like?” Ask, “How do you feel about pink walls?” says Jessie Kok, interior designer and blogger at

“The more specific questions you ask, the more you get to know about your partner’s design styles, tastes and preferences,” Kok explains. “Before you start to decorate any shared space, try to get your partner to find some inspirational pictures, then ask your partner what he likes about them. When you have all the necessary design information, it’s time to start decorating!”

Consider trying a style that’s new for both of you

If one of you likes modern design and the other one is a fan of traditional design, but you’re ready to buy all new furniture, try finding items — “transitional pieces,” as Kok calls them — that bring both of your preferences together.

If you want to include items from a combination of styles and eras, be sure to repeat colors, shapes and patterns throughout the room, Kok says, to maintain a cohesive look, rather than a disjointed “his and hers” jumble.

Product picks

Masculine, modern couch
Masculine, modern

(Crate & Barrel, $1,299)

Feminine, traditional
Feminine, traditional

(Ballard Designs, $1,699)

Compromise, transitional
Compromise, transitional

(Pottery Barn, $1,499)

Be honest, always

“Do not make any assumptions regarding what your partner likes or doesn’t like,” warns Kok. “I once had a female client who loves pinks, pastels and ‘blings.’ Before I started designing the room for her and her husband, I asked her if he was OK with all the pinks and ‘blings.’ Her reply? ‘My husband doesn’t care much for design. As long as I am happy, he is happy.'” It turned out the husband was less than happy with the result, which then needed to be changed. “Just because many guys don’t care for interior decorating and let you make all the design decisions, do not assume that they are OK with girly decor,” Kok says.

Kok’s own living room is a testament to her husband’s and her different tastes coming together to form a comfortable space the whole family loves. She explains, “My favorite element in my living room is definitely the color scheme. The bright and cheery colors always make me smile,” Kok says. “I also love the charming stone fireplace. As for my husband, his favorite elements are the vaulted ceiling and the hardwood floors.”

Get this look

Product picks

1. Rug (, $269), 2. Lamp (, $191), 3. Couch (Ikea, $1,528)

Product picks

1. Pillow (123 Greetings, $42), 2. TV unit (Ikea, $119),
3. Coffee table (CB2, $279), 4. Ottoman (Target, $35)

Although it’s wonderful to look around a room and choose the elements you love best, decorating the family room isn’t just about your favorite things and his favorite things. It’s about the two of you coming together to create a space that’s warm, inviting, fun and relaxing — exactly the way you want your family life to be.

More family room ideas

60 Family rooms to inspire your inner designer
Modern comfort for your family room
House tour: LuAnn de Lesseps’ NYC penthouse

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