Working Through Your Decorating Differences

Filed under As It Happened, Decorating

This morning, when I probably should have been doing something work-related, I was instead browsing I was doing a general perusal of design books when I stumbled upon one entitled Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of A Misspent Life: How to live creatively with collections, clutter, work, kids, pets, art, etc… and stop worrying about everything being perfectly in its place. The book’s title is nearly as long-winded and cluttered as many of the spaces depicted within it. Written and photographed by Ralph Lauren’s vice president for advertising, Mary Randolph Carter, the book appears to brim over with her self-professed “junker” style. Now, I might not define myself as a “junker” per se— many of the images depicted in the book show a level of disarray that my obsession-riddled brain would simply not tolerate— but I have been sympathetic to the junker cause as of late. This is mostly because I have moved in with my significant other and his style veers toward the opposite end of the clutter-lover spectrum. While clutter irks me just as much as any other uptight gay with a so-called “eye for design,” perfectly curated clutter (to quote Anna Dorfman) does not. I love collections. I love mismatched art hung in a jumbled grid on a wallpapered surface. I love “pops” and even retina-assaulting explosions of color. I’ll be the first to admit that my personal style seems like it’s been ripped out of a hipster’s wet dream (or an Urban Outfitters catalogue, but those are one and the same). And guess what? I love it!

Still, Daniel does not. And I respect that. Daniel’s style is cultured, modern, and refined. He likes neatly tucked edges, sober white walls, and furniture that looks like it’s been curated from a design history textbook. If I were to encapsulate Daniel’s design sense into a tiny pixelated circle, it would look like this:

On the other hand, if my design sense were similarly condensed, it would probably resemble something like this:

There’s loud color! There’s turquoise! There’s a bird on it! It looks like Pier 1 ate too much wicker and shit all over fifth avenue! My style tends to follow a no-rules approach (for examples, see my old living room and bedroom). I blame this aesthetic preference on my sheer inability to wait for anything. You know that expression that it’s like waiting for paint to dry? That’s how EVERYTHING is for me (even waiting for paint to dry). Although I like a sensibly decorated, perfectly feng shuied, zen living space as much as everybody else, my total lack of patience has led me to adapt this somewhat zany approach which, in an attempt to rationalize it, I labeled as some kind of mutant hybrid between shabby chic and postmodern/retro/throwback. It worked for me.

Not everybody can tolerate a drug-free acid trip every time they step over the threshold of a room, though, and that is perfectly understandable. Luckily for Daniel, I have been more than cooperative with eradicating most of my so-called “twee” knickknacks from our new apartment. (You know, aside from my vintage bottle collection, an abnormal amount of non-functioning clocks, a few paintings of animals, and a giant metal letter “X.”) I’ve always tried to be somebody who can adapt easily and Daniel, with his impeccable (albeit obsessively stubborn) tastes, has made the transition especially easy. I’ve been officially banned from helping to paint the new place (Daniel did not like my no-rules approach when it came to painting my last apartment), but this has so far not been a problem.

The only problem that I foresee is losing my sense of self, something that Apartment Therapy’s guide to moving in together warned strongly against. This is why, despite my kind, loving, wonderful, and unparalleled level of tolerance for Daniel’s dictatorial design approach, I tried to keep at least a part of my foot in the door. When I saw Mary Randolph Carter’s book on Amazon, I immediately placed it in my cart and pressed purchase.


  1. Querencia
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    You’ve inspired me to do some circle pictorials in the hope over venn diagram style overlap in the pursuit of peace in our home.

  2. Alyssa
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m a Manhattan-Nest follower (or rabid reader, whatever) and I cannot wait to see how you reconcile your “mutant hybrid between shabby chic and postmodern/retro/throwback” aesthetic with Dan’s. I’m rooting for you, and look forward to reading more of your posts. The SO and I are moving soon, and you lads have inspired me to blog that shit.

    P.S. I set my non-working clocks to the time the clock tower was struck by lightning in ‘Back to the Future’. When anyone notices, they’re a friend for life.

  3. Posted August 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I found your blog through Manhattan Nest – you have been blogging for quite some time. How old were you when you first created your blog? My two kids both want to blog but they are only 10 and 8. Any advice? So glad you and Daniel found each other. :) x

  4. Posted September 13, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    My husband and I recently moved in together and sort of going through the same thing. My daughter and I moved in with him and his children… his place is heavy furniture… dark colors, and scratched up (his kids are mostly roller skating, bike riding boys)… my apartment is quiet – I try to keep clean lines with vintage glass and not kid friendly (my kid is 17 years old)… so far as of now my stuff is going to storage. Hopefully, eventually soon we’ll move to a bigger house and make both our styles fit. Imma read that at article.

  5. Susan
    Posted September 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Hiya, I’m an avid stalker over at Daniel’s place on the web– which oddly enough made coming here sort of weird. He just periodically appears with amazing deco/design ideas and rarely lets us the reader know more about the person inside the nest while your blog has the tone– and I do mean this in the best possible way– of someone who randomly starts conversations with strangers.

    After working my way back through your posts, its become clear that you are very much your own person, comfortable with himself and life. Living with a design dictator like Daniel won’t change that.

    The key is having his spaces, your spaces and spaces that reflect you both.

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