Monday, September 23, 2013

A marriage of tastes: When two homes in Ottawa become one

I spend a lot of time with couples who are buying their first home in Ottawa together. It’s often enlightening to watch them agree, disagree and compromise until they’ve found the home that clicks for both of them. When the right decision has been made, both parties breathe a huge sigh of relief . . . for about two weeks. Then it’s time for round two: whose stuff do you keep?

Just a couple of generations ago, it was common for newlyweds to move straight from their parents’ homes into their own. That meant they needed everything, from teaspoons to a bedroom suite. Couples collected their belongings together, virtually from scratch.

Today, this scenario is rare. While singles may not own their own homes in Ottawa– though many do – nearly all have rented their own places and amassed a good deal of furniture, appliances, et cetera along the way. And it’s human nature to become attached to our possessions.

In some cases, one partner owns the obviously superior dining table. In others, when both partners love their belongings, there’s real potential for hurt feelings. My first rule of merging households: be respectful. You don’t have to pretend to like the framed poster of dogs playing poker, but express your feelings as diplomatically as possible. Accept that compromise is necessary on both sides. If you want to confiscate his decorative swords, you may have to surrender the dried flowers.

You may be surprised to find that combining your two homes in Ottawa works, if your pieces are good and the scale is right; pick up any decorating magazine and you’ll see antiques, vintage and contemporary furniture mingled together to beautiful effect. When your beloved things simply look wrong together, it may be necessary to “give” the bedroom to one partner while the other gets the living room.

Ideally, you can come up with a furniture placement plan and sell your unneeded possessions before the big move. When opinions clash over a specific item, though, biding your time can be a less painful way to resolve the issue. As you naturally develop tastes in common, the pieces that don’t look quite right will migrate to the basement, replaced by newly acquired pieces that both of you love.

And one day, you may find your patience rewarded with these wonderful words:

“Whatever you like, honey”.

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