The Art of Compromise

By: Janice Clements

Clara from Aurora writes, "My husband and I argue about how to decorate our home.  I really like modern things and he likes more traditional furniture.  Can we mix the antiques he has inherited with the more modern furniture I want to buy?  Can you also please tell us what our artwork should match in the room and what the right height is to hang it at?"

In the 19+ years I have been designing and decorating, I have almost never experienced a couple that agrees completely on every decor selection they make for their home.  Clara, I would suggest that you and your husband wisely invest in the art of compromise and know that it will go a long way to ensuring the spaces in your home reflect both of your styles. 

If your preferences are truly at opposite ends of the style spectrum, just promise me that you won't resort to making some of the rooms "his" and some of them "yours".  This will only result in a look that is confusing and assuredly, disconnected.

Since I am a firm believer that a home should be a reflection of each of the homeowners, I recommend spending some time focusing on what items you have or want to buy that you both love and can agree upon, whether they be lamps, furniture pieces, some pillows or simply a paint colour.  If you're having trouble establishing some ground rules about how the space is designed, agree that each room must have one or two elements that each of you has selected that can work together.  If they are not of great value, some antiques can be painted or refinished in order to modernize them, allowing them to fit more easily into a contemporary space. 

When mixing styles, try to ensure that there is NOT a 50/50 split on modern pieces to traditional ones.  A well-designed eclectic space can certainly have both modern and traditional pieces, but one of the design styles typically takes a lead role in the room.

When purchasing new furnishings and decor items, opt for up-to-date classic styles (often referred to as 'transitional'), which will blend well with some of the more modern pieces you'd like to incorporate.  Avoid combining what I will call 'high-traditional' looks like "chesterfield" sofas with modern-minimalist items like directors chairs thinking that doing so will create an eclectic room.  While eclecticism works in many settings, there is an art to it that can go horribly sideways if you don't know what you're doing. 

Moreover, know that compromising on the look of a space does not mean you should also mix the functional uses for the room.  For example, if you already have a family room or a finished basement, avoid mixing a 60" TV into the formal sitting area of your living room.  Doing so minimizes ones ability to retreat to a quiet space in the home.

Hanging art can for the most part be simple; the middle of the art piece can be hung at the average eye height of the average person in your home (excluding small children of course).  It has been my experience that most people make the mistake of hanging art that is too small for a wall or too high for anyone to enjoy it.

What I know for sure is that the beauty of art is truly in the eye of the beholder; do not concern yourself too much with trying to "match" your artwork to your decor.  The artwork you select should reflect what you love to look at. 

Carefully select frames that will best highlight the art piece.  If you are uncertain about strategically using mismatched frames, then err on the side of caution and select ones that are an exact match.  Better safe than sorry.

There is nothing that throws off a piece of art more than a frame that is dated looking or that does nothing to highlight the art itself.  When in doubt, take your art to a professional frame company that can provide you with the advice you need or consider artwork options that have no frame at all (a canvas piece where the artwork wraps around the wood frame) for a simple, up-to-date look, which allows the art to truly speak for itself. 

If you're spending a great deal of money on art, opt for glare-free or museum quality glass that will protect your investment while allowing you to fully enjoy the art for years to come.



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