Home is where the art is, and moving in together presents a whole new challenge beyond how to divide up domestic responsibilities and the cable bill: how to combine art collections!
It doesn’t matter if you’ve decided to build a life with the person you love or need someone to split that dastardly rent: creating the ideal home requires teamwork, patience, honesty, and compromise. But in addition to making sure you’re on the same page when it comes to obvious issues like cleanliness and individual responsibilities, your home should also feel like your sanctuary — and that goes for the person you’re creating a space with, too.
So while we can’t necessarily help you navigate that awkward conversation regarding that beloved recliner chair that’s a few years past its prime, we can help you establish guidelines about how to merge your precious art collection with another to create a whole new space that reflects both your identity and your status as a couple.
Understand your aesthetic — and theirs
Before you begin to create your dream space when moving in together, you need to get on the same page — and that means understanding which styles and pieces resonate with you most strongly. Take notes about the spaces that inspire you and the “vibe” you aspire to create and ask the person you’re moving in with to tackle the same exercise. The clarity will help facilitate a positive and clear exchange.
Just remember that any one person is likely not going to have a streamlined vision, and that’s something to be embraced. It’s perfectly reasonable to be in love with a traditional portrait of your grandparents and a funky handmade ceramic at the same time. In fact, it’s unique juxtapositions like these that make a home fun and unique!
Kick off your conversation with kindness
While it’s easy to joke about a dreaded eyesore, there’s a very strong possibility that this is a real conversation you’ll need to have. Soften the blow by starting off on a more positive note and thinking of the art hanging on their walls that you find beautiful and compelling. Let them know how much you admire these works and that you’re excited for them to enrich your life so intimately. Not only will you start your conversation on an uplifting note, but you’ll start to breathe life into your new space by painting a picture of what things will look like.
This can truly be as simple as saying something like, “I really love that abstract photograph that you have hanging in the hallway and can’t wait to be greeted by it when I come home.” They’ll appreciate the positivity and likely respond in kind. And better yet, you’ll find that this conversation means the curation has already begun.
Identify your non-negotiables before moving in together
One thing is for sure: Combining your art collection with a partner requires a lot of conversation! Alexander Ruffin, “Family So Far Apart” (2021)
At the end of the day, combining art collections and decorating a home when moving in together will require a lot of honest communication and compromise, and one of the trickier parts of this conversation is getting over our attachment to things. This is incredibly human and a source of frustration and unease, but you can overcome it: simply take a breath and walk around your space. and identify what your absolute non-negotiables are.
Try your best to keep this list somewhat limited: it doesn’t mean that half of your collection will disappear! But homing in on the works that spark the most joy and have the most personal resonance is important when it comes to merging aesthetics. It may also be helpful to remember why these particular pieces mean so much to you: were they made by a loved one? Or were they a hefty investment? Points like these can make all the difference when pleading with your case.
Prepare yourself for feedback, both good and bad
We know that you have a great eye and strong opinions about the art you display in your home, but the healthiest way to handle a conversation about how to decorate means being prepared to hear some constructive criticism yourself. There may be a piece that you love, but your new roommate or partner may not feel so enthusiastic — and that can be a tough pill to swallow. Try to remember that opinions about art are ultimately subjective, and what you’re hearing is not a criticism of you.
Attempt to navigate a solution that works for both of you. For example, if you have a piece prominently displayed in a high-traffic area of your home that isn’t being met with enthusiasm, you may want to consider placing it in another room. This can also be used as a bargaining chip: the collection you’re building is a representation of both of you, which means you can also point out specific pieces that aren’t your favorites. Just do it nicely, of course.
Open up to something new
The best part about merging your cherished artworks with another’s is that you’re also being presented with an opportunity for growth. So often, our tastes become somewhat cemented and inflexible. And while it’s great to know what you like, it also means missing out on completely new pieces that can bring joy and value to your home. As an art lover, you possess a creative streak. Don’t stifle it!
Look at the other person’s collection thoughtfully and treat it as though you’re in a new museum or gallery for the first time. What catches your eye? Why is it interesting? How does it make you feel? Allowing yourself to have an open dialogue with the work can dampen the ego and allow you to open up to new visual experiences.
Consider other decorative elements
A sculpture from the Art Students League Bronze Artists’ “Standing Tall in Love Under the Rain” (2017)
Creating a gorgeous space begs you to consider more than what you’re hanging on your walls: things like furniture, ceramics, and other decorative objects play a key role in bringing a room together.
Perhaps you have a handwoven tapestry that you discovered on a trip abroad or a handmade vase that you can’t leave behind. These pieces add life to your space and should be considered when thinking about how to pull your new home together. Even something like a simple mirror can help facilitate a flow that brings seemingly different aesthetics together in a fresh new way.
Look at your new space as a blank canvas
When you’re first moving in together, take advantage of the negative space. Where will your furniture go, and how much room do you really have? Lay your non-negotiables out on the floor and get ready to play: which pieces look fantastic together? Which provides an exciting new counterpoint that draws the eye? Creating a sort of “gallery” allows you to curate with confidence, and you can even place tape on the floor to mirror your wall space and establish where the works will go.
It takes a little extra effort, but being thoughtful and establishing measurements allows you to begin decorating with confidence while avoiding frustrating do-overs in the future.
Paint a neutral wall
The biggest concern when bringing large collections together is how to make them feel seamless, and an elegant, neutral color scheme adds warmth while tying your artwork together. Consider utilizing a neutral color scheme, like dark blues, browns, greens, and even warmer colors like yellow or orange. It’s amazing how a coat of paint can liven up a room and even more incredible how they can make a gallery wall look more thoughtfully curated.
Ask yourself: which colors make me feel most at home? And which works best with the artwork we already have? Paint small swatches to make sure the color is really what you’re looking for, as it almost always looks different when it’s out of the can.
Remember to share space
Çifel Hüseyin’s “Weird Object #2” (2021) reflects a dynamic relationship between discrete units. Sounds like moving in together!
If you’re moving into someone else’s space — or they’re moving into yours — you’ll have to navigate what it means to create a home that’s meant for the both of you. Have a conversation about temporarily taking down artwork and even reorganizing furniture to establish a brand new environment that represents you both. Remember: you’re setting up a new life and bringing someone else into the fold, which means that both parties should feel like they are in a shared space and not long-term visitors.
Compromise, compromise, compromise
When two art lovers are merging their lives, there’s a possibility that there are simply too many works to handle. This can easily cause anxiety: you’ve put a lot of time, energy, and money into creating a collection that you feel proud of.
The solution? You can carefully store some pieces and rotate them throughout the year, which also brings fun and new energy into your home. Or, you can look for spots that you may have neglected in the past. There’s no reason why your entryway or even your bathroom should feel dull and unadorned! Think creatively about how to use the entire space, not just your living and bedroom.
Invest in something new — together
This was our favorite advice from art appraiser and gallery owner Spalding Nix
: Make it a challenge to compromise on one piece of art each year with your partner. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to talk about investing in a new piece together. This needn’t be expensive – it just has to be something that you both love. It can serve as a focal point that you’ll both feel excited about while making everyone feel like they have a voice.
A bonus: if either one of you agrees that some of your collection is no longer bringing you the satisfaction it once did, you can take this opportunity to resell, giving you more wall space to play with and extra funds to invest in something new. For art lovers, this can be a beautiful way to connect.
Embrace your new life
It goes without saying that this process can create a little friction, but remember why you’ve decided to start a new home together. It doesn’t matter if you’re leveling up your romantic partnership or moving in with your best friend: you’re creating a nest, and you want to feel optimistic about the space you’re cultivating together. Bring your most non-judgemental and communicative self to the party and embrace an attitude of positivity and excitement. It goes a long way in making sure you’re off to a great start.
Remember: even the smallest apartment can feel like a luxury getaway when it’s decorated thoughtfully and with care. And with solid communication, honesty, and a little self-reflection, you can bring together totally different styles in a bold new way that feels homey, chic, and well-designed.
Do you have any tips or tales about how you’ve married your art collection with another after moving in together? Have you ever had a partner who loved a piece you found absolutely atrocious? Regale us in the comments. Happy decorating!