Merging lives and spaces might be exciting, but no one said it was easy. Bringing together separate styles into a creative cohesive unit can be an overwhelming task for new couples. There’s decisions galore to be made, involving everything from a budget to style to colour schemes – and it’s enough to drive any couple up the wall. To avoid just that, Dubai-based interior designer Zaneta Domingo says having an open conversation can be key, and so can listing out separately the pieces that are a “need to have” and “nice to have”. “This gives you a starting point on which pieces to prioritize. Have a clear budget in mind too.”

While everyone has their own way of setting up their home, Domingo suggests going about it by tackling the functional zones first. “Start with the bathrooms, kitchens, and wardrobes. You would understand how much storage you have and how much more you need to accommodate for. Next would be the bedroom and then the living room.”

Invest in pieces that will be used regularly and often, and that are of good quality and stand the test of time. “Your return on investment is not having to spend to maintain it.”

Try out the furniture before you buy it, Domingo says. “Make sure your sofa is providing you adequate support. Your dining chair works with your dining table- not just aesthetically but also ergonomically. Mattress selection can take some time. There are mattress designs that provide 2 types of firmness on the same mattress, specifically designed for couples with contrasting sleeping styles. Other developments in the mattress industry include a Do Not Disturb feature. You can toss and turn without disturbing your partner.”

Importantly, give your home room to grow. You don’t need it all in the first go. “As you get to know each other more, and your lifestyle, you will add pieces accordingly to suit it. You will evolve as a couple and so will your home,” she says.

Ready to get started? Here are the ideas and products to get inspired by to make your house a home:

1. Comfy curated curves

Start by cutting corners with curves. Yes, we mean that literally. Domingo says curved forms and silhouettes are all the rage, “sending subliminal messages of safety, welcome and friendliness, making it a great central theme.”

Next, focus on the pandemic-driven need for comfort. This has evolved to go beyond just being comfortable, says Domingo. It needs to be interesting and indulgent. Which means a lot of luxurious plush soft materials such as velvet, satins and sherpa to add sophistication.

A curated juxtaposition of contrasting organic shapes warms up the minimal look, says Domingo.  The use of exotic woods, dramatic marbles, leather and glass brings in refinement. Appealing details on pieces add distinctiveness to furniture. These can be the leg or base of a piece, a pleating detail, an accent piece of metal.

“We're seeing a revival of traditional techniques taking a contemporary route,” says Domingo. “An example of this could be in the form of blown glass items and the reinterpretation of bas-relief art. These elevate the look of the furniture and make it seem one of a kind.”

Tips and tricks:

• As this scheme is rich and multi-layered, textured walls will pair exceedingly well with this scheme. This can be achieved by finishing the walls in textured paint or wallcovering; or with polished plaster.

• You’ll never regret splurging on bedding. Who doesn't want to sleep on a cloud? Think thick, fluffy, overdone bedding with silk or satin sheets. Vary colours and textures in the throw, accent pillows and duvets. Use two duvet inserts. Either use both in one cover or in separate covers - your bed will feel sumptuous. When in doubt, all-white bedding is a timeless, clean, fool-proof choice!

• Form should follow function. Opt for a curved swivel chair as opposed to a curved sofa. These don't take up a lot of room and are more versatile than static ones. Do a sit test prior to purchase to make sure they are comfortable.

2. A maze of mirrors

Gilded, arched, floor standing, wall mounted, integrated with lights - Domingo says mirrors are integral to any home, and we’re now spoilt for choice when it comes to them. “Let's admit it, we've all gotten a little more vain. Plus, they're a versatile decorative accessory. As they reflect light, they make a space look bigger and brighter.”

And who said you can only use one mirror in a room? Layering mirrors in your home works great as part of a collection.

Tips and tricks:

• Want to add some much-needed glitz and glam without being tacky? Mirrors can also be used as table tops and shutter and drawer fronts. For instance, using a mirrored-top round entry table under a skylight or chandelier could create an interesting play of light.

• Hang large mirrors at eye level, and when possible on a wall that is facing a window. This will extend your depth perception of the space while also bouncing natural light from the window back into the room.

• Oversized mirrors with an interesting detail or shape become art, when placed leaning against a wall and behind a sofa.

• Mirrors at entrances are especially useful. You can take one last look before you leave, and your guest can check how they look when they arrive. It adds a bit of glitz. Be careful not to place a mirror facing the entrance door as feng shui warns against it.

3. Playful pastels

A dash here, a splash there… colour need not be daunting when you go about decorating. For young millennials and Gen Z couples, this trend comes right out of an IG or Tiktok filter. This brings in elements of playful humour, inspired by optimism and positivity, says Domingo. “It's about joy. it's about bringing in colour. It takes cues from the Memphis style of the 80s, but pared back. Functional pieces are dipped in colour. Furniture pieces feel naive with a playdough like effect.”

Overall this means a softer approach and fun treatments to surfaces. Like a honeymoon from good taste.

Key elements of this trend are freezing sorbet colours with an absence of sharp and straight forms. Think of Pantone's colour of the year 2022 - Very Peri. Other colours include pinks, mints and light woods, says Domingo.

Tips

• With this trend it's vital to strike a balance. Go for a piece or two in these tones. Accessories and art are a simple way to incorporate some of these hues, especially as we approach summer.

• Since making its debut in 1919 (over a 100 years back), Kitchen Aid's Artisan Stand Mixer is iconic and has slowly become a kitchen cult, with people even getting tattoos of it. It's no wonder that this is a staple for any baker and a colourful kitchen must-have. Get it in a pastel shade for a timeless piece.

• Introduce rounded versions of pieces that are traditionally angular, such as coffee tables, bookcases and consoles, mirrors.

• Look for materials such as pastel terrazzo, iridescent or tinted glass and acrylic. Patterns and prints with these light refreshing hues, wiggly lines and soft graphics.

4. Expreessive and evocative

Finally, don’t forget to build a space that expresses the personality of you as a couple and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Elements of quirk and the peculiar through the home will help pack it with personality.

Ways to get on board this trend are as simple as just being you. From art, sculptures, one-of-a-kind side chairs, accent cushions, decorative objects, vases, boxes, jars etc. the options are endless to infusing your home with personality. “Home owners are increasingly keen on looking for upcoming artists, with fresh perspectives and accurate descriptions of diverse cultures,” says Domingo. A record player or a neon light with a catchphrase or an inside joke is something that is sure to get noticed and a great conversation starter. “More recently we've seen the surge in NFTs. Owners of NFTs are looking at ways to showcase these pieces in their space.”

Often times couples do not have the same taste in decor and styling, says Domingo. “As an interior designer, I look forward to marrying their styles to a cohesive scheme. For those who fit that bill, I strongly urge you to splurge on pieces both of you fall in love with. These are rare finds and probably express your personalities the best.”

Tip 1: Our homes tell a story of who we are. Art and decor are the best ways to infuse identity and guide this narrative. Stacks of books on coffee tables are a simple and effective way to do this. So are gallery walls and bookshelves.

Tip 2: Items from travels together are always a nice memory to have on display in your home.

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