Two friends of mine, a couple, recently moved in together. They were honest about it being an adjustment period. "I've finally convinced him that we only need one Batman poster," my friend quipped, smiling into her drink. If this debate had happened, I wouldn't be surprised at all.
I moved in with my boyfriend almost two years ago. It was a big choice, and, at the time, the design and layout of the new apartment was one of the last things I was thinking about. When we moved in, that changed a lot. It's amazing how much stuff two people can have. While my boyfriend typically deferred all decoration and design options to me, I did my best to consult him and did my best to keep all of our shared spaces as balanced and gender neutral as possible. Here are some tips if you are currently trying to create a balanced space while living with a significant other.
De-clutter - Whether you have just moved in or you've been in your place for years, you might need to declutter. There is a good chance that each of you have things that you simply no longer need. I approach this by taking a gigantic garbage bag and tackling one room at a time. My boyfriend and myself went through it together as quickly as we could. We donated what we could and trashed the rest. If you're moving a lot, (like I do) this may happen naturally. If you aren't, you'll know it's time when you start feeling hectic and your space starts feeling very small.
Color choices - While this may seem silly, it's still important what colors you choose for, well, just about any room that is considered a shared space. And when you live together as a couple, this might just encapsulate every single room in the house. Neutral colors are a go-to for these rooms; gray, creams, blacks, and such. But don't think that you have to shy away from color forever; marigold, soft yellows, light greens, and deep navy tones are usually appreciated as being more gender neutral than some other hues. Finding patterns that you agree on is another great way to add some color.
Add elements that you both love - Have a conversation about including aspects that are really important to you. For us, this came down to including both a coffee bar and a bar cart. We've improvised a lot on both, but we love the way that they have turned out. If you are renting, as we are, this conversation might not be as in-depth. If you own, take some time to figure out what you both want to change and want should remain. Also, even if neither of you are particularly "crafty", do not underestimate the power of creating/building something together. My sister and brother-in-law created this awesomely gigantic abstract painting that hangs in their master bedroom. Neither of them consider themselves to be very creative, but they love how it turned out/are both extremely proud of it - as they should be.... it's amazing!
Cube bookcases - You don't have to add these by any means. I am only listing it here, as the one I had was my saving grace. The thing that really shocked me about moving in with my boyfriend was the amount of wires that he brought with him. He has four gaming platforms and the controls, games, and wires that go with them. Wires are the worst things ever when it comes to design - they are absolutely necessary, meaning that you cannot get rid of them, but they are absolutely hideous. In effort to hide the wires, but still have his games out in the open/accessible, I decided to use the cube bookcase as a sort of media center. It works wonderfully when it comes to hiding the wires, although you can still see a few poking out in this photo. Shortly after this photo was taken, I actually taped those wires to the backside of the bookcase to ensure that they stay out of sight.