- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Marriage today isn't just about the union of souls.

With people marrying later in life, often having already lived on their own, marriage means the union of two households with two sets of furniture, kitchenware and decorations often of completely different styles.

Integrating the two worlds is a challenge, no matter how similar the spouses may seem. When it comes to their living spaces, men and women have different standards and tastes, and finding a balance takes patience and compromise on both sides of the gender gap.

Professional organizers, interior decorators and wedding consultants can help, but bride and groom must be fully involved in the process for better or for worse.

Furnishing your world

Even if the groom doesn't have a tattered old recliner, there are bound to be pieces of furniture the two mates don't agree upon, says Jill Lawrence, owner of Jill-of-all-Trades home-organizing service on Capitol Hill and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers' D.C. Metro Chapter.

"If there's something you don't like, you can always cover or reupholster it, but you must compromise," she says. "Both spouses are going to end up accepting 10 things of the other's that they can't stand."

Dana Schwertfeger of Manassas is experiencing this with new hubbie Scott, whom she married and moved in with in August. It seems Mr. Schwertfeger has a strong attachment to his 1980s-style TV stand, with drawers for videotapes, while his wife would prefer a modern entertainment system.

"He has a little bit of a hard time letting go," says Mrs. Schwertfeger, 24, a development assistant at the National Wildlife Federation. "We will deal with it eventually; I'm in no hurry."

Mr. Schwertfeger, 30, already had much of their furniture when she moved in. She was coming from her parents' house, didn't have a lot of home furnishings and was happy with most of his things.

"We got rid of some stuff, but it wasn't as big an issue as we thought," she says. "We have so much in common; we just had to make things fit."

It's not always that easy.

When couples don't have so much in common, especially in the furniture department, it's important to realize that different styles can work together, says Ericka Jones, an interior designer at Ethan Allen in upper Northwest.

"One spouse may have a more contemporary style, and one may be more traditional," Ms. Jones says. Modern furniture is generally streamlined and lighter in color, while old-fashioned pieces are darker, with more detail, but the two can be made to mesh.

"If you add colors and smaller items to complement both styles, you don't have to get rid of what you have and start over," she says.

When shopping for these little extras, Ms. Jones says, it's important for both spouses to participate to prevent the heartache of getting something and a month later deciding they don't like it.

"Usually the woman comes first, because it takes her longer to make up her mind," she says. "I always tell her to bring her husband the next time, and he generally knows right away what he likes."

Of course, with showers and wedding gifts, a happy couple can end up with multiple everything and no room to store half of it. The art of compromise becomes crucial.

Zach David and wife, Cheree, of Falls Church found themselves with three televisions, three couches and five telephones after their wedding in May. Needless to say, much of it had to go.

The couple had a huge yard sale, and each got rid of many personal items, clothing and other effects, just to make room.

They didn't sell everything. "Two televisions are still in the attic, gathering dust," says Mr. David, 30.

In the end, he got to keep his dining room table and an old dark wood bookshelf, but the latter required some cajoling on his part. His wife thought it didn't go with their decor namely her own lighter-wood entertainment center but eventually she agreed to compromise.

Someone is in the kitchen

Mr. David owned his Falls Church home for two years before getting married and had collected the barest of kitchen necessities. His wife had other ideas for the kitchen.

The two signed a bridal registry at Crate and Barrel, and Mr. David scrapped, sold and gave away most of the kitchenware he had acquired giving much of it to his two younger brothers, continuing the chain of male kitchenware hand-me-downs.

"This stuff gets passed along," he says. "Half of what I had was the result of someone else's marriage."

As a man, he wasn't terribly concerned about the appearance of his dish ware and glasses, Mr. David says.

"Some bachelors out there today really invest in their kitchenware," he says. "My glasses were an assortment of Redskins cups and cups from the last bar I'd been to. The more, the better."

Mrs. David signed them up for new plates, glasses and cookware.

The trend with plates and glassware today is to mix several new patterns or blend the old with the new, says Linda Lee, group vice president for Macy's bridal registry, based in New York.

"It's best if the two people can meet each other halfway, but that doesn't always happen," she says. "But if one really loves something they have, they don't have to give it up. Most vendors today make items that will mix and match to complete a set."

Don't sweat the small stuff

Finally, the small stuff wine glasses, decorative items can be a point of contention among newlyweds, Mrs. Lee says.

"Usually people are fighting for different styles of entertaining," she says. "They may have different opinions of how their life is going to unfold."

That's where the bridal consultant comes in. By asking the right questions, the trained professional can help couples realize their wants and needs for the long term, and come to a compromise.

"While they used to entertain either casually or formally, couples today do both," Mrs. Lee says. "Maybe it's the great economy, but people feel they can indulge themselves in both ways."

Mr. David says he and his wife started planning their registry together, but he soon relinquished most control took the standard "whatever you want" approach, as he says.

His wife decided which decorations would stay and which would go. His stuffed marlin and framed posters didn't make the cut and ended up at the yard sale.

Mr. David says he held firm on the number of knickknacks he wanted in the house.

"She wanted wedding pictures all over the living room," he says. "Now we have one."

If styles are in opposition, couples probably shouldn't decorate every room together, Ms. Lawrence says. To avoid the disjointed look, she suggests letting each have an entire room to decorate as he or she pleases, a "self expression den," as she calls it.

"It's not fair for somebody to have to diminish their personality because they get married," she says. "They just have to find a place to put it."

Books

• "The Bridal Registry Book," by Leah Ingram, NTC/Contemporary Publishing, 1996. This handy book has tips and checklists to help the soon-to-be-wed determine what they have, what they need and the best way to do their bridal registry.

• "Modern Bride Guide to Etiquette: Answers to the Questions Today's Couples Really Ask," by Cele Goldsmith Lalli, Paperback, 1993. This book has loads of helpful information on planning for a marriage and for before, during and after the wedding day.

• "A Place for Everything: Organizing the Stuff of Life," by Peri Wolfman and Charles Gold, Paperback, 1999. Longtime organizers Peri Wolfman and Charles Gold give step-by-step instructions on simplifying and decluttering every room of the house.

• "The Complete Home Decorating Book," by Nicholas Barnard, DK Publishing, 1994. This book is just what its title says it is, with extensive decorating tips and illustrations for family homes.

• "The New Decorating Book," by Denise L. Caringer (editor), Meredith Books, 1997. This is a room-by-room decorating guide with tips to achieve many different styles.

On line

• About.com's Web site (www.about.com) with guide Glenna Morton features information on home organization, including links on decluttering closets, household moving and finishing touches.

• The Between Friends site (www.betweenfriends.org) has helpful household hints on kitchens, organizing and decorating.

• The Organize/Tips site (www.organizetips.com) has information on planning weddings, marriage and new-home organizing.

• The Organized Home site (www.organizedhome.com) is chock-full of tips on organizing, decluttering, simplifying and cleaning the home.

• HomeArts.com's site (https://homearts.com) has features on home, relationships, health and family from Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Country Living and Popular Mechanics magazines.

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