Wood, Windows, and Plants: The Drama of Decorating Our First Apartment

In just over two weeks, I’m moving to the Netherlands to live with my boyfriend, Ken. We started apartment-hunting last winter, and after “losing” house after house that weren’t really ours to begin with, finally found a nice place in late spring. It’s a three-bedroom apartment with a beautiful view of the park, and only a short walk to our favorite spots in the city. We both fell in love with it, and that’s where the trouble began.

“What do you think of this?” Ken asks, sending me the link to a mustard-colored egg chair on Pinterest. For years, I’ve been internally referring to this style of chair as a “butt bucket.”

“Um… It’s not totally my style,” I say. “What about this?” I send him a photo of an eclectic living room with huge sofas, multicolored throw pillows, and a gallery wall. Somewhere off-screen, there’s probably a teacup pig named Hiccup, wearing a tutu.

“It’s kind of busy,” he responds. “I like having more open space.” He sends me another link. Another butt bucket. Another hard pass.

These conversations have gone on for months. It’s furniture shopping in the digital age, like a year-long Ikea trip woven into everyday life (except that there’s no baby crying in the background, and neither of us are storming off to clear our heads on a KNOPPARP). It’s simultaneously addictive and exhausting. Last night, I had a stress-dream about owning too much wall art.

The problem is clear to us: Ken likes modernist minimalism, and I like bright colors and cozy furniture. To Ken, a sleek table with sharp right angles is “clean” and “open.” To me, it is “boring” and “devoid of personality.” (Not to be harsh.) Yesterday, during a two-hour conversation about how we want our hallway to feel (something I never thought I’d talk about), Ken and I made a list of things we both like in a home. The list goes like this.

  • Plants
  • Windows
  • Things made of wood

So… at least we have a starting point.

The whole situation might sound a little hopeless, but since making that list, we’re finally making progress. Each of us has an office to decorate as we want, and we’re making compromises for the shared spaces (no teacup pig, but we do get a colorful rug). While I’m shocked to find that I have an opinion on things like spice racks and how to store parchment paper, there’s a strange thrill to it, or, rather, to starting this stage of life together. After almost five years of long-distance dating, I’m excited to be sharing my home and my life with Ken. Even if it means getting a butt bucket.

Sara Laughed

Hey hey! I'm Sara, an American writer living in the Netherlands and working as a product manager.

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