Jon and Michelle Chronister moved into a new house this summer, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be keeping some of their favorite design elements from their previous home, many of them courtesy of interior designer Kathy Shenk.
One such feature they plan to keep is a display wall of old golf clubs, a nod to Jon’s passion for golf as both a coach at Hempfield High School and director of the Lancaster County Junior Golf Tour.
Michelle is on board with golf décor, and, for his part, Jon has learned to appreciate the floral pictures that she likes.
“The one thing that Michelle and I do is we know what the other person may like and are willing to go outside our likes to incorporate what the other person may like,” Jon says. “I would never hang a flower picture, but they look very good. … My styles have changed to meet a little bit of what Michelle likes and, again, that’s Kathy pushing us a little.”
As owner of the interior design studio Interior Fancies, Shenk says the challenge of helping couples create beautiful and practical spaces that reflect both their voices requires more than just design know-how. It takes a little psychology, too.
“It’s really listening to both partners and being their advocate and their voice so they both feel like they’ve won in the end,” she says. “I can say in all my years of working with couples they’ve all come to a good end result. There’s compromise with both parties throughout the process, but that’s what marriage is all about.”
While Shenk doesn’t have a five-step program for bringing instant harmony to a couple’s design project, she’s discovered a few important lessons over the years:
She recalls a couple who hired her several years ago to do redo their whole first floor, including all new furniture. The husband traveled a lot, so the wife made all the furniture decisions. He didn’t like any of them. From then on, Shenk insisted he come to all the meetings. “I find it so important that both the husband and wife be part of the process,” she says. “The house is going to be a reflection of the two of them. I don’t think you want anyone to take a backseat.”
Make a list
Shenk advises couples to write down their wants and goals. What are your must-haves and what are you willing to do without? Consider your lifestyle and how you want to use a particular space. If you’re redoing a kitchen, do you cook a lot or do you order out all the time? Do you entertain in the kitchen or is it strictly functional?
Know what you like – and what you don’t
Couples who are unfamiliar with the home industry often have no idea what terms like “transitional” mean, let alone whether they prefer a track arm, English arm or sock arm sofa. Shenk has visuals cues that can help couples give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to things like sleek lines or metallic finishes.
“Sometimes the best answer is a no,” Shenk says. “They don’t know how to tell me what they do like, but they can tell me want they don’t.”
The Chronisters joke that Shenk is very good at taking no for an answer.
“I have no problems telling her no,” Jon says, laughing. “For example, in the home we’re in now, she started talking about wallpapering the ceiling in the dining room, and she knew she was pushing me a little bit. I finally said to her, ‘No. Ceilings are white.’”
Make them both happy
Whether a couple is newly married or planning a design overhaul after decades together, chances are they don’t share all the same likes and dislikes. Not all couples are like the Chronisters, who say their tastes have grown more similar over their years of marriage.
Shenk says she spends a lot of time asking couples questions and reading their responses. It helps her to see who is the most vocal and visual, and who is the decision-maker. An important part of her job, she says, is listening to the person who is least vocal in a relationship and making sure their voice is heard. The home, after all, belongs to both.
“I want them both to enjoy it and feel like it’s a reflection of who they are,” she says.
For more information about Interior Fancies, please visit interiorfancies.com