First Time Homeowners Leslie & Ben Share Their Home Design Diary

One of the biggest milestones for couples is designing their first home, but it can also be a major relationship pressure point. We partnered with Homepolish—an NYC-based home-design company that provides design services by the hour—to get some of their married clients’ takes on how they decorated their first home together…without killing each other.

Both lawyers at the same firm in New York City, Leslie Kroger and Ben Wilson met many moons ago, and decided to tie the knot just two weeks after the completion of their shared apartment in the trendy west side Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. Ben got down on one knee and popped the question in their newly decorated home, and the two will wed in January of 2018 at the Brooklyn Winery. Ariel Okin, the Homepolish designer that worked with the couple, says, “I got an email from Leslie about two weeks after we wrapped up the project, telling me that she and Ben were engaged! That totally made my day. I’d like to think the design process was somewhat of a lucky charm!” Here, we talk to the couple and their designer about creating their big city dream home.

How did you pick out this apartment? Was it a love at first sight situation or did it take some convincing?

Leslie: When we decided to move in together, I was set on finding a place in the Upper West Side, where I had lived for years. Ben, on the other hand, had been living in Hell’s Kitchen for two years and thought we would find a better value there (his pitch also included the draw of great restaurants and an easy, 15-minute walk to our respective offices).

Ben: The first apartment we saw in Hell’s Kitchen did not fit what either of us envisioned. But as we walked up the block from that apartment, we literally stumbled upon an open house sign outside of our now apartment building. When we stepped into our unit, we immediately knew that it was the perfect place to begin this next life chapter. It has been nine months since we moved in, and we couldn’t be happier.

What made you decide to hire a designer? How did Ariel help you to bring your vision for your home to life?

Ben: Our close friend moved to Boston last year and used Homepolish to decorate her new apartment. She had high praise for her experience. Leslie returned from a weekend visit to Boston insistent that we look into hiring Homepolish to help design our new space.

Leslie: When we had our first meeting with Ariel, we had just moved in to our new apartment.  It was chaos: nothing was unpacked and boxes were stacked everywhere. Ariel listened carefully to our ideas, surveyed what we already owned, and then blended our respective pieces to develop a scheme for our apartment that matched each of our styles. Ariel was patient and persistent. She continued to source for us until we found the perfect piece for our space.

Ariel: Leslie and Ben definitely brought different tastes to the table, so helping them blend their preferences into one cohesive aesthetic was a fun project for me to work on. We worked together to come up with a bohemian feel anchored with nicely structured pieces, like the reclaimed wooden dining table from West Elm and the sturdy cream upholstered armchair from Article, creating a cozy yet functional space.

How did you navigate conversations about design, especially if you didn’t necessarily agree? What were the hardest parts about designing a home together? The best parts?

Ben: Leslie’s style was more feminine and modern, while mine is more rustic and traditional. Ariel figured out to make both of those blend together. She also served, at times, as our mediator.  When we would have different visions about a piece or color, we would say to ourselves: “We need to ask Ariel.” By the end of the process, we wouldn’t purchase something without first running it by her to make sure it fit in our scheme.

Leslie: By far, the most difficult thing for both of us was figuring out how to make the pieces that we owned fit into Ariel’s vision for our space. There were some casualties along the way! Ben, for example, had a West Elm hutch desk that he loved; but when it didn’t fit into the space or décor we agreed to, he had to sell it.

See more: How to Combine Your Styles to Design Your First Home Together

Ariel: I agree with Ben—hiring a designer can sometimes be like hiring a mediator, which is quite funny, considering Leslie and Ben are both lawyers by day. Having a third opinion in the room—and a professional one, to boot—helps to diffuse any tension and highlight the best of both styles to create one streamlined look. I love working with couples because the mix of personalities is always different and exciting each time I walk in the door. Especially with new couples, I gain a real sense of satisfaction in feeling like I helped them take the first step of their new lives together. That’s really what moving in together and furnishing your first home is all about!

Ben: The decorative process is time consuming, and when you move into a new apartment, you instantly want to feel settled and “at home.” We learned to be patient and take it in stages. The best part of the process was the end product!

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