When an ex moves out for good, the last thing you can think about is going antiquing or ordering off of eBay. But the hard truth is, you will need to redo your home at some point — especially if your ex took a bunch of stuff (jerk!). We spoke to Noa Santos, co-founder of interior design firm Homepolish, about the quickest ways to move on at home.
What’s the first thing you should do if your ex has just moved out?
I tell my clients to pretend like they’re moving themselves; get large storage boxes, pack up most of the things in their home, and certainly anything that reminds them of the ex. If there’s anything that gives you anxiety or tears, put it in the box. Keep everything in there until things settle. See how you feel in about a week. You should live in a bare space for a few days, or as long as it takes to feel like you can breathe a little. It’s important to start with a blank slate after a big change. From there, you can reimagine what you want for yourself. Once your space is raw, you can also reconsider the layout. There might have been a prescribed layout for you as a couple, but now you’re single. What do you want that to look and feel like?
What happens to the stuff in the boxes?
Slowly you start to unpack the things you miss, and they have less emotional power. An old throw on a new chair won’t have the same hold on you as the old throw on the old couch. Or maybe you realize some things are better out of your life for good.
What if your ex takes half your stuff?
It happens. No one leaves and says, “Keep everything!” I’m working with a client whose ex made her split up the dining-room chairs. Three and three. It’s hard, but finding new chairs and creating a new space helps determine who the new you is. Your home will grow as you grow.
As a designer, where do you like to begin?
Layout is big. You want to give your space a new feel. I have clients pick their favorite corner of their home and we start there. We create vignettes — styling one little area first. Take your favorite window, and let’s bring over your favorite chair. Who cares if it doesn’t belong! Let’s start there. These vignettes tell the story of who you are becoming, and the life you want to live. Instagram is actually a good instrument for measuring your vignettes. Does it fit inside an Intsagram? How does it look? Is it “you”?
What should be thrown away immediately?
Bedding! Immediately. Unless it’s Frette — give that to a friend.
Is changing the layout of the bedroom essential?
In most New York spaces, you don’t have many options for where to move the bed, but you can redo your bed. Not just with the new sheets, but the pillows and how you arrange things. The general rule is, when you enter a room, you want to enter at the foot of the bed.
When you’re feeling better, how does one design with dating in mind?
Remember that people are always going to ask you about your stuff. The last thing you want to do is talk about that Aztec sculpture you got with your ex-boyfriend in Europe. So, either get rid of that, or get a new story to tell. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of your bathroom. It should be as clean and uncluttered as possible. Don’t load it up with makeup and perfumes. A feminine aesthetic is okay; there are shades of blush that are amazing and rather androgynous and won’t scare anyone away.
What if you live in a tiny studio?
The smaller the space, the better the opportunity to play with paint. That will make the biggest, most positive change. I usually suggest going lighter and also choosing a paint with a satin finish because that will make the walls a little more reflective. Normally, satin finishes are reserved for trim, but they bring a bit of a sheen.
Is there a big difference between designing for newly single men and newly single women?
Women are considering their new lifestyle. Men are considering … women.
Any cleansing rituals you can share?
I have a newly divorced client, and the minute her ex moved out, she got on her knees and scrubbed the tub — which no one had ever used. She bleached it, disinfected it, made it pristine, made it like a hotel, and then she started taking baths every night. If you don’t have a bathtub, start with a candle, an expensive one so that it’s a splurge. Buy a scent that reminds you of childhood. Another tip: Sign up for a food or wine subscription service, like Good Eggs or Glassful, so that you have reasons to invite friends over to your new home.
Once your job is done, how important is a housewarming party?
They are best. They are the finish line of this hard process you’ve been through. You should show off what you’ve done and the positive changes you made — indulge in that.