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Playing House Expert tips for getting the home you really want.

Photo of wall art made of twigs that spells out Love.

SO, YOU'RE HOME from the honeymoon, threshold-carrying behind you, now what? Now the real-life fun begins: Unpacking those neatly wrapped gifts and setting up your happy home! But how did you end up with 20 tumblers in different styles and mismatched bath towels? You meticulously planned every detail of your big day--but what about your gift registry? Gail Abbott, stylist, interior designer and author of The Newlywed's Guide to Setting Up Home: Creating an affordable and stylish first home, shares her tips for planning and perfecting your first home together.

2: How does a couple determine their joint decorating style?
ABBOTT: "It can be difficult if you love florals and he's a minimalist. See if you can find a style compromise. Make an inspirations folder of images, furniture brochures, color samples, fabric swatches and flooring ideas. Look through magazines and browse websites and stores together. You might actually find some crossover ideas that you both like--fabric cushions to add color to a minimal room, or an all-white look accented with a few retro pieces. Keep it simple at first: You can accessorize later."

2: How can couples combine their stuff--or should they just start from scratch?
ABBOTT: "Don't throw everything out, but take a long, hard look at what you own. This is the perfect time to clear your clutter. You will be astonished at how much you can live without if you keep only those things that you really love or are totally necessary. Sort through bed linen, kitchenware, ornaments and pictures; some things belong in the past--you are building a brand new life together. Clear out the old to make room for the new."

2: When should a couple set up their gift registry?
ABBOTT: "Register early--at least three months in advance of the wedding. This gives guests time to plan their gifts, but make sure the store has enough in stock, as some lines might be discontinued. Up until your big day, keep an eye on your list and update it if necessary. Don't be afraid to make late-breaking additions!"

2: What should they know before scanning everything in sight at the store?
ABBOTT: "Working from your inspirations folder, have a clear idea of the style you are working towards. Browse websites and stores that carry items that will accentuate that look. Most major retailers offer registries, and you may even find smaller, more eclectic boutiques that have interesting inventory to match your style. Then take inventory of what you already have before making a list of all the things you need. Your bridal registry is the perfect opportunity to stock your home with good-quality essentials that will last for many anniversaries to come. Make sure you include the basics; simple, classic designs like white Egyptian cotton bed linen, pure white towels, one or two simple glass vases, and a classic white ceramic dinner service will go with absolutely any style, from contemporary to country. Make sure you list items in price ranges to suit all budgets, from a washing machine to a whisk."

2: Should couples register at more than one store?
ABBOTT: "Yes, it is a good idea to register with more than one store. Choose your basics from one, and then look for more personal, decorative items from one or two smaller 'boutique' websites. There are some wonderful stockists that don't have a shop at all, and only sell online. But be sure to ask how often they update the registry or you could find yourself receiving doubles."

2: Is there anything that often gets overlooked?
ABBOTT: "That depends on your own personal interests. If you're a keen cook, for example, take this opportunity to list cookware you may not buy for yourself--a really good set of copper pans and an espresso machine or smaller items such as a brilliant salt and pepper grinder. If you're planning to do some DIY on your new home post-wedding, consider a really good set of power tools, a hand sander or a set of top notch paint brushes--these will be real time- and money-savers later."

2: After tallying up all the generous cash wedding gifts, what's the one thing couples should spend their dough on?
ABBOTT: "As newlyweds, it's all about the bedroom! If you only buy one thing, get yourselves a really good bed--the bigger the better! Your bedroom is your retreat from the world, a place you go to recharge and relax. Make sure to find a mattress that suits you both. And spend some of your haul on bedroom storage, to maintain a calming and clutter-free space."

Gail Abbott's cheap 'n chic shelter tips are often featured in Home & Gardens, Period Living and Ideal Home. She's penned ten books and lives in a very happy home in Cambridge, England. gailabbott.co.uk