Design Dilemmas You Face When You Have A Roommate

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Sharing an apartment with a roommate is great for your budget, not so great for designing the apartment of your dreams. So we turned to Meredith Mahoney, Founder and Design Director of Birch Lane, Sormeh and Paiman Salimpour, the mother-daughter design duo behind Sormeh Lifestyle, and designer Lindsey Coral Harper for advice about how to share a space without sacrificing style.

DILEMMA: YOU BOTH BRING FURNITURE, BUT YOU HAVE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TASTES

Nothing makes a space cohesive like a coordinated color scheme, Mahoney says. Sure, you have different styles, but chances are you can find a palette that you both like.

When all else fails, the Salimpours suggest sticking to the neutral end of the spectrum, and adding in pops of color with your pillows, throws, and florals.

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DILEMMA: YOU HAVE AN OPEN-PLAN APARTMENT

Furnishing an open space can feel overwhelming. Our experts suggest choosing furniture that divides the space into separate areas for living and socializing. For Mahoney, that means a large, L-shaped sectional, for Coral Harper, shelves or étagères that are finished on all sides will do the trick. Area rugs also make it easy to define bedroom and living spaces, while seating options that can move easily – such as small benches, ottomans, and hassocks – make it a breeze to entertain when company comes over.

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DILEMMA: YOUR ROOMMATES ARE CONSTANTLY HAVING PEOPLE OVER. HOW DO YOU CONCEAL CLUTTER?

Designate a spot – like a serving bowl on your entry table – where you can throw keys and mail when you walk in the door. It will look more organized to have this sort of space in your entryway than if you were to just let things pile up somewhere else, Mahoney says.

For larger items, baskets are your best bet – and can easily hide messes before your guests arrive.

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DILEMMA: YOUR ROOMMATE INSISTS ON DECORATING THE APARTMENT – AND YOU HATE HER TASTE

“If your roommate wants to display her décor in your shared living space that you don’t like, you can offer up the idea of rotating smaller pieces every few months. This can be done very easily and affordably, by swapping out items like throw pillows, blankets, and even décor,” Mahoney says. “This way, you can make it seem like you want to keep your apartment fresh instead of making it sound like you dislike her design choices.”

“The other option is to talk about the design choices you don’t like from the get-go,” Mahoney adds. “Discuss how you think bedrooms are the best place for personal mementos, and offer that the two of you can start from scratch in your shared living spaces, by finding fun pieces together that you both love. This switches the attention from you not liking her décor, to doing a fun, bonding activity together that you’ll both enjoy.”

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DILEMMA: YOU NEED TO BUY FURNITURE. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO SPLIT IT?

You don’t. Both Mahoney and the Salimpours recommend you both pay the full cost for big-ticket pieces, like a sofa and chairs or dining set. This way, it’s 100% clear who takes home what, and you have a fully furnished room in your next place.

Be sure to write down who paid for what at the beginning of your lease, in case you or your roommate have a fuzzy memory of who purchased which pieces down the line, Mahoney advises.

Split smaller items like bath mats, pillows, throws, dishes, and towels, since you’ll want to replace them by the time you move out.

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DILEMMA: YOU SPLIT THE COST OF A CHEAP COUCH – AND NOW YOUR LEASE IS UP

Who takes it? If you can, have this discussion when you buy the couch, so you know from the start who’s walking away with it, Mahoney recommends.

In an ideal world, you end up in a situation where one of you wants to keep it and the other doesn’t care as much. If that’s the case, make sure the roommate who doesn’t keep the sofa gets their money back or another big-ticket item.

Or, maybe you both want the sofa gone. (Everyone loves a fresh start, right?) In that case, list it on Gumtree and split the proceeds. Cha-ching!

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DILEMMA: YOU WANT TO MAKE A STATEMENT IN YOUR SHARED SPACE

The trick to designing a space that’s packed with personality is in the details: cozy throw pillows, fresh greens, and fuzzy blankets make a house feel like home.

Gallery walls are perfect for roomies, according to the Salimpours, because you can both show off the things that you love. Opt for a wall collage rather than photo frames, which lends a more modern feel. And, if you can, create a shared Pinterest board before you move in, Mahoney advises, so you can get a feel for the styles, pieces, and colors you both like best.

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As seen on elledecor.com


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