5 Tips for (Successfully) Decorating with Roommates (from Those Who've Been There)

5 Tips for (Successfully) Decorating with Roommates (from Those Who've Been There)

Katie Holdefehr
Feb 5, 2018

No matter if your roommate is your soulmate or someone you found on Craigslist, co-decorating a home is likely going to require some compromises. Considering these 5 simple tips as you negotiate area rugs and couch colors with your roommate will help keep your home's design—and your relationship—harmonious.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Tip #1: Embrace eclectic bohemian style.

Why it works: Besides the fact that artsy, eclectic, plant-filled decor is trendy right now (a quick visit to Urban Outfitter's home section proves that), I believe it's grown in popularity, particularly among hip, young urbanites, because it's an easy style to achieve when you have roommates. It's all about meshing styles and pulling from a variety of sources, including thrift stores, big box retailers and your grandma's stash.

The evidence (above): In Sam, Stephanie and Lorena's Oakland abode, an eclectic style helps harmonize the common spaces. In the living room, a Salvation Army couch sits beside an IKEA coffee table and a Craigslist chair, yet nothing seems out of place. When you're done blending styles, find something you can all agree upon; for this trio, it's the DIY bar they use to mix up drinks for their friends.

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Tip #2: Make your bedroom your sanctuary.

Why it works: It may seem obvious, but your bedroom is the only space in the house where you have total, uninhibited (except by your landlord) creative control, so take advantage of it! If your shared home is a colorful hodgepodge and you identify as a minimalist, let this be your neutral zone. And if your roommates don't appreciate your obscure love of taxidermy? Maybe you should keep that in your room.

The evidence (above): In her cozy Austin apartment that she shares with her close friend Mikaylah, Jess decorated her bedroom as a zen retreat, surrounded in sheer curtains. "Try to only keep items in your bedroom that are sacred and inspiring to you," she advises. We couldn't agree more.

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

Tip #3: You can't fight the color—so stop trying!

Why it works: This clearly won't be a problem for color lovers, but for those who prefer a neutral palette, it can be a frustrating realization that your roommates don't also own only white, beige and light gray items. Unless you specifically seek out a living mate that's a fellow minimalist, it's somewhat unreasonable to expect your roommates to adhere to your preferred limited palette.

The evidence (above): If you're not a fan of color, I'd advise you against moving into this vibrant loft. A former artist's studio, the space presents both challenges and inspiration for the three creative types who call it home. "The paint on the floor, the odd colors, the random walls were all design challenges we had to embrace to make this our home," they report. How do they manage to make chaos seem so cozy? "Find roommates that love your home as much as you do," they advise.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Tip #4: Consider function just as much as form.

Why it works: When you're living with roommates, it's easy to get into tiffs when someone doesn't wash their dishes or put things back where they belong. While an organized design can't prevent all squabbles, providing ample public storage space and shelving, setting out a dish rack, and designating spots for kitchen essentials can set you up for successful cohabitation.

The evidence (above): In Jaya, Maggie and Steph's shared space in Silver Lake, spice racks and shelves corral all the kitchen basics, giving a spot for each item. Shelves on the other side of the breakfast nook provide plenty of room for cookbooks and cutting boards.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Tip #5: Just have fun with it.

Why it works: You're living with roommates to enjoy their company, right (okay, your budget has something to do with it, too), so why not go ahead and embrace your individual differences? You don't have to sacrifice your style completely, but just be open to other styles as well.

The evidence (above): Susie's home in Australia celebrates all that's fun and quirky about living with roommates, and has some lessons to share. Like, say your roommate wants to hang up a taxidermy bird photo print (see image 1)? Why not. And put a toilet in the living room (See image 2)? Sure (though, we admit it's not for the faint of heart). And this is exactly why your bedroom should be your personal style sanctuary (see Tip #2).

While we're on the topic of roommates...would you ever live with a roommate just for fun? Join the debate!

*Re-edited from a post that originally appeared 02.08.17. - AH

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