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The do’s and don’ts of redecorating with a roommate

A lover of Scandinavian simplicity and a maximalist walk into an apartment. What happens next? Well, if they’re brand-new roommates, some tests of patience and understanding may lie ahead. Whether you’re cohabitating out of choice or necessity, sharing a space can be tricky – especially when you have wildly different tastes. The situation is fraught with challenges, and feelings often get hurt. To help, we’ve asked friends and co-workers who survived their own roommate situations for tips on how to make it work. Read on for all the dos and don’ts to keep cohabiting friendly and conflict-free!

Do: plan ahead

“Keep in mind how you’ll split things up once you go separate ways! If you and your roommate each buy three dining chairs for a total set of six, you’ll walk away with a strange number of chairs, and the style may be out of stock by then.” — Kat

Do: get inspired

“Create a secret Pinterest board with your roommate for decorating inspiration! This is obviously a great tool for instant inspiration, but it also allows you to get a better sense of your roommate’s taste and personal style.” — Michelle

Do: find common ground

“Try to find common ground when it comes to decorating. Try talking about your taste in art, music, fashion and who knows what commonalities you’ll uncover.” — Jasmin

Do: be clear from the start

“Be clear from the start if you plan on taking the decorating reins. I lived with a roommate who had little to no sense of style (and I mean that in the nicest way possible; she really didn’t care about design), so we agreed from the beginning that I would be responsible for decorating. It took expenses off of her plate, and I enjoyed it.” — Julia

Do: consider the details

“Decorate your bathroom. You live in a house, not a hospital. Buy cookware and utensils that are actually useful. A doormat is your first line of defense against dirt and grime from the (not-so-great) outdoors. Get a good one!” — Patrick

Do: consider your living mate

“Be ready to make adjustments to accommodate your new roommate. The biggest thing for me was realizing I can’t have small, dainty furniture anymore (he’s 6-foot-4). So making those changes really made him feel more comfortable, and forced me to get rid of some furniture that I didn’t really need — like my freakishly small Lucite coffee table.” — Jasmin

Do: ask for and respect opinions

“Sometimes, all someone wants is to be asked before a new item pops up into the space. Depending on your particular relationship with your roommate, you may choose to heed, or ignore, said expressed opinion. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.” — Kate

Do: ask a third party for help

“If you’re living with just one other person, making decorating decisions can get tricky. Without resorting to flipping a coin for it, invite a truly objective third party to come in and help make the final call. That ‘where should the sofa go’ dilemma may suddenly simplify.” — Sarah

Do: keep it simple

“When in doubt, if you’re living with people who have wildly different taste than you, keep major decor to a minimum.” — Susan

Don’t: take advantage of shared space

“No, the living room is not the place to park your bike, or leave your projects strewn about, for months on end. Find a more agreeable solution that maintains the neutrality of common spaces like the living room, kitchen, bathrooms, etc.” — Cate

Don’t: split the cost on pricey pieces

“Don’t go halfsies on pricier pieces if you can avoid it. It’s fine to split the cost of things like bath mats and trash bins (items that probably won’t have a life beyond your current living situation). But you should take turns buying bigger, more expensive pieces. That way, when you go your separate ways, you won’t have to deal with the headache of trying to divvy things up evenly, or calculating the depreciated value of a sofa if someone wants to buy the other out.” — Shannan

Don’t: be passive aggressive

“If you’re harboring negative thoughts toward something in your home, don’t sit on it. It’s best to have it out and find a way to compromise rather than complain to your friends, or other roommates, about it all of the time.” — Susan

Don’t: force your aesthetic onto your roommate

“Whatever you do, don’t be a decorator dictator (even if you lived there first). Make it a point to invite your roommate to go shopping with you, even if you aren’t looking to buy. It was a nice way to get a feel for what you have in common, decor-wise, without making any commitments.” — Jasmin

Don’t: take it personally

“As a rule of thumb, if you are putting something in common space, accept that your roommate may hate it. If there is a piece that you hold particularly dear, perhaps it is best kept in your bedroom.” — Jared

Do: invest in your living space

“It can be tempting to treat a shared living space as a temporary or transitional space. But the fact is obvious: This is your home, the place you spend lots of time. Respect it. This means treating it with love, care and attention. Take the time to decorate. No one wants to live in a barren space.” — Natalie

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