Decorating with Roommates

Your home is a reflection of you. The color tells us about your character, the many accessories tell us about your interests, and the positioning tells us about your thoughts. Decorating with roommates can make the shared living situation more interesting with an explosion of different ideas. However, danger lurks when each roommate’s unique flare does not add up to a harmonious look or when a roommate does not respect boundaries.  Here’s how to decorate, while negotiating around the typical conflict zones.

If you have your own bedroom in a shared apartment or home, then go crazy with the decorations. Throw up those special paintings, photos, and posters that bring a smile to your face. There are no limits. If you share a bedroom, feel free to express yourself through your funky colored bed spread or your quirky collectibles. Just be mindful of your room buddy. Usually in a room with two occupants, each person has a bed, a desk, and closet space. Therefore, there is an invisible line between your side and your roommate’s side. Don’t over step your boundary, but realize when people walk into your bedroom, they will get a taste of who you are and who your roommate is.

Conflict Zone 1: If you share a bedroom, respecting boundaries is crucial. When your roommate’s stuff starts to spill over to your side, or they bring in something huge, like a book shelf or a flat screen TV, you’ll have to assert yourself.  Firmly express your concern to your roommate and if the problem persists, you’ll need to pull in your RA or get your other roommates involved. Your bedroom is your safe haven. You should never have to deal with someone invading your space in this area.

The bathroom should remain simple in a roommate situation. Yes, there can  be an attractive shower curtain and bath rug to show some personality, but the rest of the items should be based on functionality. There will be a toothbrush holder, clean towels, a shelf filled with air spray, shaving cream and other necessities like this. If more than the basics are added, then this small space can become cluttered very quickly, especially with multiple roommates.

Conflict Zone 2: This is another space conflict zone. Everyone doesn’t need a curling iron on display. Everyone doesn’t need their makeups, lotion and body sprays on display. The best solution is to encourage everyone to have a bath bag that holds their personal extras, including their curling irons and flattening irons. Place those bags under the sink or get a large covered basket to hold them, and you will see a world of difference when you brush your teeth in the morning. Simple really is best.

Kitchen and Dining Area
We can get a little more creative here, but follow the simple vibe. Like the bathroom, the kitchen décor should be centered around functional items like dishes, toaster, and utensils. There is no need for duplicates. Only one blender needs to be on the counter. The fridge, however, could have tons of fun photos and magnets. 

As for the dining area, it can be more visual than the kitchen. Select a nice table and hang some artwork on the wall over the table, making a meal a comforting experience. And keep personal stuff out. Who wants to eat around clutter?

Conflict Zone 3: This is where the creative juices start to flow and where the art of compromise comes into play. Have a decorating party, and talk over your ideas. If one person doesn’t agree, respect their point of view. If your heart is set on a particular idea, try to convince your roommates but if you cannot, move on.  This is a public area where everyone needs to feel comfortable.

Living Room
The living room is the most important room in the house. When the door opens, this is the first impression a visitor gets of the entire house and its occupants. It‘s the place where the roommates hang out when they want to socialize. This is where the guests will get comfortable. When decorating the living room, there should be a house meeting, so each individual can express their personal taste.  Questions about couch color, matching accessories, and lamp type can be addressed at the meeting. Most apartments or rented homes have a neutral color palette, so you can add a little color to make the living room stand out, but still remain tasteful. It’s also nice to include a coffee table. Coffee tables serve as great platforms for games or movie snacks.  Also consider a vase for fresh flowers; they can perk up the whole room.

Conflict Area 4: The living room motto needs to be “place for everything and everything in its place. ”  The living room chairs should not travel to the bedrooms. The TV remote should remain in its designated spot.  And the roommates’ personal stuff needs to go back to their bedrooms when they leave the living room.  Compromise rules, and everyone must agree when new items are being introduced to their living room.  

Decorating with roommates can be an exciting adventure and a bonding experience, so treat it that way. Get together and take a shopping trip to your favorite home décor stores. Remember, your taste may be great but sometimes a little constructive input can make your ideas even greater. After you’ve finished the decoration project, you’ll feel blessed that you’re able to live in such a wonderful place.

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Sabrina is a self-proclaimed roommate expert of Southern California. In the last seven years, she lived in multiple residences within San Diego County and Los Angeles County. During her shared-living journey, she has learned to cook Spanish rice, to sword-fight Kendo style, and to never EVER pay for a mainstream movie. (Free movies are everywhere in the world's film capitol.) As she translates her experiences into fun articles, she hopes to keep her mind open to the wonderful possibilities in this game called life.

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