These Four Harmonious Homes Are a Lesson in How to Design With Roommates
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These Four Harmonious Homes Are a Lesson in How to Design With Roommates

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By Isabel Scanlon
Having roommates is no longer solely reserved for younger generations. A new book shows how folks around the world have reconciled wildly different styles to create communal homes.

While the notion of living with roommates traditionally brings to mind college students and recent graduates, shared spaces are becoming increasingly popular with those beyond early adulthood. Writer Emily Hutchinson is just one example of this new demographic, having lived in shared houses in New York, Sydney, and Melbourne. Her experience with roommates and her interest in affordable interior design prompted her to write her book Shared Living (Thames & Hudson) to reshape how shared spaces are perceived. 

Shared Living: Interior Design for Rented and Shared Spaces
Shared Living: Interior Design for Rented and Shared Spaces
Inspiration and interior design for those who crave a tasteful home―while sharing with roommates. Shared Living offers design examples for people who seek a sophisticated look in their shared space.

Seeing a gap in design resources for those less transient than the stereotypical renter, Hutchinson’s book is filled with expert tips for living and designing with others. Below, we showcase four striking examples from the book that shed some light on how contrasting styles can be merged and how four sets of roommates navigated that collaborative process.

John and Ricky in Melbourne 

John, a midcentury furniture dealer, and Ricky, a drag queen and cafe manager, reconcile their stylistic differences through a shared love of Madonna, whose presence can be felt throughout their home. John, the  long-time resident of the house, chiefly populates the interior with his vintage finds, but the Madonna-themed art, music collection, and bathroom wallpaper are where John and Ricky collaborate. 

John's passions for midcentury furniture and gardening dominate the space, a project which started seven years before Ricky moved in.  

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Five Roomates New York City 

Compromise is hard enough to reach with two people, let alone five. In a New York City loft, five roommates juggle their individual styles by focusing on what they all agree on, rather than each trying to push their own agenda. In common spaces, decor is kept relatively simple and mutually accepted pieces populate the rooms. It’s only in the bedrooms that the striking contrast in personal styles becomes apparent. While some rooms are adorned with posters and knickknacks, others remain much more austere.  

Greg, a production sound recordist, describes himself "as a 12-year-old trapped in a 39-year-old’s body when it comes to his styling." In his bedroom, he practices his maximalist approach.

Bianca, a collections management assistant for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, lives in stark contrast to Greg, opting for a natural, airy look.  

Rose, Steven, and Eva in London

This British trio opted to trust one designer over a team effort when decorating their Hackney home. Rose, the landlord and third roommate, felt a responsibility to furnish the space for her tenants and took the lead on design. She opted for a pared-back aesthetic, which allowed for natural light to play a large role in adding warmth to the home. While that choice was partially influenced by a limited budget, it also left room for the other roommates to make small design choices in their own spaces.   

Steven, an architectural assistant, admits he doesn’t have much of an interest in interior design and was pleased to let Rose lead the way. His favorite piece is the gray chair in the living room, which he says is perfect for doing the lotus pose. 

Eva, an embroidery and jewelry designer, appreciates Rose's design decisions and feels free to let her own preference for pops of color come through in her bedroom.

Cord and Felix in Berlin  

This pair of co-founders and roommates established their joint style during the refurbishing process in their Berlin apartment. The decor is intentional and meaningful—the pair built most of their furniture together, and each added pieces of sentimental value to the space. The combination of their styles resulted in an eclectic setup that references both 19th-century and midcentury modern design. 

Cord says his favorite piece is his grandfather’s old lectern. Felix’s is his piano which he found out belonged to a famous cartoonist from Berlin. 

Now that they’ve built out the furniture in the apartment, the pair is on the hunt for art to liven the space.