Living with Roommates? How to Design Your Apartment Together—Without Going Crazy 

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by Kelly Anne Bonner Even when decorating on your own, the process of developing a cohesive theme and sticking to it can cause all sorts of predicaments to arise: How do I decide on a color scheme? Will this item work within my budget—or my space? How do I make a design fit both my style AND my lifestyle?  These are all questions that crop up, too, when in the midst of collaborative decorating—aka, when working with a roommate (or a few!) to design a space. If things can get complicated when designing for one person, we can imagine just how hectic and unmanageable it is when designing with multiple people, together. Not only is there the hassle of figuring out your own ideas for the space, but there are other people there with designs of their own that you have to figure out how to coordinate. Without a game plan, the chances of the end result looking like a hot mess are, well, probably inevitable. For this particular dilemma that many face in the years during and after college, we've developed a sound technique for working together with roommates on the process of designing a space. Whether your roommate is totally into it and would like to decorate with you to the nines, or your roommate is completely apathetic and (claims) they wouldn't notice the difference, there's a method to the madness that is decorating with others that'll allow you and your roomies to design to your heart's desire—knowing that you, or the space, won't go crazy in the process.
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Image via design*sponge.

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Image via Sofia Rodrigues

For a roommate that wants to work together on decorating... Decide on a color scheme together. One of the best ways you can avoid discord in the final design, despite everyone having different styles, is to coordinate a color scheme in advance. We love COLOURlovers and Design Seeds for browsing color palettes—this way, even with wildly different design ideas, you can still visually coordinate every piece via a few key shades. Decide on your budget before heading out to buy things. Avoid potential tension at the checkout aisle by laying out everyone's budget on the table in advance. This way, everyone can be realistic about what they can and can't afford—and how to be a considerate roommate at this stage as well.
Decide on what you need. Especially if you both (or many) of you love decorating, it can be easy to get distracted in-store by running into gorgeous and unexpected decor items (we understand the feeling!). But, especially if you’re on a tight budget, or even if you're not, it's important to decide on what you actually need versus what would be a nice-to-have together. Work with your roommates to decide what's necessary and what's simply a cool amenity before heading to the store, as this may end up being a source of disagreement. Align your priorities so that everyone knows what they're pitching in for. (On a related note, our chief designer Mark Cutler recommends that if you're going to be spending money on home necessities, to invest in a good mattress at the very least—sleep is one of the most underrated but important things for your health!) If you and your roomies are in love with a piece that's outside your budget, and willing to pull for it because it works so perfectly for your place, then go for it! If not, then you're going to have to be personally willing to pitch in more for that piece to make up the difference—or, to compromise and find another one that works. (Thanks to our "Same Look, Different Price" button, we know this doesn't have to be a stressful task—and there's a lot of alternatives out there!)

Inspiration Image via LA Times

With what’s left of the budget, everyone can get their own special items within the decided-upon color scheme. Crazy about vases? Terrariums? A certain art print you've been dying to get? If all the roommates are into decorating, then the rest of design can be directed by individual whims for decor. This way, everyone can add their own special touch to the place—and if they keep their items within the color scheme, everything will sync naturally. Bonus: DIY what's outside of your budget—together! Spend some quality time together creating pieces that you'd love to have but are outside your budget. This will be another special and unique touch to tie-in with your decorating scheme.
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Image via Apartment Therapy.

For a roommate that couldn't care less... Offer that you’re a design enthusiast and would love to spruce up the place.  If they truly don’t care, they shouldn’t put up a fuss. In fact, they should be happy that you're taking over the task of making the place look nice! If they don’t care and insist that it doesn’t matter and are not willing to work with you, then perhaps this may say something about your rooming situation that doesn’t bode well for the future. (We hope this isn't the case!) Inspiration Image via Mokkasin
Introduce your color scheme, so your roommate is aware. Offer them the ability to give any input, if they’d like to. It’s considerate even if they don’t care—they may discover that they want to be a part of the process! Again, be thoughtful of budget and discuss it before making any purchasing decisions. Just like when working with roommates who enjoy decorating, budget will still be a consideration prior to heading out and grabbing furnishings. Inspiration Image via Desire to Inspire.
Discuss what you need. This conversation is going to be very different from a roommate that's into design—it'll be less about deciding between what's necessary and what's nice-to-have, and more about the absolute basics—couch, coffee table, etc. Make a list of what you could not do without with your roommate, then make a separate list for yourself with items you'd prefer to have but your roommate wouldn't necessarily need (a tea kettle, for example).
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Image via Studio Karin

Steer your roommate(s) to the pieces that work for your design scheme and are within your price range. If you love a certain piece and it's out of your collective budget, then be prepared to offer up for it yourself. The best part about offering to pay upfront is that it’s yours—when everyone moves out, you get to keep it, fair and square. If you know this is a piece that you’ll love for years to come, go for it. (But don’t pressure your roommates into getting something that’s out of their price range, especially if they don’t care. You won't win.)

Inspiration Image via Refinery29.

In this case, you’ll of course have to do the decorating yourself. But you get free reign to go crazy and deck the apartment out in your style. Not a bad trade-off! Inspiration Image via design*sponge.

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