How to Decorate Your Apartment With Roommates

Maybe someday I will live alone, but for now I love living with roommates. There’s always someone to sit and have a glass of wine with you, the winter days where you don’t leave the house you still talk to someone, and the bills are a lot less than they would be if it was just me.

Over my years living with different roommates in Brookline, San Francisco, and now in Somerville, I’ve had my fair share of different decorating situations. I’ve lived in apartments where I brought all of the furniture, places where I had absolutely none, and now a mix of the two.

Melding different styles and pieces of furniture from different roommates isn’t easy, but it’s totally doable. Here are a few tips from me for decorating with roommates – and a few snaps of our current living room (with a before pic at the end!)


1: Do inventory.

When one roommate was moving out and a new roommate moving in, we took that time to see what we had or what we needed. Before buying new stuff, we checked in with the roommate first to see if she had a replacement. Why buy something if someone already has it? Also remember to ask if anyone has something in a storage unit or parents’ basement somewhere!

2: Make a plan.

Once we took inventory and did the Great Kitchen Clean Out of 2017, we wrote down the things we’d still like to get. Some of these were small (a new veggie peeler) but some were larger (like new chairs for the living room). We made a list and chose to focus on the big things first and fill in on the little details later.

One of my big tips here is to live with things a little bit and buy pieces little by little if you can. See how things come together over time instead of buying everyone at once to make sure what you had in the plan still fits with your current needs.

3: Don’t split costs of big items.

I always find it silly when roommates split the cost of a kitchen table or a couch – you’re not going to live together forever, and then how do you buy one another out? Unless it’s something that’s very clearly just for that apartment, try to split up the costs of the big items.

4: Don’t spend a ton.

When I signed my first year-long lease and moved into my first place, we had no furniture. I decided I wanted to invest in a nice couch and loveseat, and while they were some of the most comfortable pieces of furniture, I didn’t have them for long. Two years later I moved to San Francisco and took none of my furniture with me. While it was still an overall loss, I had bought the furniture at Jordan’s Furniture, one of those big label discounters, so my loss wasn’t as big as it could’ve been if I had done a big West Elm purchase.

These days, I’m buying furniture and accessories at Target, IKEA, or secondhand on OfferUp.

5: Find ways to automatically declutter.

Why is it that you are totally fine with your own clutter, but hate it when it’s someone else’s? If I leave out the mail or don’t hang up my jacket – it’s because I was in a rush – but if a roommate does it, it’s suddenly annoying. To help this, we have a big basket by the door to tackle umbrellas and bike helmets, the cutest little mail sorter, and a place to hang keys.

6: Be flexible.

When you live with roommates, you have to be flexible, especially when it comes to decorating. While I may have loved everything to look a specific way, it’s not only my place! Do your best to find middle ground with roommates – consider a slipcover instead of buying a new piece of furniture or shift things around to make room for a piece someone already owns.

1 Comment

  1. Moira says: Reply

    Sarah you did a great job. Your tips are so great for roommates. The living room looks awesome.

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