After reading Avoiding the Pitfalls of Decorating a Shared Home I’ve been thinking alot about home decor. I also came across the following quote, “Decorating golden rule: Live with what you love.” I tend to purchase pieces from thrift stores that are classic and timeless, that have character and look great in a New York City brownstone or a mountain-top chalet.
My taste is eclectic. I have art deco art on the walls, Persian rugs and kilims on the floor, mid-century rattan furniture, and bookcases crammed with books. It’s a mish-mash of styles that work, it’s a very lived-in look, and it suits me. But not everyone may think my style is aesthetically pleasing. My late partner used to joke with his friends that my inspiration came from a Turkish whore house, which they all thought was funny. I have no idea how Turkish brothels are decorated. But if you’ve seen Lawrence of Arabia, there’s a scene with Lawrence dining in Feisel’s tent that’s decorated with magnificent rugs and large kilim-covered throw pillows. Much of my inspiration comes from that scene. You may be wondering what this has to do with sharing housing. Well, a lot. You and your housemate should be compatible enough in how you live in your home and that includes how the home is furnished and decorated. Not everybody cares. Some people care a lot. It all depends.
Getting A Preview
It’s not always possible but it can be greatly helpful if the householder can visit the home seeker’s home. In this way both people can see if the two home décors are compatible. For example, if your aesthetics lean on the side of Bauhaus and mid-century modern, you might want to reconsider sharing your home with me or bringing your furniture. Not because I don’t appreciate the style—I love it—but I have dogs and they don’t care whether they’re in a tent on kilim-covered throw pillows or digging for a comfortable spot on a $5,000 sofa. If that’s something that doesn’t bother you, we’ll find a way to make your style fit in with mine. The preview could also help you together figure out what the home seeker wants to bring to the shared home and what is possible to put in common area and what is in personal quarters.
When to Donate, Trash or Put into Storage
Whether you’ve had a preview or not, moving in day will be made easier if you’ve had a discussion about “stuff.” While it is pretty common in many shared housing situations that the homeseeker only moves in with their own room of stuff, there are times when mixing it up will also work. This can be anything you both agree on like the burgundy red velvet, tufted chaise lounge that caught your eye at an auction in Istanbul, paintings your children or grandchildren made, the shrine to late pets and so on. You will both need to figure what furnishings may need to be put into storage, donated, trashed, or designated as a “personal space item” or “PSI.” (H/T to Jean, Karen and Louise who came up with “PSI”.)
But remember, and I speak from experience, as wonderful as it feels to downsize, you may want to consider storage over donating or trashing items. Why? Because sometimes shared housing is not a permanent solution. Life happens. You may decide you would rather have your own space, your homemate may want to live closer to her children, or God forbid, someone gets ill and passes. I’ve had to reacquire furnishing three times—so don’t get rid of it all. Put it in storage. (But reconsider if you’ve settled in!)
Remember the Golden Rule of Decorating
As stated above, live with what you love. If you find that you feel out of place with your surroundings and have lost a sense of who you are, in spite of the PSIs in your personal space, that may be an indication the living situation may not be right for you. And that’s fine. I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable living in a home that has no space for my bookcases and 3,000 books (yes, I have to weed them out, but it really hurts to say good-bye to them). If you need advice how other home sharers dealt with the home décor issue or if you’re finding it difficult to part with your furnishing, take a peek at our many, many articles found on our blog like Is Stuff Your Barrier? or How to Manage Personal Items When Sharing Housing. And if you you have any questions, every month we offer two one hour Q&As. Subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll send you updates and the date and times of those sessions.