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Roommate living for young professionals is more and more common; see how to make it easier through home decor, smart storage, and use of space.

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With the cost of living going ever higher, many adults extend living with roommates beyond their college years. Professionals in large cities like New York, Seattle and San Francisco in the US and Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver in Canada are increasingly more likely to live with roommates for quite a while past their graduation.

Living with roommates has obvious financial benefits, but it can also cause some problems. Roommates are not always friends, and developing a space that is respectful of everyone’s needs for privacy can be tricky. Here are some home-decor tips and tricks to make living with roommates easier, whether or not your roommie is also your best friend.

Maximize your storage space

Lots and lots of storage is essential to make roommate life easier. There won’t be a fight over who gets the shelf space for their DVD collection or their over-bountiful library. Every corner and room should be maximized for storage space; adding extra shelves in the kitchen and bathroom and finding clever ways to add storage in the bedroom and the living room will make for more peaceful relationship.

Think of all the unused space on walls, under beds and around windows; look out for multi-use furniture with hidden storage space to hit two birds with one stone. It’s not always necessary to separate and lock storage spaces, depending on your level of friendship with your roommate(s), but you have to consider the need for some private storage for each member of the household.

Make space in the kitchen

One of my worst pet peeves of living with roommates is walking on top of each other in the kitchen. I love to cook, and I can sometimes spend a few hours in there baking fresh bred or trying a new Italian recipe.

If at all possible, open up the kitchen by removing anything unnecessary. Move the large table to the dining room and keep one big enough for two chairs. (This will also help if both of you have friends over for dinner–two can sit in the kitchen and others can sit in the dining room.) Open-concept kitchens with islands are a great idea, because one person can stand on one side of the island and be out of the way of the other person, on the other side.

Have more than one living space

Unless you two are really, really good friends, you’ll sometimes want to do different things in the living room. There’s nothing worse than a TV-addicted roommate vying to relax in the same space as someone who prefers reading.

This is why, if you have the space, you should make two distinct living areas. Having a basement helps, but it’s doable with smaller apartments too. If it’s not possible, there should be enough space in each bedroom for at least a television, so each of you can watch whatever you want whenever you want.

Zone communal space

Following the previous tip, you can also make different zones in large, open-style communal spaces. A zone for TV and lounging, a zone for working and a zone for cooking and eating, for example. Although they won’t be sound-proof, you can use room separators too visually separate these zones from each other. That way, you’ll be able to provide some privacy if you happen to all have friends over at the same time.

To help make different zones, think smaller but functional furniture. Do you really need a 12-seater sectional sofa, or will 5 seats do? A large dining room may be better off with two smaller tables so you don’t have to eat at the same table if you don’t want to.

Know each other’s calendar

It’s easier to plan a romantic night at home if you know your roommate will be out. That’s why keeping a communal calendar with, at least, times in or out of the house, will keep you both sane. The typical fridge calendar works, but try the new “chalkboards everywhere” trend for a change!

You should also use this calendar space to define and divide household tasks for roommates. Who’s cleaning the bathroom this week?

Living with roommates can be fun and rewarding

I’ve had bad experiences with roommates, sure, but I’ve also had good ones. I discovered that basic compatibility is essential, and that living with a good friend is much easier, especially if you share tastes in food and entertainment. But it’s not always possible to be friends before you move in with a roommate, so following these tips will help make living together easier!

What kinds of roommate experiences do you have? Share your stories with us in the comments!

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Anabelle Bernard Fournier

Anabelle is a freelance writer, writing teacher and blogger. She spends a lot of time at home, so she likes to make sure that it's cozy and nice, especially in her reading nook. In her free time, Anabelle knits, walks and learns how to write stories.