communal living

living well in shared spaces

While many of us have Pinterest boards full of our "dream homes" that we will one day decorate with all the beautiful things and zero clutter... your living situation today may be a rental home or apartment with roommates. Whether you live with family, friends or roommates - there is an art to living well in a shared space. 

In your own space. 


Your bedroom may be the only space you can call your very own. That's why it should be your haven and retreat. This is the place you wake up and begin each day, the place you go for rest and sleep. While having systems of order are important, your personal design taste is equally as important. Displaying things that inspire joy (from art to family pieces to colors and textures) in your bedroom, is just as important as the particular way you store your clothes and accessories. If coziness is important to you, pick pillows and sheets and blankets that create the bed of your dreams. If art is important to you, create a gallery wall today. If your book collection is special, refresh the way they are displayed by color or subject. Images below from Apartment Therapy.


Are there storage containers and bins in your room that are taking up prime space, without adding a lot of functionality or visual appeal. There could be better ways to "store" your stuff, that adds personality and your taste to your room. Instead of cramming blankets into a bin or drawer of your dresser, find a wooden ladder and repurpose it to vertically display your favorite throw blankets and purge the extra ones.  For the keepsakes that pile up, check out local yard sales or antique stores for a vintage trunk that would hold them while also offering a little seating or surface for your favorite lamp. We believe that storage pieces should be working double time - offering storage and additional functionality in your space.


Before jumping in, or giving up altogether it is important to think about creating a system that works for you instead of against you. What are the things you wear daily or even weekly, those should be given the prime location in your closet or dresser. How do you decide what to wear each day? Do you think in terms of color - organize by colors. Do you think in terms of style/type - organize by category (professional, casual, dressy, activewear, etc). Let your closet work for you, not against you! 


Choosing which photos and memories to display might not be easy for you. Instead of a wall full of concert posters, pick your favorite one or two and consider switching them out seasonally for a refreshed look. A gallery wall is a great place to hold your family photos, postcards, historic maps and more. Find frames you love, to create an orderly and contained display of these special pieces. It's tempting to want every memory to have a place on your wall or bookshelf, but if you completely fill your space with things from the past there won't be room for the new adventures to be displayed. Pick your favorites and remember switching a photo from a frame is very doable. 


There is something life-giving about a little live (or artificial) green in your living space. It reminds us that we need nourishment and we're growing daily. The Farmer's Market is a great place to grab some beautiful fresh blooms or succulents. If you aren't sure a little plant would survive, there are faux flowers and plants that add the same feeling in your room. Look at Target or Home Goods for one or two that you love! 

In the shared spaces. 


It's important to remember to consider the people you're living with before going decor crazy in places like the living room or kitchen. It might take some communication on the front end, but talking through how each person plans to use and enjoy the room will help everyone feel at home in the shared spaces. Try a few furniture arrangements and see what works best for your group of roommates or family. Challenge yourself to see a room through someone else's perspective, you may end up loving it! Remember a blended space is just that, a blend of different needs and personalities - it can be eclectic and beautiful at the same time. 


It's all about communication. We live full and sometimes chaotic lives. If you and the ones you share a home, apartment, condo or RV with can create systems up front that reduce extra stress, your home will be a place you can relax and be refreshed. Maybe even seasonally, you each commit to purge the excess in your closets as well as the shared household things you don't need anymore. Individually and collectively you have the ability to create and maintain a home that works well for you instead of against you. 


No one wants to search through a full pantry on their way out the door for the day. Baskets, bins, containers, trays... containing items that are similar is key. If there are shelves, grab some colorful tape and outline specific areas that are for each person. In order to do this fairly among different shelf sizes and heights, draw the dividing lines vertically. This is another place that labels will serve a great purpose, because you are more likely to maintain order while unloading from the grocery store if there are labels telling you what goes where. Same thought goes for the refrigerator. If pantry space is limited, pick a kitchen cabinet that could serve as extra storage. 


Whether it's a basket, a shelf or a side table there needs to be a designated place for daily mail to land. If it begins to pile up, it might be helpful to sort through and discard ads and junk mail. This is a great place for labels in order to cut down on confusion and missing mail. 

One last thought that will go along way in shared spaces: be quick to extend grace. We're talking about grace for your (sometimes messy) roommates and for your (sometimes messy) self too. As much as we wish we were tidy super organized individuals all the time, we just aren't. Stuff piles up, so when it happens remember: you got this! 

Home as an offering

We sat down this week to interview the lovely Lindsay Heath about her house, her decorating style, and her philosophy on home. If you've never met Lindsay, the best way I know to describe her is that her presence feels like a warm hug.

Honestly, to focus on Lindsay's decorating style and her home in it's purely physical sense would be a disservice. Lindsay has a natural eye for creating beauty but what struck me the most about our visit was the overwhelming sense that when you walk into her home, the pressure is off, you are invited, welcomed, and appreciated.

With a knack for quirky items and for the cast off's of both friends and strangers, Lindsay and her husband Jonny have created a patchwork home that incorporates the practical, lovely, and eclectic parts of life in every sense. One thing Lindsay said that I've been thinking about a lot is that "space is defined by the people who inhabit it and use it". With a desire to make the people around her feel more important than the things she surrounds herself with, she aims for making spaces feel touchable and approachable; like you can enjoy yourself without having to worry about your surroundings. She mentioned that over the years she has come to find that an object can evoke a memory but that she doesn't have to retain the object in order for the memory to continue. Lindsay loves the creative aspect of decorating with objects that can be repurposed or reimagined. She loves finding unwanted objects and looking at them in a new way... kind of like when you find a house that's about to be demolished so you pick it up and move it two blocks over to save it... yes... she actually did that!!! (more on that at a later date) She shared with us that many, if not most of the things, in her house have been given to her and she in turn passes things along when she no longer has the space or need for them.

Lindsay is the first renter we have interviewed and we were especially interested in what she had to say about decorating a rental. Upon moving into their home they were asked not to paint or hang large things on the wall. As a result, Lindsay has used her limitations to find creative ways to dwell and make the space feel like home. Large art pieces lean against the walls, thumb tacks or Velcro strips are used for lighter objects. Lindsay has found that sometimes limits help you see things in new ways, limits force you to think creatively.

We asked Lindsay what "home" means to her and she mentioned the end of a stanza in the daily reading in the book of common prayer. It reads, "May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you; may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm; may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you; may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors." The lines resonate with Lindsay in that to her, home is a place to welcome people in from the weariness, from the pace of the world.

"Home is a place for gathering and celebrating and for relaxing and eating: the really elemental practices. Home is the hub of human activity. The way that we relate in homes can be so formative- be it through decoration, presentation of food, accessibility to objects.  Our relation to all those things that make us human make up a home; a place that can encapsulate all of the best parts of human life. "

Another unique thing about Lindsay and Jonny is that since they were married, they have always lived with other people- sometimes other married couples, sometimes single folks, but always someone. We asked her to tell us a little bit more about that decision. "On a practical level, when we got married, it made sense financially to share the expenses with others along with the fellowship, the space, the being known and knowing. The incidental disciplines and sacrifices of being not as able to hide the things that as humans we are tempted to hide and the discomfort of sharing space have been an unexpected and challenging reward. With the different people we’ve lived with, we always sit down and talk about all the reasons to live together, economic, practical, division of labor, fun -- but the primary reason we share a home with people is to become more like Christ. It’s been a very consistent practical way to be challenged and to challenge others in the comings and goings of every day life. Living with others creates a lot of opportunities to do that hard work. It has been a great way to keep in check the temptation to hold onto things tightly. Living with others is often inconvenient but there is an ethic of being uncomfortable that I’ve found to be a wonderful crucible-- that’s been a refinement of my walk towards Christ."