For college kids who move off-campus, learning to accommodate the styles and needs of housemates is good practice for life after school.
Take Erica Weidrick and Caitrin Curtis, upperclassmen at the University of North Carolina, who are moving into a new town house with a third friend. While they'd all been living together for a year already in a dorm, they wanted some organization and style help with this new arrangement.
Here are some typical problem areas, with advice from two designers on how to solve them:
Front door dump
"We all come in and just drop our stuff in a pile, and sometimes mail gets lost or keys disappear, usually when we're late," says Weidrick.
Veronica Valencia, a Los Angeles-based designer and stylist, suggests setting up a bin for each housemate, and not allowing any overflow.
"It's true, we hit the front door and everything we've been hauling all day falls to the floor," says Valencia, who blogs at DesignHunterLA.com.
"If it doesn't fit in the bin, you have to put it away immediately," she says. "I love fabric bins or wood crates. If you have an entry table, consider fabric wrapped magazine boxes, one for each person."
Weidrick and Curtis also liked a wall shelf with hooks and small baskets for keys and mail.
"The living room is a challenge because that's where we spend most of our time, so it's where most of our junk ends up. It's hard to keep a shared space organized when everyone is coming and going at different times," Curtis says.
What they need is stylish storage where the clutter can hide when company comes.
Valencia's fix: "Two words: storage ottomans!"
Consider an ottoman in faux leather or suede, with a flip-top tray that can be used as a resting place for TV remotes, phones and snack dishes. Clutter can be scooped inside when the need arises, and, voila! The ottoman provides extra seating.
M Elodie Froment, PB Teen's vice president for product development, suggests using a pair of trunks. "They're great because you can store extra blankets and other essentials."
Trunks come in a variety of finishes that can appeal to guys and girls.
"We all want our shared space to be warm and relaxed, like our bedrooms," says Curtis. "But the living room and kitchen are supposed to be social spots, and it's nice to be able to change the atmosphere from 'just chilling' to 'hosting a party.' "
Valencia's answer is to "think in terms of moveable and modular. Add floor pillows so your coffee table can accommodate a study group, and poufs for extra seating on movie night."
She suggests sharing Pinterest inspirations and finding styles and patterns that all the housemates can live with. Your own room's where you'll be able to put your personal stamp.
For common areas, Froment says, "Pick a neutral color scheme for the larger furniture items, and add splashes of personality with decorative pillows, art and decor. If you're not planning on painting your walls, identify one to decorate with removable wall paper or decals."
If floors are bare, add a rugged nylon rug in a bold geometric or floral. If you can't afford or agree on artwork, the rugs bring pattern to the floor and give rooms a finished feel that's a little more grown-up.
Weidrick and Curtis like ambient lighting that will turn down the stresses of school.
Froment suggests a fun floor lamp, perhaps pairing it with a playful wall light. "Accent with string lights for a soft glow," she says.
In bedrooms, Valencia follows the "3H" rule of organizing: "hamper, hooks and a hanging closet organizer."
A work space is organized with baskets, and fabric and metal bins are used to keep a small study area organized. A teal blue file cabinet and striped rug add extra pops of color.×
A living area uses shelves and bins for organization.×
A wall shelf with hooks and cubbies helps keep things organized in a shared house.×
A large removable decal, which adds interesting art to a wall for not much money, can be placed along baseboards, up stairs, or on closet doors.×