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How to Decorate Harmoniously in a Rental With Roommates

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Rental How-Tos is a Renters Week 2013 mini-series wherein journalist Bridget Moriarity (whose work has been published on Curbed and in Travel + Leisure, Art + Auction, and Time Out New York, among others) explores various practical considerations of living in a space you don't actually own. Up now: sharing your digs (and decor) without starting the third World War.

Why, oh why, can't these two just get along?

Roommates often spar when it comes to the interior design—and dynamics—of their shared space, and many of those conflicts take on psychological proportions. So who better to resolve such battles than multi-hyphenate Dr. Jeff Gardere, a Manhattan-based mental health practitioner, TV commentator, professor, and former real estate broker? Here, Gardere counsels on clashes over everything from budgets to big-screen TVs. As for the doc's own living arrangements? He opts to live alone. "If I'm not married to you, I ain't living with you," the divorcé jokes. "I learned that early on in college, when I had a roommate who had very stinky feet."

When Compromise Fails, Flip a Coin

Let's say Roommate A likes modern furnishings, while Roommate B is fond of traditional (think lots of antiques and Oriental rugs). "I would say that the best bet would be for them to find a mélange and be able to live with it," says Gardere. Alternatively, he suggests flipping a coin to see who calls the living room's decor. Meanwhile, the bedrooms can be personalized to each roommate's taste, whether it's midcentury modern or early American. Enlist a Referee

Remember Oscar and Felix? Theirs is a perennial dilemma: the neat-freak meets the slob—or in more modern, clinical terms, the OCDer meets the hoarder. "We can get a referee to come in who is a friend to both," suggests Gardere. He notes that both may have deeper issues that would benefit from dialogue: "Their interior design will become almost therapeutic." Draft a Contract

It's 11 p.m. on a Tuesday, and your roommate is hosting a full-on rager in the room that doubles as your study space. What to do? Well, think ahead. "I believe in contracts, just like a prenup," offers Gardere. "When it comes to privacy, there should be a written agreement where the two of them decide beforehand what the rules are." Guests, says Gardere, should not spontaneously appear; rather, they need to observe a pre-determined schedule. Grant One Wish at a Time

If a technophile and a technophobe are cohabitating, the best way to determine whether the flat-screen TV and surround-sound speakers make it into the common space, is by granting each person one wish at a time. "For the technophile, that means a choice between a stereo or a flatscreen TV or a computer." And for the technophobe, that may just mean a new Monday night tradition: Football! Let Your Money Do the Talking

If two individuals have vastly different budgets when it comes to purchasing a communal pièce de résistance like the living room couch, the person able to pony up more dough should get to pick the final product. Quite simply, says Gardere, "More money, more decision power." · All Renters Week 2013 posts [Curbed National]
· All Rental How-Tos [Curbed National]