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The Gender-Neutral Decorating Challenge - So You Have Decided to Live Together

As if moving in with a new roommate isn’t potentially stressful enough. Let’s add the additional cool and challenging detail of sharing your residence with a person of the opposite sex.

Now that move-in day is over and [most] of your things are unpacked, it’s time to get to the fun part -- decorating! Whether moving in with a significant other or a roommate of the opposite sex, it’s important to merge the items you both have and/or will buy effortlessly. Chances are you won’t have the exact same taste in decor. Guys don’t appreciate a feminine aesthetic any more than girls appreciate the design of a frat house! Keep in mind that gender neutral design is about compromise and patience. This can be challenging, but it is not an impossible task! It is important however to decide what design elements are important to you and where you are willing to make sacrifices.

Before you begin making decisions, it’s important to sit down together to make sure you get on the same page. Talk about what you love and hate, so you know straight off the bat what elements are required and those that are deal breakers. It’s also important to talk about budget. Make your expectations clear from the start and decide as soon as possible if you will own your own pieces, or buy new ones together that will be split down the middle. If you are unable to compromise creatively on the entire space, another option is to take ownership of different rooms (i.e. He is in charge of designing the kitchen, while she is in charge of pulling the bathroom together). This makes the process more fun instead of a constant battle over the entire space.

It is very likely that both you and your new roommate will have existing furniture and decor from your last home. There happens to be a few quick and affordable ways to make your combined inventory look and feel connected. This includes fun ideas like swapping out knobs on your existing media center, repainting his red coffee table, purchasing new throw pillow covers for the living room couch, or buying a set of matching frames to house both of your wall art collections. For repeat items such as 2 couches or 2 dining tables, decide which will work most easily within the new space, and consider selling, donating or storing the items that will not work for this home, but might be perfect for another residence in the future.

If buying all new items, it’s best to start with the living room rug or accent pillow as the “inspiration piece”. This is a great way to determine the basis for the room and the overall color scheme. Then you will be able to determine the core pieces for the room, which are important to buy right away, as they tend to have long lead times (for example - the couch and bed). You can build out the next layer of fabrics and textures from there, pulling out colors and shades from the “inspiration piece” and really build out the depth of the space. The rest of the rooms can have their own identity, but will ultimately use the living room as the foundation for their design.

The finishing touches are just as important if not more so than the core pieces. Accent pillows, flowers/plants, and decorative items really help to tie a space together. For a gender neutral space, filling a vase with greenery instead of flowers will add color and warmth to the space, without making it look too feminine. Pillows with texture or geometric patterns help to convey a sense of a “lived in” space, without leaning too far towards the girly or masculine side. For decorative items, try bringing in an array of coffee table books that have a variety of topics (including both male and female genres) or topics that anyone may be interested in (like photography or travel).

With so many different options out there, it’s important to stay focused on the end result. It’s easy to get carried away. Remember that many times - less really is more!

Most importantly, have fun together, be flexible together and create a fabulous space that you can coexist in together.

With Ideas and Inspiration,

Charli - Owner of August Black Interior Design

August Black provides full-service interior design, staging, architectural and project management services for residential, commercial, office, hospitality and restaurant projects. Please visit my website at Feel free to reach out to or 646-663-5732 if you require professional design or staging services. It would be my pleasure to help you!


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