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Community challenge – interior design tips to ease communal living problems


With shared living on the rise, making the most of your own space has never been so crucial

The British sitcom The Young Ones (1982-84) presented a parody of student living in which the shared house was chaotic and personal possessions were up for grabs.

When the TV licence inspector asked where the toilet was, he was told “just follow your nose”. Comedy though it was, anyone who was around in the 1980s knew at least one such student dive. Interior design just didn’t come into it.

Now, shared living – the new buzz term is ‘co-living’ – is becoming trendy on a global level. In America, a recent survey claimed that the number of people living in shared accommodation has doubled since 1980. And, according to Ikea’s new Life at Home Report, shared living is on the rise in cities around the world.

While young people have always teamed up with housemates in order to pay the rent, more people are now living in shared accommodation and they’re staying there for longer. Usually, this is for economic reasons, but people also choose to live together because it’s less lonely than living alone. The result is a new generation of homes with interiors designed for shared living.

When the Irish designer Seamus Moran was doing up his Manhattan loft as a house-share, he thought carefully about the layout of the space. “I was going to put all three bedrooms at the back to have a big communal living space, but then I realised that we might want separate hang-out areas. It’s hard to live with people when there’s only one shared space.”

He put the bedrooms in the middle of the loft, where they created a natural partition between two communal areas: a living space at the front and a kitchen and dining area at the back.

Living with housemates over time, Moran came to realise the need for a clear division between communal and private property.

“There are certain things that you don’t share. I lived with a South Indian mathematician who was a strict vegetarian and someone who was writing a book on meat.” One day, the vegetarian came home and was horrified to find the meat-eater using his saucepans. After that, he kept his cooking utensils in his bedroom.

A television tends to dominate communal areas but, according to the Ikea survey, contemporary housemates are more likely to use their tablets than gather around the telly. “When we all got TVs, they soon became a central object in our homes and the TV room was the place where all family members got together. But today, TV doesn’t have that same function as a social glue.”


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