Moving in with your significant other comes with a host of benefits. Suddenly, you have someone to split the chores with, someone to cook for (or if you're lucky, be cooked for by!), and maybe even someone to kill the bugs you're too afraid to squash. Plus, it kind of feels like you're at a slumber party all the time, except since you're not eight anymore, you can stay up as late as you want without having to whisper. Adulthood: It has its benefits!
But if you're the kind of person who craves a lot of alone time or who is particular about their stuff and their physical space, it can present some challenges. And that goes double if you're sharing a relatively small apartment, home, or just a bedroom. "Coexisting in the same space can be psychologically challenging, especially if you’ve been use to having your own place. We like our stuff, we like them to be organized a certain way, we have systems and structure. When our stuff is touched, moved and our system messed with, it could feel like an invasion," cautions
Dr. Kathrine Bejanyan, a dating and relationship consultant.
It's easy to feel like you're going to scream — or maybe swear off romantic relationships forever — if you have to observe your special someone's receipt collection littered across the table one more time. Or, you know, whatever your pet peeve is. But there are ways to get by, and even strengthen your relationship, in small spaces. Read on for expert-sourced tips that will ensure what you thought would be a sweet little home doesn't morph into the ultimate couple killer.
photographed by Jessica Nash.
Figure Out Your Aesthetic As A Couple
You might have a clear-cut idea of what your personal style is, but how does that mesh with what
are drawn to? Anything you put into a smaller space is going to play a big role in how that space looks and feels, so you want to be on the same page. "It's really important to start with a cohesive idea of what you want your space to look like: reference images together, discuss what you envision your space to look like — talking it out is key,"
, an interior designer with Homepolish, suggests. Pinterest can be a great tool for this, as it allows you to easily share inspiring images and possible purchases.
photographed by Gunnar Larson.
Don't Be Afraid To Purge Inevitably, in this conversation about aesthetics, it's going to come up that each of you probably owns a piece or two that the other hates with the fire of a thousand visually offensive suns. Whether it's their weird thrift store lampshade or your fake leather couch, sacrifices and compromises will probably need to be made. "It's important to take stock of what both of you will be bringing (if you're combining pieces) or if you're starting fresh, what you want your 'splurge' pieces to be. Communication is always the answer!" says Okin.
photographed by Winnie Au.
Make Space For Each Other Similarly, Dr. Bejanyan emphasizes the importance of ensuring that both parties feel they have ample space for themselves and their things. This is especially crucial if one of you is moving into a place where the other has already been living. Whether it's taking out-of-season clothes out of the closet or creating extra room on the book shelf so your favorite reads can co-habitate too, small actions can go a long way in making it feel like a truly shared home. "When you’re warring about where the shoes go – the shoe-rack or thrown on the floor – stop for a sec and ask each other why this is so important for the other person that they’re willing to tear their hair out over it," Bejayan explains. "Trying to understand and accommodate each other’s style can significantly deepen the understanding and respect in the relationship and make it easier to live together."
photographed by Amelia Alpaugh.
Speaking Of Closets... In cramped apartments and houses, closet space is usually at a premium. But that doesn't mean it has to be the source of tension for you and your S.O. "Many of my clients in NYC share small spaces in creative ways. If you and your cohabitant happen to be sharing a closet, creating an equitable division of the space — and getting crafty with boxes, risers, and unused areas, like top storage — makes for an easily shareable situation," Okin notes. Take a trip to the Container Store and allow their wide slection of modular storage options to transport you to the sweet land of closet compromise! Also, the people who work there tend to know their stuff when it comes to space maximization, so don't be afraid to ask for pointers.
photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Realize That No Space Is Too Small For Storage Many apartments, especially in New York, have weird nooks and crannies that no one knows what to do with. Even though they may seem awkward, the solution is storage. "Oftentimes, people forget about the top parts of their closets, pantries and more," says Okin. "Every square inch is usable!" Is it kind of weird to keep your collection of travel souvenirs on that odd little shelf between the door and the bed? Certainly! But life is weird, so get onboard.
photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux.
Be Discerning About What You Buy Chances are, if you're living in a small space, you don't have a ton of extra cash lying around to make big-ticket furniture prices, so make sure that the stuff you do throw down for is something you both really like and agree upon. After all, nothing's worse than looking at your coffee table every day and remembering the big fight you had over it, right?
photographed by Gunnar Larson.
Employ All Those Space Maximization Tips You know all those tips you always hear about how to make small spaces seem bigger? Yeah, you always hear them for a reason! They really work. According to Okin, "There are many ways to fake the illusion of grander square footage or taller ceilings. Placing drapery at the very top of the ceiling (instead of directly above the top of the window) makes your ceiling height visually double." "Keeping things in a lighter color scheme also diffuses light in a way that allows a space to breathe a bit more; dark colors can eat up light when used in large scale (like the entire apartment), but some darker shades, like navy, can feel cozy in a bedroom or powder room."
photographed by Cory Dawson.
Create New Customs Together It's easy to cling to how things were done in the home where you grew up, or in the last place you lived. But part of the fun of living with someone you love and trust (and, again, of being an full-fledged grown-up) is that you get to do things your way, whatever you decide that should look like. "I’d recommend coming up with new habits or customs that are specific to you as a couple," Dr. Bejanyan "Cuddling every morning for just a few minutes before rolling out of bed or meeting each other at the door when one of you comes home are small but significant ways of recognizing the important solidarity and 'we-ness' of the relationship." The home items you buy can help support this mission. Whether you decide to invest in super-comfy bedding for maximum cuddleability, or a great coffee machine and bean grinder so you can have top-notch coffee together in the mornings, think about the intention behind the objects you buy as a couple.