On Co-LivingJune 11, 2023 by savannah & jonbo
On a frosty roadtrip to Steamboat Springs, CO we began discussing the possibility of living together. We recognized it was a big step but we were excited to share space in a way you simply can’t when you have to bike to each other in the snow. Our leases were coming up so we started looking around for something that might work. And then we made it happen.
Deciding to live with someone you love is a beautiful, courageous act. It can be a choice to be seen in the big and small moments. To say yes again and again to the human in front of you who gets tired and makes messes and takes shits. It kind of only works if you feel totally accepted and you totally accept them. We didn’t explicitly make any agreement to totally accept each other, but that’s what’s happened and it’s been really beautiful.
As we drove through the icy mountains we took down our thoughts in an Apple note. Here are some questions that were helpful for us in thinking through how our lives would be changing:
What do we have/do/desire when we are apart, that we need to design for when we will be living together?
SK: My morning and evening routine, going to sleep/waking up early, dicking around, working out, dancing in my room or around the apartment, singing in the apartment, naps, eating healthy
JB: Morning routine, playing video games, getting high and watching tv with snacks, going for multiple walks throughout the day, eating out more often, staying up late.
What do we have/do/desire when we are together, that we don’t do when we are apart?
JB: eat ice cream, physical touch, bike rides together.
SK: eat more ice cream, processed food, and dairy in general.
What are the risks of moving in together? What risks can we mitigate and what are our of our control?
What level of messiness/tidiness is each of us ok with?
What cleaning systems do we want to put in place as roommates?
What didn’t work well in past living situations that we can design out of?
A month or two before making the decision to move in together we started making a shared Figma board to show each other what our vision was for our ideal home together. Luckily our interior design styles matched up really nicely. We both love plants, lots of big windows that let in a ton of natural light, earthy yet modern styling, a little minimalistic so it’s easy to clean, but still cozy, creative, and warm. We wanted to feel like we were in a lush, futuristic plant store w cool art.
Savannah asked Jon and herself how they wanted to feel in their new space once it was totally laid out and our answers were: relaxed when we need it and alive and focused when we need it, cozy, warm. Jon’s distilled interior design vision was “creative cozy.” Here are a few shots from our figma board to give you a visual sense of our shared style:
As we began to build our space, Savannah took more of the lead and made sure to make design decisions that were an expression of the style preferences we both articulated together. Slowly our home has come together in a really beautiful way.
Designing a Space for Two
The inspiration of our apartment distribution of space comes from some of Jon’s friends: a 3BD where they share a bedroom for sleeping, and the other two as a personal office/studio each. Due to price, we improvised and put the bed in the living room while the other ones were separate spaces for each of us.
So in our setup, we both have rooms of our own in which we can do whatever we want. Jon’s room contains his desk for working from home, a whiteboard, a couch, a tv to watch movies and play video games on, his closet, a workout contraption, and lots of plants. Savannah’s room contains her desk, a podcast recording studio, open floor space for dancing, stretching, and working out, her closet, all her art supplies, and lots of plants.
Three months in and we can confidently say that having our own rooms for everything besides sleeping is pretty clutch. There’s none of this taking calls in common space where someone feels like they’re in the way or feeling claustrophobic with the other person in our grill constantly. There’s this option of separation that doesn’t have to mean “I don’t want to spend time with you” but rather “I want to spend time with myself.”
The inspiration for the Studio + 2bdrm set up was also inspired by an architecture book we started reading together. It was a few months into the relationship that Jon was flipping through Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language and stumbled across Pattern 77: House for A Couple, validating both of our designs and helping us realize how much thought has already gone into these situations.
In a small household shared by two, the most important problem which arises is the possibility that each may have too little opportunity for solitude or privacy.
It is essential, therefore, that a small house be conceived as a place where the two people may be together but where, from time to time, either one of them may also be alone, in comfort, in dignity, and in such a way that the other does not feel left out or isolated. To this end, there must be two small places. Perhaps rooms, perhaps large alcoves, perhaps a corner, screened off by a half-wall-places which are clearly understood as private territories, where each person can keep to himself, pursue his or her own activities.
We love hanging out in each other’s spaces, but the primary purpose of them are apart-spaces, making our together-space that more special because we can distinguish between them. Additionally we came up w a system to communicate if we’re available to hang or be interrupted non-verbally:
Door to my room is closed = Don’t interrupt or come in
Door to my room is open = Come in, hang out, interrupt, I’m available!
This has been great for each of us to take our privacy and to know how the other feels. It’s such a simple way to get the need for sovereignty and independence met.
Cleaning Protocol So Far
Cleaning is such a potential point of contention for roommates. There’s also gender roles that we’re not trying to perpetuate here. Savannah went through a whole process in her mind where she’d think “oh, here’s this mess. I could just clean it up. No, it’s not your mess to clean up, we want to distribute work equally. Hmm so now what do I do then?” It wasn’t clear. She knew she didn’t want to do the female gender role thing of cleaning more than her fair share, but she also didn’t want to have to mentally score-keep how much we both had contributed on a regular basis to maintain equality.
After some life experimentation, she observed that both her and Jon had days when they had spare time to clean and days that were so busy and involved that cleaning was definitely not on the agenda. And yet she saw how when both of us had the capacity to clean something that needed to be cleaned or fix something that needed to be fixed, we just did it. And when we didn’t have the capacity to clean, we didn’t clean. She thought up a sort of cleaning-related precept: If each of us have the capacity to do a house chore that needs to be done, we both seem to do it. If each of us don’t have the capacity to do a house chore, we don’t do it and that’s ok.
We’re choosing to have a home with the occasional mess or unfinished project so that we can have the peace of mind that comes with accepting imperfection. Let’s just be as generous and caring of our home as we realistically can and that will be enough. And we can trust that the only reason for why the other person hasn’t already done said house chore is because they either haven’t seen it yet or because they literally don’t have capacity to sort it out at this time. Because we don’t want to shove ourselves past our capacity and wear ourselves out, we don’t keep a perfect house — and that’s ok.
Living together opens up a world of sharing time, energy, and space that living apart simply can’t offer. But it also means living together; seeing each other first thing and last thing every day, affecting each other with one’s activities, guests, cooking, crafts, purchases, and so much more. Like a relationship, it’s a co-joining of lives; something best done with intention and care.