Looking for just the right roommate – or at least one you can live with – is hard work and time-consuming. The reasons renters might want a roommate can be financial or emotional, but especially in expensive and space-deprived cities, often practical. Finding someone who matches you in lifestyle, values, and attitude is not easy. And often the "interview" sheds little light on what the person would actually be like to live with.
But one way to assess compatibility is by checking out the potential roommate's design style. Elaine Griffin
is a New York City-based interior designer and author of the book, "Design Rules: The Insider's Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator" (Gotham). She says the way people decorate their homes can say a lot about their personalities – sometimes even more than their appearance. "They're both super creative expressions of your personality. Someone can present a 'fabulosity' image at work but you go to their home and it's completely disorganized and chaotic," Griffin says. "That's the real them." She says the home presents telling clues about a person's lifestyle and personality – all the more important when moving in with a complete stranger, which is often the case in cities like New York.
Griffin says a person's decorating style is influenced by how they've grown up or where they've lived. And if those tastes match each other, it bolsters the likelihood it will be a comfortable living arrangement for everyone involved. Griffin says it's important to look around your potentially new apartment and see how it's presented, from the furniture styles to color palette.
"I love strong, dark colors. My living room is a deep forest green. My bedroom is a deep peacock blue. If you're a light and airy white or beige person, we could never be roommates. You'd be miserable sharing a space with me," Griffin says.
In fact, Griffin advises to pay attention to window treatments and curtain details. If a person has dark curtains, the shades drawn, and likes a dark environment, chances are they have a depressive personality, she says. Conversely, someone who likes a lot of light coming through the windows might show a sunnier personality.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed in the business of apartment sharing. And the roommate who is showing the apartment often doesn't have the luxury of seeing how the other person has lived. But design can help predetermine a likely peaceful and happy co-existence.
Here's Griffin's apartment-sharing checklist:
1. Check the color palette. Is it one you're comfortable with?
2. Look at the furniture style. Is it modern or traditional? People with differing style states won't be comfortable living with another style, she says. Especially if you're into minimalism and the other person likes to display his or her tchotchkes from foreign travels.
3. Assess the grime factor. Can you live with a little grime or do you want to be able to eat off the kitchen floor? Be honest about your needs and define what 'clean' means to you and ask what it means to your potential roommate.
4. Check for the accessories. If you walk in to an apartment filled with NFL paraphernalia and you are not a sports fan, it's probably not a lifestyle match. Or if you are a punk girl with concert posters adorning the walls and the other person is preppy: "Not so much," Griffin says. But if you're both into lots of plants, and have dishes from the same store, or both like vintage furniture, the eight ball may look favorably.
5. Look at the art. Lack of it or an abundance can be a window into someone's soul. See if the art matches your tastes and if it's something you feel comfortable with.
And in the off-chance design compatibility doesn't lead to cohabitational bliss, Griffin says not to worry. "You can always move out."