“I am a renter and housemate myself and wholeheartedly believe in shared living,” says Emily Hutchinson, who has lived in share houses in Melbourne, Sydney and New York, and has collected her experiences in the book Shared Living. “I hope I can shed some light on the world of grown-up share houses and encourage other housemates to consider their share house as a home and not a transient space.” In the second instalment of our ‘shared living’ special series, Emily takes us to Los Angeles for a real feat of living closer together: a tiny shared studio in Koreatown.
Danny and Jamee are friends and roommates who show us what it really means to share, by living together in a 1920s studio in Koreatown in Los Angeles. These two roommates share not only a bedroom, but also all the fears, joys and struggles 20-somethings go through.
They make it work by each claiming defined corners of the room – Jamee’s side is Boho-chic whereas Danny’s is more minimalist/Scandi. Their home serves as a safe haven as they navigate their way through the ever-changing city that is LA.
How do you know your housemate?
We met through a mutual friend while he was visiting.
We connected over our love for disco and Donna Summer.
EHHow did you come across your current share house?
DH I was photographing a couple who lived in the building. They mentioned the landlord was trying to fill a room and I felt open to change. Jamee had just moved down from San Francisco, so it was the right time for both of us. We immediately saw potential and didn’t bother to look elsewhere.
JJ Friends of Danny had mentioned a vacancy in the building and since we were both looking for a place at the time, we decided to check the space out. Immediately we loved it for the location and spectacular view of the Hollywood sign from the kitchen window. It was an easy yes. Done, done and done.
EH How has your life changed since moving into your share house?
DH In the short amount of time since I moved to Koreatown my life has changed drastically, learning to support, encourage and heal myself. Lucky for me my family doesn’t live too far away, so there’s still that familiar comfort. Several years ago I was living in New York pursuing photography and here in Los Angeles I’m still doing the same. Recently, it has become apparent that Los Angeles is everything to me. The city is going through a rebirth at the moment, and as a native I see it as my responsibility to be here for it. So for now I’m just doing the best I can. I listen to soul and disco, walk the streets in the evening, I revisit my childhood places, read books in parks and I just feel right.
JJ I’ve been in LA for eight months now and I didn’t think I would love it as much as I have come to love it. The moments that are most significant are the ones when I stop to appreciate the beauty of the palm trees that often line countless streets here in the city. The sight is simple but never old because it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come.
EH What is it like to share a room?
JJ Sharing a room has its opportunities and challenges. But any challenges I feel can be easily resolved with communication.
Come up with ground rules and discuss things like space and privacy. I keep busy and have such an active schedule that I’m rarely home. Beyond that, I’m respectful, clean and responsible. I expect others to be the same.
DH I’ve had housemates before, but never a shared room. This is the first time I’ve shared a space so personally, but privacy and space seem to function with a natural ebb and flow in our place. Sometimes I’ll give a heads up about company, but I think we both enjoy an open policy that anyone is welcome at home. Life keeps us pretty wrapped up – too much to care about boundaries. We have respect for each other’s moods and we know when to give breath to a situation.
EH What do you like about shared living?
DH There’s a peace in knowing that the struggle in progress is not singular. There are days one of us may be down or up and it’s a reminder that we’re all just doing our best. I think if I lived alone I would start to get in my head.
JJ I like being able to connect and share experiences and stories of adulthood with another 20-something. It’s comforting knowing you’re in it together.
EH How did you merge decorating styles?
DH We both naturally claimed corners of the apartment. If something humours us, we do it. It was fun for us to come together visually and distinguish our personalities. I would say the apartment is pretty evenly split in styles.
JJ I’m a maximalist so I feel like I kind of just took over naturally since I have so much junk and keep acquiring more through my thrift hunts.
EH How long has it taken to decorate the house?
DH The finished result was a few hours of chaotic scramble but in all honesty it’s been slowly evolving since day one.
JJWe whipped up the space together collectively and, just recently, I added more decorative pieces to make it feel more lived in.
EH How would you describe your decorating style?
DH I gravitate to a sterile room with solid colours, nostalgic trinkets and baby cacti. I love wood and the contrast of synthetic materials like glass, plastic and paper.
JJFound, eclectic and colourful with a little kitsch. I like a space to look playful and fun.
EH What makes your share house great?
DH Our pad is very much a reminder of how far we’ve both grown – from a lot of doubt to a natural confidence. Our apartment gives us a sense of home in the city.
JJKnowing that we can both rely on one another to keep things sound.
EH What’s one decorating secret you could pass on to other share house decorators?
DHA good balance of risk and control makes a space unique. It’s almost like perfecting a recipe, you add and subtract until it feels right.
JJHit up second-hand places for a touch of personality with home decor. I have scoured many thrift, yard and estate sales, and have discovered some of my favourite home finds at these places.
EHWhat tip could you give other share housers about living in harmony with your housemate?
DH Respect. After all, it’s their home too.
JJ I agree. Be respectful and clean up after yourself. No one wants a dirty roommate.
EH How do you and your roommate come together after a busy week of work?
DH We’re both pretty busy. We’re lucky to catch each other at all but once in a while we’ll find each other at the same parties.
JJ Whenever we do see each other outside our busy schedules, we always catch up on the latest – what’s new in his life, what’s new in mine. This usually plays out while we listen to one of Danny’s Spotify playlists. He has great taste in music and plays all the jams.
Thank you, Danny and Jamee, for letting us into your beautifully shared space – and to Emily for sharing a chapter from her new book. Shared Living: Interior Design for Rented and Shared Spaces is published by Thames & Hudson.