Open House: Jahn, Xavier and Zack
In our new "Open House" series, we will be showcasing unique roommate relationships and small space living arrangements and sharing their tips for achieving a harmonious household.
While coliving is nominally a recent construct within the housing sector, the concept of living with roommates is far from new, and increasingly the norm for millennials, a generation rebuffing the adoption of traditional "life stages."
For our first installment of "Open House," we spoke with Xavier, a designer living in Brooklyn with his husband, Jahn, and their roommate Zack.
Tell us about what you do and how you came to live together
Jahn runs his own creative agency, Consortium, focusing primarily on men's fashion; Zack runs a digital creative agency named Exit Strategy Media and his debut graphic novel, Max & Charlie, was just picked up by Barnes & Noble; and I work in music, set design, and digital content strategies.
Jahn and I placed an ad on Craigslist and shared it through Facebook, fielding different people until Zack showed up. He was an obvious fit. He actually cancelled arrangements he had made to live elsewhere in order to move in with us. It was clear to all of us that we'd have a good vibe!
What are some tips to maintain healthy and positive relationships with your roommates?
Once thing I've noticed is that because all three of us work from home, we're all normally occupying our own 'work quadrant' of the apartment, so when we do run into one another we always greet one another, no silent walk-through. It's a natural thing that's settled between us, and I've certainly had living situations that felt far less friendly and more anonymous. Another thing is that we have a grocery shop downstairs, and I've noticed we always offer to do small favors for one another, like pick something up from the store downstairs or come back with a coffee. Zack often offers to walk our dog Buster when we're having a busy day running around. I feel like being proactive like that creates a space of support and trust that's super valuable to everybody.
How does the extended community through your roommates enhance your experience?
All three of us bring different elements to the apartment socially. Jahn is always having models over for shoots, which brings youth and energy. Zack has a small battalion of employees and collaborators who are always coming through the space, creative talented people with great energy and a lot of add to conversation. Xavier brings people in from the art/nightlife world, people with alternative lifestyles and unusual points of view. Everybody's scenes seem to complement each other well, and creates a happy balance.
What has been an unexpected perk of coliving for you?
Other than the increased affordability, it's been great to see our networks expand. We're all creative professionals and we benefit from each other's knowledge and support more often than I'd have expected. We show up to each other's events, we befriend each other's friends. It's enriching for us all to be around one another, unexpected social and professional benefits pop up often.
What are some improvements you can create to make your living arrangement work better?
We started getting a cleaning person to come in every three weeks to scrub up the shared spaces, bathroom, kitchen and living room. That keeps it from getting too grimey, what with three busy guys living together!
For others interested in this type of living situation, what are some valuable tips you can lend?
Just being able to communicate about the apartment and what needs might not be met without it becoming a big deal or an argument, that's been the key. That's something you can't fake. It's important to live with people who have a similar sense of how to resolve conflict.
With the Holidays coming up, do you have any small space styling tips?
We keep holiday decor minimal. It's all about having people over and showing them a good time, so rather than going crazy and decking the halls with bows of holly, we focus on lighting, music and scents. For our get togethers, I make sure to make the space feel warm and inviting... We dim the lights and crank up the atmosphere with chill, decidedly non-holiday music.
I suppose we have a couple concessions to tradition. There's a beautiful vintage samovar we fill with holiday mulled wine (we serve sangria or punch out of it in the warmer months) and we always buy a real wreath from one of the Xmas tree street vendors that pop up this time of year. As for the rest, we simply light a few fir-scented candles from Smith Street Candle Co. (amazing) and throw a few sprigs of soft pine garland on the dining table and call it a day, really. No tree, no bobbles, just good vibes. The holidays should be about making your friends loved ones feel welcome and taken care of, not killing yourself trying to out-decorate your neighbors.