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The “We Need to Share” Chair represents the hardest battle of all: moving into someone else’s space.

This situation is harder for people to adjust to than moving into a home that is new for everyone. Here, where new relationships and spaces collide, it can be hard to ask for what you want, without feeling like you’re rocking the boat. Our research shows just how strongly people feel about the need to respect the space of the original occupant, even if that means living in a way which makes us feel less ‘at home’. But for many, the frustrations eventually boil over into arguments, as the battle for personal space and ownership of things becomes a concern. Could a conversation stop us feeling guilty about moving into someone else’s space?

Why this is important

Our research reveals just how hard it can be to move in with new people, especially when it’s already somebody else’s home. All too often, it takes too long before we truly feel at home and have a space to call our own. And rather than talking about it, we hope that things will work themselves out in time – even if this takes years.

“I moved into his space and it’s taken about 9 years of me taking one small step at a time, but now I feel that we share the space equally.” – Henrietta, Denmark

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It feels wrong to define space when moving into someone else’s home

“We lived in her old house for 10 years
and I never truly felt at home.”

Meet home pioneering thinker Peder and his wife, from Denmark. He and his wife met in their 50s and he moved into the house she had owned for decades on a small commune of allotment houses.

After 10 years together, they sold that house and built a new one 50 meters away on a vacant plot, which they planned and designed together. It was only allowed to be a single storey house and no more than 100m2, so they had to plan the spaces they wanted carefully.

“We discussed it a lot and came to the conclusion that in order for us to both feel like we belonged equally we needed to build something together. That’s when we started to plan the home we are in now.”

In spite of the tight space, they decided to create two small rooms – one for each of them – in which they had complete control of layout, décor and use.

“These are our hobby rooms. These we can use and decorate how we like, and in here I am the ruler. I have the paintings I have collected, my tools and my stand-up desk. In the other rooms are all of our child’s crafts materials, so that she has her own space to be creative.”

“We chose to live together for 6 months
before making big changes.”

Meet home pioneering thinkers Sabine and Nikolay. Their blended family lives in Copenhagen; Sabine and her children moved in with Nikolay and his daughter after just a few months. Their home is steeped in Nikolay’s history, but they intend to start afresh through extensive re-planning:

Sabine: “Nikolay had been living in this house with his ex-wife… so we needed a feeling of ‘this is our home’, not their old home. So you need to just roll the dice once more.”

Pending this change, the first thing they both decided on was that the kids should choose their own spaces, which they did, with the three of them taking over the top floor of the house and deciding where they were each most comfortable.

Sabine: “It was very important for me that they got their own rooms, so that they had their own space, where they had all their things with them, and everything seemed like it did before, just in a different context.”

The other piece of the puzzle was to work out how they would all feel most comfortable in the space, and they did this by co-creating a set of five rules –which are stuck up around the house – and holding a family meeting once a week to see how everyone is feeling.

Sabine: “They had their own set of rules, but we needed to rethink that, so we just started all over again. One of the rules is that ‘we’re going to have fun here, everybody must feel comfortable, and if they’re not, then please say so we can do something about it.’”

Home Pioneer voices

Home Pioneers see change differently. They show us why it’s important to redefine what change means when it comes to the boundaries of our home. Then we are able to truly assess what role a space can play in making our life at home better. Let’s see what they have to say:

“My girlfriend is moving in next week so she put sticky notes on all the spaces where she’s going to put her things.” - Rigobert, Germany

“We try to remain constant on compromising but may change a little. The rules evolve as we evolve.” - Ilene, USA

Space is hugely important to our lives at home. However, it’s the conversation to clearly define the ownership of space and things that is crucial to getting along with others in a shared home.

Looking for ways to beat the battles at home? Learn from the Home Pioneers here.

Explore the other battles