Interior Design

Coliving, defined from an architectural design perspective


From an architectural design perspective, however, there’s a lot more to coliving than the final product. We asked our Director of Architecture Jenn Chang to elaborate.

How would you define communal coliving?

At Common, we believe coliving to be the act of living with roommates, sharing spaces and experiences. Common members get a private furnished bedroom, impeccably styled shared spaces, a purpose-built apartment layout tailored for their needs, all utilities, weekly cleanings, basic household supplies (think toilet paper), and organized community events in one rent check. What makes Common special is that through coliving, we use design and property management to relieve all the pain points of roommate living.


How did coliving come about?

Roommate living is already the norm for city-dwellers, and coliving is just the type of housing that’s tailored to them. There’s a resurgence of coliving in cities all over the world right now, and it’s unsurprising as there’s a global trend of rapid urbanization.

Young people are flocking to cities for opportunities and the housing stock just isn’t growing as fast as their migration. Rather than moving to the suburbs, people are choosing to get married later in their lives and live closer to where work. They’re craving experience over isolation.

What kind of design challenges does coliving present for an architect?

To me, great coliving is achieved when sharing becomes a bonus, not a burden. Architects aspire to create the type of environment that promotes this, but our biggest challenge is the fact that there’s no guaranteed human behavior based only on architecture.

I think that in order for coliving to succeed, it takes one part spatial design, one part thoughtful operation, and one part luck. Only when all three things are working do you get great coliving. You can have the most perfect and beautiful space, with dialed-in sharing ratios and every detail addressed, but without proper operations, the community doesn’t have the framework to exist. Physical, visual, and audio connection between humans isn’t always enough to encourage them to co-live. Then, of course, there’s the luck: great chemistry among roommates.

What value does a good design bring to coliving?

One of the most exciting things about coliving in the modern context is that it can create intellectual conglomeration. If people can live in an environment where they can engage in meaning conversations, then there is value creation by means of density. Architects have a lot of power this way because we have the tools to create opportunities for interaction between people.

A great designer will solve problems you didn’t even know you had. They are not just good at composition, but at anticipating the needs and issues of the end user. Good design can create pleasant environments and happiness. Proper light and air can’t ever be overrated.

common melrose

Is there only one type of coliving and do they all look the same?

No, even at Common alone, we design a wide array of coliving typologies, and every home is context-specific. For example, in a big city where there are excellent transit and urban amenities, we have shared apartments in high-rises. These apartments are designed with a primary focus on density: so that people can afford to live in the city at reasonable rents.

In locations that are less dense, the design focus is much more on the community. We have historical mansions housing around 14 residents. They are conceptually much closer to a group of friends sharing a large house, a large kitchen, and a large living room.

What makes a shared space well-designed?

I believe that the key to a well-designed co-living space is the concept of layered privacy. For every space that is provided we ask: how is it used for and how many residents have access to it? In a perfect world, a member would have their own private bedroom, share a bathroom with one roommate, a kitchen with 5 people, a living room with 12 people, a community lounge with 16-30, a movie room with 100, a game room with 200, a party space with 500, and a public lobby/cafe with the rest of the city. Successful layering of sharing ratios can provide everyone access to more types of spaces, all while using the same total amount of space.

Become a Common member today, and experience coliving firsthand.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Common (@hi.common) on

More about coliving:

A brief history of coliving
Top 5 things you’ll want to know about coliving
4 things to expect from coliving
Your biggest questions about coliving, answered
Is coliving right for you?
Explaining coliving, from an architectural design perspective
How does coliving differ from traditional rentals?

Related posts: