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When Sarai Reed bought her 513-square-foot one-bedroom in Washington, D.C., in 2018, it was going to be her own place. That is until she met April Lawrence at a happy hour. “I asked her over for dinner. I’m a great cook; she didn’t stand a chance,” jokes Reed. “We’ve been together ever since.” Lawrence moved in a year later, and they were already trying to navigate living in close quarters with limited storage—and 46 plants, no less—when the pandemic hit.

Both of them have two jobs: Reed is a teacher and is growing her design consulting business, and Lawrence does road management for an R&B artist while managing a coffee shop. “Before quarantine, we might have gotten an hour or two together before bed and that was it—even on weekends,” says Lawrence. “We used to wish for this much time together.” Now with Reed teaching remotely and Lawrence’s jobs on temporary hold, they’re readjusting once more. (Lawrence has even taken up drum lessons.) Here’s how they’re making it work.

Let Routines Guide You…

Pre-lockdown, Lawrence got up before Reed. “Now we’ve broken up with our alarm clocks,” says Lawrence. Reed is up at 8 a.m. to teach summer school online, and Lawrence rolls out of bed around 9 a.m. to make coffee. They have a standing breakfast date during Reed’s midmorning break. “Sticking to a general routine has helped us a lot,” she continues. “On Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll find us listening to music or watching a movie. On Sunday mornings, we make brunch together in our pajamas.” It’s usually pancakes. 

…But Ditch the Schedule 

When all this started, they posted a daily schedule on the wall…and promptly took it down. “It felt too rigid,” says Reed. “Some days you just don’t feel like doing anything, and that’s okay.” Instead, they make sure to check in with each other throughout the day, playing it by ear. “It’s taken some effort, but we’re learning to be gentle with ourselves and each other,” she adds. 

Use Decor to Your Advantage

The apartment already had a number of clever space-saving ideas, from a wall-mounted pot rack to a sofa that doubles as a room divider to a painted headboard that keeps the bedroom feeling open and airy. In an effort to free up more space, Reed and Lawrence have been in a rigorous decluttering phase since March. “We’re serious about putting a stop to the small energy leaks that can occur throughout the day when you share 513 square feet with your partner and all your worldly belongings,” explains Reed. “If you’re dealing with an avalanche of Tupperware every time you open your cabinet, you have too much Tupperware. Those tiny frustrations can really drain you.” It’s one less inconvenience they have to battle, and it’s made the space infinitely more zen. (But of course they kept Reed’s plants—every free nook in the apartment is dedicated to her greenery.)

Don’t Feel Bad About Going Solo 

“Living and working together in a small home is tough—there’s no sugarcoating it,” says Lawrence. Reed spends a lot of her time on Zoom calls with 12-year-olds, and while Lawrence has learned to love her headphones, some days call for more personal space. Whenever one of them needs a break, they’ll run an errand or go on a quick walk or even set up camp in different rooms. “When she’s not working, we spend a lot of time together, but we’re also very intentional about taking time for ourselves each day,” explains Lawrence. “This condo didn’t really start to feel like a home until April moved in,” adds Reed. “We’re just soaking up this time together.”

Introducing Domino’s new podcast, Design Time, where we explore spaces with meaning. Each week, join editor-in-chief Jessica Romm Perez along with talented creatives and designers from our community to explore how to create a home that tells your story. Listen now and subscribe for new episodes every Thursday.