Designing a Twin/Duplex

by Patricia M. Cove
Posted 8/13/21

The owners of shared buildings often cite many conveniences in having a neighbor close -by.

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Designing a Twin/Duplex


Some people live in a twin, some in a duplex , and others in a townhouse. All of them differ in how the properties are divided, maintained and insured, and there are often discrepancies in lifestyle and taste…but the owners of shared buildings often cite many conveniences in having a neighbor close -by.  There is a built- in security factor for people who travel or live alone, and having a friendly face in close proximity can be a form of reassurance when facing challenging times. But there are a few things that these three home types have in common.

If you share a twin or a duplex, or happen to reside in a townhouse, you have most likely realized that your neighbor's home has the exact same layout as yours, except maybe in reverse! And although you both have chosen to live just feet apart, the way you approach the  design of your interior can be miles away from the design direction your neighbor has taken. And since there will no doubt be comparisons, here are some tried and true tips to make sure your side has a real decorator' s edge.

Let's start with that feature that all twins, duplexes and townhouses share. It is that long common wall that divides the two residences. Traditionally, that wall would have been broken up by perpendicular walls that created different rooms. But since the inception of the "open" floor plan, that wall has become a challenging architectural feature, that lends itself more to a bowling alley. Since the entire length of your home would be too long for just one room, you will need to create your own "spaces" to complement that long, long wall.

Your furniture layout will be key. Area carpets can serve as the defining feature to different arrangements. Giving the sofa and accent seating more space tends to create a more formal setting, or use multiple smaller groupings that are better suited to people who entertain more informally. Don' t use paint color to delineate spaces. The "long wall" should be painted all one color. Architectural features like pilasters or columns can substitute for a full dividing wall, but never change paint colors on a wall without a specific architectural element that serves as a stopping point.

Artwork can also serve to delineate spaces. An artwork grouping should be hung with just the right spacing that conforms to the seating arrangement it complements. Spreading artwork out too far creates a gallery effect, that can easily distract from the overall cohesiveness of the individual areas.            Similarly, one large piece of art, or even an oversized flat screen TV can become the single defining feature to a furniture grouping, and also serve to break up the long expanse of wall.

Being that twins, duplexes and townhouses are of at least two stories, a stairwell will often be a major feature within the first floor living space. Highlighting this important architectural element will divert your eye from the long wall, and bring attention to another interesting feature of the room. You can do this with different lighting techniques, or the materials that are  used for the treads, railing and bannisters, or even the addition of a runner in an interesting pattern and color that works well with the walls, ceiling and trim.

Adding crown moldings can unify the spaces, and again take your eye to more interesting features. Windows, located at the front and rear of the space, should be treated in like styles that are more simple in design, that incorporate blinds or shades with minimal top treatments. The idea being that the windows can provide filtered light while also serving to soften the angular shape of the space.        ·

Like the walls, the ceiling should also be one color, either a coordinated white or a lighter shade of the walls. Any trim, doors, or moldings can be painted in a complimentary color. The       ceiling should match the trim, or be a lighter version of the wall color. For years, an accepted rule was to simply paint any ceiling " white." But the ceiling is just as important as any other surface, so including the ceiling in the room's color scheme will not only be an interesting feature, but will also serve to unify the entire space, creating a more welcoming, unified room.

By incorporating some of these tips, your twin/duplex/townhouse can not only become a design masterpiece, but also an individual expression of your own taste and personality!

Patricia Cove is Principal of Architectual Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill, and can be reached through het web site:


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