How To Set Up Your First Apartment in 8 Easy Steps

How many times have you said. "I wish I had known then what I know now"? One of the good things about getting older is that you have had lots of experience (i.e. made lots of mistakes) and learned many lessons.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could be like Benjamin Button and live life backwards?  Imagine how cool it would be to have the mind and wisdom of a 75 year old with the body of a 20 year old. I think that is where we all hope science is heading and judging by Hollywood, some people are getting close to that ideal! But, for the rest of us, we can only hope to share our "wisdom" with the next generation and hope they can benefit from our experience. One of the things that I wish I had known when I was 22 would be how to furnish my first apartment.  What to go cheap on, what to split with a roommate and what to invest in.  With one grown daughter in LA moving to a new apartment this month and another daughter looking for her first apartment in San Francisco, this post hits close to home.  Here is the advice I will give them as a design pro as well as their mother. 

1. Invest in a Good Bed

Most first apartments will be shared with roommates but if you are lucky, you will get your own bedroom.  This is your personal space - your refuge - and it should feel like home to you.  Get a decent mattress.  Invest in a good one.  But get a full or queen size.  Now is not the time for a king because chances are, you will not be in the same apartment for long and bedroom sizes can vary dramatically, particularly in big city apartments.  You can always use this bed in a guest room when you buy your first house or can afford your own bigger apartment and trade up to a king for yourself at that point.  Buy a nice headboard or bed frame.  Get something you love.  Maybe you have always admired upholstered headboards or a 4 poster bed.  Go for it. You don't have to spend a lot but don't go cheap because you can keep this bed forever if you get something nice.

2. Go Neutral with Bedding

Stick to solid neutral duvets or comforters and bring in color and pattern on pillow shams and sheets.  Layer your bed so it feels luxurious.  A coverlet can go on top with the duvet folded at the foot during the warm months and can be reversed in the winter.  Having a coverlet folded at the foot of the bed is nice when you are taking that quick weekend afternoon nap and don't want to mess up the covers.  I would invest in the best quality duvet you can afford.  Then shop around for bargains for the duvet cover, shams and sheets.  Stores like Tuesday Morning carry Peacock Alley and Pine Cone Hill at dramatically reduced prices, but you have to hunt for the good stuff.

3. Buy A Good Looking and Versatile Dresser and Bedside Tables

Look for something that you love and could be used in other rooms down the road.  Bedside tables can move to the living room flanking a sofa when you can afford to lose the roommates if you buy classic versatile pieces.  Likewise a dresser can move to the living room or dining room to hold linens and flatware or TV if you buy smart.  In other words, don't get something that screams "bedroom".  And please, please, please do not buy matching sets!!!!!!  Also, for anything with drawers, you get what you pay for.  If you buy the cheapest chest of drawers you can find, you can be sure that the drawers will not work after a while.  So, invest in a decent dresser. 

West Elm

West Elm

West Elm

West Elm

4. Buy a Decent Rug for Your Bedroom, Go Cheap for the Living Room

For your bedroom, buy a rug that you love.  A good rug will go with you from place to place and can move from bedroom to living room, dining room or foyer wherever you live.  But for the communal loving room, go cheap.  Get an indoor outdoor rug or an inexpensive sisal.  There are many great looking ones out there and even Home Depot carries them. This is something to split with the roommates. Even better, see if a parent has something you can have for free here!

Home Decorators 

Home Decorators 

5. Try to Get a Free Sofa

If you are sharing an apartment with one or two roommates, you want to avoid buying and splitting the cost of the sofa.  Why? Because chances are you won't be living with these people in a year or two and who takes the sofa when you part ways?  I am not suggesting you pick something up off the street or out of a dumpster but rather ask around.  Sometimes relatives or neighbors are upgrading and are happy to give away the old sofa. 

6. Start Investing in Art

This may seem odd when you are barely able to afford the necessities, but ask for a framed photograph or sketch for a house warming, birthday, or graduation gift.  Art brings joy and life to a home, moves around easily and by starting early, you can have a great collection by the time you have more wall space. 


7. Buy Lamps in Pairs

Home Goods is a great place to buy nice looking lamps at discounted prices. Get classic shapes and go big. Nothing screams amateur louder than small lamps on bedside tables or next to the sofa.  The idea is to buy something now for your bedroom that could also work in the living room of your next place.  


8. Create a List of Must Haves that Will Be Split

Coffee table, living room lamps, side tables, a chair, tv and media console, dining table and chairs, utensils, flatware, dishes and pots and pans are things that you will need.  Rather than buying new and splitting the cost, divide by items so that when a roommate moves out, they take the items they bought with them.  Here is how I would split these things up so that the value is fairly divided among three people: 

Roommate 1:  TV and Media Console, pots and pans

Roommate 2: Dining table and 4 chairs, flatware and dishes for 4

Roommate 3: Coffee table, Side Tables, pair of lamps, glassware, knives and utensils

Have fun setting up your first place.  It is an exciting time and hopefully this helps to take some of the stress out of this big move.

Happy Thursday!