5 Steps for decorating your first apartment

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When you move into your first apartment, you’re initially thrilled to finally have your own place and that all your stuff made the move intact. For the first couple of weeks your priorities are just getting the basics set: finding your coffeemaker, stocking your fridge and making sure all your clothes fit in your closet. You place your furniture, if you have any, purely based on functional terms: the dresser goes in the bedroom, the couch in the living room and the bookshelf against a wall.

Eventually, though, you get tired of living in a moving zone: You want to start to arrange and decorate your place in a way that makes it feel like home. While it’s tempting to rush and just get it done, a thoughtful process will pay off in the long run.

Step 1: Find the look you like

Before you buy any furniture, assess the pieces you already have and carefully plan each addition. Go online or look at some design catalogues to see which styles and colors you like. Do you want furniture that’s a dark wood, a blonde wood or perhaps metal or painted furniture? Do you like a mid-century modern, vintage, shabby chic, or traditional look, or something more eclectic? And don’t just look at pieces of furniture; also look at fully decorated rooms for ideas. This will give you a sense of the possibilities available to you as well as inspiration.

Step 2: Pick your colors

In addition to a style, you should think about the colors you want to live with. Even if your landlord won’t let you paint, the color of your couch, end tables and other pieces of furniture will affect the feel of the room and provide its main color accents. Later, you can use simple add-ons such as a new rug, curtains or throw pillows to enhance the look and color of a room. Also, you can use posters or framed prints to add color to your walls without a paint job.

Step 3: Measure twice, buy once

Before you step a foot in the furniture department, measure your space carefully and carry those measurement with you. And don’t just measure your apartment; also measure the doorways and halls, stairwells and elevators that your furniture has to pass through on its way to your apartment. Having to return a couch you had your heart set on because it cannot make a turn on your stairwell is not only disappointing, but also expensive.

Step 4: Buy big pieces first

Your biggest pieces of furniture will anchor the look of the room, so buy them first. Even if you’re not planning to buy much new furniture, make sure that whatever you do get, even if it’s stoop sale or Goodwill finds, goes with the look and color you have chosen.

Step 5: Be patient and shop around

If your budget allows it, it’s tempting to try to do all your shopping in one trip, but if you have several pieces to buy, it’s best to be patient. You can often find deals by shopping around, or waiting for sales. Thrift stores are a great wallet-friendly option, as is Craigslist, but don’t overlook places such as Ikea, Target and World Market. At large chains you can find good pieces at reasonable prices if you wait for their sales. The key is keeping your eyes open. Decorating your apartment should be a fun project, not a rush job. By taking your time, you’ll have much better results, and your newly decorated place will be the home you always wanted.


MyFirstApartment.com helps novice renters successfully navigate the first year of living on their own. The blog shares proven tips and tricks for everything from finding the perfect rental or roommate, to furnishing on a small budget or no budget, to dealing with landlords or roommate’s girlfriends.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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