If you moved into your first apartment over the summer, your moving boxes should by now be in the recycling bin and your stuff neatly put away. (If that’s not the case yet stop reading right now, go empty your boxes, and come back when it’s done!) Now that the summer is gone, you are spending more time in your apartment and suddenly realize that it does not look like anything you had planned on your Pinterest boards. There’s a mattress on the floor, an old IKEA table and bookcase, couple of mismatched chairs, a random futon and nothing else. It’s time to get some furniture and start decorating your place so it reflects you. But watch out for these rookie decorating mistakes.
Mistake # 1. Not Having (and Sticking to) a Budget
Here at My First Apartment, we usually recommend a starting decorating budget equal to one month’s rent. (We suggest that you save an amount equal to three months of rent before moving out on your own, to cover your first month’s rent, your security deposit and some basic furnishings.) But, whatever your limit is, stick to it. It’s easy to fall in love with a piece that will blow your budget and cut your other options. Even if your budget is zero, you can still furnish your place. It will just take more time and creativity.
Mistake # 2. Not Considering Your Timeline
Are you planning to move cross-country for grad school in a year? Or have you found your ideal apartment and want to stay put for a while. If you know that you are not staying long, consider moving costs as you decorate your place. Often, it is more expensive to move large pieces that just buying new ones at your destination. And even if your couch is only a year old and in perfect condition, selling it on Craigslist will get you fraction of the original price.
Mistake # 3. Not Having a Look in Mind
Before you buy any furniture, go online or look at Pinterest, and some design catalogues to see which styles and colors you like. Do you want furniture that’s traditional dark wood like your parents have, or a lighter mid-century modern style that’s popular right now, or perhaps a shabby chic look, or something more eclectic? Once you find the look you, visit some stores that sell that type of furniture in order to confirm that you really want to live with that style.
Mistake # 4. Using Too Strong Colors
In addition to a style, you should think about the colors you want to live with. The color of your couch and other large pieces of furniture will affect the feel of the room and provide its main color accents. Bright purple may be your favorite color but on a sofa it can be too overwhelming. You can always use simple add-ons such as a new rug, curtains or throw pillows to add pops of color of a room.
Mistake #5. Buying Without Measuring Your Space
This can be a very big and costly mistake. That’s why we say, “Measure twice, buy once.” Before you step a foot in the furniture department, measure your space carefully and carry those measurements 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.
Mistake # 6. Not Buying Anchor Pieces First
If you buy willy-nilly without a budget and plan, you can fill your apartment with miscellaneous pieces of furniture and then realize that you no longer have a good place for your biggest piece of furniture that will be the focal point in the room. Even if you’re not planning to buy much new furniture, make sure that whatever you do get, whether it’s stoop sale or Goodwill finds, goes with the look and color you have chosen. This is a particularly easy trap to fall in if your decorating budget is zero and you feel compelled to pick every half-useful castaway you find, just to have something in your place.
Mistake #7. Rushing to Buy Everything At Once
The easiest way to get the job done is to go to IKEA or other discount furniture store and pick up as many things as your credit limit allows. That would be a huge mistake and you’d end up with a cookie cutter apartment and big credit card payments.
Decorating your apartment should be a fun project, not a rush job. Even if your budget allows it — and the sales person is very persuasive — don’t do all your shopping in one trip. 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. Visit your neighborhood thrift stores for great wallet-friendly and unique options, but don’t overlook places such as Walmart, Target and World Market. At large chains you can find good pieces at reasonable prices if you wait for their sales.
The key to successfully completing your apartment is keeping your eyes open. By taking your time, you’ll have much better results, and your newly decorated place will be the home you always wanted.