By my count, I'm currently on apartment number...you know what, I don't even want to think about it. But I still remember the exhilarating and intimidating feeling of outfitting the very first apartment that was all mine. I got some things right, and some things not so right, and I learned a lot in the process. Here's some of my best advice—dos and don'ts for decorating your very first place.
Ask for hand me downs.
Furniture is expensive, especially on a starting salary. The good news is that you don't have to buy everything yourself. Don't be afraid to ask mom and dad, or aunts and uncles, or grandma and grandpa, or older friends who are moving and might be happy to get a few things off their hands, if they have any furniture to spare. You could wind up with some interesting pieces with interesting stories to boot—for free.
Think about what you really need, as opposed to what you feel like you should have.
Don't buy things (like a dining table or a big television or a place setting for 8) just because you feel like you should have them. When you're thinking about what to get for your home, think about how you live, and the kind of furniture you need to support that. Maybe you wouldn't really use a dining table, and a extra-large workspace setup in the dining room would suit you better. Maybe you don't have company a lot, and a comfy armchair would be a better fit for your small living room than a couch. It's your place, not anybody else's, and the stuff inside should show that.
Buy only the most essential pieces and wait on the rest.
Some things you need right away, like a couch and a mattress and probably a few dishes and towels. but don't feel like you have to decorate your entire apartment all at once. Part of the fun is in the search, and waiting a little on buying less essential pieces will give you the opportunity to stumble upon something really great — and also give your bank account time to recover.
Buy things that are super-specific to one place.
Most people move a lot in their younger years, and probably the place where you're living right now won't be your forever home. So try to avoid buying a lot of things that will only work in one particular place, or you may find yourself having to buy a whole new set of furniture for each apartment.
Become obsessed with trends.
Just because everybody on the internet has a Keep Calm and Carry On poster or a Beni Ourain rug doesn't mean you have to, too. Ask yourself if you like something because you've seen it in a lot of places, or if you like it because it really appeals to you.
Compare your place to anybody else's.
It's easy, when you're spending a lot of time searching design blogs for ideas, to compare your place with other, bigger, more finished spaces. But keep in mind that a lot of those people are in a different place than you are: they're older, they have a bigger budget, they've been living in their place for a while. Your home is a reflection like you, and is continually evolving, like you are—be proud of that, and give that process time to happen.
Updated from a post that originally appeared 7.9.2015. — AH