Moving into a grown-up space for the first time can be daunting, overwhelming, terrifying, and thrilling. Having to furnish and decorate said space can be all those things and more. It’s important to remember that a stylish, layered space does not, nor should it, come together overnight. Decorating a home should be a process that develops over time — a constantly evolving collection. That said, you can’t live in an empty room for months on end. To make the process easier, we’ve narrowed down your shopping list to eight must-have items that every first apartment needs. These pieces will form a perfectly versatile foundation on which to build an enviable interiors collection.
|In small spaces it’s important that each piece of furniture functions for a variety of uses. A small table can be used as a vanity or desk, and when guests come by, pull up some chairs to use as a dining table for a grown-up dinner party.
Threshold Drop Leaf Rustic Dining Table, $150, Target
|Nothing will add personality and warmth to your space like framed artwork. Try sources like PurePhoto, Art.com, Etsy, and ebay to find original or unique pieces. Keep your eyes open at flea markets and yard sales for that one find that will add character and life to your new space. As another option, take one of your favorite photos to a copy shop to be enlarged and printed on photo paper. Pop it in an inexpensive frame from Ikea, and you’re set.
“Summer Games” by Jenny Andrews Anderson, $75, Furbish
|Whether it’s a desk-top topiary or a potted fiddle-leaf fig, plants will add life to your new apartment, and make your space a home. To keep it alive and thriving, select a plant based on the amount of caretaking it requires — and what you’ll realistically be able to maintain.
Ficus Pandurata Bush, $17, Home Depot
|Not just for storage and display, in a pinch, place an adjustable shelf by your bedside so it can also function as a nightstand. Decorative boxes in various shapes and sizes will conceal less attractive items while still offering beautiful storage space.
Vittsjö Shelving Unit, $70, Ikea
|Whether it’s handed down from your parents or grandparents or scored at a local flea market, a piece with some age and patina will bring a sense of history and sophistication to your new space. Small decorative accessories with a story or background add layers and dimension to even the most modest abodes.
Pair of Vintage Italian Brass End Tables, $385, Hunters Alley
|Your taste in interior styles and design eras is likely to change over the years. If you’re just starting out, it’s wise to invest in a piece of neutral upholstery which will stand the test of time. By switching out decorative pillows and throws, your sofa or lounge chair will be able to easily adapt to your changing tastes.
Harrison Sofa, $1000, Wayfair
|Think of these as the jewelry of your décor. A great sculptural lamp can not only provide flattering accent light, but it can be a conversation starter, styling centerpiece, or focal point of a console or side table vignette.
Pair of Pilani Scroll Table Lamps, $364, Target
|Adding an area rug will warm up your space while providing a soft texture underfoot. Your taste in area rug styles may change over the years, so opt for a hard-wearing, neutral rug in a natural fiber like seagrass or wool. Layer accent rugs on top in fun colors and patterns if you want a jolt of personality, or keep it clean with a simple stripe or plain solid for an even more versatile look.
Hand-Woven Braided Jute Rug, $195, Overstock
We want to know! What would you say is a must-purchase item to decorate a first apartment?
Photographs: Danielle Armstrong photograph by Kelly Stuart for House Beautiful, Emily Johnson Photography, Heidi Bianco photography by Kelly Stuart for House Beautiful, Johan Carlson, Katie Armour, Love by Serena for Style Me Pretty Living, via House and Home, via The Joyful Organizer, Yana Puaca photograph by Jennifer Coffey