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8 Tips for Designing Your Very First Apartment

POSTED BY LIBBY FERGUSON
JUNE 9, 2022
Photo credit: Apartment Therapy

One of the best parts of adulting is moving into your first home or apartment that you can truly call your own. A place you’ll love spending time in and that you’re proud to call home. Whether you’ve just graduated and are signing your first rental contract or are leaving the comforts of low maintenance living with the parents, there are lots of variables to factor in when designing your first space.

You’ll want to start thinking about your design budget, what your personal style is and how you want it reflected in your interior. We recommend taking the time to create a mood board filled with design inspiration that you come across in magazines, blogs, Pinterest, even pics you snap while out shopping and exploring the city. Your mood board will help you define and fine tune your personal design style, and plan and make purchase investments accordingly.

Once you have a vision for the look you’d like to create, you can start buying and/or repurposing your key pieces for each room. You’ll have your mood board as your guide so it’s easy to stay on course. Take your time with the process and even leave some areas and negative space unfinished, to be filled in as you collect interesting pieces over time — from your travels, an estate sale or an art show where you might find a charcoal etching or vintage poster that just speaks to you. You don’t have to buy everything at once and your bank account with thank you for it.

Inspiration is everywhere, so enjoy the process as you start to see your vision come to life. Here are eight designer tips that are simple and achievable to help you on your journey to creating a very stylish personal space.



An Inviting Entry

Image credit: Ashley Montgomery for MyDomaine

Because foyers and entryways are the first taste your guests get of your vibe and your personal brand of style, it’s always a good policy to put in a little effort so this highly visible space doesn’t look ignored or like an afterthought. Just as in an interview or a on first date, first impressions count. A few chic items like a vintage mirror next to the door, a midcentury-inspired coat rack and a pretty runner or round tasseled rug for texture and warmth can set the welcoming tone you want to create.

Make sure the paint job is fresh (if it isn’t, ask the landlord to paint a fresh coat or do it yourself if there are no upgrade restrictions), as a fresh coat of paint walking in anywhere sets an immediate crisp, clean elevated. vibe. A small table or console displaying a few decorative bowls and baskets is a good repository for keys and tech that you’ll need to leave the house with every day.

 

 

A Bedroom Oasis

Image credit: Harling Ross for Cup of Jo

You’ll want your sleep and chill space to be extra cozy and inviting, so spend some time thinking about how you want to design this important space. Now’s the time to invest in a pretty headboard and a set of chic nightstands. Gone are the days of mattresses on the floor and laptops and books piled against the wall. We love a headboard in a bold color or luxe texture like velvet or boucle.

If you’re on a budget, paint a faux headboard directly on to the wall of DIY one with a slab of particle board that you pad and upholster in a cool fabric. You’d be surprised how a project so simple can deliver so much design impact. Don’t overlook textured rugs and window treatments for blocking out noise and light. Good sleep is something you’ll need in your busy new life.


Painted Walls or a Statement Wall

Image credit: Architectural Digest

A fast and impactful way to add color and graphic interest is with peel and stick wallpaper in a bold or more nuanced pattern, or a statement wall that features more than one color — a color block effect, a bold vertical or horizontal stripe, a geometric design or even a hand-painted motif repeated for a patterned effect.

If you’ve never been offered the chance to paint your space, the sky’s the limit and there are endless ways to go with it. Today’s trending colors like navy, deep bronze and sage green are the new neutrals and a great, safe way to invite color without getting into palette-limiting territory. Before you start ordering your paint, make sure your apartment is upgrade friendly. While many landlords have a no-painting policy, there are plenty who allow it or will offer to do the job for you and let you pick out a new color or two.


 

A Cozy Seating Area

Image credit: Architectural Digest

Your living room or main seating area is a great spot to feature an investment piece that might require a bigger chunk of your budget. A sectional sofa is an excellent choice as it’s a piece that will likely move with you into your next few apartments. We also love that it can be reconfigured for different floor plans if needed.

Rooms like kitchens and living rooms should be extra comfortable and inviting as these are the spaces you’ll do most of your hosting and entertaining. Look for sofas, armchairs and ottomans in plush, textured fabrics with a nice handfeel (read: softness). Neutral and midtone colors tend to be friendlier than stark white and boldly-vibrant hues. Give thought to how you’ll use your space before furnishing it — for intimate spaces the promote lively conversation, position your seating closer together or, for a Zen room where you plan to decompress, leave more negative flow space and stick to fewer overall pieces. Floor pillows and poufs lend a chill, boho vibe that reads as cozy and inviting.

 

A Well-Equipped Kitchen

Image credit: Kristen Francis for Elle Decor

Optimizing a small kitchen can be a bit of a puzzle so take measurements of your usable floor space and purchase a table or island that fits the floor plan. You’ll want plenty of room to move about and access the fridge, stove and any tucked away pantry items. Look for smaller countertop appliances like a one-cup espresso maker, a slim-line toaster and a blender or food processor with a small footprint.

Get creative with ways to get cookware up and out of your prep spaces. We love an overhead pan rack and magnetic wall racks for your knife set if you plan to hone your culinary skills. A large wire or ceramic serving bowl is great for containing and displaying your beautiful farmer’s market bounty. A floating shelf can be great add for including personal touches like pretty potted plants and a collection of hardbound cookbooks placed in a tidy vertical stack.


Artwork that Reflects You

Image credit: Lonny

Collecting art can be a rewarding lifelong hobby that you’ll always have something physical and beautiful to show for. From wall art to hung tapestries and art objects for the table, art can make a real statement and do amazing things for elevating your décor. Not only that, it’s the design element that says the most about who you are.

For finding affordable art, peruse Etsy, home goods chain stores and even garage and estate sales where you might stumble on a real find. Even if you can’t easily envision it in your space, if the image, color and subject matter speak to you, make the investment and you will eventually find a space practically made for showing it off. Don’t overlook the importance of the frame either. We love reclaimed vintage frames to add more texture and contrast, and a dedicated gallery wall is a great way to exhibit all of your treasured art in one focused area.


Reclaimed and Upcycled Furniture

Image credit: Lonny

Chances are, you already possess DIY ingenuity. This is your opportunity to really put it to great use. A perfect piece to start with is a thrifted or hand-me-down dresser that can be stripped of any old varnish and painted in a high gloss of your favorite hue. You can even swap out drawer pulls and handles for new hardware to transform the overall look.

 We love thrifting for artwork and garage sale finds like mid century wooden chairs and vintage frames that can be transformed with a can of paint and a little creativity. Chances are your parents have pieces they’d love to hand-me-down that can be restored with a whole new look and purpose. You can sand and re-stain practically anything made of real wood. For shelving and display cabinets, add touches of new hardware and a fun lining or contrasting paint color and you’ve created something totally original to beautify your space (and without spending a fortune, too).


 

Smart Storage Solutions

Image credit: Lonny

Chances are you’re now living in a much smaller footprint with less square footage than you ever grew up with. Furniture that multitasks as storage is your new best friend. The good news is that multifunctional furniture is a huge category in home design these days. Look for pieces that are the perfect marriage of form and function. A coffee table with a pull-out drawer and a daybed with storage underneath are great options.

Oversized baskets don’t just make pretty planters, they are a smart and stylish way to store magazines, linens and even tech. Transitional spaces like hallways or glassed-in entries shouldn’t be overlooked for their storage potential. A row of upcycled vintage lockers or a slim media console can house overflow items like books, cleaning supplies and collections of things you don’t want sitting out but aren’t ready to part with either. You’re in your own place now, so time to say goodbye to the “clothes chair” and junk closet!


Need help getting started? Talk to a Decorist designer for $29 during a one-on-one video consultation. They can help you bring your vision for your first apartment to life! 

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