As the lease on my first apartment winds to a close, I’m really looking forward to finding a new space and making it feel like home. My good friend Shelly is moving into her first place in Connecticut and I’ve been living vicariously helping her source a few furniture pieces… Decorating is truly one of my favorite hobbies. I thought before I move out of my current spot I’d share a little advice for decorating with what you have. Feel free to share your tips in the comments!
1. Make a list of everything you have and everything you need.
For instance, I already had a bed frame and mattress from my college dorm room that just needed to be transported into the city. My mom had also given me the antique quatrefoil mirror above my sofa (similar shape here and here) and the CB2 acrylic console table for my college graduation. So I knew I still needed bedding, a desk chair, dining/packing table, dining chairs, end tables, shelving, and a sofa. I didn’t have space in my current apartment for a coffee table or nightstands so your list might look a little different depending on how much space you’re working with!
2. Decide what look you’re after.
I wanted most of my furniture to be white or neutral so I could bring in color with accessories, books, and throw pillows. I highly recommend creating an inspiration board and a shopping list on Pinterest (here are some bedrooms and interiors that inspire me). Rounding up my favorite rooms helped me make big decisions about which furniture to buy and which colors I tended to come back to for bedding, upholstery, and even wall color (which I decided not to change).
3. Figure out where you can afford to spend and where you’ll have to save.
I let myself splurge a little on bedding from Serena & Lily (which I bought during one of their 20% off sales) and I haven’t regretted it for a second. I also fell in love with this desk chair from Society Social which was a great purchase since I spend so much time working from home. Both of these purchases meant I had less money leftover to spend on my dresser and tables throughout the apartment — and that I had to wait a little longer before buying other pieces and making the apartment feel totally finished.
4. Hit up Craigslist, estate sales, and flea markets for furniture purchases.
I’ve purchased a ton of dressers and tables on Craigslist since college and it almost always results in a good deal and an even better story. Use CraigsEasy to search Craigslist in pictures (hello, timesaver!) for styles you like (I use search terms like campaign, chinoiserie, lacquer, and lucite). Don’t worry if a wooden piece isn’t in great condition — look for great lines and know that a coat of paint can work all kinds of miracles. If you’re game for scouring estate sales and flea markets, make a day of it, go in with measurements of your space, and be patient. My mom, brother, and I found the mirrored end tables in the picture above for $20 apiece at Brimfield! Sold.
5. Peruse flash sale sites — but don’t buy just because it’s on sale.
Sites like Joss & Main and One Kings Lane are a treasure trove for furniture savings as long as you know what you’re looking for. Stick to the list you made in the beginning (99% of what you see won’t work for your space so don’t get distracted!) and search every couple of days. I stalked Joss & Main for weeks before finding my sofa, a tufted linen number that I’ll have for years and that only cost me around $400 (the cost of a comparable Ikea piece!).
6. Speaking of… there’s always Ikea.
I hate the look of an apartment decorated entirely at Ikea but there’s a reason it’s the affordable go-to for twenty-somethings everywhere. I used the Docksta as a dining table and the Expedit as shelving for books and inventory. Mix them in with pieces that have more character to avoid looking like you furnished your apartment in one afternoon — decorating is a process and a fun one at that!
7. Make it feel like home.
Whether it’s painting your walls (a project that will take you a weekend but won’t break the bank) or hanging real window treatments (my parents and I made mine following this tutorial), design is in the details. Accessorize with art (we carry affordable prints in the boutique and I also love Etsy and Society 6) or blow up family or travel photos to cover wall space — a landscape photo for above your sofa will run you about $75 at FedEx. And bring in books, whether they’re childhood favorites from your bedroom at home or coffee table books you find for sale online. They say don’t judge a book by its cover — but you can tell a lot about people by their bookshelves!
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What decorating projects are you tackling at the moment? Any advice you’d add to this list?