A friend of mine recently secured her first apartment where she will be living completely on her own. She is super excited and can’t wait to have a space where everything is chosen by her alone with no outside influence. For years, she has been dreaming about this moment…collecting ideas, figuring out her style (what she likes and doesn’t like), scouring Wayfair, and pinning too many pictures to count.
The other day over lunch we were talking about all of the things she will need for her new digs, on a budget of course. She told me that I needed to write a blog post, or three, of where to start when someone is starting new. Now I’m not a designer, but I do know what I like, and I also know what I have learned along the way when I was in her same situation. So here are my tips for anyone who is starting fresh in a new place and is on a budget.
1. Don’t purchase everything at once (or before you move in).
I am a HUGE believer in living in a space for a while before pulling the trigger on pricier items. If your grandmother’s old kitchen set will do before buying one of your preference, do it. Live in the space to get a feeling for the flow of life.
2. Scour places like flea markets, thrift stores, and online sources like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
I can’t say enough about this one. There are soooooo many pieces out there that are dying to be brought back to life. I found two Broyhill Brasilia dressers (one with a mirror) at a thrift store a few years back. I bought both immediately. The one is in my bedroom and the other is a credenza for the TV. If you search them up on eBay, they are going for hundreds more that I paid for them. They are such good, solid pieces of Mid Century Modern furniture. Here is a photo of my exact piece taken from the site:
These end tables were a Craigslist find. I loved the storage they had available and the textured front. I sanded them down, painted them white and added cool knobs for our family room.
This table is from my mom’s Aunt Helen. It is ancient, but I still love the lines. Now that I look at it, I need to change out those knobs!
My glass coffee table was a thrift store find. A little gold spray paint brought it to life and it has served as a perfect anchor for many wine glasses! I especially love the bottom shelf for books!
3. Buy a tool box with a few tools and a picture hanging kit.
I don’t need to say too much about this one, except mine are pink and I use them all of time.
4. Floor coverings – Do I need area rugs?
I’ve done really well getting area rugs at Home Goods and Target, as well as the online site Rugsusa.com.
5. Go neutral with the basics.
Neutral pieces are so versatile. Whether its a soft tan sectional or glossy black dining chairs, the idea of a neutral base allows for endless decorating possibilities. I especially love changing out pillows and throws depending on the time of year.
6. DIY a few items to personalize.
I love to DIY furniture when I have the time, especially in the summer. My favorite DIY ever was the reupholstering of two chairs I found while running. The lines were perfect, but the rest was not. So, I stripped them down, painted them a glossy black, and added a fun leopard pattern to the seat. To this day, I LOVE them! Leopard is a neutral, after all, and they will be going with me forever.
7. Splurge Some | Save Some.
I am a big proponent of high/low design and fashion. I carry a designer bag, but have no issue donning a pair of shoes from Target. Same goes for the home. I was lusting after the replica Wegner wishbone chairs for my dining room a few years back. To offset their cost, I went with a more affordable dining table from Ashley’s Furniture and ordered the chairs to satisfy my craving. I still love them today. Maybe you want the comfiest couch out there? Do it, but downsize or go less in another area of the home.
8. Don’t forget organizing necessities.
Whether you need a few good clothing racks or closet bins, leave room in your budget for these items.
9. Good lighting is a must.
So maybe it took me a few years to get a chandelier in the dining room, but I still stick with my theory that proper lighting is key to a space. J’s family room used to be very dark- dark walls, dark furniture and very few lights. We all agreed that it felt like a cave. When it was time to design the new layout, I brightened up the walls and furniture and added 4 new lamps spread throughout!
10. Purchase these MUST HAVE household items.
It might sound strange to suggest a foldable card table and chairs, but I have used mine way more times than I can count. The chairs serve for extra seating, the table has served as a dessert table, a bar or even an extra dining space. My aunt gave me a folding step ladder when I moved into my first condo and I still have it and use it all of the time. Finally, things like brooms, a vacuum and cleaning supplies are not fun to spend money on, but such is life.
The biggest compliment my friend could tell me was that she is finally seeing things (design-wise) the way I do. This is a huge and exciting time in her life, and I can’t wait to help her! Having a space to call your own is the greatest feeling in the world. Fill it with all things that you love and make it the perfect place you deserve. xo