So, you’ve just moved out. Or you’re just about to move out. Or still, you’ve moved out of a place where furniture was provided for you and now you’re thinking about setting up your own space for the first time. While the advice of friends and family can help—and is often vital—it is not super helpful when five people give you fifteen conflicting pieces of advice. Do you “just drive around and grab furniture people have left out”, or “buy all your furniture really cheaply and on sale, because you’re going to replace it soon when you have more money anyway”, or do you “make do with not much at the start but spend a couple of years filling your home with high-quality, meaningful furniture and décor”?
Here’s where we come in. As experts in home decoration, we’ve helped many people looking to furnish or re-furnish their homes for the first time. In doing so, we’ve also become expert in helping people ignore (a lot of) bad advice and focus on furnishing and decorating their homes systematically and meaningfully.
In this blog, we collate our best tips into one easy-to-follow method. It takes just eight steps…
1. ESSENTIALS FIRST
If you take furnishing your home on a shoestring budget to the extreme, you’ll soon figure out there’s only really one thing you need to get you started when you’ve moved into your first home: a domestic espresso machine comfy sofa. The sofa will be seen by people and can function as a (temporary) bed. Sit on the sofa with cushion on your lap as a makeshift dining table (which is surprisingly comfy and effective—just be careful not to splash your food all over the upholstery!).
Pro tip: you’ll be a lot more comfy if you’re sleeping on a three-seater rather than a two-seater!
With all that said, if you’re moving out with some savings (or gift or loan, or better still another person), your life will be much more comfortable if you’re also got something equivalent to a dining set (be it a table or chairs, or even just a couple of breakfast stools against your kitchen bench) and a bed. Anything else can come later.
On another practical note, you should also make a habit of having all your important life documents in the one place. A filing cabinet is good for that, but if you’ve just moved out this piece of furniture may not be a priority for you. (Chances are you don’t have much in the way of life docs anyway; so many of these are digitised these days.)
If you’ve just moved out, it is not wise to expect to have your home furnished in six weeks, or even six months.
Take the time to measure your spaces and see what will work. Pick a few favourites and then be patient to wait for the sales (they come inevitably these days).
A common tip people give to others moving out is to furnish room by room. But this doesn’t really make sense when people who visit or inhabit your home are going to be seeing parts of many rooms at a time. As such, it makes a lot more sense (to me at least) to furnish and decorate the high-traffic areas first, then the low-traffic areas. You’ll want the communal components of the living room, dining room, bathroom and perhaps the entryway sorted, and then you can sort out the rest.
Food is great for an entry table. It’s a cheap, delicious, and multi-functional bit of décor that will instantly make your home feel more inviting! Just make sure you replace it every day or so.
3. YES, IT IS WORTH WAITING LONGER AND BUYING BETTER
If you buy cheap and poorly made furniture (also known as ‘fast furniture’) now, chances are you’ll be replacing it sooner than you would like. This can become a real problem for big, important pieces like the bed frame.
And sure, if you need a bed right now and you just don’t have cash for the perfect bed frame, mattress, and pillow(s), you’ve just got to get something now. But unless you’re in this position, it really is worth waiting to buy a higher-quality bed frame and then buying a mattress separately. You might have to replace the mattress every few decades, but a well-built bed frame taken care of can last a lifetime.
4. WHILE YOU’RE WAITING, HAVE A THINK ABOUT WHAT FURNITURE STYLE RESONATES WITH YOU
A trend might be stylish, but an everlasting style is sustainable.
So how do you figure out what might resonate with you as an everlasting style? Well, think about styles which have caught your eye before. Think about your family heritage and if any furniture styles come out of that. Walk around all sorts of places: from pubs to contemporary art museums; from your friend’s trashed apartment to your grandparents’ farm; and so on. If you’re lucky enough to be in the position to do so, travel (you need the holiday anyway)—especially to regions with furniture styles you know you like.
How about a Viking-inspired feasting room overlooking a Norwegian fjord? Just casually...
It’s also worth talking to people and reading blogs to get more of an idea of the possibilities. Things are a lot more fluid than they used to be and you may find the traditional segregation of rooms and living experiences (dining in one room, sleeping in another, cooking in another, studying and working in another, etc.) does not suit you or your lifestyle.
Oh, and you’ll also want to get an idea of what NOT to do when furnishing your home!
5. ADD PERSONALITY, ONE PIECE AT A TIME
When it comes to showing personality through interior design, few things are more apt than wall art. Same goes for the coffee table book. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, consider buying from a local artist—this will give you a unique conversation starter.
Also think about the lighting in your home. While you may not be in a position to change some of the fundamentals (e.g. skylights and overhead lighting), think about how lighting might affect your home.
Also have a think about what’s underfoot. If you’ve got ugly, stained carpets, for example, consider investing in a lovely rug you can take with you wherever you live and put under all sorts of furniture in your home.
6. REMEMBER YOUR VALUES AND MAKE IT MEANINGFUL
If you couldn’t care less about furniture, that’s fine. But if you care about the planet, or you care about locally made goods, or you think you’re a bit handy and want to save money with a bit of elbow grease, then you can apply those values to home decoration to make it a bit more meaningful to you.
7. THINK LONG TERM
Don’t buy pieces that only work well in the home you’re moving into—no matter how much you love them! Unless you’re moving into the home you expect to have for life, your wallet will be happier if you consider furniture which is likely to be adaptable to many different homes in future.
A typical case we see come up is the renting couple wanting a 12-seater dining table or a modular lounge because they’ve currently got a huge dining and/or living space. Those big furniture items might be fun and great now, but could be really limiting when the lease expires, potentially resulting in those items needing to sold prematurely and at a significant loss.
Another typical case is the person who is really into one furniture style because it can be pulled off in their current space spectacularly. If you live in a renovated and gentrified warehouse, for example, it can be really tempting to go hardcore industrial! But how well will this work in a newly built apartment you might move into next year?
Finally, avoid buying statement pieces unless the “statement” is something which represents an enduring part of your personality. If you love the country or country life, for example, a custom-made wing chair with cowgrain fabric could be the perfect statement…
8. ACCEPT HELP AND ASK FOR IT
Swallow your pride and accept (useful and non-self-serving) help from your family and friends. If your older siblings have an old bed frame sitting in the garage, it’s good social practice and good for your budget to treat the offer seriously have a look at the bed frame. Though when doing so, always inspect what’s being offered: if your friends and family are just exploiting your situation to relieve themselves of their waste problems, you may end up facing the costly task of disposing defective and perhaps even rotting furniture (for example, if the timber is rotting).
Also, if you’ve got an occasion coming up (such as a birthday, Christmas, etc.), then ask for furniture or décor! My sister, for example, has been waiting for a long time to replace her coffee table with its broken leg. People in my family have just combined to buy her the exact coffee table she wants—happy birthday, Sis!
To conclude, just remember one thing: it takes years to settle into living independently. But by approaching how you furnish and decorate your home systematically and meaningfully, you can make the transition a lot easier. Your first place will feel like home in no time!