Style & Shopping

What to Look for in a Space When You’re Buying Your First Home

Because great design can be the difference between a house and a home.

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Considering buying your first home? It’s a major decision, and not one that should be taken lightly. After all, there’s more to think about than a sturdy foundation and a good location. You want a space that’s going to meet your needs, both functionally and aesthetically.

Safe to say that before making the biggest purchase of your life, you should do your research—and that includes consulting the pros. Looking for some guidance? Ahead, four properties courtesy of Douglas Elliman—from a craftsman bungalow in Los Angeles to a luxury condo in Miami—plus tips from interior designer Amy Lee McArdle to help you optimize and stylize your first pad.

Property 1: A Manhattan Studio for the Small Space Maven

For city-dwellers, sky-high prices and limited square footage means that your first place may actually be less of a house and more of a one-room studio. But petite certainly doesn’t have to be a problem.         According to McArdle, key points to look for in a small space are high ceilings, lots of natural light (if you can find floor-to-ceiling windows, even better!), and alcoves for a side table or an chair. “This unit (pictured above) has all of the requirements, not to mention that the kitchen/dining area seems like it could be separated from the rest of the living space, so you can still entertain and have a spot to eat without feeling too cramped.”

She suggests installing some floating shelves on the wall adjacent to the fridge. “They’re great for storage and displaying accessories.” You can even tuck a small armchair in the corner to make a little reading nook. “This particular studio could actually hold a nice-sized sofa and bench. I would place a large mirror above the couch to really open up the space.”

Click through for more photos and the floorplan, and check out these similarly chic small spaces:

Property 2: Brooklyn Condo for the Trendsetter

This spacious two-bedroom, two-bath abode epitomizes Brooklyn’s relaxed, eclectic, and bohemian vibe, but it’s neutral enough to be a canvas for any style. Beyond its enviable size, the high ceilings, large windows, crisp white walls, polished porcelain floors, and open floor plan create a lovely airiness.

Stainless steel appliances, contemporary cabinets, and white tile backsplash give the kitchen a modern feel. The design works with the openness of the space, making this an ideal first home for someone who likes to entertain since there’s plenty of room for additional seating. Consider refinishing the island cabinets and painting the walls for a more seamless look.

Rugs are a great way to divide a large room without blocking sight lines. The white carpet really sets off the living space. McArdle suggests laying down a floor covering with a bold pattern to really define the dining area.

Overall, this home has a very functional layout, with the private bedrooms and public space of the living room clearly separated. A first-time buyer wouldn’t need to worry about renovations, plus there’s plenty of room to have overnight guests.

Click through for more photos and the floorplan, and check out this other stylish Brooklyn home:

Property 3: Los Angeles Home for the Young Family

There’s a lot to consider for the first family home, but room to grow is at the top of the list. In this Hollywood home, an open layout makes the most of the 2,000 square feet. Plus, there’s an attached two-car garage for extra storage.

To give the home more personality, McArdle suggests adding an interesting design element to the kitchen—a fresh coat of sunny yellow paint would do wonders—and upgrading the bedrooms.

“The bedrooms are slightly one-note, but some textured wallpaper and brightly-colored trim would instantly enliven them,” says McArdle. “A statement-making ceiling pendant would be essential here as well.”

There are four bathrooms, which appear to be recently renovated, with upgraded fixtures and tiling. No major changes are needed (a huge bonus for a first home), but to make the space your own, McArdle suggests some smaller tweaks. “Swapping out the existing hardware for black matte knobs and finding some black shower fixtures will immediately change the style of the entire room.”

Click through for more photos, and check out more LA homes:

Property 4: Miami Condo for the Amenities-Obsessed Buyer

Just because you purchase a place doesn’t mean you have to part with full-service perks. When you buy in this Miami highrise, you get more than just a condo. The building boasts all the amenities you could dream of (and more), from two pools and a state-of-the-art fitness center with steamroom and sauna.

And with its floor-to-ceiling windows and sweeping vistas, this sun-drenched condo is perfect for a single bachelor or bachelorette to entertain. However, floor-to-ceiling windows limit the amount of wall space to use when arranging and decorating your home, so it’s important to understand your needs before you go all-in.

Here, the Miami skyline is a major selling-point, so it’s smart to decorate around it. McArdle suggests arranging your furniture to take advantage of the view. “Sheer drapes would frame the view out nicely,” she says.

As for the living room, McArdle recommends bringing in a sectional and two armchairs or a bench and changing the configuration, so the seating area is oriented towards the windows.

If you’re not set in your style as a first-time buyer, you’ll want a home that can adapt to a variety of aesthetics—something this condo offers, according to McArdle. “The unit has so much design potential. I would love to see more sleek, transitional modern pieces in keeping with the clean lines of the space.”

The kitchen is also flush with possibilities. “I would put in a light grey quartz countertop and run that up the backsplash as well,” says McArdle. “And then swap out the hardware for something unique, like leather pulls or chrome knobs with black matte detailing.”

Click through to see the rest of the home, and see more sleek Miami homes: