By Mackenzie Dunn

Published on April 28, 2018

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Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Ah, the joys of your very first apartment. Not only is it a milestone for #adulting, but something about tackling your very own blank slate feels especially exciting. From finding affordable furniture to adding personal touches to make the place feel more like “you”, every little action feels like a step towards achieving even more independence. But let’s be real, it also can get overwhelming. You’ve got the apartment—now what?! Ahead, some of our favorite designers share their tips for first apartment must-haves. We’re talking what you should splurge on, and what can make your first place feel markedly more homey, and more. Say goodbye to that drab dorm decor, and add these items to your checklist, ASAP.

Statement Lighting

Natalie Myers of Veneer Designs stresses the impact of bold lighting fixtures. “One thing on my checklist is incredible statement-making light fixtures. You can take them with you to the next place and boy will they make a huge impact on elevating the space while you are there.”

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Nesting Bowls

Joanna Hawley of Jojotastic says not to overlook the essentials. “This is odd, but I would say a great set of nesting bowls. I cook a lot and have had my set since my very first solo apartment. When I cook now, I always think back on the day I got them and how they were a bit of a budget-stretch for me at the time — and how I’ll never part with them!”

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Rugs galore

Becki Owens says that every first apartment needs a rug you love. “Add a runner to your kitchen or great color and interest to your entry with a vintage-style rug. For a large living area, pick a rug that will create a pretty foundation for the room in the color palette you love. You can build the room and layer from there.”

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A quality sofa

Quite a few of our favorite designers named a high-quality sofa as a definite must-have for a first place. For those looking where to start on furnishings, this one piece may be worth the splurge!

“Splurge on a good sofa and coffee table because these will be the focal point of the main living space.” says Lindye Galloway—Shea McGee of Studio McGee agrees. She says to get the best neutral sofa within your budget. “You’ll be able to take it with you and swap out color palettes easily with new throw pillows.” And while style and functionality is top priority for Ashley Burdette of Sugar & Cloth, Stephanie Watkins of CasaWatkins emphasizes she looks for a sofa that great for both entertaining and napping. We couldn’t agree more.

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Houseplants

We love Susana Simonpietri of Chango & Co’s logical and sentimental thoughts on including a few houseplants in the design of your first place.

“I think young people moving into their first apartment should buy a beautiful plant (think olive tree, fiddle leaf fig, rubber fig or cactus) and find a pretty planter for it. Plants not only add a lot of beauty to spaces, but also keep us company and teach us to be in tune with our spaces in a way that nothing else can. They teach us about caring for something and for our spaces. I find them to be fantastic for young people to start with and one of the best feelings is seeing a plant grow with you and being able to carry it from one home to another as our lives change.”

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Drapes

Lindye Galloway also pointed out the importance of adding drapery to soften the walls and take the attention off the ugly apartment blinds you might be stuck with. Plus, it’s easy to change out drapes for a quick, seasonal update. 

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Art

Never underestimate the impact of some great art pieces that really speak to you. Sarah Wittenbraker says that if she could do it all over again, “I would have started acquiring art from upcoming artists and flea markets, so I could start growing a meaningful collection.”

Get more first apartment advice:

Everything I Bought at Ikea for My First Apartment
14 Things To Stop Keeping in Your Apartment After College

Your First Apartment Checklist

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