Published on September 18, 2020

I’m terrible at following my own advice. A year ago, I waxed poetic about the value of getting ahead of decorating before moving, not months after. But of course, back in September of last year, I changed apartments again, without a design plan in place. Life got in the way, and my S.O. and I learned to make do with the limited amount of furniture I brought over from my old studio. It didn’t matter that we ate dinner at the kitchen island—we ended up in restaurants multiple times a week—and we could take our time picking the right sofa because we were barely ever home to sit on it.

Then the pandemic hit and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to hightail it out of New York City to stay with family. The additional square footage, fresh air, and family time probably saved us from a dramatic confinement-induced breakup. But for many, Labor Day weekend is synonymous with getting back to reality and, for us, that meant coming home. 

Almost immediately, we realized that it was one thing for us to live in a half-furnished apartment when we were in and out daily, but it was quite another to be working from home with only one proper desk space, in each other’s face 24-7. 

Waiting for furniture with long lead times wasn’t an option. Instead, I turned to ZZ Driggs, a rental decor company unlike most others. No fast-furniture pieces here, only a carefully curated mix of contemporary items from local furniture-makers and creatives, plus a smattering of vintage pieces that would give any place a bit of soul. Whitney Falk, the company’s founder, knows firsthand the woes of being a nomad who appreciates great interiors—she has me beat with 22 moves so far. So it’s no surprise that ZZ Driggs provided more smart solutions than I ever anticipated.

Test a Fabric Before a Big Purchase

Our old sofa—an armless 5-foot-long piece I snagged on sale years ago—was great when I lived alone. But with a 6-foot-5 giant next to me, Netflix night was more about fighting for seating real estate than it was about enjoying the movie. 

Our new sectional wouldn’t arrive for another couple of months, so in the meantime, I picked out a longer sofa from ZZ Driggs with a specific strategy in mind: The rusty velvet fabric was near identical to the one we had purchased. It gave us a great idea of what our new long-term piece would look and feel like and was sure to match anything else we bought in the meantime. 

Try Multiple Layouts Until One Fits Just Right

As for my original love seat? We didn’t want to part ways with it so we temporarily tucked it in the area next to the kitchen, which will one day become our breakfast nook (complete with custom banquette). When our ZZ dining table arrived—carried by a team playing John Legend on a vintage boom box no less—it went right where I had imagined it. 

But then I had a change of heart. Wouldn’t it look much better by the bookcase where we could sit face-to-face comfortably, play board games, work during the day, and still have a love seat as an extra seating option? Turns out even the best-laid plans sometimes need a little tweaking. And doing it before getting all the wrong permanent furniture delivered is worth its weight in gold.

Find Ways to Keep Clutter in Check

When we moved, I owned only one nightstand and lamp. My boyfriend’s arms are almost twice as long as mine, so naturally it made sense for me to keep the table on my side—he could reach his book on the floor much easier than I could. That solution was meant to only be for a few weeks, tops! Needless to say, a matching set of nightstands was at the very top of our list. 

I chose new storage pieces that could fit so much more than just novels. Bills scattered on the kitchen island? Gone. Makeup and hair tools? Out of sight. 

One of the big reasons we decided to go the rental furniture route is that everything is so uncertain right now: What will Manhattan feel like in the dead of winter when so many people have left town and stores are still closed? Will we still want to pay sky-high rents if remote working becomes the norm? The whole experience has given us the energy to start decorating again no matter the outcome. If and when we commit to staying in the city for good, we’ll invest in a couple rugs and paint the baseboards. But for now our mishmash apartment finally feels like home.

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