Updated: Mar 31, 2019
Purchasing your first house is an exciting time. There are endless possibilities for how you can personalize your space and make it your own, but it also might be a little nerve-racking deciding where you should start.
Luckily, we’ve put together a list to put your anxieties to rest. We reached out to expert interior designers to get their insight on furnishing your first house. Read on for their tips!
The Bare Necessities
Before you add any items to your online shopping cart or start pinning design inspirations to your Pinterest board, take a moment to establish a budget for new home furnishings. Remember: You just moved in to your first home. There’s no pressure to have a fully-furnished home straight from the get-go.
First make a list of furniture necessities, suggests Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada. “[A] bed, a table with chairs and maybe one sofa … allows you to entertain, share a meal and get some sleep,” she explains.
After living in your home for some time, you’ll start to realize what things you actually need versus want. Ashley Marino, the owner of Ashley Marino Designs, advises decorating one room at a time, prioritizing your purchases based on where you spend the most time in your home. We’ll talk more about that next.
Prioritize High-Traffic Areas
If you’re in the market to buy new furniture, Marino suggests to focus your efforts on the areas in your house that get the most use. Then, prioritize furnishing these areas before the other rooms in your home.
“Do you love snuggling on the couch while watching Netflix, or are you a host who loves to have dinner parties? Prioritize the areas that you’ll be in most when it comes to purchasing furniture,” Marino suggests.
By prioritizing the rooms you know you’ll get the most use out of, you can spread out your trips to the furniture store, give your budget a break and take your time.
Spencer Chambers, owner of The Chambers Organization, recommends you “keep things basic in the beginning, if necessary” asserting that “making the home livable at first,” is prioritized over styling and decorating.
Refurbish, Repurpose, Recycle
You’ll soon find that the funds to furnish your first home is one of the hidden costs of homeownership. And while you might be in the market to buy some key pieces of furniture (a bed, a dining room set, a couch), other pieces may come at a pretty penny.
If you find that you have a tight budget when it comes to home furnishings, Chambers suggests reaching out to family and friends to see if they’re looking to get rid of any extra furniture. This route is ideal, because even if they’re looking to sell the furniture, you might still be able to get it at a bargain.
Additionally, any Pinterest or DIY website will tell you that refurbishing old or outdated furniture is in. Marino suggests this as a more affordable option.
If you’re in the market to buy home furnishings, there are places for affordable home décor that will help get you started
Make Sure It Measures Up
Before you begin seriously styling your space, make sure you account for the amount of room you have to work with in each area of your home.
“Looks can be deceiving in a showroom, and that chair or sofa may take up much more room in your home than you think,” warns Pam Faulkner of Faulkner House Interior Redesign.
Faulkner says to consider the architecture of each room, accounting for the size, the placement of doors, window and walls, and to consider how high the ceiling is. This “will determine how the furniture, lighting and wall décor may be used and placed.”
To prepare yourself, Faulkner advises having a floor plan with exact measurements and location of outlets, floor and wall vents, plus the height, width and length of doors, doorways, halls and stairways. To make this process easier, there are apps for just that.
Establish Your Style
Your personal style essentially reflects who you are. Are you an outdoorsy nature lover? Are you a polished perfectionist? Or more minimalist and intentional? Think of the attributes that represent who you are and translate them into furniture. After all, you’re the person who’ll be spending the most time in your home, so make sure it’s something that you’ll enjoy aesthetically and functionally.
However, if you don’t know how to find your style, the best way to start, according to Maria Stone, professional organizer, and décor and Feng Shui specialist at I-Deal Lifestyle, is to do your research. “It could be a mixture of styles, a more eclectic look, or it could be traditional, contemporary, modern or vintage,” Stone explains.
You can also utilize online platforms like Pinterest that help you build a board of home decorating and design ideas. When you figure out what home décor items best represent your style, you’ll be better equipped to add your personal touch to your new home.
Personalize Your Space
If you took the route of repurposing furniture or snagging hand-me-down decorations from friends and family, it can feel like your space is more eclectic rather than the best representation of your personal style. Emma Lundwall, an intuitive interior decorator based in New York City, says that there’s an easy way to fix this.
By adding small, personal details to your space, you can enhance your current furnishings and provide a more fluid style between the old and new pieces in your home.
“Splurge on a scented candle or two, and get into the habit of lighting one every time you come home,” says Lundwall. “This will instantly create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and guests won’t mind so much that not everything in your home matches perfectly.”
Lunwall also suggests a bouquet of fresh flowers or a luxurious Egyptian cotton hand towel in the bathroom to create a welcoming vibe in your home.
Decorate Around Your Favorite Pieces
Much like adding a personal touch to your home, Marino suggests to pick a few of your favorite current pieces, perhaps a statement sofa or enticing end table, and decorate around those pieces to draw attention to that area.
“Go on Pinterest to see what kinds of rooms you’re drawn to,” she advises, “and then go from there to curate your own personal style.”
By decorating around your favorite pieces in each room, you’re emphasizing that particular space, with the intention of drawing the eye of guests who enter that room. This is an easy way to add a decorated and completed look to your space without the pressure of having to decorate every corner of the room.
However, make sure you don’t overdo it. By adding a few striking items, you can make a larger impact in the room. In other words: Less is more!
Less Is More
There are many benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle that don’t just apply to decluttering your closet. From psychological health to financial freedom, many have found success with applying minimalism to every aspect of their lives.
To clarify, minimalism doesn’t mean only have one couch in a completely empty room. It just means getting rid of anything that’s not a necessity, like furniture pieces you don’t use or clothes you don’t wear. So when you’re decorating your new space, think about furnishing your home with items you’ll actually use on a somewhat day-to-day basis.
“Make sure you only let things you actually want, and need, enter your home,” says Lundwall. “Moving is an excellent time to declutter.”
Lundwall recommends cleaning out your space regularly, donating any items you find that you’re not using regularly anymore. Quality over quantity is the name of the game when making your home more minimalistic.
Neutrals Are Your Best Friend
Hand-in-hand with the ideals of minimalism is keeping the base of your home as neutral as possible. Make sure you don’t overload your space by painting your walls too many colors or adding in too many textures and designs in your furniture and décor.
Keep your design simple by keeping all walls, floors and ceilings white or neutral (like beige or cream), suggests Lundwall, and then, add pops of color on details like a throw pillow on a couch or a bedspread in your master bedroom.
“You can always change it up as you feel like it, or as the seasons shift, and you don’t need to decide on an overall color scheme right from the start,” she adds.
If you have issues with color commitment, Lundwall proposes living in the space for at least a few months to “get a feel for what colors you want to surround yourself with.”
Lighting Is Key
Let there be light!
It should come as no surprise that access to good lighting sources is a must for a functional space in any home. Faulkner stresses that “good lighting is key for both the overall look, feel and function in any room.”
You’ll want to make sure that you have adequate window coverings for privacy, light and temperature control. Faulkner recommends curtains, shades and shutters for critical use in controlling the natural light in your home.
If you don’t have the best access to natural light in your home, creating a cozy ambiance in your home is as easy as having many smaller light sources around the room, suggests Lundwall.
“Whatever you do, stay away from blue, fluorescent light bulbs” she stresses. “Opt for ones with more yellow, warmer light.”
Of course, the most important tip to remember when furnishing your first house is to remember that every first-time homeowner is unique. While some might have a little more wiggle room in their budget for home furnishings, others might want to save by shopping at discount stores.
Remember that this home is completely your own, and at the end of the day, you’re the one living in it and it should work for your personal style and needs.