Spend or Save? Tips for Furnishing and Decorating Your First Apartment

Furnishing a new apartment means making choices. You may really want to purchase that overstuffed sofa, the metallic-trimmed bar cart, and those to-die-for Lucite chairs, but trends will come and go. Tastes will change. And lets face it—funds are limited. Follow our guide on when to spend and when you may want to opt for a cheaper version.
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To get the lowdown on where to spend and where to splurge, we consulted a pro. Pierre Josselin is an associate at HBA Design, the firm that designs those gorgeous Ritz-Carltons and Park Hyatts we’re always lusting after on Pinterest and in travel mags. But while Josselin knows luxury, he also knows what’s NOT worth your preciously earned dollars.


Spend
Even on a limited budget, there are some pieces it's worth spending a bit more on than others.


Pieces You Love
If you’re going to break open that wallet and really spend on select furniture pieces for your first apartment, make sure it’s an item you absolutely love. “There is a French phrase, un coup de coeur,” says Josselin. “This means when you see something or someone, and straight away you melt for it.” If it’s a piece you know you are going to love for years, feel free to invest in it. However, keep in mind that that piece should be something that is easily movable. Which brings me to my next point.


Small Pieces
Forbes magazine reported “91 percent of Millenials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years.” And a change in employment often means a change of apartment. When furnishing your apartment only spend money on items you will always be able to use in a new space. That overstuffed couch may seem worth the money, but a beautiful armchair is more likely to fit in any new space you move into. “Certain items like an armchair, a great work of art, a gorgeous frame, you can always put these in a new space,” says Josselin. “They can go in an entryway, in a bedroom, in the sitting room. They can be accents in several locations.”


Home details, such as pieces of art, are also good investments for the individuality and personality they can add to your space. Find an emerging local artist or have a piece commissioned particularly to your tastes, and you’ll have an item that adds immense value to any home.


Textured Pieces
Certain textures will look more expensive whether you choose to spend the extra money, or find a discounted version. I’ve been loving all the white furniture my favorite design bloggers have been showcasing in their own apartments, but white décor can walk a fine line between stylish and cold. “If you want to incorporate white in your décor, lacquered pieces really give elegance and an expensive feel to a piece,” says Josselin. “Just make sure to set them against a darker colored wall to keep the look warm.” Josselin also recommends mixing textures for an expensive look. “If you have an upholstered sofa, maybe choose armchairs with metal or wood arms. Keep in the same color family, but make one item a fabric and one item a leather.” 


Save
When furnishing your apartment there are certain pieces you have to get thrifty with, no matter how much you love them.


Large Items
Large items like a sofa, armoire or dining table may fit in your current apartment but not necessarily in future homes. These are the items you may one day have to hawk on Craigslist or sadly, leave behind on the curb as you move on to bigger and better things. Thus, you’ll probably mourn losing that item one day. Don’t let yourself mourn the price tag as well.


And while you’re pinching pennies on your dining room table, searching thrift shops and checking out how difficult an IKEA piece is to assemble, don’t feel that you have to sacrifice style. “Funky dining chairs can really add personality to a simple table,” says Josselin. “Never buy a full set of things or feel like every piece has to match every other piece in the room. In fact, that’s bad design. Start with a piece you love and add accent items.” Accent items are also perfect for multi-tasking. Josselin suggests using those same funky dining chairs as an alternative to your office desk chair.


Colored Accents
Colored accents in the form of throw pillows or dining chairs can add instant personality to an apartment. Purchase these items with lower price points so you can spend less but get more. “Stores like IKEA, CB2 and West Elm have great colored cushions to add graphic print or texture to a plain beige sofa,” says Josselin. Changing small details, like cushions, with the seasons or when you have the urge to decorate, can give your apartment a fresh look without paying for a major remodel or paint job. Avoid that ‘shopped the entire catalog page’ look and make sure to mix and match.


If you want to add in some color in a larger home item, Josselin suggests sticking to colors found in nature like purples or greens. (Check out our fashion blogger, Devon Rachel’s beautiful green sofa here.)


Paint
Paint comes in a large array of price scales, anywhere from $30 to $150, but don’t be fooled. “I’ve never seen a paint look bad because it was cheap. The only thing that will really make a paint look bad is if you have the wrong color.” Before buying all your supplies and a full bucket, take home a small sample. Paint a small slab of the wall and leave it on for a couple of days to see how you react and how the color looks in different lighting at throughout the day. Make sure to comparison shop prices as well. Companies like Home Depot often have price match policies to match a local retailer, or even beat it by 10 percent. 

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