A first apartment is an exciting time for any young adult. But knowing what furnishings you need can be a bit of a conundrum. In the old days, most first time apartment dwellers were happy with second hand furnishings and shelving made out of cinder blocks and particle board. But today, there's many more choices, even for those on a small budget.
While it may be tempting to go dumpster diving or thrift store shopping, you can work a lot of magic with your limited budget by planning exactly what you need and what you can add later. By not trying to do it all at once, you can invest more money in key items you want to last a long time, such as a bed.
If you haven't purchased any furniture yet, make sure you can take measurements of your first apartment before you go shopping or deciding what to take from home. You don't want to spend an hour wrestling a king sized mattress up four flights of stairs, only to find that it won't go up the last flight in your apartment because the opening is too small.
To help you figure out what you need, let's go room by room.
A really good option for seating in a first apartment is a futon or sofa bed. Not only does it offer a nice seating area, but you can use it when friends want to spend the night. Try to stay away from the old fashioned hide-a-beds. Their not comfortable to sit on, they're even worse to sleep on, and you'll get really tired of lugging them around from one apartment to another as you trade up.
Add a couple of end tables and a coffee table and you're well on your way to furnishing the living room. If you need additional seating, floor pillows can work or you can get an ottoman, if you want versatility. Of course, most people want an entertainment center, so get one that can grow with the size of TV you plan to get down the road. And don't forget storage areas, which can be in the entertainment center or you can use a bookcase with shelves and doored areas.
In a first apartment you may not need a dining room table, unless you want to use it to do homework or have a poker night with friends. Chances are a couple bar stools at a breakfast nook will do just fine. If you really want a dining table, go with a bistro table or kitchenette that can be reused down the road in your next apartment or house.
This is an important room to furnish since you spend one-third of your life there. Invest in a good bed because you'll probably have it at least 8 to 10 years, perhaps even longer. Try to get a queen or even a king, if possible, since you'll hold onto it longer than a full size. A dresser is a good option, too, since many apartments are short on closet space. Round it all out with a nightstand or two for an alarm clock and you're good to go. Alternately, a cedar chest can double as a night stand and give you additional storage space.
In this day and age a lot of people spend as much time on their computer as they do in bed. It's wise to get the best chair and desk you can afford. A bookcase can come in handy, too for storing supplies and software.
If you have an outdoor space, you'll want to create an escape that is comfortable and relaxing. A bistro table will work nicely on a patio or deck, along with a barbecue. Alternately, you can get a couple of chairs and a small outdoor occasional table. It largely depends on the size of your space.
This is a personal choice, of course. But personalizing your space can really make it feel more like home and you'll look forward to coming home to your first apartment if it feels comfortable and welcoming. Lamps are perhaps the biggest consideration, since apartments tend to offer a single fixture on the ceiling and nothing else. Choose lamps that will work well in your next couple of places. Don't go with something that's too trendy.
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