Your First Apartment -
Use these seven guidelines to help make it your own space
You're on your own finally! Planning and decorating your first apartment can be
a nightmare - there are so many choices, so little money. Apartments are often
small, bland, sterile and architecturally deprived. But you can transform them into a
personal, unique space. It's a time of personal challenge and fun if you look at
it the right way. Don't be afraid.
The important key is to express your personality while staying within your
budget. Since you don't own the space, you're going to want to bring in
decorating ideas that you are allowed to do and that you can take with you when
1. Look to Show Your Personality
First you need to decide what kind of "look" you want for your
apartment. There are many styles to choose from, or you can always combine one
or more together. For a list of styles to consider, visit
Once you find your preference, try to stick to your theme throughout your
apartment. This way you will create flow and rhythm, which
will give your space a sense of harmony and balance.
But this is still "your space" and need to reflect who you are, so
don't get too uptight. If you are going to mix styles, make sure you have a good
mixture, but make sure one style dominates. The odd accessory gives your place personality and should tell
something about the person who dwells there—you, but one odd-ball can attract
too much attention to itself, thus defeating your purpose. Just don't go
overboard with too much going on. That will not only make the space feel
overwhelming but it can make it appear smaller than it is.
2. Choose a Color Scheme
Select three or four of your favorite colors, and use them throughout your
apartment, varying the amount of each. Let one color dominate, then use half
that much as your second color and only a little bit of the third color. Change
your proportions for a different room to get some variety without interrupting
the flow and unity. Don't make the apartment feel chopped up and disjointed by
using lots of different colors and patterns in every room.
3.Scale is Very Important
Chances are your first apartment will be small and without much of a view. So
it's really important to purchase furniture that is sized according to the
space. Watch out for the impulse to purchase a huge overstuffed sofa or a giant
screen TV that takes up a huge amount of space.
Measure your available space. Cut out sections from the newspaper or
butcher block paper and lay on the floor to make sure you have enough walk way
(traffic pattern). For more on traffic patterns, click here. In smaller rooms, one or
two small pieces of upholstered or leather-covered furniture work well with
plain traditional wood or modern chrome chairs. Sofas now come in all shapes and
sizes so don't overlook an armless version to give a sense of open space, or a
slightly curved design to lend shape to a boxy apartment.
Be sure to measure your doors and the building's elevator before purchasing
furniture to make sure you can get it in. Many older buildings have smaller
doors than the more modern apartments. You don't want to buy something you can't
4. Look for Bargains
Don't use up your budget in one large purchase then have to live with an
empty apartment for some time. You can generally save a lot of money at antique malls, church bazaars, junk shops and flea
markets, and you can even find some real quality too? It it not unheard of to be
able to completely furnish an entire room for under $500. A little effort
expended could really save you a huge amount of money and if it is arranged
properly (get my eBook, Decor Secrets Revealed) you'd be amazed at how terrific
"old" furnishings can look.
Check out the "U.S. Flea Market Directory: A Guide to the Best Flea Markets
in All 50 States" by Albert Lafarge. Its extensive listings of markets and dates
will help you decide where to go. Look in your local Yellow Pages for a list of
2nd hand stores or thrift stores. Some older communities have entire
blocks lined with thrift stores.
5. Even Though Old, Value Quality First
Good news: Even though you are trying to stay budget-minded on your first
foray into decorating territory, it is possible—and recommended—to find items of
quality that are well-made and built to last. If you purchase a new but poorly
crafted table or upholstered piece just because it comes at a bargain price,
it's really no bargain at all. It will show wear early, perhaps lasting only a
few years at best and then you'll have to replace it. Better to hunt for a
chipped but solid old table and give it new life through a sanding and wax
touch-up or can of paint.
6. Make Lists and Stay Focused
Don't let yourself get distracted. Stay focused. In the overwhelming midst of
thousands of choices, chances are you'll purchase something that is less than
ideal. It's happened to all of us. Or you'll pass up something you
know you should have bought, only to find out later it was sold.
Always have your swatches with you - fabric, paint, wood. Some of the best
purchases I have made happened with I least expected them. So always be prepared
because you never know when you'll run across that "perfect
item". Refer to your list often so you remember what you need.
7. Sometimes More is More
The last thing you want to do is make your small space look cluttered and
overdone. But by the same token, many decorating accessories look much better if
placed in a small group rather than featured all alone. Instead of one bookcase,
put three together
against a big wall for a ready-made wall unit. Hang a series of six or eight
prints together for a dramatic statement. Two identical potted floor
plants on either side of a chair looks orderly and well-planned. Four thick,
down pillows on your bed appear more inviting and "finished" than two thin
ones, which might appear kind of lost and lonely.
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