5 Mistakes to Avoid When Decorating Your First Apartment

studio apartment
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Moving into your first apartment is a big deal. In the midst of all the excitement, it can be tempting to get everything you need in one swift shopping trip, especially if the apartment lacks really basic stuff—after all, you need somewhere to sit, sleep, and eat!

Great interior design doesn't happen in an instant, though. It takes time, persistence, and a willingness to live with the imperfect while you search for just the right pieces. Therefore, even though it may be tempting to schedule that weekend trip to IKEA, don't jump the gun—otherwise, you could end up with an apartment full of regrets.

Mistake #1: Buying All Furniture at Once

In an apartment that lacks really basic stuff, you will need anything that didn't come to you as a hand-me-down. It's perfectly understandable that you'd want to fill it up as quickly as possible. However, racing out to buy a lot of furniture at once can be a big mistake—and an expensive one.

The best thing to do is make a list of the major items you need and purchase them in order of importance. If you desperately need a sofa then, by all means, get one, but don't buy the coffee table, side tables, chairs and everything else all at the same time. Spend some time looking for the right pieces and make the purchases as it makes sense for your budget.

Mistake #2: Filling the Space Too Quickly

Rushing into things can lead to regrets—it's as true in decorating as it is with anything else. It's not just about the furniture; the sentiment goes for rugs, lighting, and accessories, too. Decorating a room is a little bit like putting together a puzzle. Each piece connects in a way that might not be clear when you first start.

The best way to deal with this is to make a decorating plan before you start. That way you can begin to put all the pieces of the puzzle together before spending any money. You can figure out what furniture you need, what type of rug will work with that furniture, all the types of lighting you should have, and so on. It will also help you to determine how much you can spend, and which items should have priority.

Mistake #3: Buying All the Accessories in the Same Place

One of the cardinal rules of decorating is that you shouldn't buy everything in one place—not the furniture and definitely not the accessories. Every room should look like it has developed over time, and that's virtually impossible when everything is bought at the same store. Also, when everything is from one store it doesn't really reflect your style—it just reflects the style of the store's purchasing manager.

Accessories are what make a home feel personal. Perhaps a piece of art is something you found while on a trip with family or maybe a little knick-knack is something you purchased while out antiquing with a friend. It doesn't really matter what the story is, as long as the things in your home reflect your life and the journey you've taken. 

Mistake #4: Buying Only Cheap Items

Most people moving into their very first apartment are on a budget and therefore are looking for things to be as inexpensive as possible. There are certainly ways to decorate cheaply; however, even when on a budget, it's important to still think about quality, particularly for the major pieces. Just because it's your first place doesn't mean you shouldn't buy things with longevity in mind.

For instance, when it comes to buying a sofa, you should always get the best quality piece of furniture that you can afford. When you purchase things that are low-quality it's inevitable that they will need to be replaced at some point in the not-too-distant future. While it's OK to try and save money by way of upcycling and being creative, don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. When it comes to big-ticket items, buy the best quality you can afford. The key is to know what items to splurge on and what items you can save on. That said, always be cautious of your budget, and don't overspend just for the sake of spending.

Mistake #5: Settling for Generic Items

If your first apartment is a rental, you might find that it's tricky to put your own stamp on it. Many rental units have restrictions about what types of changes you can make and, as a result, a lot of people don't decorate in a way they would really like. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can still do to make a rental unit your own in a nonpermanent way. If possible, switch out the existing window treatments, light fixtures, and hardware; layer area rugs over the existing floors or carpet; decorate with removable wallpaper that won't leave marks or, if your landlord approves, paint all the walls, trim and doors. There's no need to live in a generic apartment with no personality simply because you're renting.