How to Furnish an Off-Campus Apartment for the College Student

college friends relaxing in new home
Off campus apartments give you a great chance to begin exploring your own sense of style. Tom Merton/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Furnishing a first off-campus apartment is an exciting experience. There is a sense of freedom that comes from having a place of your own.

Money can often be tight, but you want your place to look nice and even though you may not realize it at first, you need it to be functional as well. If you have the place to yourself, you will want to furnish it differently than if you plan to share with roommates.

And whichever route you end up taking, it is always best to clear with your landlord whether you can change the paint or hang pictures or mirrors on the wall.

When You're Sharing an Apartment

Sharing an apartment with others could turn out to be an affordable arrangement in many different ways. You share the rent, utilities, and other expenses, such as for furniture.

  • When you are sharing your apartment with others it might be a good idea to compare notes to see if any roommates already own furniture or other furnishings they can bring. Do this before you buy any new furniture.
  • If it is important to you to have a place that looks attractive, you might want to decide on colors or furnishing pieces that are mutually acceptable, especially in common areas. Furnish beautifully and avoid ugly disagreements.
  • While sharing the cost of different furniture pieces may sound attractive at first, remember that eventually, you or your roommates will move out. When that happens, it might be hard to decide who gets to keep what, or how to split one piece of furniture between two people. It is better to buy separate pieces instead of sharing the cost of one.

    When You Have Your Own Studio Apartment

    You might eventually decide that you want to live alone and be fortunate enough to find an affordable studio apartment. Sometimes these apartments might be already furnished, but if not, here are some suggestions:

    • Furnish your apartment with furniture you might be bringing from the dorm.
    • Use furniture that does double duty, like a futon which can double as a bed at night and be a couch for lounging during the day. Consider a table that doubles as a desk or dining table.
    • Keep folding chairs and sleeping bags or inflatable mattresses for when you decide to have friends over.
    • Shelves, under-bed storage, or closet organizers may help you organize better because clutter can ruin any small space.

    Where to Find Affordable Furniture

    • You may not have to buy all your furniture. Maybe your parents are planning on parting with that old couch. Ask your grandparents or other relatives if they want to part with any furnishings.

      There might be treasures in the garage or basement at home that are not being used. Ask for these if you can transport them easily without additional expense.

    • Look online. The classified section of your local newspaper or craigslist.com might have listed free furniture that you could possibly use. Somebody's castoffs could find a new life in your apartment.
    • Take a walk in your neighborhood or go dumpster diving. Sometimes people leave perfectly usable furniture sitting on the curbside when they move. Don't bring in anything that is too damaged or dilapidated, unless you are good with your hands and have the time and tools to fix it. Remember that certain used furnishings are best avoided.
    • Shop at local garage sales or yard sales. You can always haggle for the price you are willing to pay. Show up early or go very late, as both times are good for finding bargains.
    • Shop at local thrift stores, you never know what you can find to use or even re-purpose as you please.

    Best Pieces of Furniture For Your Money

    Choose furniture that is functional and can be used for many different purposes. Look for smaller scaled furniture if possible.

    • Sleepers and futons are excellent for first apartments.
    • Ottomans can be used for storage, as coffee tables, or just to stretch your legs.
    • Folding or stacking chairs for when guests come over. IKEA has some very affordable ones
    • Storage bins, baskets, and cubes. Target often has sales on these items and you can find them at IKEA as well.
    • Consider indoor/outdoor rugs because they are pretty stain resistant and can be cleaned up easily. They might be useful in covering up ugly apartment carpeting.
    • Outdoor furniture is often less expensive than indoor furniture, you might be able to find attractive and comfortable pieces that serve the same purpose for less.