Making my apartment more like Mom & Dad's
September 9, 2010 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Finally moved to a big(ger), cheap(er) apartment in Brooklyn with my boyfriend after years in a tiny apartment in Manhattan with my best friend. Now that I have more space and disposal cash, I want to make my apartment a real home. Suggestions, please?

Over the past few years I have noticed that when I stay at my parents' house, it feels like I am living in the lap of luxury, simply because they have THINGS, and room to PUT those things. So if I want to make a cake - guess what, there is a cake mix in the pantry and the appropriate pots and pans to do so!

I am not looking for decorating suggestions, but rather, those little items that aren't necessary for survival but give you comfort. Examples might be a shower radio, a universal remote, a ceiling fan. What do you have in your home that is luxurious or utilitarian that I don't have? (There is a LOT I don't have!)
posted by coupdefoudre to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Word has it that I may be receiving a Kitchaid Mixer for my birthday next month. The well loved kitchens of my foodie friends all have one. To me, THAT'S luxury, and I'll be all set after that.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:37 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you make a lot of cake (or cookies or brownies or just about any dessert), you should get a high-quality hand mixer. Maybe some day, if I have a house and a job, I'll get a stand mixer, but that's just wishful thinking for now. In the meantime, my little hand mixer and I are BFFs.
posted by phunniemee at 12:37 PM on September 9, 2010

Area rugs
Bed frame
Nice curtains
Tools (screwdriver, electric drill, hammer)
Plants inside
Plants outside
Nice couch pillows and throw
Sealed canisters for flour/sugar/rice/lentils/whatever
Clean matchy potholders
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:38 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the suggestion of nice curtains. As in, properly made to the dimensions of your windows, out of good heavy drapery fabric with a liner, not something you'd pick up at IKEA. They serve a multitude of practical functions. Privacy. Blocking out drafts - which, depending how old your building is (and, consequently, your windows) may become an issue during blustery winter days. Blacking out the unwanted rays of sun on those days when you want to sleep in.
posted by contessa at 12:45 PM on September 9, 2010

Let home blogs inspire you!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:46 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Great suggestions already! Beverages is particularly key - one I definitely hadn't hit on before. My parents always have a huge supply of pretty much anything you'd ever want to drink. I have an endless supply of water.
posted by coupdefoudre at 12:47 PM on September 9, 2010

We just bought a gel fireplace for our Manhattan apartment, and it is amazing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:47 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

As you have alluded to, a bare refrigerator never feels quite like home to me. Maybe it's the notion that, with a full fridge, you are more "part" of your kitchen and everything that might happen there. Cooking at home with friends, cleaning up afterward, preparing for the next meal...always makes it feel like you live there as opposed to just staying there.

I would second a nice area rug...which will last a lifetime and can move without no matter what your living situation. Bring your past with you.

Along those you have taken yourself. Those pictures that someone else took where you have your face pressed up against your buds with that "aren't we all having a crazy time?!" feel to them always seem a little dorm room-y to me. They don't always age well with you. Just take some pictures yourself of the places you go. Or the quiet moments. Put them in places you visit; near the toilet, on your dresser, next to the fridge, even on the backside of a closet door. Your apt will feel like "you."
posted by nickjadlowe at 12:48 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Consider coordinating your cleaning products etc. along the lines of a particular brand or scent so that your place has a uniform, signature olfactory calling card that says (or smells of) 'home.'
posted by analog at 12:48 PM on September 9, 2010

Best answer: I recently got an ipod dock/radio for the kitchen and it is just about the MOST EXCITING THING in my life. My kitchen set-up is apart from most of the rest of the house so it can get boring spending a lot of time in there without other distractions. I love being able to listen to my music, podcasts, or just whatever's on the radio. I spend a gazillion hours a week in my kitchen, though, so YMMV.

P.S. If you go this route, I got mine on ebay for a supersteal vs what Best Buy was selling them for.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 12:52 PM on September 9, 2010

-Big, fluffy towls
-A well-stocked kitchen. For me, the ability to make brownies whenever I want them is key.
-A BALLER shower head. We have a handheld one that has 7 settings and the head itself is pretty wide. It's nice.
-Art hanging on the walls
-Proper organization for things (clothes/shoes/wires/junk)
-Nicer sheets. Nothing feels more luxurious than falling asleep/waking up on the fanciest sheets you can budget.
-A proper place to hang coats and other incidental type things. We have a coat closet, but it wasn't until we installed hooks under a shelf right by our front door did we stop hanging our coats/bags over every chair we could find.

Lastly, a clean, uncluttered house. You have no idea how much of a difference this makes. Nothing feels luxurious if it's covered in junk/dust/dirt/mold/mildew.
posted by two lights above the sea at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Pictures/ photos in nice frames

Mirrors on the wall that reflect light and help make rooms look bigger

Inexpensive but well-made furniture always makes a space look comfortable

Color co-ordinated appliances (can just be black or white, but the uniformity is nice)

Racks/ shelves that allow you to put things away rather than haphazardly leave them somewhere, such as magazines, shoes, coats, etc.

If you have bookshelves, try to fill them up with books or other knick-knacks (not clutter). IMHO, empty bookshelves look a little ...sad. :(

Plants/ flowers on vases on tables.

Personally, I like walking into my apartment and having it smell nice. That always makes me smile. Oddly enough, when I'm at work and yearning to go home to my cozy apartment... it's how I know my apartment is going to smell nice that I think of first. Candles, potpourri or electric fresheners can help.

I'm excited for you :) This kind of thing is fun!
posted by Everydayville at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2010

er, towels.
posted by two lights above the sea at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2010

I found a lot of awesome/quality/useful things that I hadn't thought of 'til I saw 'em by browsing thrift stores, free piles, craigslist, freecycle, and so forth. Now I'm all full up and have to give things to the thrift store and friends before I can take on any more awesome things. (Gave a sewing machine away the other day to acquire a better one, for instance.)

Give it time. Most of the folks I know (I'm also from the United States) very quickly tend to end up with the problem of too much stuff rather than not enough stuff. I wouldn't worry about going out and buying things. One by one, you'll need that tool/thing/etc. that would exactly serve your needs, and then you'll acquire it, and then you'll have it, and in a year or two, you'll find that you have sufficient stuff such that your home feels as useful and special as the home of your parents.
posted by aniola at 12:54 PM on September 9, 2010

Response by poster: aniola - good points indeed. I enjoyed living in Manhattan partially because it forced me to pare down my wardrobe and other non-essentials - I always feel better if own less things and feel uncluttered.

The reason I am asking this question is that I want to go into the process of acquiring more stuff in a controlled, premeditated way. I want to really want and foresee a reason to have something before I buy it. I don't want to end a Target shopping spree with a lot of stuff I bought to make my apartment homey, only to find out it didn't really do the trick and is just taking up space.
posted by coupdefoudre at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

We moved into our condo 3 years ago with almost no furniture and have slowly been filling it up over time. I save pictures of interior design ideas I like from magazines and websites so I can get a clear idea of what I want a room to look like before I start shopping. I have been trying to tackle one room at a time, and we just completed a kitchen redesign. The things that make a huge difference for me are the accessories - throw pillows, framed pictures, knick knacks, plants. If you have an idea of a color scheme for each room, you can pick up things that make sense to the big picture as you see them instead of ending up with an assortment of non-matching things that you kind of like.

Also, I can't recommend enough. They are an adorable couple with great taste and they do lots of remodel and design projects on the cheap. They have lots of tips and step-by-step instructions for larger projects.
posted by elvissa at 1:10 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

A pantry stocked with two of each of the (non-perishable, duh) things you ACTUALLY USE. Same for a freezer, but that might be tough in an apartment.

There's no delightful rollercoaster quite ilke the crestfallen "Dang! The box is empty!" and then the rush of "Hah! I'll just go grab the extra one on the shelf!" Just remember to update your grocery list when you use the last container of whatever
posted by wenestvedt at 1:22 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you like having things to drink, consider investing in a Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker. Bonus: It takes a large number of tea bags (obviously, since it makes up to 3 quarts), so you can make awesome mixes like Earl Grey/Mint/Black Tea.

Get a dry-erase board or some other notification system and keep track of the "staples" for your pantry/fridge. Juice, milk, eggs, bread, go-to breakfast cereal, brown sugar, whatever you use regularly.

If you're anything like me, you have a bunch of random souvenir or freebie mugs. Donate them and get yourself a nice matching set. Buy a coffee maker if you're a coffee person.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:25 PM on September 9, 2010

We got a portable dishwasher for our apartment (it doesn't have a built-in dishwasher). After three years of living without a dishwasher, it feels like quite the luxury. (It would be even more of a luxury if it were big enough to handle pots and pans but enh, you can't have everything in life.)
posted by phoenixy at 1:32 PM on September 9, 2010

I moved from Manhattan to an outer borough last year and what I really love? The big box stores - great priced toilet paper and paper towels and always having enough on hand. Sad, but true!
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:20 PM on September 9, 2010

Best answer: One of the key things to give me the "i'm a grown up, living in a grown up apartment" feeling was a stocked bar. Until then, i'd always only bought booze if i planned on drinking it that day or that weekend. Having a selection of different bottles of liquor and a couple bottles of wine just sitting there, waiting to be drunk, should i have the urge, or if a friend drops by, just feels really luxurious and grown up for some reason.

Also: A cupboard with things like extra lightbulbs and other household supplies. So that when a bulb burns out, you just go to your cupboard, instead of going to the store. Feels delicious.
posted by Kololo at 2:38 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah and also: throw cushions that didn't come with your couch (ie are in a different fabric than your couch.)
posted by Kololo at 2:39 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm happy when I have small things for the day to day events that come up. Here's my list:

Sewing kit: many colors of threads, organized needles and threader, spare buttons, a small ruler and sharp scissors.

A well stocked first aid kit: bandages, antibiotic ointment, anti-itch ointment, various OTC painkillers, tummy remedies, allergy medications, moleskin, tweezers, thermometer (I could go on and on....)

Stationary supplies: Paperclips, binder clips, elastics, stamps, envelopes, good pens and pencils (and a sharpener if you're old school) glue, paper, small notebooks.

Good luck and enjoy!
posted by littleflowers at 6:11 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The thing that made me really feel like I had a "grown-up" apartment was when I purchased two matching end tables with matching reading lamps. For whatever reason, it pulled the room together so nicely. A nice pair of coasters helps with this, too.

That, and hanging up the box full of pictures that I had accumulated over the years, instead of just moving from apartment to apartment with the box remaining packed.
posted by honeybee413 at 7:37 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When my husband and I got into our new place, we bought all new fancy hand soaps for the kitchen and bathroom. And we got real soap dispensers.

When you share an apartment with roommates, usually you want to get the cheapest stuff possible because you KNOW your roommates just going to use it all up anyway and replace it with the cheapest stuff when it's their turn to buy.

I would recommend looking at Anthropologie. Maybe I can't afford their new dresses (or even their sale dresses) but I CAN afford a $10 bottle of soap one every month or so.
posted by smirkyfodder at 8:29 AM on September 10, 2010

Oops, please ignore that "one" in the last sentence.
posted by smirkyfodder at 8:32 AM on September 10, 2010

I've said before this stuff varies sooo much, especially kitchen things--one man's luxe convenient time saver is another man's dusty pain in the ass heavy hassle--but since you asked what specifically has made me feel grown up, extra comfortable, and complete, well...

Good coasters, a Cuisinart food processor, a tall stock pot (KitchenAid or Cuisinart, I can't remember, but it's bizarrely lightweight and pretty yet sturdy and reliable, and was cheap at TJ Maxx) and everyday frying pan that for heaven's sake is BIG and sturdy enough (have you ever noticed bachelor pad pots and pans are never big enough to actually want to bother making time-consuming dishes in because there won't be leftovers?). Which materials and weight and design will make you happiest varies from person to person, ditto knives, so trial and error may be involved. A non-crappy large deep proper roasting pan so when you do get big cheap but impressive cuts of meat roasting them isn't daunting (that was another thing bachelors never seem to have). Yes yes YES to something dressing your windows besides those godawful disposable Venetian blinds, ugh. If you can sew and know where to get cute fabric for cheap, making your own simple short curtains is surprisingly affordable. Other than painting a room properly in a good hue, I think good window dressing makes the most difference visually and will make you feel like you live in a home, not just a transitory bachelor apartment...

Also agree about decent cute rugs on the floor and a nice central table for socializing and eating at. It doesn't have to be expensive either--we got ours at a thrift store, the shape was perfect and special (I like spindly, modern legs and smooth design, not heavy ornate stuff personally), it just needed some loving care re: finish. Agreeing with close-to-your-heart photos (consider oldold ones too, like, your parents or grandparents as children if you can find 'em, etc.) and things that mean something to you on the walls too.

You mentioned beverages and the idea of a well-stocked pantry. Hm. That is waaaay too personal/idiosyncratic to give specific recommendations about, but yes, it's worth sitting down a few times when you have a moment and listing what sorts of items you think, "if I had this on hand all the time just sitting around, I'd probably feel motivated to bake more" or whatever. Go through spices, herbs, grains, beans, sweeteners (molasses, maple syrup, honey, juices, various sugars), liquor and liqueurs and bitters if you drink, canned and frozen goods, crackers or whatever you might cook or bake with, not just snack on, condiments and sauces, vinegars, oils, mixes for things you think you'd actually use, whatever. I did this a while back and routinely go through it again and revise as my cooking tastes grow and change, but then, cooking is pretty much my number 1 hobby, so YMMV (me, I couldn't do without onions, shallots, garlic, cayenne, coriander and cumin, sumac, honey, lemons and limes, various nuts and dried fruits esp. pine nuts pistachios and sultanas, scallions, ginger, cardamom, fresh basil parsley rosemary mint tarragon, champagne and rice vinegar, olive oil, cannellini beans, black beans, fennel/anise, vanilla and almond extracts, unsalted butter, fresh pepper and kosher salt, Plymouth or Hendricks gin depending on mood/season, dry vermouth, bourbon, non-gross vodka, rum, some form of brandy/cognac, Peychaud's and Angostura bitters, affordable sparkling wine, a red, blah blah...). Thinking about which cookbooks and home resources you'd always want on hand is good too (your favorite desert island compendium; mine right now is The New York Times Jewish Cookbook).

A nice shower curtain and bathroom organizers (a pretty and matched set for soap, toothbrush, etc.) don't hurt either. And wall clocks! Younger people don't really always have those anymore, because of cell phones and alarm clocks I'd be surprised how it can make a room seem like part of a home though. This veers into design advice, but mirrors as decorative items on hallway/through-way walls are surprisingly classy and nice. Hanging baskets in the kitchen for produce are both convenient/space-saving and look nice. Cute magnets on your fridge, too.

Discreet bins or whatever for clutter--whether that's linen-and-straw baskets or colorful cubes/cubbies or a card catalog-y thing or cheap pretty vintage trays from a thrift shop, whatever--if you use something besides old shoeboxes or office plastic bins to organize jewelry, pens, mail, keys and wallet, whatever, it can make quite a difference emotionally (at least to me).
posted by ifjuly at 8:49 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Tt seems silly to mark all of your answers as best, so I won't, but they are all great and much appreciated! Excellent food for thought.
posted by coupdefoudre at 12:05 PM on September 10, 2010

I'm so excited for you!

Get a copy of the book "Home Comforts" for the intro alone ... it's a great resource but the intro goes into so much detail about making a home. For me, cleanliness and lack of clutter are the most important. I don't think of cleaning so much as houseWORK but as caring for myself by making a nice environment. I've done this on 3 continents, including a mud hut in Mali.

My grandmother always said "Make a nice bed for yourself" and she was RIGHT. Life's too short for crappy sheets and beaten down pillows.

posted by cyndigo at 3:58 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

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