Tips for turning a new apartment into a Home?
April 13, 2016 8:38 PM   Subscribe

My fiancee and I are moving to a new city/apartment this summer. Our current place never really felt like a home; it was a temporary, pre-furnished living situation and we made it work for us for a couple of years. Now that we're moving and buying adult furniture and all that jazz, we want our next place to feel like our Home. So, AskMeFi....How do we do this well? What do you wish you knew when you first moved into your home?
posted by sdis to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Paint NOW! If your landlord will let you get away with it, do it now. I did a couple of accent walls in our place right when we moved in and I wish I would have done it in every room--way too hard now that all the stuff is moved in and well-lived in.

This is of course very dependent on personal taste, but other random things that I love about our small apartment (HOME) that make it feel "ours" are lots of pictures of friends, family, and good times together on the fridge; houseplants that need love and tending to (just like a relationship!); candles on various surfaces for a romantic vibe; lots of art on the walls and individual pieces of furniture that don't necessarily match but we just LOVE ; and a well-equipped kitchen that is fun to cook and hang out in (we have a giant pegboard on the wall for all our most-often used cookware and tools--it is awesome and saves so much cabinet space!!)

In general, just think about the stuff you always wanted to do at the old place but never got around to. Pinterest has a lot of overly ambitious/unrealistic stuff on there but it can be really fun and useful for inspiration.
posted by lovableiago at 9:06 PM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

Paint walls pretty colors, curtains, pretty rugs, artwork (3M strips come in handy). Lots of cute framed photos of the people you love around. Decent pillow covers for couch pillows.
posted by discopolo at 10:29 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

The first thing I did when I moved in was paint my walls.

After that I covered the floor in rugs, put up art, and put plants every where. One of the biggest things for it feeling like home for me is actually having pictures of my family printed off and put on my refrigerator with magnets. It's stilly, but that feels so homey to me.
posted by Marinara at 10:36 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Both moving into and living in the new place will be easier if you ruthlessly get rid of possessions you can't remember the last time you used or have difficulty imaging using again. After identifying those, consider the harder decision of 'do we really need this?'
posted by Homer42 at 11:21 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Window treatments of some sort will give it a cozier feel and make it feel more like your own.
posted by hydra77 at 12:34 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Buy things slowly. The urge will be strong to Furnish All The Things!!!1!!1 but fight that urge. Start with an investment piece that you absolutely love. For us it was a couch. It's not particularly jazzy, but I absolutely love it. It's stood the test of time, it's comfy, and I really like the shape and legs. It was the most expensive furniture we ever bought (might still be). Through the course of a year we added a credenza, armchair, rug, tv stand, but they all use the couch as our "base reference".

For me, the grownup feel of our flat comes from not having too much "stuff", but individually considered pieces that are functional, looks beautiful, was made with quality and I like looking at.
posted by like_neon at 1:19 AM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]

I used to move a lot, but I'm settled now (finally). What I can tell you is that turning an apartment/house into a home is not something you do in a couple of weeks. As others already mentioned, it is better to buy things slowly instead of rushing. Also, something that I did last time that turned out to be good was to prioritize the furnishing of the bedroom. Since this is the place where I spend most time (I read a lot and work from home), it really helped me make it the core of my house. Afterwards, I renovated the living room, the kitchen and the bathroom.
It might be tough and stressful to think of all the things you want to do to your place, but it's important to look from the bright side - your home is a project that you will be improving for many years ahead. Don't rush it!
posted by Jo88 at 1:58 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Houseplants! They're the first thing I unpack when I move.

Also, secondhand furniture. Buying new is basically having mass-market trend-setters decide for you what you want. Buying secondhand is like hunting for treasure.
posted by greenish at 3:22 AM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

echoing the advice to take it slowly for a couple of reasons. first, it turned out we had slightly different tastes (and so had a major argument the first time we went to ikea planning to actually buy something), which means it takes time to find something both people like. second, don't buy things you're not completely sure about - you have to live with them for a long time. so spend time finding stuff you both really love.

(edit: not just talking about furniture here. houses contain so. much. stuff. and if you're not careful a large chunk of it can be depressingly bleagh. things like pans, or wooden spoons, or the scales in the bathroom, or...)
posted by andrewcooke at 3:49 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have two prints that I've had for thirty years. There's something about them that I absolutely love. The glass broke out of the frames twenty years ago, but I still have them framed and hung in my living room. To me, once those pictures are hung, we're home.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:26 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Excellent advice upthread. I'd add lamps and side tables. Lamps will add cozy at night. Think about where you would need one... that chair you like to read in, needs a lamp and a table to set your book and drink on. One on your dresser? I also advocate putting your lamps on timers, so you come home to a cozily lit space at night, rather than fumbling into a dark space and flipping on the overhead light.
posted by sarajane at 5:08 AM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding lamps, and using 'soft pink' incandescent bulbs. Avoid overhead lighting like the plague, and your place will feel 80% more homey right out of the gate.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 5:50 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, I'd recommend: window curtains of some sort (I've always just tacked up unfinished fabric, but it makes a huge difference), a rug you love, a couch you love, a shower curtain you love (whether that's a print you love, or a nice heavy cotton one) and something splurge-y for the kitchen that you know you'll use (in my case, a couple of amazing antique cast iron pans). The rest can be added one at a time in my experience. Once I furnished an apartment all at once for the most part, and it never felt/looked right or natural. Letting it evolve organically is the best way to do it, I've found.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 5:55 AM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yes, painting! Every day I consciously think, "man, am I glad we painted the bedroom." I also agree with the window treatment advice; even replacing the standard-apartment-issue miniblinds with the cellular kind makes a big difference.

Organizing helps a ton, too. You don't have to be perfectly tidy, but having a space where each thing belongs translates into an overall home where you belong. If you use something often, find a place for it that's easy to access without being in the way. If you don't, find a longer-term storage option. If your apartment building has additional storage space (e.g. in the basement), take full advantage of it. If you've got stuff in cardboard boxes or plastic tubs, either stash them out of sight or find a new container for them that looks more permanent, more furniture-like.

Update your linens. If you can, replace all your towels/washcloths in one go, so everything you own matches. You don't have to splurge, but don't cheap out. Thick, plush towels are a joy.

Definitely take your time on buying furniture, rugs, etc. If you're in a rush to buy something, you'll almost certainly end up compromising. Spend a little time settling in and mull over what you and your apartment need: would you be more likely to set your drink on an end table or a coffee table? If you find that you need more shelves or drawers, where would those best go? Would you use a table lamp? (I didn't, and the lamp I bought just cluttered up the place for several years.) Are there any spots that still look unused or unfinished after you've been there a couple months? And so on.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:56 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think a good first step will definitely be getting rid of a ton of stuff you don't love or desperately need now before you move. That way the only things you're bringing with you into the new space are either things you love or the bare necessities.

An accent wall is definitely a great way to brighten up a space and make it more cozy and fun! If your landlord doesn't allow painting, I'd do an internet search for "temporary wallpaper" or "removable wallpaper" and see what comes up. There are a lot of great options!

Once you're in your space with only your nearest and dearest housewares (and the furniture basics you don't love but might be temporarily necessary) and you've made it cute with wallpaper or plants or something, then you can be deliberate about what you get to fill the space. Don't get anything new unless you absolutely love it!

Anecdata: I had a perfectly functional Ikea corner desk for a few years. It did the job, but I didn't love it. One day, not even seriously looking, I ended up on Craigslist to see what they had in the neighborhood of new desks. I found a BEAUTIFUL (and affordable!) Herman Miller steel frame reproduction at an antiques shop 20 minutes away and was able to go and buy it that same day. Now I'm happy every time I look at it. Good luck with your new place!
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:57 AM on April 14, 2016

Oh! And also A HUGE YES to all of the "get curtains" suggestions. Take your time picking them out, for sure, but when you find your dream curtains, they really do transform a room. I got very lucky and found my bedroom curtains at the thrift store for very cheap and they rock!
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:02 AM on April 14, 2016

Maybe feel out your place a little before you get curtains. I like them for the bedroom of course, but I also love natural light and I really only use shades in the other living spaces in the summertime to cool things off. To me, nothing is homier than a sunny living space.

Like others have said, a few well-chosen vintage pieces can really tie things together (though I have a horror of bedbugs and am extremely picky about what I'll let cross my threshold). If you need to pick up some new stuff, and find yourself in the "sick of Ikea and can't afford Crate and Barrel" category, I like World Market.
posted by cakelite at 7:22 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

This goes along with "buy things slowly" which is the best advice. This is a longer term suggestion, but last year my husband and I decided to stop buying anniversary gifts for each other and to instead buy a nice piece of furniture for the house. We did it again this year and it is definitely going to be a tradition until we finally get rid of the leftover trash furniture from our college days, IKEA stop-gap crap, etc. Once you own a dresser or coffee table it's really hard (for me, anyway) to justify buying a new one just because it's cheap and old and blah, but then once you finally replace it you wonder what in the hell took you so long. By making furniture-buying an annual thing to mark our anniversary it encourages us to buy special pieces that we really want and love and to not just begrudgingly live with the status quo.
posted by gatorae at 7:47 AM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

- Rugs
- Lots of plants
- Books everywhere
- Shelves covered in pretty things
- Mismatched good quality wood furniture
- Pictures/art on the walls
posted by shesbenevolent at 8:42 AM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

Definitely get some non-generic art if you don't already have it. I've had great luck at the student sales that art schools throw periodically ($20 original prints!), but you can also print personal photos or free-to-use landscape photography at SnapBox — their framed prints look amazingly good for very, very little money.

As folks have said above, definitely definitely get lots of lamps and do some kind of window treatment that fits your lifestyle. Be sure to mount any curtain rods high and wide to make the windows look bigger and more integrated into the space.

And finally, a big big improvement to my own space: I made a point of going through a morning and evening routine and noticed what bugged me. You know, that low-level not having space to put down the toothbrush while you floss, that kind of stuff. Fixing those little things was easy and cheap, and it's made me feel happy and at home with my place so much more than I did before. For example, I mounted a row of hooks in my closet to hang jeans on, and now I don't have my damn daily jeans lying around my room.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:22 AM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Curtains and pictures on the wall have always been the top two items for me in every place I've lived. As soon as those go in, it starts seeming like mine. Also rugs, pillows, decorative items on bookshelves, houseplants, cozy throws on the furniture. Matching colors! My bathroom got much more homey when I bought a shower curtain and floor mats that matched, and also added wall decals in similar colors--which also reminds me that if you can't paint the walls, there are lots of great vinyl wall decals out there and they can look very elegant or unobtrusive or fun.
posted by capricorn at 1:52 PM on April 14, 2016

Hang pictures and art at gallery height, about 58" high in the center of the piece. People sometimes hang art too high, and I think it really throws the room's look.
My husband and I do gatorae's suggestion, but with art. We buy a piece of artwork together on our anniversary. Those pieces -and they're not pricey, most less than $100 - are some of my favorites in the house. Congratulations on the new place!
posted by areaperson at 4:46 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hang curtains, but do it like a professional decorator would -- it looks SOOOO much better. Here's the formula:

Curtain rods (not counting finials) should extend at least 4" past the window edge. The rod should be positioned halfway between the top of the molding and the ceiling for maximum effect (lower is ok, but at least 6" above the window). Classic side panel drapes should come to the floor, with few exceptions. Double the width of your windows and hang enough panels to equal that measurement. Triple the width if you want it to look extra luxe.

Extra points for a double rod with sheers behind the main drapes! So classy :)

And paint! Also art that fits the wall size. Don't hang a tiny framed photo on a huge wall.
posted by ananci at 12:28 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

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