Tips and tricks for building nests
May 8, 2018 5:18 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are moving into a 1br apartment this weekend and will basically be starting from scratch, stuff wise. We have a kitchen table and a dresser and some assorted kitchen things. We are looking for your best furniture and grown-up stuff recommendations, do's and dont's, and any other advice. Bonus: I have a decent salary now!

Rather than just going to IKEA and madly jotting down product codes, we thought we'd crowdsource some advice beforehand.

Specific questions include:
- what to buy at IKEA vs other stores vs craigslist
- kitchen items you can't live without (the kitchen is a bit small)
- other things you can't live without
- things you bought that just take up space or that fell apart quickly
- decorating tips are also helpful (although that has been asked before)

Stuff we will definitely need:
- bed with headboard and hopefully storage space underneath
- couch
- area rug for the living room
- other sitting devices (kitchen and living room)
- plants! I want a lot of them (all indoor); we have a lot of west- and north-facing windows.
- bike wall storage
posted by ropeladder to Home & Garden (36 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Don’t skimp on your mattress/bed. Pay whatever it takes to get something very nice that is right for you (many previous asks discuss brands, also check consumer reports, reddit, etc). Good ones can last a long time, and ideally you’ll spend about 1/3 of your life there.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:34 AM on May 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Seconding SaltySalticid on the bed, and I would add the couch to that list as well. If you find something you love at IKEA, great, but don’t be afraid to spend some money on something comfortable and attractive. Your butt will thank you.
posted by MadamM at 5:40 AM on May 8, 2018

My best tip, and this does depend on your personal taste (I prefer old-and-interesting to new-and-chic, ymmv), buy new ONLY the things you need immediately. Everything else, second-hand.

Why? Because you make bad decisions when you're just filling gaps. If you buy a side-table just cause you think it'll be kinda nice to have one just there, you're more likely to get a boring-but-fine one. If you wait... then next time you see a bunch of furniture from someone's clearout, or go to a thrift shop with a furniture section, you'll look more closely and find absolute TREASURE. And cheaper at that.

It's your call on what's essential to have immediately. I bought a bed new when I needed one. But when I moved recently with my SO, we waited to get a sofa to find something secondhand, then got offered one for pennies by a neighbour - it's in great condition and a beautiful bottle-green colour, I love it WAY more than anything we'd have bought new. Dining chairs are SO easy to get second hand. But it's your call - what can you do without til you find something special and right, and what do you need now?

Two more things:

- I love plants too. If you know people who have lovely houseplants, you could ask them if any have had babies recently, as home-grown plants are often healthier than the tender ones grown under lamps at big garden centres.

- IKEA are (allegedly, etc etc) tax evaders on a massive scale. I beg you, if you have money to spend on new things and can afford to go beyond budget level, consider doing good things with it, and supporting craftspeople and local businesses, rather than pumping more of it into that behemoth.
posted by greenish at 5:40 AM on May 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

We bought a Leesa mattress since it was the Wirecutter's pick and we luuuuuuuuuuuurve it, but that's a sample size of two people.

Kitchen-wise, we love our Instant Pot. I'd also heartily recommend cast iron and carbon steel pans. Carbon steel pans need to be seasoned like cast iron and develop a really glorious patina.
posted by nerdfish at 5:44 AM on May 8, 2018

I'd be remiss if I didn't at least suggest taking a spin through Wirecutter; specifically, their guide on stuff for small apartments (which includes bike storage) and small bathrooms. At this point, our place is practically a Wirecutter showroom, so even if you don't actually buy anything from those guides, it'd be good for inspiration. They have guides for rugs and plants too.

Looking back at it, having spent time in what I felt like was a small apartment (~650 sq ft) with my wife, I think the one area I wouldn't cheapen out on is a nice couch. For better or for worse, it's where she and I spend a lot of time, it can often be a focal point of a room or the apartment, and for me personally is a place I love to nap. So, I might skip an IKEA couch and instead consider splurging on something nicer that might outlast your new place.

Lastly, as boring as it might be, a good vacuum goes a long way. We ran with multiple Wirecutter recommendations (I wasn't kidding about our place being a showroom for them), from one of their cordless picks to a robot vacuum and ultimately to their main Shark Navigator pick. They were all great, and seriously - if you're somebody who tries to clean at least periodically, having a decent vacuum can make that task all the less cumbersome.
posted by mrhaydel at 5:44 AM on May 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have just gone through a similar process after moving overseas. Agree with SaltySalticid on the mattress. I also have similar thoughts on couches, but I am a renowned couch potato.
The one kitchen item I have found we don't need is a microwave, especially if there's not much room in the kitchen. We just heat things up on the stove top or in the oven. But we never used them much for cooking anyway.
posted by Kris10_b at 5:47 AM on May 8, 2018

For kitchen things, unless you guys are already established regular cooks, don't get very much at first and add things as you decide to make the foods that need them. Macy's has some really solid kitchen in a box type sets that are pretty much specifically for your situation (and regularly has pretty good sales on them, example). Just a few pots pans and cooking utensils, plus a couple mixing bowls and baking dishes will be good for the majority of cooking. If you like to do eggs for breakfast, get a smaller nonstick pan for those. Get a chef's knife and a paring knife and if you love bread get a nice bread knife. Two cutting boards so you can be hygienic about raw products. Don't get any tool that you don't already have a regular use for - so if you don't love to bake, don't buy cookie sheets; if you don't feel comfortable using a crockpot don't get one, etc.

The entryway is more important than we tend to think of it as. If you don't have a good setup for where to put your things right when you come inside, that leads to a much more disorganized home over time. So when you're setting up, be sure to have ample room for coats and shoes and bags plus a place to dump mail and other things so it's really easy for a tired person at the end of a long day to put a bunch of stuff where it belongs, without bypassing the couch with nonexistent willpower.

Never ever buy a chair that you haven't sat in first.
posted by Mizu at 5:54 AM on May 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

My only piece of advice is to get a sturdy stepstool, ideally something that doubles as a side table or seating. There's nothing worse than wobbling on top of a chair to change a light bulb and even small folding stools are a hassle to store.
posted by tavegyl at 6:09 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

For furniture - buy the best couch, chairs, mattress and bed you can afford. These pieces could be with you a very long time and will have a ton of wear and tear and better ones will help you sleep and feel better. I'd suggest going with more neutral tones to allow you to add pops of colour with pillows/art that change with the times. Classic pieces if you will.

On kitchen - we found three Ikea products particularly helpful for extending our kitchen's reach without permanently impeding other parts of the house. The first was to get a Stenstorp Kitchen Cart - it adds counter space and storage and can be rolled around and out of the way if you need to expand other spaces. It can also double as serving space for a stand-up party with a tablecloth. Ours has gone from primary cutting space to now a little coffee nook in our larger house. 8 years old and going strong, although my suggestion with many Ikea products is - if you do not intend on moving again, glue joints.

The second was the Raskog Utility cart - we used this for a mini-bar for many years but it has so, so many uses storage-wise and fits lovely in most closets. Great for occasional-use things like Kitchenaids too. We have a second in the bathroom now where we have no storage.

The third thing and I don't have a product specifically to recommend, but hanging pot holders - getting to use the vertical space on walls really helps clear out limited cabinetry. We also use picture frames on our walls to hang dried herbs and have a magnetic knife block to get those out of a drawer.
posted by notorious medium at 6:16 AM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Carefully consider your trash can / recycling bins! There's nothing worse than a kitchen trash can that doesn't hold bags properly, or that doesn't open or close well, etc. After suffering for a few years with a horrible cheap pedal can, I invested in several different Brabantia bins (so I can separate recyclables). I'm not sure how widely available Babantia is, but Simplehuman's designs look pretty similar.
posted by neushoorn at 6:20 AM on May 8, 2018

Imma talk about the kitchen, because that's the only place I feel I have a decent amount of expertise. Creds: my kitchen is small enough that I can reach the sink, dishwasher, stove, fridge and pantry by only doing a single basketball pivot. I cook every night for a growing family of four.

Principles to live by:
Non-duplication. You only need one of each size pot/pan. I get by with a set of 5 graduated saucepans, a stock pot, 3 frying pans (1 8-inch, 1 10-inch and 1 nonstick) and a sauteuse. For two people, you likely won't need that many. One set of graduated Tupperware. One set of 3 nested mixing bowls. One knife block, of which I basically only use the chef's knife and a paring knife. One set of graduated cookie sheets--good for roasting vegetables, not only for cookies! 8 sets of dishes (you might need less). A few serving bowls. As for countertop appliances, I have a mixer, a food processor, a toaster, a rice cooker and an immersion blender/electric whisk, of which only the toaster lives on the actual counter, the rest are put away.

Storage. You are gonna need to utilize all the space you have. I use a lot of cupboard risers and undershelf baskets (take measurements of the inside of your cabinets carefully, and save receipts for ones that juuust don't quiiiite fit) to Tetris all my dishes into one cupboard and glassware into another. Magnetic strip on the wall for all your metal cooking utensils. Door racks for spices or shelf-stable bottles. Wall racks for pot lids.

Height. Probably the most frequently-used kitchen gadget is my Rubbermaid stepstool. I need it to get to the back of my top shelves, change lightbulbs, inspect whether that's a spider or a bit of fluff on the ceiling. The kids haul it out to reach the sink. Folds and stores easily. A+ would stepstool again.

Reach. It seems obvious, but store the things you use most frequently at the most accessible spot. Flour, rices, sugar and other basics are in jars lined up along the back of my counters, because I use them almost daily. Cookie cutters are wedged up in the top of the cabinet over the microwave that's impossible to get to because I use them once a year. The measuring cup is front and center. The plastic kids dishware is in a lower drawer where the kids can reach it themselves. Also, store like things with like: I have a "breakfast cabinet" with mugs, coffee beans, tea, French press, and such all in one place so you can open one cabinet and have everything right in front of you.
posted by Liesl at 6:36 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Estate sales are awesome for good, solid furniture. Don't rush to fill in gaps. You'll be happier if you wait for just the right piece (and in a one bedroom you really aren't going to need that much).
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:37 AM on May 8, 2018

The Wirecutter recommended Michaelangelo gravity stand bike rack requires no drilling and works like physics magic.

I love Ikea and maintain that their mid-upper range items are really hard to beat in terms of bang for your buck. We got a Nockeby couch last year, after visiting a bazillion furniture and department stores at a variety of price points, and it's been wonderful. I expect to get years of use out of it, especially since there's an independent slipcover industry for Ikea furniture.

My advice is also to take your time with non-essentials. For Ikea specifically, if it's not a major pain to get there, I'd recommend a scouting trip. Go and bounce on the couches, shake the pieces in the showroom and see what's holding up and what's already falling apart, and take notes with no pressure to buy anything. Then you can think about it at home, you have a baseline to see if you can do better somewhere else, and if you go back you can go straight to the warehouse part and be in and out quickly.

As you settle in, you'll start noticing little things that are super annoying about your apartment. Odds are good that Amazon or the Container Store will have a ten dollar fix and those will be the happiest ten dollars you spend. In my apartment, we have a couple really dark closets and cabinets. I got some battery powered motion-sensor LED lights and rechargeable batteries and every time they come on I think, that was a good decision!
posted by yeahlikethat at 6:38 AM on May 8, 2018

IKEA stuff made out of wood is way more durable than the stuff made out of fiberboard.
posted by grouse at 6:42 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

With Ikea (and oh my, do my wife and I own a lot of Ikea furniture), avoid the really cheap stuff like the plague, because it's junk. The stuff that's actually obviously made from real wood is fantastic for the money.

In terms of kitchen stuff, however, I'd avoid Ikea entirely if you enjoy cooking. Almost all of their kitchen stuff that I've played with has been worth about what you pay for it (which is to say not much), and it would drive me up the wall if I tried to cook with it. Then again, I'm an outlier, and when I equipped my first apartment a decade ago, I poured money into kitchen stuff (because I love to cook and bake).
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 6:58 AM on May 8, 2018

Best thing I did in the kitchen - bought a bunch of identical Pyrex containers with lids. They stack, all the lids can go together and you never have to hunt for a matching set. They can go in the freezer, oven and microwave, so I can freeze portions and then heat them up in the container. Don't buy the cheap plastic ikea set with many different sized containers, it's so not worth it.

My Dualit toaster is so. much. better than all the cheaper toasters I've had. My parents have had theirs ten years!

Miele vacuum cleaner. (the full size dysons are hugely over-rated)

I buy almost all my furniture at auction for crazy cheap, but it requires a lot of time and patience. And even then, all my bookcases are ikea hemnes - they're real wood and pretty great value.
posted by stillnocturnal at 7:07 AM on May 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have the Landskrona couch, and it’s decent - comfortable, supportive and firm; I think it looks good - not a mistake, but I’d probably get something a little cushier (and not leather) if I were to do it again.

Measure **everything**, allow for clearance, and don’t get seduced by anything that’s great-looking but *just a little too big*... I love the look of my dining table, but it really ought to be 3/4 the size that it is. Bugs me every day. Get gridded paper and cut pieces out to scale to check for size (this helped reality-check me on a gorgeous sofa I did actually manage to say no to).

Whatever you get for hard furniture should offer storage. Open shelving is a pain the ass to dust, get doors/drawers for storage if you can.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:12 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Building a nest together is such a sweet time for couples; a benefit of letting some of the stuff, like greenish's eponysterical bottle green couch, wait until the right solution organically appears, is the story associated with the item and how it contributes to coupledom. It's much nicer to remember a Sunday afternoon in that little town with the quirky second-hand shop where you found that perfect console table where you place your keys every day than to harken back to waiting in an interminable line to pay after running the IKEA gauntlet while surrounded by shrieking children.
posted by carmicha at 7:21 AM on May 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Ikea is great for potholders, knives, kitchen basics, lighting, and all things storage. Get the toolkit; they aren't fantastic quality, but you just need them for incidentals. I have seen some nice dressers and other furniture there.

I have settled on white sheets and pillowcases, so I can always buy something that matches, and colorful quilt/ duvet covers and pillow shams.

Under bed storage - beds with built in storage weigh a ton. Get storage containers that will slide under the bed.

I have very basic Revere pots & pans that I've had for over 30 years. Non-stick pans last several years then the coatings craps out. Get pans that nest, who has storage for each lovely pot to have its own shelf space? If kitchen goods have special cleaning requirement, pass. I make a small exception for my cast iron pans, which do not go in the dishwasher, get very little soap. Every single person will have their own specific and rigid rules about cast iron. If you find old cast iron with a smooth surface, it's a treat to use.

I'm not a fan of the living room set with everything matching. It locks you in to using up a lot of space, and it's seldom the best quality. Buy a nice couch or a beautiful armchair, go from there. Coffee tables are very easy to make or buy at thrift shops, yard sale, etc. I see a lot of tables on craigslist & fb marketplace, but chairs may not last as long. The buying decisions I have regretted are the ones that take up a lot of space without a lot function.

My rule for colors is Don't think about what colors you like. Think about how you want the room to feel. Have fun. Buy an extravagantly colored piece of art or some other splurge that you really love.
posted by theora55 at 7:25 AM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Print several copies of a floor plan of your place and try out different furniture arrangements. You can cut out to scale furniture you already have or know you want, but seeing how it all fits together is very helpful. You can do this on an app or Excel (scale the cells to squares) but I found paper and pencils easier to try new things.

Definitely buy the minimum now and slowly add new things as you go. If you have to buy something to use now and haven't found the perfect piece, get a cheap trial piece so you can figure out what features/design you reeeeally want to spend money on.

Measure your storage. I just measured all the wardrobes and boxes in my current place to figure out the storage needed for the next place, and I was able to eliminate a huge stretch of wardrobes.

If you're planning a housewarming, ask people to bring a plant as a gift instead of a bottle of wine. You'll get a happy little garden.

Pinterest is your friend. Type in what you're considering and you'll get a kajillion pictures back. It's a great way to quickly assemble a moodboard because each choice gives you related pictures with new ideas. is good too, but less DIY and more expensive.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:51 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Adding to the chorus of take it easy!. You don't need to buy everything all at once, and it's better to prioritize good quality. Right now we don't have a couch, but that's because we had my grandparent's couch that was 50 years old and still comfortable and useful but I couldn't afford re-upholstering it and then the dog ate the cushions. Quality lasts (almost) forever. Instead we have day-beds with tons of cushions, and they do what they need to do, but not more. The thing is, I'm the sort of person who would rather spend on a lovely dining table and good chairs than a sofa because I love having friends over for dinner. My sister is opposite, her friends come for tea and for hanging out watching a movie, so her priority is the best couch. You need to think about your lifestyle.
A great all-round chair is the 40/4 by David Rowland. It's stackable so you can have extras for guests, and it's extremely comfortable, so you can sit in it for a long dinner. There are tons of different qualities and colors, and with and without armrests. You can often find them on eBay etc. because they are a very common institutional chair. So maybe you'll think it's a bit ugly (remembering it from school or something), but it is very high value for money and IMO also beautiful. If you can get a cheap set, it's worth it to restore them.
A good bed is a good investment, because it is a bother to spend a relatively large amount on a mediocre one, and then have to replace it soon after. My good bed had under-bed storage, but I replaced it with plastic containers with close-fitting lids, because the drawers that came with the bed weren't air-tight and collected dust. So maybe think about those things separately. I've heard IKEA's high end beds are good, but I have no personal experience.
IKEA has great Iranian rugs, and they are really high quality. Some of their contemporary designs are good quality as well. Look for natural materials and tight knotting.
About the kitchen: I'm a total foodie and I have two homes with big kitchens and tons of storage space, so there are no limits to my hoarding. Still, this is were you really need to take it easy, and start as minimal as possible, then buy things as you need them. When I lived in a 1br apartment, I had a wok, a pot with a steamer, one big board and one chef's knife, and I could literally cook everything. My daughter is in your situation, and she has a bit more (not least because of her foodie mother), and I think the gadget she uses the most is the hand blender with apps. I gave her an enameled cast-iron dutch oven when she got her own apartment, because I find they are really useful, and recently I gave her a sauté pan because she felt it would be useful and I had two (or probably more like 5, but that's another story). But again, take your time. This was what my daughter felt she needed for her cooking, not yours. I've never had a microwave, and I've never missed it.
I am a huge fan of pressure cooking, and thus the instant pot, but I still think you should wait till you feel the need.
Finally, I am actually an interior designer, though these days I do a lot of other stuff. And I agree you should spend some time collecting inspiration. Remember you can't have everything in your home, but a wider horizon will help you make better choices.

Good Luck!
posted by mumimor at 7:58 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

nthing to take it easy and not buy all at once. Also nthing buying a good bed- you will spend a lot of your life there. My husband and I moved into a larger apartment recently and didn’t have furniture to fill it out. We ended up slowly getting nearly everything off Craigslist and it’s been great. Cheap, and also if you are picky and patient you can find good quality stuff. For the kitchen specifically I would highly recommend getting things as you need them to fit your own cooking lifestyle. That way you aren’t buying a bunch of gadgets that will just sit in drawers. Good luck! Making a home together with a partner can be a real joy.
posted by FireFountain at 8:24 AM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Things to buy at IKEA: They're a good source for some basic kitchenware. My mixing bowls and wine glasses came from IKEA. Their lamp selection can be good too. For their furniture, avoid anything made from particleboard. It damages easily and won't hold up over multiple moves. Their solid wood furniture can be pretty good—I've had a couple of IKEA dining tables that lasted for years. I've never found a single chair or sofa from IKEA that I thought was comfortable except for some dining chairs but that's just my opinion, man.

Area rugs: Cost Plus and Wayfair.

Kitchen essentials: the one item I feel really strongly about is getting a good chef's knife. Go in person and try out different brands and styles until you find one that feels comfortable in your hand. This knife will do almost everything for you. Add a paring knife, plus a bread knife and/or meat cleaver if those are relevant to your cooking style. No need to buy one of those 20-piece pre-packaged knife sets. Beyond that, I recommend All-clad for pans. Calphalon still has a good reputation last time I checked. Again, no need to get a giant pre-packaged set. +1 for getting a cast iron skillet or omelette pan, and +1 on the Instant Pot.

Kitchen bonus: get a set of glass Snap-loc food containers for leftovers. Glass won't absorb food odors or warp in the microwave and contents are easy to see at a glance. The lids are safe on the top rack of the dishwasher. I can't tell you how great it is to upgrade from the motley collection of old yogurt, sauce, and takeout containers.

Furniture essentials: get the most comfortable sofa and mattress you can afford. These are your "anchor" pieces where you and your partner will spend most of your time at home. Beyond that, I've collected a number of nice wood furniture items by purchasing second-hand via Craigslist. People often sell mid-range or even higher-end pieces at a steep discount because they are downsizing or redecorating.

Furnishing bonus: invest in high-quality bedsheets, duvet, and pillows. Fitted sheets should be sized to fit your mattress and mattress topper with no stretching or sliding off. Sheets and pillowcases should be 100% cotton. Get two sets of sheets so you can rotate. Flannel sheets are great for winter.
posted by 4rtemis at 8:27 AM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you are in the US, we got some great stuff, including a couch, at the Crate and Barrel outlet store near us - high quality and inexpensive. I also had good luck finding high quality stuff on, either by looking at the listing (a couch that I love) or posting for the exact thing that I wanted (patio furniture). I've found that nextdoor is better than craigslist for ease of picking up, quality, and general level of flakiness (but your area may be different).

I also found that many people in our lives were downsizing and gave us furniture. I accepted most of it because it was free, but now I'm left with a lot of things that I'm pretty meh about. It probably would have been better to say no a little more often.
posted by oryelle at 8:30 AM on May 8, 2018

If your location has a food waste composting program, Full Circle is the best scraps bin.
posted by matildaben at 8:44 AM on May 8, 2018

I agree with spending money on a bed and sofa, or a really good reading chair and ottoman or pouf instead of a sofa for a good interim solution given that couches cost so much.

The Ikea Poang chair with the darker wood finish and leather cushions is quite good looking and comfy. I had to ditch mine because it was too low, but I saved the cushions and put them on a mission rocker.

Another place to spend is on a good desk chair -- the best you can afford! Get one with arms. I work at home and need one, but if you spend any desk time at all at home you won't want a dining chair. I got mine at a wholesaler, which was an unusual opportunity, after I sat in a bunch of them princess-and-the-pea style. I decorated it with an oversized kilim pillow cover, and it looks great even in my one-room apartment.

An affordable, good-looking, comfortable, and adjustable option is the Container Store bungee chair. A self-described cheapskate friend of mine considered for a year or so and finally got one. She loves it.

Solid wood tables, desks, and shelves from Ikea are fine, but, really, get these things and other things at flea markets, yard sales, and on Craigslist for better quality. Secondhand case goods, decor, and kitchenware leave funds for new-from-the-store soft goods. Of course, there are good secondhand soft goods, especially if you know the seller, but check them thoroughly.
posted by jgirl at 9:30 AM on May 8, 2018

Consider investing in some pre-ruined pieces.

I would NOT spend money on brand new things with beautiful flawless finishes that look incredible and are exactly perfect for your space but will look like crap and make you want to hide your eyes and weep the instant they get one tiny spot or watermark or rip. It's actually worth it to get secondhand stuff that comes pre-dinged, like my grandmother's lovely walnut table that she set a hot pot down on sometime in the 1960s and burnt a circle into. I don't have to lose my mind if somebody puts a drink down on the table--it works with the pre-ruined patina.

My grandmother also left me her camelback down sofa. It survived parties and untold hours of couch potato-ing and looked great. One day a pair of drunk woodpeckers flew down the chimney and became trapped in the house for some unknown period of time while I was at work. By the time I got home and caught them (they will try to fly out the windows and you can corner them. Use a big, fluffysoft bath towel, holding the ends in your two hands, and trap the birds against the glass. Then bring your hands together and scoop up the bird in the towel. Be very slow, deliberate, and gentle), they'd paniccrapped huge loads of the fermented berries they'd been raving on all day all over my grandmother's perfectly-maintained-for-fifty-years goldgreen velvet upholstery. Then I had to adopt a cat, who has made it her life's work to shred all the unstained parts of the sofa. When the cat finally goes, and let it not be too soon because there are decades of shredding left in both the cat and the sofa, then I'm getting it re-upholstered in sailcloth or burlap, and I'm never going to care if anything mars that finish because mother nature already pre-ruined that sofa with drunk woodpeckers. My grandmother loved birds: she would approve.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:07 AM on May 8, 2018 [12 favorites]

I generally trust the food blogger Clotilde Dusolier on many things, and she had a post last year about what is a good starter list of tools for my first kitchen. (The site seems to be having some bugs right now, but watch that space.)

As for plants - conveniently I just got some plants for a west-facing window, and was told that ivy and geranium will do well there. I also picked up a couple of other vine-y things (vinca vine and sweet potato vine) and we'll see what happens. Depending on how much sun you get, the western exposure may even work for some potted herbs - I have parsley and thyme in another west window, and a lemon verbena plant also hanging in there (but I wouldn't recommend lemon verbena unless you have more definite designs on how to use the leaves, 'cos that thing gets biiiiig). I also have rosemary, oregano, sage and basil in an eastern window, but have heard the western one may be slightly better for them.

Also, when you're figuring out where to put plants, take into account whether you're going to have them right on the sill, or a foot or two away from the window. The herbs are all right on the sill, because herbs love sun, but the ivy and geranium are a little bit set away so the light isn't so harsh on them. The northern window will be trickier; I would have a talk with a reputable garden store or a garden club about that, for suggestions there. Northern exposures are the lowest light of all; there are some tropical plants you could probably get away with, but I'd talk with an expert about what kind of care you'd be able to give a given plant so they can steer you into the right choice for the northern window.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on May 8, 2018

I'm always of the opinion that you should buy what you need (or want) immediately, but defer on those things that you're not sure about right now. So do your list of essentials, but don't worry about fully decorating to some arbitrary standard. There's no issue with taking your time.

It's really easy to buy stuff; I've always found it harder to get rid of things. Now, midlife, it seems that we're always purging.

For the kitchen, Mark Bittman's advice of a decade ago is still the most practical I've seen. Prices have changed a little, but less than you might think. His is a practical, high-value, minimalist approach.

Essentials should make you happy. Go nuts on plants. Good planter/plant rack can be spendy, but put your money there instead.
posted by bonehead at 10:22 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, I meant to say, those little Ikea Raskog carts somebody mentioned are great for all kinds of stuff. Any sorting/organizing job, impromptu sickroom nightstand, bar and snack cart, hauling laundry around--is there a household challenge the stalwart Raskog cannot meet? I have yet to see it. I love them and have three.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:44 AM on May 8, 2018

Nthing the chorus of buy only what you need and take your time on the rest. Others have already chimed in with useful suggestions about furniture, so I'm going to focus on something else.

When shopping for an area rug, think very hard about your ideal layout and the traffic flow in the room and then measure carefully, imagining the rug as your main anchor. Some people use masking tape or newspaper to help visualize exactly how big a rug they need. Don't jam it right up against the wall and don't try to float your furniture around something too small. An area rug is like the underwear of a room; it's not necessarily the most important thing, but if it doesn't fit, it will bug you constantly. You want either all four or at least the front two feet of your furniture to comfortably fit on the rug. And whether you get an expensive rug or a cheap one, get a good rug pad; it makes a surprising difference both in terms of comfort and also sound dampening.
posted by Diagonalize at 11:18 AM on May 8, 2018

Oh, I meant to say, those little Ikea Raskog carts somebody mentioned are great for all kinds of stuff.

There's even a Facebook group for them.
posted by jgirl at 12:39 PM on May 8, 2018

Get most of your kitchen- and dining- ware at a restaurant supply store, that stuff will wear like iron (and the cookie/jellyroll sheets -- great for sheet-pan dinners -- won't warp). I really like, and really use, my Instant Pot. Spend money on your mattress, pillows, and linens (if the latter matters to either of you).

And while I always see the recommendation to have two sets of sheets, for rotation, I was taught that three is the minimum: a set in the cupboard, a set on the bed, and a set in the laundry. Anything unexpected, you don't have to wait for a laundry cycle (possibly after dashing to the laundromat) to change the bedding; also it's good to change linens more often if someone's been sick or whatever.

Apartment Therapy is right about entryway "landing strips" to keep homes tidy and organized.

Plants -- remember houseplants need good drainage, and that you'll need to protect your floors, window sills and other surfaces from water damage. Big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowes will replace perennial plants (or grant store credit) if they die within a year, if you bring in the original receipt and the corpse.

Get art for your home. It doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to please you.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:53 PM on May 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Don't go crazy buying stuff to fill your new place.

I moved from a small 1br to a good sized 2 bed townhouse. I spent the first few months buying stuff for it (so many trips to IKEA) and then the next year decluttering all the unnecessary crap I'd filled it with.

Get necessities. Don't get decorative stuff or non essentials until you are absolutely certain you need that vase/throw/planter/wall art. Four years ago me deserves a stern telling off.
posted by kitten magic at 5:01 AM on May 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for all the wonderful advice (and stories!), everyone. You are why metafilter is amazing!

All the advice to take it slow was especially interesting.
posted by ropeladder at 8:07 PM on May 9, 2018

One other anecdote about why taking it slow is better and mixing/matching new and old works... a couple I know got fancy jobs and bought a house after finishing their degrees and moving across the country. Eager to shed all their grad school crap (and drunk on signing bonuses), they furnished the house in one fell swoop. At the time, it felt sophisticated to me. But trends are hard to see in the moment, and now it just screams 2010 at me. Moreover, it's still incredibly matchy-matchy, which gives their home a somewhat sterile vibe, even after all this time. It's a monument to the taste and ambition for their lives that dates to a very specific point in time.
posted by carmicha at 12:55 PM on May 14, 2018

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