Help a first time homeowner with all sorts of moving and decorating stuff!
May 11, 2006 1:43 PM   Subscribe

NewHomeFilter: I have a few questions about moving into my first new condo. I'm on a budget and green to the process with questions about: furniture (where to get), TV service (see inside), and lots...

First and foremost: I have more junk than I know what to do with and I know I need to throw a lot of it out. My bedframe is falling apart, but the boxspring/mattress are fine. I'd like a nice looking bed to put my mattress in. Do I still need the boxspring?

I've just made a down payment and paid a ton of other cash toward my condo, so I'm on a tight budget. Ikea's prices look reasonable, but their "european style" beds are awfully low to the ground, so while I like the look of some of them, I'm not so sure about the logistics.

Eventually, though perhaps not right now, I'll want to replace my old and not so spectacular couch. Difficulty: I have non declawed cats.

I also completely suck at coordinating things. I can look at a well decorated place and appreciate it, but I cannot create one. How do I know that based on the color of my floors and walls, a couch, entertainment center etc will look decent in the room?

With regards to TV service - the association has some exclusive contract with a DirecTV installer. They want to charge me all sorts of fees to "install" each receiver, a fee to do wiring, etc. Then, after that, I still have to call DirecTV and set up service myself, so I'm not getting any sort of discounted monthly fee etc for using the large community dish installed on our roof. Unfortunately, my balcony faces a building (yay city living) so I don't think installing my own Dish (I currently have Dish network) is an option despite the FCC laws allowing me to use common elements for such a purpose.

I really don't want to pay the $200+ for new DirecTV receivers, etc etc, and then also have to pay $5/month on top of my DirecTV bill to have "available service in case something goes wrong" from this DirecTV contractor. On the flip side, I am worried that if I complain about this and seek other avenues, my first impression to my fellow tenants will be that of being a nuisance/complainer.

I'm also almost certainly running out of time to choose a moving service. Any recommendations for movers in the Chicago area for a relatively short move (from suburbs to city)?

Between repainting, replacing flooring in the bedrooms and other things, I have so much to take care of I'm admittedly kind of freaking out. Thanks ahead of time for any help you all can provide. Any general "new first time homeowner" tips would be greatly appreciated.
posted by twiggy to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, as far as tips with decorating - here are pics of the place with the previous homeowners' stuff still in it. I will be repainting some of the rooms, and replacing the carpet in the bedrooms with Pergo. The picture gallery will at least give ideas on the way the floor looks in the common space. I need to repaint the kitchen, the two bedrooms. I like the red in the living area, actually. It's worth noting that only walls facing a certain direction are red, the rest are white, so it's not uber-red-overload.
posted by twiggy at 1:46 PM on May 11, 2006

Ikea's furniture is okay, but for the same price you might be able to buy top-of-the-line used furniture. For example, I just bought an almost new couch for $175. The original owner paid $2000 for it. The couch spent most of its life sitting in a mansion and never saw much use. Another example: A couple years ago, I saw a gorgeous, solid wood table in a thrift store. The table was built of old-growth wood without the use of nails or screws. The table top was probably 2inches thick solid wood and in great condition. The price was $200.
posted by malp at 2:00 PM on May 11, 2006

Do I still need the boxspring?Yes - a mattress is not designed to be used by itself. And bed frames are normally designed to accomodate boxsprings and a mattress.

How do I know that based on the color of my floors and walls, a couch, entertainment center etc will look decent in the room? For solid furniture, you should probably stay with somewhat neutral colors: lighter wood (pine), white, etc. Even black is somewhat neutral. Avoid yellow, red, purple, etc. And the last sentence applies to the couch.

As far as DirectTV or DISH, you might consider doing without for a month or too - rent movies from Blockbuster or Netflix instead, for example. It doesn't sound like you're going to have a lot of extra time. That will give you some breathing space to talk to other owners about your options, how much value they think they are getting, etc.

You might consider getting a slipcover for the couch rather than replacing it; in any case, why try to do this until other major things are taken care of? If someone really thinks the worse of you because you enable your cats, then perhaps they're not the sort of people that you want to see much of.

As far as good (better) furniture, the recommendation for used furniture is worth pursuing (often sold in consignment shops).

Finally, repainting can be done at any time, while refinishing a floor is a real pain if you're living in a place, with furniture in it. (And you've got to keep the cats away from the finish while it's drying.) If there is any way to do this BEFORE you move in - say, by paying a few more days of rent at your old place - you should seriously consider that.

Finally, you've got a lot of address changes to make, but don't freak about that - anyone who wants your continuing business or otherwise to stay in touch (magazine publishers, folks sending you bills) will get USPS to notify them of the address change, so you won't have to. Or, in any case, you can wait a month or two to take care of this. Just make sure that USPS knows about the move, of course.
posted by WestCoaster at 2:25 PM on May 11, 2006

Do I still need the boxspring?

It depends on the new bed you might get. I'm very fond of my platform bed that has very lovely and roomy storage space underneath. I don't use a box spring. The downside is the bed is quite firm without a box spring, which may or may not be comfortable for you. Of course, you can store things under a regular-style bed too, but you would want to use a dust ruffle to conceal your junk. If you go for a regular-style bed, yes, you will need the box spring. You could also try a futon, and get rid of your mattresses completely.

Askme threads about protecting your furniture from non-declawed cats here, here and here.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:31 PM on May 11, 2006

Do I still need the boxspring?

You could probably substitute a stiff piece of ply-wood for the boxspring if your bed has slats.
posted by malp at 2:37 PM on May 11, 2006

How do I decorate without it looking like crap?
1. Stick to a colour theme (here's a good place to get one.) Neutrals are good for beginners.
2. Aim for balance, not all big things on one side of the room (or wall).

What do I do about the box spring?
My experience is that once you lose the base, the mattress quickly becomes less than comfortable. Under no circumstances should you buy a futon that is also a couch. It will lose it's shape and comfort within hours of getting it home. Depending on your weight, and comfort levels, a cheap foam mattress might suit, on a slat bed (it worked for me for years - until I got pudgy). Otherwise, that should be the first thing you spend on, and be prepared to spend more, because it will last you (hopefully) ten years or more.
posted by b33j at 3:04 PM on May 11, 2006

Even though it's a condo, you might find some great ideas at Apartment Therapy (they just opened a Chicago site too).

Don't worry about decorating too quickly. You may want to live in the space for a little while and figure out what you want. And waiting to get a great thing is better than wasting money on just any old thing. Plus, the minimal look is IN!

Try to do the flooring before you move. It is a royal pain to do it after furniture is in there. It can be done in a pinch however and we had great floor guys...affordable and top notch. (We're in Chicago.)

In the past, I've used "A Windy City Movers" and it was a good experience. I've heard good things about Bernard Movers, but I've never personally used them.

If you want to wait to buy the "good furniture" but you need something temporary, use Craigslist a lot. There is some very good stuff on there in Chicago.
posted by jeanmari at 3:56 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm with Jeanmari, it's a good idea to underdecorate to start. Take care of the floors, then use what you've got as a starting point. I've gone pretty much room by room in my house. Took me a long time to decide to paint the living room 'boy scout tent' green, but now I love it.

Think about how you want your home and your rooms to feel. Calm, vibrant, dark, light, etc. That will help you move towards styles. My house has Mission style elements that I love, so I went in that direction. You don't have to adhere to a style, you just have to eliminate some of the many choices.

Since you need a bed, look for a bed you love. If it's a platform; lose the box spring, unless you want the boxspring for height. While you're looking critically at the bedroom, look for some good art or a great quilt or curtain fabric. Once you have a starting point, you can add to it.

Paint is easy to change, so don't stress paint colors too much.
posted by theora55 at 5:19 PM on May 11, 2006

I can't advise you on your tv service, but my former job as an assistant to an interior decorator (yes, I'm Karen!) taught me one thing: you either have the touch or you don't. I'm not saying you don't but it may be something you have to learn. In the meantime, what's the shame in finding a style or look in a catalog or magazine and copying it? And of course, you can scour around to get cheaper imitations of the stuff you see in print.
posted by katyggls at 5:38 PM on May 11, 2006

I don't have any advice, but I did want to say that the link b33j posted was amazing! It is definately worth working with.
posted by hollygoheavy at 5:46 PM on May 11, 2006

Save all that cash and go without TV for a bit, until you get to know your neighbors and find out about reception, cable deals, etc.

Go through all your stuff and give to Goodwill anything you don't need or want. Less stuff to move, the better.

For the bed, you should be able to pick up what we've always called a "hollywood frame," but is really just a simple metal bed frame, at any secondhand furniture shop or craigslist for next to nothing. (Brand new they're $60 or so.) This is just a metal frame for the box spring and mattress. (Most come with brackets for a headboard/footboard.)

Take care of the floors before you move. Everything else can wait. You'll want to look at those paint samples at different times of day anyway to see how they look in the light of your new place.
posted by desuetude at 6:46 PM on May 11, 2006

Oh, and second or thirding Apartment Therapy for ideas and style.
posted by desuetude at 6:47 PM on May 11, 2006

I just bought my first house and will be moving at the end of the month, so I am in a similar place. I'm also flat broke, and unfortunately, I don't have enough furniture for the house, so it looks like milkcrates will have to do for the time being.

I realized I was in the apartment mentality, thinking that i could (and should) decorate the whole place right away. But owning a home is different. Don't think you have to have a perfect place a week after moving. You won't. Think of it as a long-term project and proceed with patience.

My plan is to paint all my walls white, do some stopgap measures using what I own already, and live in the house for a bit before making any big decisions.
posted by elisabeth r at 9:44 AM on May 12, 2006

Response by poster: Well my situation is a little different from yours, elisabeth -- I own way too much stuff... it's just not particularly nice, because I accumulated it over my many years of apartment living.

Eventually, things like my couch, crappy kitchen table, etc need to go.

Congrats on also being a new homeowner!
posted by twiggy at 12:25 PM on May 12, 2006

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