You’ve finally decided it’s time to get a real sofa and stop eating off the plates you had in your student days. Maybe you’re just starting out, with a new job and a new apartment. Or maybe like many people, you’ve spent so much buying or renting your home, you have no money left over for decorating. Here’s the best ways to make a home beautiful, and affirm your sense of self-worth, without spending a fortune. Including the 3 golden decorating rules.
The classic dos and don’ts of good basic decorating still ring true—no matter what your idea of good taste and individuality within the home; it’s thoughtful, personal choices are what stand the test of time.
Plus, the 3 golden rules: suitability, simplicity, and proportion.
Suitability is how you champion practicality. When you decorate, your first thought should be ‘Is this appropriate?’ Let your house be true to to itself and you will succeed. Simple does not mean boring. Proportion means that furniture be appropriately scaled to its room to avoid the “proverbial bull in the china shop” effect. Remember, you are going to have to live with whatever you pick out, so don’t buy on impulse; sit down and try to picture the room you want to create.
INVEST IN THE ESSENTIALS
When decorating your first apartment it is important to spend money on the bigger-ticket items, like a classic sofa, beds, an elegant dining table, decent chairs, and a good mirror. You can always accessorise with affordable things like cushions, bedding and lighting to pull everything together. A few timeless investment staples – like the little black dress or classic blazer in your wardrobe – will act as a foundation you can build on.
MAKE SURE YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU
If this is your first place, you will probably move in a few years. A well-made sofa or bed can go with you, but you’re not going to take the wallpaper or custom curtains, which won’t fit the windows in your next home.
Art, on the other hand, will make a huge impact on your space and you can take from house to house, room to room.
Splurging on great art will instantly elevate a space plus reflect your true style. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Custom framing artwork according to the the work, not the room, can instantly give a junk store find the wow factor.
LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE
Looking at your home from a holistic perspective—seeing how each room works in balance against the others—and using the same colours, tones and textures in connecting areas, can help create a sense of flow. And the impression of space.
UPGRADE YOUR LIGHTING
It might not occur to many people to swap existing light fixtures. Changing the lighting is much easier than you think and can make a huge impact. It is also very easy to swap when you move.
FORGET EXPENSIVE ACCESSORIES
Don’t blow your budget on cushions, throw rugs, towels or anything else that you’ll probably want to update seasonally. People’s taste in home décor can change as often as their taste in fashion. And changing accessories is an easy way to refresh a space quickly – think of it like home jewellery.
PIECES WITH A PAST
Try adding a few pieces of furniture that have a tale to tell. Sites like Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and eBay are a great source of reasonably priced furniture including antique and vintage coffee tables, dining tables and chairs. We have young friends who have found Henredon tables and wicker chairs, for $500. Plus great desks, lamps, cabinets for almost-nothing. The search might take a little more time and effort but the payoff is big when you find quality items at a steal. It’s not just about saving money, vintage pieces add character to your space.
If you want a home that’s warm, cosy and inviting, it’s a good rule of thumb is to always have at least 25 percent used, vintage or second-hand furniture.
ANCHOR YOUR ROOM WITH A CLASSIC
Bringing a touch of pedigree into the mix creates a home that will never feel dated. It’s great when people have pieces from grandparents, parents or they’ve lugged home from overseas – it adds interest, history and texture to any interior.
Create a visual harmonic whole, where art and antiques, and modern everyday furniture meet organic materials and an eclectic assortment of objects, none of which exists on a hierarchy.
DON’T FORGET THE KITCHEN
You can do a lot with everyday objects to jazz up the kitchen, from beautifully packaged foods that come in bright, distinctive tins that you can display.
A couple of strategically placed bottles of wine, a basket of vegetables, a great cutting board, will add character, color and warmth to any benchtop.
When it comes to glasses and dinnerware, keep it simple. And for a good splurge? Buy three quality knives and a few really good pots and pans that you can keep forever.
YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY CHAIRS
As long as they’re well positioned. Make sure each chair has a purpose and is positioned to create vantage points, and conversation to suit all guests. It looks good visually and psychologically.
VALUE THE INVALUABLE
It’s the humble and natural elements in a home that make an interior feel distinct—light, space, natural patina, and aging timbers. Learn to see the beauty in the banal. Look through your cupboards to find things that catch your eye. Don’t be afraid to display old hats, coats, twisted pieces of driftwood. It can be better than art, more natural, less try-hard.
A WAY OF LIFE
In the end, the secret to a great interior is simple: it’s the impression you get that someone created the space themselves. It’s about personality: like an autobiography.
AND, THE 7 MISTAKES WE MAKE IN OUR FIRST HOME:
1: NOT ENVISIONING THE ENTIRE HOME:
A common mistake in a lot of first homes is that people have not considered a complete vision. They don’t think about how one room will relate to the next, but instead they tackle the project room by room which can create a fragmented whole.
It’s important to think about how you want the end result to be and how each space will flow together. It’s fine, if you need to slowly decorate over time due to budget, but just always keep the whole picture in mind. The best interiors evolve slowly over time.
2: RUSHING THE PROCESS:
Don’t rush the entire process of decorating your first home in an effort to get things looking pulled together quickly. You might buy way too much IKEA furniture when you should saved up for a few better pieces to throw into the mix.
3: NOT TESTING THE PAINT COLOURS:
Rather than doing paint colour testers, people often confidently proceed to paint the entire place, only to realise it’s wrong. Try out paint colour testers on all different wall angles and let it sit over the space of week before committing to a colour.
4: PUSHING EVERYTHING AGAINST THE WALL:
The biggest mistake people often make in their first home is placing all of the furniture against the walls. For a much more interesting home, try having a desk jut out from the wall with two chairs, or sofas flanking each other.
5: ONLY SHOPPING AT ONE STORE:
One common decorating mistake in people’s first homes is when they shop only at the same store when furnishing a room or home. It’s easy to get caught up in a single store’s aesthetic, but do your best to add some variety to a space, so it doesn’t feel like you are living in a catalogue or hotel.
6: NOT CONSIDERING YOUR HOME’S QUIRKS:
The single biggest mistake we see young couples make in their first home is choosing colours because they like them in a friend’s place or in rooms they see online. Paint colour can change with reflected light, the stain on the flooring, etc. or tile and lighting inside the house.
Always test samples for the right paint hue for your interior.
7: DECORATING FOR THE SPACE YOU WISH YOU HAD:
The number one lesson when decorating your first home is: shop for the space you have, not the space you wish you had. Don’t buy a lamp or rug because it’s gorgeous, if it doesn’t suit your setting or decor. *Lead image via B&B Italia.