Must-Haves For Your First Apartment

There’s nothing quite like turning the key into your first apartment. All the hard work has paid off and you now have a place to call your own. As you stand in this empty space, you might be thinking to yourself, what do I fill it with? And more importantly, where do I begin?

Furnishing your first apartment can be a daunting task. Suddenly you’re flooded with thoughts that have never crossed your mind before. What can I get for my budget? Do I want furniture that’s easy to move? Will everything I have fit into this space? What do I prioritize first? 

If you are lost on where to start, we’ve got you covered. Here are our must-have pieces that are sure to transform your first apartment into your first home.

Quality Sofa

When it comes to buying apartment furniture we suggest starting with a quality sofa. If you’re going to splurge on any item in your apartment, this should be it. Whether you’re relaxing after a long day at work, binging Netflix all weekend, entertaining guests, or taking a much needed nap – this is likely all going down on the sofa.

Once you’ve decided to invest in a sofa, consider picking a style and color that you can envision having for years to come. It’s easy to get caught up in a trend of color and pattern, but you also want to make the most of your purchase and enjoy it throughout future moves. We suggest sticking with neutral colors for your base and mixing and matching pillows for your pops of color. Keep in mind that it’s much easier to change out pillows than it is your sofa. 

Not only should you get a fabric that can last for years to come, but you should also get the right size. The last thing you want to do is invest in a sofa that’s too big and won’t make sense in your next place. We recommend getting a 7ft sofa. It’s not too big, not too small, and fits in any space. 

Small Scale Coffee Table

A living room is not complete without a coffee table, as we recently discussed in this blog post. Coffee tables help tie your living room together and offer a spot to rest your drink, food, remote, and feet. A small coffee table with storage below is a perfect option for an apartment.

We also love the idea of creating your own coffee table with different pieces for a less traditional approach. Ottomans make great coffee tables, especially if they provide hidden storage underneath. To get the look, simply add a tray on top as your resting space. Looking for a more budget friendly option? Use poufs or cubes in place of an ottoman. For this look, push two cubes or poufs together and top them with a tray. These are ideal if you like to entertain because you can always remove the tray and provide extra seating. 

Low Key Dining

Many apartments don’t have room for a large kitchen table, which is why bar stools are a great alternative. Not only are they more affordable than a dining table and chairs, they also save room if you are in a smaller space.

If there is no kitchen bar, or you prefer eating at a table, consider how many seats will actually be needed. It’s common to buy a bigger table with a lot of seating in the event of having guests, but more often than not, that extra seating is rarely used. We love the Fiona Dining Table, Messina Counter Table, and Tatum Trestle Counter Table because they accommodate 2-4 seats and don’t take up too much space.

Versatile Headboard

Headboards are ideal for apartments because they’re smaller and free up additional space that a normal bed would take up. They also tend to be less expensive than a bed which is helpful if you are sticking to a budget. There are so many styles and shapes of headboards out there to choose from and we offer a number of customizable options. From fabric, to color, to shape, your headboard can be a great way to add life to your bedroom. 

Stylish Storage

You never realize how much stuff you have until you unpack everything and find yourself running out of places to store it all. While apartments don’t offer a ton of storage, you can sneak it into your decor with hidden storage pieces. A storage bench is perfect for the end of the bed or an entryway to hide items you might need as you’re running out the door. Cubes with storage are another fun way to hide your belongings because they can double as extra seating, a place to prop your feet, or as side tables to rest your drinks.

As we mentioned earlier, storage ottomans are another stylish way to keep clutter away. And we can’t forget to mention baskets. Keep these by the door for umbrellas and shoes, in your living room for blankets and pillows, and in your bedroom for books and miscellaneous objects.

We hope this is helpful if you’ re beginning your decorating journey. While there are plenty of pieces an apartment will need, we think this is a great starting point of what to prioritize first. Was there anything you thought we left out? Let us know in the comments below.

For more apartment decorating inspiration, check out these posts:

Abbey Nolte

Abbey is a homegrown Georgia peach who loves a fresh take on Southern design. When she’s not working behind the scenes of the How to Decorate blog and podcast, you can find her cheering on the Appalachian State Mountaineers and spending time with her wheaten terrier, Charlie.


  1. Reply

    Judith Phillips

    June 30, 2019

    It would be very helpful if “small” were defined by (square) footage. Planning with a range of footage in mind is key when shopping for furniture pieces.