If you're looking to buy your first home or have just signed on the dotted line, congratulations! Gone are your days of cramped rental-apartment living—you now have a place to make all your own. Since you just spent a large chunk of change securing your new abode, the thought of decorating it may be totally overwhelming. We totally get it.
Between selecting the best white paint for your living room to splurging on a new sofa that will fit your space, there's a lot to consider before you even start packing up your boxes and loading them into the moving truck. If you're starting from scratch or hoping to create a home that feels more grown-up than your previous rentals, let this guide be your go-to decorating resource.
BEGIN WITH PAINT
Nothing will transform and personalize your space more than a fresh coat of paint—something you should do before moving any furniture or boxes in. Believe us: Painting an empty home is about a million times easier than worrying about moving furniture and covering everything in plastic. To help you pick the perfect hue, check out our roundup of the best warm-neutral paints, designer-approved grays, and top paint picks for your bedroom.
CHOOSE A BED
If you're truly starting from scratch, picking a bed should top your list of furniture items to buy. Since you may be new to buying large furniture, start with a classic piece that will stand the test of time rather than choosing a style that may feel outdated in a few years.
INVEST IN A SOFA
Because it's the anchor of your living room (in addition to being a good spot to nap, get work done, and have dinner), a sofa is a piece you should invest in. Now that you have your own place, you don't need to worry about picking a sofa that will travel well or fit into a variety of different rentals. Select a high-quality sofa at the perfect size, scale, and configuration (if you're going with a sectional) to suit your home. You may be shocked at the pricing, but it's well worth the investment.
LAY A FOUNDATION WITH RUGS
Rugs are wonderfully versatile pieces that add personality and texture to a room. A large rug in a natural fiber (like seagrass or sisal) is a relatively inexpensive way to cover your hard flooring. It can also be enlivened when layered under a more vibrant patterned rug. Now that you know you'll be staying in your home for a while, consider ordering a rug in custom dimensions to be sure it's the just the right size.
SPLURGE ON LIGHTING
Once you've selected the big pieces for your home, we suggest spending some time selecting overhead and wall lighting to make your new place truly feel like your own. Switching out light fixtures in rental apartments can be tricky, but in your first home, you have more freedom and flexibility. Plus, spending money to have an electrician hang an eye-catching fixture is worth it for the visual impact.
PERSONALIZE WITH TEXTILES
Side tables, accessories, and unique textiles are next on our list of items to purchase for a custom look. Though you may have opted for more basic pillows and throws in the past, now that you have painted your home and invested in quality furniture and lighting, it's a good idea to choose some pillows and throws that are more in line with your permanent style. You may have to invest in a few pieces to achieve the look you want, but the result will be rewarding.
ADD CHARACTER WITH INEXPENSIVE ART
A fine art collection takes time to acquire, but just because you're waiting to find the perfect piece before making a big purchase doesn't mean your walls have to be bare. While we wouldn't advocate buying inexpensive pieces you don't love (just for the sake of filling your space), we do suggest keeping your eyes peeled for cheaper artwork to get your collection started. You can also hang DIY pieces in a dining room or over a sofa if things are looking a little too barren.
MAKE EASY UPGRADES FOR A CUSTOM LOOK
Though a full kitchen or bathroom renovation might be a few years down the line, there are relatively inexpensive changes that will give your home a custom look for less. Plain subway tile, faucets, new hardware, and new pendant lights can do wonders for a kitchen—even if it means living with the linoleum countertops for a few more years.
This article was originally published on February 26, 2015, and has since been updated.