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. Although, if you just spent a large chunk of change securing your new abode, the thought of decorating it may be totally overwhelming, and we get it.
Between selecting the best white paint (Eggshell? Off-White? What's the difference?) for your living room and splurging on a new sofa that will fit your space, there's a lot to consider even before you 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—and pro tip: It's 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.
As a rule of thumb, think about the vibe you want each room to exude. Warm colors—think reds, yellows, browns, beiges—have a stimulating effect. On the other hand, for a more tranquil effect, opt for cool colors; everything from blues, greens, and most grays.
"Gray is one of those timeless colors that always has a great air of elegance," designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard told MyDomaine.
Choose a Bed
If you're truly starting from scratch, picking a bed should top your list of furniture items to buy. And these days, there are more mattress options than ever in brand names like Casper, Tuft and Needle, and Fleep. See how our MyDomaine editors fared after testing all of the direct-to-consumer mattress brands of the moment, then choose your own favorite sleeper.
For some bed frame thought starters, we picked out a few favorites from canopy beds to frames with sweeping headboards and some with pops of color. Remember to measure your room and make sure the bed and frame combo you're dreaming up makes sense for the square footage you're working with.
If you're 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large furniture, start with a classic piece that will stand the test of time rather than choosing a style that may feel outdated in a few years.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 couch 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.
Unsure of where to start? We rounded up seven online retailers worth browsing for your perfect sofa, including Article and West Elm for modern shapes, CB2 for smaller spaces, and Pottery Barn for more traditional/farmhouse aesthetic.
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 make sure it's 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 invest in 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 selected quality furniture and lighting, it's a good idea to choose pillows and throws that are more in line with your permanent style. You may have to invest some time and dollars 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 bigger purchase doesn't mean your walls have to go 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.