The basic pieces you need to set up your first apartment, without getting overwhelmed.

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Moving into a grown-up space for the first time can be daunting, overwhelming, terrifying and thrilling. Having to furnish and decorate said space can be all those things and more.

It’s important to remember that a stylish, layered space does not come together overnight (nor should it). Decorating a home should be a process that develops over time — a constantly evolving collection.

That said, you can’t live in an empty room for months on end. To make the process easier, we’ve narrowed down your shopping list to eight must-have items that every first apartment needs. These pieces will form a versatile foundation on which to build an enviable interiors collection.


In small spaces, it’s important that each piece of furniture functions for a variety of uses. When you’re choosing a table, try a drop-leaf so that you can expand it for dinner parties. When guests aren’t around, you can fold down the panels and use the table as a desk or vanity.


Nothing will add personality and warmth to your space like framed artwork. Try sources like and Etsy to find original, unique pieces. Keep your eyes open at flea markets and yard sales for a print that will add character and life to your new space. As another option, take one of your favorite photos to a copy shop to be enlarged and printed on photo paper. Pop it in an inexpensive frame from Ikea and you’re set.


Whether it’s a desktop topiary or a potted fiddle-leaf fig, plants will add life to your new apartment. To keep the plant alive and thriving, select one based on the amount of care it requires — and what you’ll realistically be able to maintain.


A bookshelf isn’t just functional; it can also be utilized to display art and small tchotchkes. In a pinch, you can also place an adjustable shelf by your bedside so it can function as a nightstand.


Whether it’s handed down from your parents (or grandparents) or scored at a local flea market, a piece with some age and patina will bring a sense of history and sophistication to your new space. Small decorative accessories with a story or background add layers and dimension to even the most modest abodes.


Your taste in interior styles and design eras is likely to change over the years. If you’re just starting out, it’s wise to invest in a piece of neutral upholstery that will stand the test of time. By switching out decorative pillows and throws, your sofa or lounge chair will be able to easily adapt to your changing tastes.


Think of these as the jewelry of your décor. A great sculptural lamp can not only provide flattering accent light, it can also be a conversation starter, styling centerpiece or focal point of a console or side table vignette.


Adding an area rug will warm up your space while providing a soft texture underfoot. Your taste in styles may change over the years, so opt for a hard-wearing, neutral rug in a natural fiber like seagrass or wool. Layer accent rugs on top in fun colors if you want a jolt of personality, or keep it clean with a simple stripe or plain solid for a more versatile look.