We hear a lot about investing in the future, but for most of us the phrase can be confusing when applied to the home. At the moment, most people in my life are nowhere near living in their "forever home," and the idea of pouring resources and energy into a fairly temporary living situation may seem silly. So what's worth the investment now?
As someone who has lived in quite a few homes for short bursts of time, I've realized many benefits of making a current residence into an inviting home regardless of how long I've planned to stay. And I've also experienced some retrospective regret. In an attempt to guide clients and friends, I'm putting together a list of fail-safe basic investments suitable for a variety of budgets for a variety of homelife-spans.
• Fresh Paint. Choosing your own color scheme instantly makes a home feel like your own. However, even if you can't move beyond landlord white due to renting restrictions, a fresh coat of white paint will do wonders for the feel of your home. Dingy white walls with years worth of other renters finger prints do nothing to make you feel excited about your current home.
• Inviting Seating Area. In my experience, a house starts to feel like a home after my first party or small gathering with friends. However, to get to that point, you need a place for them to sit and feel comfortable. This doesn't necessarily mean plush seating for a crowd. Any seating arrangement that encourages conversation will do the trick. For example, a sofa/daybed, chair, and some some floor cushions, or a group of chairs, etc.
• Comfortable Bed. If you aren't sleeping well, you won't love your home. Even if you don't spring for a whole bed, invest in a decent mattress. In many posts over the last couple of years, I've raved about Sleeplogic's Chirosense mattress which I bought for about $300, 7 years ago, and still love waking up in everyday. It has made a few moves, and has made some pretty dismal bedrooms seem bearable.
• Functional Kitchen. Depending on your budget, this could mean a wide variety of improvements. On a basic level, it means a clean cooking and food storage space. Take the time to do a very thorough deep clean or you may always be wondering about those ominous grease spots and dusty back corners. If you can spare more, good lighting makes a huge difference. Switching out a glaring fluorescent light, or adding some temporary under cabinet task lighting is a relatively low cost/big impact improvement. In homes where I've known I will only be for a few months or couple of years, I've found something as simple as adding a piece of art and potted plant, changing drawers liners, and doing a deep clean is enough to make a difference in a horrible kitchen.
• Art. You may think of it as the last item on your list, but art has the ability to set the tone and guide your taste in a way that no piece of furniture can. If you are drawn to a certain piece of art, you may find that it will help you find your furniture style as well. And it's much easier to take your art with you after you move.
Image: Brian H. Andriola for Apartment Therapy: San Francisco Brian's Serenely Styled Sanctuary