I was talking to a friend who's about to decorate her first home. She asked me if there was anything I wish I'd known when I went to decorate my first place that would have saved me time or money. There are a few things...
1. Buy your big pieces of furniture secondhand: This is not just about saving money, it's also about how your style will change as you learn what you like and don't like. Don't spend a lot on a piece by justifying that it's a piece you've always wanted and an investment in your future. The likelihood is that your style will go through three or four metamorphoses before it settles into something that's you.
2. Reconsider before you reject: When you move into your first place, people will often be so excited for you that they'll want to gift you with some of their old stuff (or they may just be trying to get rid of it!). Before you turn up your nose at it or toss it, make a list of inexpensive changes you might make to it. You might reupholster an old couch or paint its frame a shocking pink, remove a skirt or add a pillow or six. Not only will this save you money, it will hone your ability to look at a piece in a flea market or antique shop and see its potential.
3. Inspiration boards are not always good for decorating your first space: I know that goes against everything we're always talking about but I've found that trying to recreate someone else's room in your first space, a space that will go through a lot of transitions, ends up costing you a lot in time and money.
4. Embrace the serendipity: Your first home will not be perfect. There will be odd chairs around your table, a couch that's a lot fussier than your ideal -- and that is exactly how it should be. You're learning what you like to live with, not just what you like in a picture.
5. Paint is your best friend: You can paint a wall or a piece of furniture, dip the legs of your mismatched chairs in paint to unify them or paint a block of color behind your bed to act as a faux headboard.
6. Accent walls are your decor secret: You don't have to paint the whole room. One wall is plenty and as much as most people have patience for. It's also easy to change it up if you get bored or don't like the color.
7. Friday is move your furniture around day: Okay, maybe not every Friday but at least once every few weeks try a new arrangement. Sometimes the most unexpected arrangements work the best. This is great fun to do with friends!
8. Let your home annoy you: It's tempting, after a day of looking at decor mags and blogs, to want to fix everything in your apartment, especially when it comes to storage issues. But instead of trying to solve it immediately (which usually involves buying a lot of storage containers), live with the problem for a while. Often you'll happen upon a better solution that will end up being cheaper and simpler. Which brings me to the biggest lesson.
9. Live with as little as you can. It's tempting, when you first live alone to want to get all that stuff you've been eyeing for ages. Yes, you may be a home decor nut but, instead of buying every pillow and flowerpot you see, take a picture of it, pin it to your Pinterest board or post it on your blog. Just wait a few years or a few months and your home will have accumulated plenty and you'll spend weekends trying to cull it. Embrace the minimal while you can.
Image: Hilda Grahnat from Hilda's Sunny Swedish Highrise