The Definitive Checklist of Everything You Need for Your First Apartment

published Sep 25, 2019
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Credit: Liz Calka

So you’ve gotten through the hard part: finding and securing your first apartment. Once the dust has settled from negotiating rent, paying a security deposit, and scheduling a move-in date, you can breathe a sigh of relief—until you realize that you still have to furnish the place. And so begins the fun part: collecting furniture and decor that suits your space and fits the style you’re trying to cultivate. (We made a guide to the best 101 stores to shop for all your home essentials, too.)

We’re fans of curating your home slowly, and taking your time to find pieces that will stay with you no matter where you live. We also recognize, though, that sometimes you just need a sofa ASAP. If you’re about to move into your first place (and even if you’re just trying to redecorate), we’re here to help make the job a little easier with this definitive list of everything you need for your apartment.

Living Room

Depending on where you live, you might have a spacious living room or a tiny, awkwardly shaped zone that fits a chair or two. No matter what, it’s good to have a designated spot where guests can hang out—and you can drink a glass of wine (or more) after a long day.

First up is the sofa, which is a simple piece of furniture that can take many forms depending on what you’re looking for. Need something super budget-friendly that can also house your frequent overnight guests? Go with a futon. Ready for an upgrade? Invest in a good sleeper sofa. Rarely have overnight guests, but still want to save? There are plenty of quality sofas under $500.

Next, you’ll need a rug to warm things up. Rugs are kind of magical—they’re capable of instantly changing the vibe of any space, and add texture and character to otherwise dull rooms. There are truly an endless number of options out there, but we have a few tried and true retailers you should check out first. And if you’re trying to stay within a small budget, there are plenty of places that allow you to save money without sacrificing style.

To round out your furniture, you’ll need a coffee table (if you have the space), and perhaps a side table and extra seating, depending on your needs. This is where you can get creative—don’t feel obligated to stick with standard armchairs or bulky tables. You’ll also need a lamp or two, especially if your apartment has dingy or fluorescent lighting.

Finally, it’s time to focus on decor. This is the extra stuff that isn’t exactly essential, but it’ll go a long way in making your new place feel like home. Plants, whether real or fake, are a great way to add life to an uninspiring space, and you should never underestimate the power of wall art to transform a room.


Whether you’re an amateur home chef or mainly stick with pasta, there are a few must-haves for your kitchen. Aside from the more immediate essentials like dinnerware, glassware, and cutlery, there are a myriad of tools on the market—and it can be downright overwhelming to pick the ones that are best for you. Begin with cookware. If you’re starting from scratch and expect to spend a lot of time in your kitchen, consider a full set. Otherwise, buying individual pans and skillets is strongly encouraged.

Of course, you can’t forget about the coffee. Depending on your lifestyle, a good coffee maker (or tea kettle!) is a top priority. There are plenty of models out there, from single-serve makers that are perfect for just you and a roommate to fancy cold brew makers if you want to treat yourself.

Next up are appliances. Again, think about what will best suit your needs. Always baking? You’ll probably need a mixer. Love smoothies? Look for a blender. Debating between a toaster and toaster oven? Consider how much counter space you have and what exactly you’ll be toasting. These are items you probably won’t need right away, but they’re great investments you’ll keep for years.


Arguably the most important room in your new apartment, the bedroom will be your sanctuary—especially if you live with roommates. While the rest of your apartment will be shared by others, your bedroom is truly yours, and therefore it’s the most fun (and most vital) to furnish thoughtfully.

Of course, it’s the bed that needs all the attention. You should purchase a platform bed, as those don’t require box springs and are therefore easier to set up and move with. If you really have limited space, consider investing in a storage bed—these are typically bulkier, but have the added benefit of providing you with space to house everything from extra linens to off-season clothing and everything else you can think of. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with a Murphy bed or loft bed if you need to get creative.

Once you have your bed, it’s time to do some mattress research. This job has never been so easy—or so difficult. There are more options than ever before, and most of them can be shipped right to your door in a convenient box. So where to begin? We have a few ideas. (And don’t forget a mattress topper, either!)

Now onto bedding. Your sheets are way more important than you might think—after all, this is what you’ll be diving into after a long day. They need to be soft yet durable, cozy but not stuffy. And equally as important are your pillows and comforter, which might take a little trial and error to get exactly right, but are oh so worth it.


Your first bathroom will probably be lacking in space, aesthetics, and light. Hooray! The good news is that there are plenty of ways to warm it up. A good shower curtain can do wonders for adding a little personality to your space, and the right storage solutions can make even the tiniest bathroom feel more serene. And of course, don’t forget about the power of a soft bath towel to turn your day around.

Home Appliances

Sure, a vacuum cleaner isn’t the most exciting purchase, but it’s one of the most important. Those unsexy appliances will keep everything running, from the vacuum cleaner that will become to your new best friend to the ugly AC unit that will be a lifesaver as soon as the temperatures start to rise. They’re bulky, they’re a little annoying, but they’re oh so necessary.

Credit: Lana Kenney


If you’re in an apartment, chances are you don’t have a whole lot of space. Don’t worry though—this just means you have to get creative with the space you do have. That’s where smart storage comes in. From shelving to hooks to awkward wall space, anything can be used to maximize storage if you try hard enough. We’re kind of experts on small-space living over here, so we have a lot to say about the best storage solutions out there.