9 Things Interior Designers Still Have from Their First Apartments

published Dec 12, 2019
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Memories associated with your first apartment are often the sweetest—no matter how fancy your view becomes or how much square footage you may work your way up to one day. Even those who claim they aren’t sentimental usually have at least one item in their current living space that can be traced all the way back to where everything started for them.

We wanted to ask a handful of interior designers to share what they’ve held onto from their first apartments. Of course, some named personal prized possessions, but others chose practical pieces that you might consider keeping, should you have something similar or investing in now, with the hope that you’ll use it for years to come. Here’s what nine designers had to say on decor that has withstood the test of time.

Credit: Misty Molloy

Prized Plants

“I bought a ZZ plant to add pizazz to my first apartment in 2006. Affectionately named Tilly, she was affordable and easy to maintain. She has grown with me, added instant life and vibrancy to many spaces, and can been repotted to fit different rooms and trends. Now she’s claimed a spot in my office!”—Misty Molloy of The CoCreative Home

Family Heirlooms

“For me, the piece is a Japanese Tansu chest. It was a gift from my parents who collect Tansu chests. My mom is obsessed with them. All are one of a kind and very practical. I use mine for storage. I love it because it reminds me of my parents, and it’s a unique antique piece that makes a bold statement.” —Cristina Villalón, co-founder, principal interior designer, and director of Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón

Antique Chairs

“I always admired my father’s Victorian era chair, with its heavy clawed feet and a concealed reclining mechanism that was advanced for its time. While in undergraduate school, I designed an ottoman for the beloved chair and together, my father and I carved the companion piece out of solid walnut. After my school project had been graded, my father surprised me with the chair, once owned by his grandmother. Today, Fatso, my cat, enjoys the cozy wool material.” —Sarah Barnard of Sarah Barnard Design

Bar Carts

“I still have the bar cart that my parents gave me from their home when they were moving. They used it in their dining room. When I received it, I used in my kitchen. It housed my toaster oven and a few other appliances that I had no cabinet space for. Now in my home, it is being used for all my indoor plants in my kitchen. The beauty of a bar cart is its size and versatility. It’s also interesting how they have been in fashion, gone out of fashion, and are back in again. If you choose a good-quality piece that isn’t too trendy, keep it long enough and you can use it forever and pass it down to other generations.” —Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP

Vintage Bottles

“I still have the collection of vintage brown bottles that I started acquiring for my first apartment. I’ve moved them across the country multiple times and no matter where I’ve settled, I’ve found a place for them. I love the variations, the endless ways I can arrange them on tables and shelves, and the way sunlight filters through them.” —Roger Hazard of Roger + Chris

Thrifted Knickknacks

“My journey as a designer has been from the West to the East, having a small business in Idaho and then transitioning to a full-service firm in Manhattan a few years ago has been a great challenge. Upon moving to New York City, my wife and I sold most everything we owned with exception of clothes and some small knickknacks. One item that goes from apartment to apartment is a duck in a raincoat we purchased on our honeymoon. It was a spur of the moment piece we stumbled on at a local thrift shop, and it has been carried with us all over the city and made its home in our Upper East Side apartment.” —Joe Human of Designs by Human

Framed Photos

“When I first moved to New York, I babysat for a three-year-old boy named Justin in the East Village. The boy’s father was a photographer, who gave me this great photo of Justin that I’ve found a place for in my homes ever since. While my design has evolved since then, this timeless photo reminds me of my early years in New York.” —Rayman Boozer of Apartment 48

Special Storage

“One of the first furniture pieces I bought for myself is one of my greatest hunts. About 12 years ago, I was scouring eBay for a client and came across this brass Sarreid style cabinet on casters. It’s lived a few lives. It resided in its own special corner in my first condo, moved into our house when I met my now-husband, then in our nursery, and now has settled into its own corner again in our new house. It has so many imperfections, and I’ll never let it go.” —Barbie Palomino of Studio Palomino

Credit: Courtesy of

Wall Art

“In one of my first London flatshares, our landlord was clearing out one of the other properties for new tenants and out of the window, I spotted this amazing old wooden sign being tossed out by the side of the [curb]. I internally shouted a slow motion ‘Noooooooooo’ and ran down to get a closer look to ask if I could have it. He seemed bemused but happy enough for it to be taken off his hands, so off it came upstairs with me and has remained one of my favorite possessions for well over a decade.” —Joanna Thornhill, interior stylist