The First Things You Should Buy When You Move, According to Professional Designers

published Jul 23, 2019
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Whether you’re starting out with zero furniture or have left behind some key pieces, almost everyone has to buy a few things while settling into their new space after moving. I should know: I’m currently writing this story from my new, dark, barely furnished apartment. But it can be hard to find out which ones you should buy first.

To help you figure it out, we asked professional designers what should be the first thing to buy for a new home. With any luck, the process will be a lot easier the next time you choose to move zip codes.

1. Start with Some Small Pieces

As exciting as it can be to decorate a new place from scratch, Ashley Moore, the founder and principal designer of Moore House Interiors, recommends resisting the urge to buy new furniture before you move in.

“We are firm believers that when you move into a new home, you need to live with all your current furniture and decor before buying new items,” Moore explains. “It’s important to live in your new spaces with what you have to see what you want to keep and what needs to go. You’ll have a better idea of what you actually need, as well as dimensions, colors, and textures.

But if you’re swept away with the excitement of moving into somewhere new, Moore suggests getting some small pieces to scratch the itch.

“Buy a new candle in your favorite scent to make the house feel cozy,” she says. “Or buy some fresh flowers to bring life and color into your new space.”

If you want something a little more substantial, Moore suggests getting some blackout curtains for the master bedroom to ensure you sleep well after moving and unpacking. Trust us, you’ll need some rest and relaxation after the big move.

2. Buy Some Bedding

The average person spends a third of their life in bed, so it’s important to stock up on some quality bedding.

“Moving into a new place has to be one of the most exciting things, but is quickly followed by complete exhaustion,” interior designer Brady Tolbert says. “Do yourself a favor and invest in quality sheets before the move, so that your first night in your new home will be a sound (and restful) one.”

For a luxurious, yet low-maintenance, pick, Tolbert recommends Parachute’s Linen Venice set.

3. Reach for a Rug

Once you have essentials like a bed and sheets, the next thing you should focus your budget on is a rug. This purchase can make even an empty room feel inviting, which is a plus if you only have a few pieces of furniture.

“If you only have the budget for one big-ticket item of furniture for your living room, invest in a rug that’s as large and fabulous as possible,” Richard Ouellette of Les Ensembliers suggests. “If you don’t have the budget to fill your whole space with furniture at one time, your rug will be cozy and fun to have friends over. Just throw a few cushions on the floor and you’re set!”

Alessandra Wood, interior design expert and vice president of style at Modsy, took this tip one step further and also advised to get some rug pads.

“Rug pads are often an afterthought,” she says. “Once your space is designed, who really wants to move all of their furniture to put down a rug pad? When you move and create your new layout, this is the perfect time to put down a rug pad.”

As Wood puts it, rug pads are great because “they help keep your rug in place and they add a plush layer of comfort.”

4. Give Yourself Time To Find Your Favorite Spots

Most people have to update their homes room by room in order to keep their budget intact, so Kristen Peña of K Interiors encourages folks to study their new spaces for favorite spots before drafting a battle plan.

“When moving into a new space, the most important thing to do is to sit with it for a few days to see how you use the space and what might be areas of particular interest,” she says. “For example, does the morning sun stream into a certain window where you might want to sit and have coffee? Take cues from the space and the light.”

Examine your new space in style with the help of a well-appointed accent chair or pouf.

Credit: Samara Vise

5. Tackle High-Traffic Rooms First

Nobody wants to scarf down takeout on a makeshift dining room table, so it’s important to decorate high-trafficked rooms first.

“For new renters and homeowners, I recommend beginning with the essentials that will live in the spaces you plan to spend the most time.” Amber Guyton of Blessed Little Bungalow says. “I would start with the components of your bedroom and living room seating.”

Once you have the basics, feel free to pile on the blankets, throw pillows, and wall tapestries.

6. Check out Vintage

Sometimes, the question isn’t what you should buy first but where to pick up your home decor. For quality wares on a budget, try your luck at your local flea market or thrift store.

“One way we help clients achieve this when they are first starting out is through vintage pieces,” says interior designer Marika Meyer. “Solid wood tables, chests, stools in various styles are readily available at great prices through many vintage websites and vendors.”

As a bonus, many vintage store finds are designed to stand the test of time.

“When I moved into my first apartment my mother helped me buy a vintage dresser and side table for my bedroom,” Meyer says. “That dresser is still in my room and the side table is in my son’s room.”

7. Pick Your Paint

Give yourself a clean slate by tackling the paint first in your new house.

“The first thing you should buy when moving into an apartment or house is paint,” says interior designer Caroline Rafferty. “When trying to get settled into your new space, painting the walls and cleaning will ensure you have a fresh slate to make the home your own.”

Once you’ve found the perfect shade for your space, you can create a complementary color palette for your furniture and other accoutrements.

Credit: Abe Martinez

8. Work on Your Windows

Just like with rugs, window treatments can help make a sparse room feel more put together.

“I don’t care if you have them custom made or buy them at IKEA, put something on your windows,” interior designer Bella Zakarian Mancini says. “Window treatments are like lipstick: You don’t have to wear it, but you’ll probably look a whole lot better when you do.”

9. Stock up on Storage

When everything in your house is in chaos, having a neat and tidy closet will give you some peace of mind. Oddly enough, this was the first thing I invested in when I moved into my own space. It really works, and Mancini agrees. 

“There are so many options out there from super high end to uber inexpensive,” she says. “Buy the best system you can afford and you won’t have sweaters topple on you when you open the closet door. Sanity is often an investment.”

10. Get Some Sage

To make your new home feel welcoming and at peace, Jungalow’s Justina Blakeney suggests getting a bundle of sage.

“Since everyone moves into a new home bringing with them different stuff, the first thing I think everyone should get for their new home is a bundle of sage,” she explains. “The area can be cleansed and ready for new energies and good vibes.”

Want to get rid of bad juju with sage? Every nook and cranny matters! Blakeney emphasizes remembering tiny corners and closets.