It Took Me Two Years to Decorate My One-Bedroom Apartment, and I Have No Regrets

published Jul 4, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Cathy Pyle

When I first moved into my Chicago apartment after living abroad in Italy, I felt restless to turn it into a home. One of the worst things about moving into a new place with none of your previous furniture is the overwhelming emptiness of your surroundings. Some might call it minimalism, but I just saw it as an unfinished to-do list. All I could think about was how the living room needed a rug, the kitchen needed an island, and the dining room needed a bar cart before anyone could be invited over. My desire to fill up those spaces was as persistent as a toothache — it was all I could think about. 

On the other hand, I knew the wisest thing to do was to decorate slowly. If I wanted to invest in pieces I would love for years to come, I had to take my time sourcing them. Truthfully, I didn’t even really know my style or what appealed to me at the time. So I found myself in the crossroads of being too anxious to design while still paralyzed by the fear of buying the “wrong” thing. If you’re finding yourself in a similar situation, I have one tip for you: Buy secondhand until you find what you’re really looking for. Usually, these items end up being exactly what you wanted all along.

Scouring Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and thrift stores has been my saving grace in this confusing journey. I found a $30 coffee table, a $10 bar cart, a $100 couch, and $40 lamps. And here’s the kicker: I’ve actually kept most of these pieces! Not only do these finds fill up space and make your house feel more “homey” — no more cavernous echo! — but they also let you experiment with your aesthetic. 

For example, I leaned into the popular, resurgent Memphis Style for my apartment, but I also really love Art Deco. When I found a fabulous 1920s dresser at an estate sale for $70, I wasn’t sure how it would look with my eclectic mix at home. Was it too elegant to stand beside my playful, angular, and neon pieces? If it didn’t work, though, I could easily sell it on FB Marketplace for the same price I paid (or thereabouts), making it a risk-free gamble that I could get some use out of in the interim. 

Perhaps the best part of this relatively inexpensive placeholder strategy is that you can easily sell your stand-ins back into the secondhand circuit, often recouping all of your initial investment. I don’t know a lot about the furniture rental market, but this method feels a bit like renting on your own terms. Anything you take a small hit on can be chocked up to a personalized rental fee.

Give it a try, but remember, this process of furnishing does require a bit of extra searching and shlepping. Even so, you might just find your dream piece — and design style — in the process.