Moving from an Apartment to a House: What You Need To Know
Woohoo, you’ve made the Big Move from your cozy apartment to a house—congratulations! It’s a big deal to venture into the world of House vs. Apartment because now you maybe have a garage, a yard, dreams of having a dog for that yard, and home improvement stores are now your favorite weekend haunts. Home ownership can be (kinda) fun! Sometimes.
And though that lumpy second-hand loveseat you bought 10 years ago has been sufficient, what do you do when 400 square feet of beat up apartment furnishings look shabby in your new home and only fill a fraction of your space? When it comes to furnishings, moving from an apartment to a house requires some strategy.
Don’t despair, I’m here to offer some practical, actionable advice to make your new home feel just as intimate as your old pad, but without the impulse buys that will put you in a shame spiral when they don’t feel right.
Tip 1: Figure Out Your Needs
To start with, you’ll want to pay more attention to how you want to use each space rather than how you want each space to look. This is called “function over form”.
- Do you work from home and need your living room to accommodate a desk?
- Do you want to regularly have a lot of friends and family over and will need a lot of seating?
- Are these casual gatherings (folding chairs and ottomans) or formal parties (large dining table, conversational seating arrangements)?
- Do you and your partner like to nap in front of the fireplace at the same time?
How you use each room, particularly the common spaces like the living and dining rooms, drives everything about what should go in them. Telecommuting, kid homework, family game nights, watching TV, strong urges to become one with the sofa, etc., are all room uses that will help you plan what kinds of furnishings need to be included.
Tip 2: Measure Everything
One of the first things you should buy when moving from an apartment to a house is a tape measure; this unassuming tool will be your new best friend in outfitting your home.
- Measure the walls in each room, preferably while the house is still empty, so you know exactly how much space you have to work with.
- Pay attention to sizes and locations of fixed elements like windows, doors, built-in cabinetry, heat registers, and fireplaces.
- Once you’ve measured each room, make room sketches and label lengths. Bonus points if you do this to scale on graph paper (designer nerd alert!)
- Keep these measurements with you at all times, you are not allowed to shop for furniture without having these measurements with you, m’kay?
The thing is, some people – not you, but some people – are just not very good at estimating the sizes of things.
You may be tempted to buy that giant sectional sofa because surely your new living room is heaps bigger than your old (but don’t call me Shirley). In reality, maybe your new living room is bigger but not that much bigger and that giant sectional will overwhelm the space.
Buying furniture that’s too large or too small for a space is a very common mistake that can be avoided by understanding the true size of both your rooms and the furniture. Don’t give in to the temptation to buy furniture, especially large furniture, without knowing for sure if it will fit.
Tip 3: Plan It Out on Paper
- Draw boxes that represent each piece of furniture you think you might need on your room sketches: a sofa, a coffee table, a side table, a lamp or two, a chair or two, a dog bed or three, an area for gaming, working, etc.
Keep in mind:
- Traffic patterns (you don’t want people walking between you and the TV if it can be helped)
- Window and door locations
You can do this loosely, you don’t know exact furniture sizes yet.
Does it look like too much stuff for the room? Not enough stuff? Be realistic in what can actually fit and where each thing can go. This is when you will start getting clear on approximate sizes for the larger pieces.
Tip 4: Be Strategic in Your Purchases
Before you whip out your credit card, do a bit of what I like to call “pre-shopping.”
During this phase, you can shop online or in person, but you’re not buying anything yet. Arm yourself with a list of the furnishings you need, a budget, and a solemn vow to not make any impulse purchases.
As you begin to pre-shop you’ll get a better feel for the actual sizes of furniture (will it fit in the room?), how much things cost (can you afford it?), and how each piece will function (does it serve its purpose?).
Make a list of the things you find that meet these criteria and be detailed about their sizes.
- When you’re home, use your tape measure to “dry fit” each piece into the room.
- To be as accurate as possible, use blue painter’s tape to map out each potential piece on the floor.
- Although you are still working in 2-D, it can help by allowing you to walk between pieces and get a feel for traffic flow.
Not enough space? Look for smaller furniture. Big empty gaps? Consider sizing up or adding another chair.
During this pre-shop phase, gather fabric swatches, wood finish samples, and whatever other tangible information might be available to determine if the overall scheme is cohesive. Your items don’t need to be matchy-matchy – do not buy living room or bedroom sets!
Tip 5: Go Forth and Shop
By this point in the game you will be sooooo smart about what you need, how big it should be, and how much you can afford. Now is the time to whip out that credit card, but use it for good and not for debt-laden evil!
A couple of quick tips about furniture shopping:
- The best deals can be found in January and July, so if you can hold off on purchasing until then, you may find some great discounts.
- Many retailers offer 10, 15, or even 20% off first time orders if you offer up your email address (you can quickly unsubscribe after realizing your savings!)
- Check closely though, the discounts are usually only available for online purchases.
If all of the above makes oodles of sense and you’re already warming up your tape measure, hooray! If these tips give you anxiety and you’re still afraid to figure it out on your own, fear not, I am a quick email or phone call away and would love to help you.
Most of all, I wish you the best in your new home!
Fifty Shades of Green: From Using Cloth Napkins all the way to Living Off the Land
Get my guide to the small (or large!) things you can do to have a huge impact on the environment.
- What to add to your space and what to take away…
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- And dozens more—from simple green living to living off the grid