Moving into your first apartment is a huge milestone for anyone. But for millennials in particular, who are dealing with some of the highest housing prices of a generation, moving out is a real cause for celebration. Finally flying the nest and becoming fully independent can be both exciting and terrifying, and when you close the door behind you in an empty apartment, it can really hit home, no pun intended. Getting the apartment is only the first step in the long process of making your house a home. Many people are bursting with excitement to put their mark on their own place, but it’s important to have a plan of action. To help you be as prepared as possible, here are five crucial things for millennials to know when they are designing their first apartment.
Live in your apartment for a while
I received my undergraduate degree in Communication Design from Skidmore College in New York. One of my favorite things about our campus was the way the paths in our quad were created. After the campus was built, the grassy area was left alone with no paths to walk on. Over time, the walking patterns of students and faculty were tracked, and paths were later put in based on the natural way that the users walked. In a similar way, instead of expecting you and your guests to conform to a space that you have created, you can adapt a space to conform to you. Your home should feel comfortable and natural to live in. Just because your couch looks great in the middle of the living room, doesn’t mean it won’t be a pain to maneuver past every time you want to get to the kitchen. It may be the most exciting part, but don’t rush the furnishing process.
Go for vertical
Your first apartment may be smaller than the family home you grew up in, so right away you need to take advantage of all the space you’re given to reduce clutter. By working vertically, you utilize the highest highs and lowest lows – from wooden cabinets to drawers under your bed. Your first apartment should be about having all your stuff in once place, without feeling like you have too much of it. A decluttered living space means a decluttered mind, and the importance of having a space that you can easily tidy before work or when having guests over, can’t be underestimated.
Add personal touches, whether you think you need them or not
Often when people move into their first apartment, they convince themselves they don’t need the extra touches that characterized their childhood home. But being at home more than ever right now, our immediate environment affects us hugely. Family photos, heirlooms, and even old upcycled furniture can give you a feeling of familiarity in your brand new space, and ultimately adds the most character to your otherwise blank canvas. Targeting your other senses by adding candles, diffusers or potpourri, can set the right tone, create a relaxing ambience and alter your mood. It’s the perfect way to get you feeling cozy in an unfamiliar setting.
Include things that have meaning to you
If you’re living in an apartment that isn’t yours, you will be limited with just how much you can put your own personal touch on it. You can’t paint the walls or change the wallpaper, so the only way you can really warm it up is by accessorizing with art. Whether you’re living on your own or with your significant other, it’s exciting to build your art collection where each individual piece has meaning to you. Each piece will be forever yours and build more meaning the longer you have it. As a millennial myself, I move apartments pretty much every one or two years – we don’t stick around in the same space for that long. So it becomes all about the stuff that is your identity, not so much the room itself, but what fills the room. Remember that your furniture will change, but your art and how you felt in that moment will last, almost like artifacts from a moment in time.
Fill your home with conversation pieces
The biggest mistake you can make is buying coffee table books, art or vases just to check that box that you have “decorated”. Each and every piece that you buy should bring you joy, make you proud of the home you’ve built, and serve as a conversation starter when guests are around. Your art and decorative pieces, much like your home itself, should be a reflection of yourself in actuality and on an aspirational level. In a beautiful way, your art can reflect who you are now, who you have been, or who you would like to become.
Elyssa Dorf is the founder and creative director of Cheery Designs. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications Design from Skidmore College and a graduate degree in Design Management from Pratt Institute.