Buy Your First Furniture as If It’ll Be Your Last : Gradually Buy Quality Pieces That Will Last Years; Fill in Holes With Imagination

United Press International

Question: I am 22, and am working full time. Next month I will be moving out of my parents’ home into a small one-bedroom apartment of my own. I am very excited about the prospect, but have one small problem -- no furniture.

I’ve investigated renting furniture, even renting with an option to buy, but I’ve decided not to do that. I prefer to purchase things individually as I can afford to do so. However, I would greatly appreciate some direction because I don’t know where to begin.

Answer: The prospect of furnishing an empty apartment or house from top to bottom can be overwhelming, but there are ways to make it functional and attractive without spending a fortune up front.

My first words of advice would be to purchase everything with an eye toward the future. Don’t say to yourself “I’ll buy this and then in a few years throw it out.” Instead, say “When I move to a larger apartment or a house, will I still want this piece? Where could I envision using it in the future?”


At this point, you can’t possibly know where you’ll be living in five or 10 years. Consequently, your judgment won’t always be correct, but in many instances it will be and the things you purchase now will still be of use in years to come.

In order to accomplish this, the upholstered pieces and case goods must be of sufficient quality. If furniture is poorly constructed, and presents as such, it won’t be long before you want to throw it out and your money, to some extent, will have been wasted. I feel that you’re better off, when selecting major pieces, to buy quality merchandise. It can always be reupholstered or refinished if necessary.

With that thought in mind, the first purchase I would make would be a set of “high end” bedding. Even though a twin mihgt suit your needs at the moment, I would consider a double or queen -- again, with an eye toward the future.

My next purchase would be what I refer to as a “transitionally styled” sofa that is not large or bulky. By this I mean a sofa that would complement traditional or contemporary design, depending on the other things you put with it in the room. I would probably select a neutral color and texture for the upholstery.


You can always add color with accessories, but a neutral design and color combination will give you great flexibility in the future. Also, in a small room the neutral tone, rather than a bright color and pattern, won’t be overbearing. If overnight guests are expected, a sleeper sofa would be an idea worth considering.

You will need a dresser for your bedroom, as well as end tables and possibly a coffee table for your living room. If your budget is tight, and it may be after buying your sofa and bedding, you think about purchasing second hand things and refinishing them. Often, this is a good way to obtain quality pieces for a reasonable price.

Invest a little time and effort and the result may be worth it. A well-proportioned and nicely styled dresser can always be used later in a guest room, and an end table in a den.

If second-hand doesn’t appeal, use your imagination to fill in the empty holes. Try directors chairs or large floor pillows instead of costly upholstered chairs, baskets or mirrored cubes for end tables or coffee tables are all effective. The old trick of covering a cardboard table or folding screen with fabric is always successful.

Plants can visually work miracles and soften the room as well. Art posters from museums will give your room a touch of class and make a statement about your sense of style.

All of these things are inexpensive, yet you’ll be able to use them in the future. Directors chairs can be put on a porch, large floor pillows in a child’s room, a fabric covered table or screen, baskets or mirrored cubes can be used anywhere.

When selecting your lamps, choose those with clean lines that are not too large. Ceramic table lamps are inexpensive and adaptable in many situations. Brass swing-arm standing lamps or torch lights are also reasonably priced as well as attractive. Think about using rice paper hanging lights or putting a bulb behind a parasol.

Do not invest much money in window treatments. Because window sizes vary so much, you can virtually be assured that they will not be of use in the future. Instead, I would make draperies or curtains from sheets, use inexpensive pleated shades or mini blinds or even use a folding screen to block a window at night. Your money is better spent on things you will be able to use in the years to come, rather than on expensive window treatments.


When your budget is limited, “fill in” with imagination while you gradually acquire quality pieces. This enables you to create a look that is distinctly yours and be very effective. Good taste does not necessarily require a great deal of money.