Things I got — and learned — while decorating my first grown-up apartment

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Since moving is one of the worst experiences we willingly subject ourselves to as a species, I put it off for more than four years. (That’s how long I lived in my shoebox-sized walkup studio apartment in Manhattan — and it certainly reflected the “tastes” of the 25-year-old that originally moved into it.)

I was eventually forced out of my old building due to a maintenance issue (a blessing in disguise, I see now) and lucked out by finding a dreamy one-bedroom apartment in my price range soon after. 

Finding it was one thing. But the prospect of actually decorating my first grown-up apartment — rather than throwing some posters on the wall and succulents on the windowsills and calling it a day, like my 25-year-old self would have — was at once thrilling and overwhelming.

Now that I’m a few months into my new lease, I’m finally ready to spill on some of the lessons I learned, things I bought and thoughts I had (“Who needs $1,000-apiece dining chairs?”) while decorating my first grown-up apartment. 

Credit: Sophie Ross

Instead of following trends, stay true to you

While I like to think I’ve never been much of a “follower,” when it was time to move, I didn’t know where to start — other than by finding my favorite home inspo on Instagram.

I noticed many of the Instagram tastemakers I followed all had similar minimalist, bare apartments — give or take a few Matisse prints — complete with chic stools for nightstands, modern furniture, muted white hues and zero clutter or apparent storage. (You know the ones.) I was inspired by the homes of some of the top trendsetters on my feed, and at first, aimed to emulate them because I didn’t know what my own interior design style was. 

But the inspiration and pieces I was finding still didn’t quite feel like “me.” Plus, I have a lot of stuff — give me nightstands with drawers and storage over something ‘gram-worthy any day.  

Luckily, I was able to consult a college friend who’s now an interior designer to figure out what my own interior style was. Together, we realized my fashion choices were all about coziness, warmth and bright colors — and that aesthetic would lend itself perfectly to my new apartment. 

Basically, I’m the total opposite of “minimalist chic.”

Good furniture doesn’t have to be expensive — I promise. 

I was happy I discovered my own style before I mindlessly copied someone else’s, and I found pieces that truly felt like home to me — even if they aren’t the most photogenic or “cool” according to Instagram. 

My previous furniture, purchased from Ikea circa 2014, had already been put through multiple moves and was unlikely to survive another. So, I was starting from scratch, and moved only with my beloved sectional couch from my old apartment. (Luckily, it’s a pullout, so that’s where I slept until my new mattress and bed frame — more on that in a bit — arrived weeks into my move.) 

Since this was my first “grown-up” apartment, I really wanted furniture that would feel, well, grown-up. I was ready to invest in pieces that were elegant, stylish and of higher quality than my rickety Ikea stools. 

That said, I am but a humble writer in New York City, and I simply didn’t have the money to afford most of the designer furniture on my vision boards. (I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after one of the Instagrammers I followed did a “swipe-up” for dining chairs that were $1,000 apiece — she purchased six total.) 

But, believe it or not: After thoroughly combing the Internet, I found plenty of affordable, durable and chic furniture from places like Target (a lattice-wood media console for $300), Article (a cream bouclé dining bench for $379 and two velvet dining chairs for $179 each) and Overstock (a suede pink shell chair for my bedroom vanity for just $207).

Opalhouse Minsmere TV Stand, $300

Credit: Sophie Ross

Article Gabriola Ivory Bouclé Bench, $379

Credit: Article

Article Oscuro Garland Green Dining Chair, $179

Credit: Article

Carson Carrington Ullnasnoret Upholstered Scalloped Velvet Arm Chair, $234.49

Credit: Overstock

So, contrary to popular belief, it’s definitely possible to furnish a place with gorgeous furniture without breaking the bank. 

Storage is essential. 

Don’t let influencers’ barren apartments fool you: You’ll never regret investing in extra storage solutions. 

One of my favorite purchases was my Silk & Snow upholstered bed frame complete with substantial storage underneath. (I keep T-shirts, hoodies, bras and more under there, which opens up even more space in my dresser.) 

Silk & Snow The Best Storage Bed, $550 

Credit: Sophie Ross

My new vanity (via Wayfair) is the perfect place to keep all my makeup, too, with a drawer I’ve inserted separators in and an ultra-spacious surface that I’ve added extra storage containers on top of, too. 

Latitude Run Cliff Vanity With Mirror, $199.99

Credit: Sophie Ross

As a beauty writer, I have a lot of skincare products. Some of my first purchases for my new apartment were matte-black storage solutions that matched my bathroom hardware. 

BASSTOP 4-Tier Bathroom Storage Cart, $36.99 

Credit: Sophie Ross

Danya B. Narrow Decorative Wall Mount Vertical Shelving Unit, $66.54

Credit: Sophie Ross

Don’t rush the process. 

I realized that once I ordered a large piece of furniture, it wasn’t going anywhere — I don’t have the emotional or physical bandwidth to return something bigger than me — so I’d better be sure when I purchase something. (A large standing lamp I ordered from Urban Outfitters arrived in disastrous shape and is currently held together with duct tape. I still like how it looks, though, so it’s staying. And to be fair to Urban, I also ordered another lamp that came in perfect shape, and totally fit the vibe I was going for in my bedroom.) 

Urban Outfitters Willow Rattan Floor Lamp, $279

Credit: Urban Outfitters

Once I had all of my essential, can’t-live-without furniture, I took my sweet time picking out the perfect décor, artwork and finishing touches, and simply let things come together. It’s a one-step-at-a-time kind of thing, and I’ve definitely avoided buyer’s remorse because of it. 

One no-brainer purchase, however, was a full-length accent mirror — it opens up my small space and is, obviously, perfect for documenting #ootds. 

Urban Outfitters Selene Floor Mirror, $349 (Currently Unavailable)

Credit: Sophie Ross

As much as I love plants and flowers — and feel envious of those aforementioned influencers who have a substantial at-home collection of thriving, lush greenery — I don’t pretend to be someone who’s good at keeping them alive. (And I left my sad succulent phase behind when I moved out of my old apartment, thank you very much.)

I love the realistic-looking faux florals from Afloral, along with their DIY bouquet kits, vases, planters and other accessories at affordable prices. 

Afloral Purple Artificial Wildflower Lavender Bush, $16

Credit: Afloral

Set of 3 Ceramic Stoneware Jugs, $34

Credit: Sophie Ross

I may not be the minimalist with a green thumb that I wish I was, but my apartment truly feels like me — and that’s how it should be.

If you enjoyed this story, check out the one celebrity beauty brand that Sophie Ross actually likes!

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