Lessons I Learnt From Decorating My First Home

Here are five tips on what not to do when decorating your first home, coming from the lessons I've learned myself.

I’ve lived in a fair few places during my time on earth, but only one of those has been a blank canvas for me to decorate as I please, and that’s the gorgeous flat I rent now. After living in the same spot for nearly three years now, I can say with confidence that I’ve learned quite a few lessons on how to decorate and, more importantly, how not to decorate an unfurnished apartment.

Here’s what not do when decorating your first home.

There’s No Need To Rush

Before I’d even got the keys to my flat, I was in Ikea buying furniture – bear in mind people, I hadn’t even measured the space at this point. I was in such a rush to furnish the space that I hurriedly bought things that in hindsight maybe should have been left at the checkout. When I moved in I realised most things didn’t match, or I’d bought items twice (true story stupidly). Take your time and don’t worry that you have to have everything sorted on the first weekend of living there.

Consider Investment Pieces

Instead of buying two basic sofas when I moved in, I wish I’d just sat on the floor a little longer and invested my money into a really nice quality piece of furniture. It’s very easy when you first move in to want to buy the big things straight away but the two pieces I’d recommend holding back on and saving a bit more money for are your sofa and your mattress. Both hold the key to your comfort so spend a little bit more money on those and you won’t look back.

But Don’t Turn Down Hand-Me-Down’s

The best hand-me-down I received when I moved in was a bed for the spare room. It was the one thing I wasn’t going to rush out and buy, especially as the room was initially a dumping ground for all the crap I had no place for. But when my brother-in-law mentioned his parents were looking to get rid of a bed, I was like “Hello! Poor gal in the corner needs donations!” Keep your eyes peeled for great deals on local Facebook groups, on Gumtree and eBay etc – a Twitter friend of mine told me last night that she bought a Smeg fridge for £55 on eBay. FIFTY-FIVE POUNDS PEOPLE!

Get The Measuring Tape Out

One thing I wish I’d done before I moved in was to measure the rooms prior to buying furniture. If I’d have measured properly and worked out the best use of the space, I certainly wouldn’t have bought two sofas and I might have considered forgoing a side table, as well as a coffee table. When I learned how to plan to scale and all about spatial awareness at the interior design course I went to recently, it was obvious to see on paper how my furniture would fit together but as I was working it out in my head prior to getting the keys, I swear I made every room a little bit bigger than it actually was. Most landlords or estate agents won’t have a problem with you measuring up before you move in. Another tip on measuring is, if you’re living in a rented flat and your landlord has been kind enough to let you hang pictures, then for goodness sake measure the wall screws and make sure pictures are straight – I’m currently hiding about six million holes in my walls behind pictures that really should have been measured and held straight before I was let loose with a hammer and drill.

Not Everything Has To Be Perfect

I remember not wanting a soul to come over to my apartment until everything was perfect. And I mean, perfect. Show home perfect. Except perfect never came as there was always something that needed doing and before long, months had passed until I’d invited anyone over. Accept the imperfections and unfinished corners, invite your friends and family around and toast to the next exciting chapter of your life. I wish I’d done it sooner than I did, and I wasn’t such a perfectionist. Three years on and there are still so many bits of my flat that I’d like to change. Imagine how many house parties I could have had in that time.

Moodboard The Crap Out Of Each Room

Even with a love for interiors, I still, even now, find it hard to know where to start when it comes to decorating a room. But I always find keeping a scrapbook, mood-board or virtual Pinterest board really helps to see all my ideas together in one place. I had so many ideas when I first moved in, everything was a little all over the place, nothing quite matched and I decided my “style” was eclectic. It wasn’t. It was just ill-thought-out. Tear out snippets of things you love from magazines, get colour charts together, rip samples of kitchen wallpaper from your local DIY store, take photographs of pieces of furniture you fall in love with when you’re out and about, and once you see it all together you can start to get a feel of what the finished room will look like. Plus, isn’t creating a mood-board basically the best part of decorating?

What would you say your top tip is for first time renters or buyers when it comes to decorating? If I was to choose the most important lesson I learned, it would have to be not to rush with impulse buys and to realise your home doesn’t need to be perfect before you can show it off. Life is about growing and your space should grow with you.

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In case you missed it: 8 Ways To Create A Stylish Home Office | How To Turn Monday Into A Great Day | How To Create A Parisian Inspired Living Room

About Victoria

Hello! I'm Victoria, the founder of multi-award winning interior design blog, Apartment Number 4. I can't wait to share my tips and tricks on creating a beautiful place to live on a budget, regardless of whether you're living in your forever home or your home that's perfect for now.

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  1. 7.18.17
    Zoe said:

    I loved this! Luckily I had time to attempt to plan everything out before I moved in cause I was renovating the whole house. I’m still adding and changing though, after nearly 2 years!

  2. 7.18.17

    Totally agree!! Especially with the second point. We want our new home to be special and us… even if that means we have to save up a little longer and wait for some furniture pieces. I love it when a home has special trinkets and furniture pieces, makes the space so much more special. xxx

  3. 7.18.17
    Natasha said:

    Loved reading this. I’m hopefully going to start the process of buying a home in a couple of month and I’m already so excited to decorate it but I’ve already told myself not to rush into it, get the essentials, make do and take time to really decide how I want it to look and what I really want. I’ve got multiple Pinterest boards to keep me grounded for now!

  4. 7.26.17
    Sharon said:

    When we moved into our last flat we headed to Ikea for a TV bench and when we got realised we forgot to measure the very small exact space it had so fit into. So off home we went to measure. It fitted and we would have been OK but if it as too big then there was nowhere else for the bench to go. What idiots. Luckily our Ikea isn’t too far from the city.

  5. 8.17.17
    Sarah said:

    We inherited everything in our house from friends and family. We’re slowly replacing pieces because they all look so jumbled. We have a super-king sleigh bed in our average-sized master bedroom which just takes up SO much space as you could imagine. it makes the room look tiny so we will eventually get a King-size.

    I love our home, which we renovated from scratch, as my blog documents (https://www.dreamofhome.co.uk), but I also hate it because it’s still so bare. We need artwork and rugs and mirrors. It’s taking us a long time to get it as I want it, but it’s coming along slowly.