On Thursday, I took a good friend’s daughter on a mission of mercy: we went to Ikea to shop for her first apartment. We arrived at Ikea at 3:10, and by 5:20 we had loaded the car with 2 dressers, a table, four chairs, lamps, pots and pans, and various organizational stuff. Plus during that time, we picked out bookcases, a sofa, and a reading chair to buy later.
As a designer and mother of three, I’ve set up more than a few first apartments. In doing so, I’ve developed a list of go-to basics. Given the time of year with parents getting their kids off to college and first jobs, I thought it might be helpful to share my approach to outfitting a starter apartment.
1. Make a list of what you need. (You should know how large or how small of a space you’re furnishing. King beds don’t fit into twin bed size rooms.)
2. ‘Shop’ with family and friends first. See what others are getting ready to discard or replace. If it’s on your list, offer to take it off their hands. You can suggest to them to look at it as an opportunity to buy that new chair or desk or flatware they’ve coveted.
3. Get the basics first. You can add stuff later. No one really needs as much as they think they do.
4. My list (see below–by store) of durable, well-designed, not too pricey furnishings leans to simple, comfortable basics. The tables are more contemporary. But it’s easy to mix simply designed pieces with found items and cast-offs to come up with personality.
bookcases: It’s Billy Billy Billy– they’re the best bookcases. Simple style, various sizes, and add-ons like doors. A basic Billy bookcase 42″H x 32″W x 11″D is $59.99.
sofa: Ektorp slipcovered sofa for $399. It’s a very comfortable basic. Get the white slipcover; it’s easy to wash and easily can go contemporary or country with a change of pillows.
coffee & side tables: Lack are my favorites. It’s Ikea’s knockoff of the Parson’s table and you can get it for an unbelievable $7.99 (side table) to $39.99 (coffee table).
reading chair & ottoman: Poang (ranges from $99 to $199 depending on fabric choice). It may not look like it but it’s one of the most comfortable chairs.
lighting: my new favorite lamp is Ledet in white, table version $39.99 and floor $49.99. It has a movable arm and a circular shade. I also like Stranne table lamp( $39.99) with fun LED tentacles.
bed frame: Malm, the low ($119) and high ($199) headboard versions are strong and simply designed. (Unless you’re young and small, buy your mattresses elsewhere. You can use a regular mattress and box spring on Malm.)
dresser: Malm wins again with six versions (48″H x 32″W x 19″D is $149) in five wood colors.
dining or work table: Bjursta (the $149 model) is my number one choice for a table with multiple lives. It is 50″ x 36″ (60″ x 36″ with the two side extensions pulled out). It’s the perfect size for a kitchen table or worktable.
dining chairs: Gilbert in white at $39.99 is sturdy, modern, and stackable.
office chair: sit in the adjustable Wrap chair $199.
upholstered dining chairs: if you’re looking for something less utilitarian, the Porter slipcovered chair is $129 now on sale for $99.
side table: love the Martini ($129) in persimmon, white, silver, and green.
bed linens: the hand blocked Leaf and Jaipur quilts ($99 for full size) resemble John Robshaw’s stuff.
bed linens: love the DwellStudio line at $59.99 to $69.99.
desk: go to the Go-Cart desk for $149.
file drawer cart: TPS file cabinet $159.
side tables: look at the Formosa tray table in white or orange. It’s a dash of style for $49.95.
accent and floor pillows: great graphics here.
accent and floor pillows: take your pick.
counter stool: the selection changes but they usually have the Lawson backless at $69.99. You can get them for less at Ikea but this is so sturdy you can stand on it.
dining table: look at the ‘X’ table base for $119.95. You can buy their glass top or you can be creative with your own.
CRATE & BARREL
lounge chair: bring the outdoors in with the FSC Adirondack chair $169.96.
5. If you’re hankering after something that’s beyond your budget, look into used furniture places.
Last year when we moved our oldest to Tucson, we found a used office furniture store, Anderson’s, where he picked up an almost new Aeron desk chair for less than half of the original price. He also found some large black & white framed photographs for the same price as Ikea prints.
Good luck! Let me know what your favorites are.