furnishing your first apartment

When you’re first starting out on your own, it can be hard to determine where to spend your money when furnishing your new place. It can be a daunting and expensive process, but there are ways to cut costs and still end up with a comfortable, stylish place and furniture that will last through your next few moves.

We recently sat down with content creator Ryan Leech to talk about his experience furnishing his apartment in downtown Winnipeg with some special pieces that he recently picked up. After the Q & A, keep reading to see our advice on where to save and where to splurge when buying your new furniture.

Young man standing by a cabinet holding a record.

Q & A with @itsryanleech

Question: How did you go about furnishing your apartment, and why did you take that approach?
Answer: When it came to furnishing my apartment, I really wanted my space to feel warm and inviting when I came home every day. In my previous apartment, I really struggled to arrange my furniture and was constantly moving things around trying to find the perfect spot for everything. I didn’t want that to happen with this apartment; I wanted my furniture pieces to create a more permanent space.

I love taking my time furnishing my apartment and adding different things over time. The bookcase I chose creates so much character in my living room and I have had fun arranging my favourite accent pieces on it with the Josetta bookends and personal items, like my Lady Gaga collection. The Prattville accent cabinet is also perfect for my living room area. I use it to display my vinyl record player and have added accent pieces to create a cozy living room area where I can unwind and enjoy listening to music.

Q: How important is it for you to have pieces that will last?
A: I believe having pieces that will last a long time wherever I go creates sentimental value. As they say, if you take care of something, you can have it for a lifetime. Whether I move apartments or move into a house, I want to carry these pieces with me to see how they evolve into my new living spaces. What I love about these items is they are timeless.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about your bookcase? Why did you choose it and how have you styled it?
A: I have never had a large bookcase but my apartment has the perfect corner spot for this one—it fits so nice and flush. I am so happy to finally have a book corner that sometimes I just sit and admire it. I have filled it with my collection of
special edition books and magazines, as well as photographs, travel souvenirs, and a bit of everything from moments in my life that I cherish.

Q: You also recently picked up a pair of barstools. Were they a good addition?
A: These new bar stools are a perfect fit! When having people over, my kitchen island is now great for hosting and having wine, chatting with friends over charcuterie, or I can even use it as a workspace. The addition of the barstools has made this part of my apartment so useful for anything.

Q: Do you feel like your place is a true reflection of you? How have you made that happen?
A: 100% yes, and why I say this is I really put my heart into this space. For many years in and after university, I lived in student residence and with shared roommates, I was never really able to put the time into creating a space that was truly my personality. Now, I can walk into my place and feel that everything reflects me.

I think for anyone, taking the time to decorate and find furniture that you love, and don’t hesitate to think about, is how you can create a space that truly reflects you.

Q: Do you have any advice for people just starting out and furnishing their first home as adults?
A: The best advice I can give is do whatever makes you happy when you walk into your space. As cliché that may sound, I believe you need to create a space that you love living in! Take your time finding pieces and grow into loving your space.

Young man standing beside bookcase and bar stools.

Furnishing your First Apartment: When to Splurge

Your Mattress
The mattress you sleep on can make a big difference in your health, your mood, and even your job and relationships—just think how hard it is to focus or deal with people after a night of tossing and turning. Need more convincing? You will spend up to a third of your life on your mattress, so this is something you will definitely want to spend a few extra dollars on.

Of course, finding a new mattress can also be a time investment, but it doesn’t have to take you as long as you might think, especially if you reach out for some expert advice. Our in-store Dream Experts can make the process a lot easier and less time consuming by asking you the right questions and matching you with the mattress that best suits your sleep style, within your budget.

Or, if you can’t shop in person, take a look at some of our online resources, then browse our large selection online. (Chat agents are available to help if you have any questions.) To get you started, here’s a recent article that will help you determine the right mattress type and firmness for your unique sleep style: What to Look for When Buying a Mattress

Your Sofa
This is another area where spending a little more to get a quality piece of furniture can pay off in the long run. Although all sofas start out looking pretty good, cheap construction and materials will quickly become evident after just a few months or even weeks of use. You don’t necessarily have to find your “forever sofa” when you’re first setting out, but spending a little more on a piece that will last you 5–10 years will save you money in the long run.

To make sure your choice endures, look for a classic design in a solid or textured neutral colour and express yourself with patterned or boldly coloured toss cushions. If your taste evolves and you change the style or scheme of your living room, it will be much more affordable to change your cushions than to replace an entire sofa.

Furnishing your First Apartment: When to Save

Your Dining Set
We can think of two reasons to save your money on a dining set when you’re first starting out. One, your new place (or the one after it) might not have the room for a big dining set. Two, do you really need a big table and multiple chairs at this stage in your life? Sure, you might want to host a dinner party once in a while, but unless it’s a weekly occurrence, it’s better to spend the money on a good mattress that you will use every night.

That said, you will need somewhere to sit and eat (yes, other than in front of the TV). If you have a small space, a small dinette or bar-height table and chair set will give you the illusion of more room and a cozy spot to host intimate dinners and brunches. No room for a table? Create your own breakfast bar with a deep shelf and a couple comfortable bar stools.

As soon as you are ready for a larger dining table, you can save a little money by buying the table and 2–4 chairs first, then add more chairs as your family or hosting needs grow. And don't worry about not being able to perfectly match your set later on—mixing chair styles will give you a cool, eclectic look. When you need additional chairs, add a couple upholstered styles or a bench that can be used elsewhere in the house when it’s not being used for guests.

Your Bookcases
It should go without saying, this is not the time to splash out on fancy built-ins or purchase large, difficult to move pieces of furniture. Look for bookcases and shelving units that can be disassembled, if needed, or are easy to move when the time comes. (Trust us—your wallet AND your friends will thank you!)

A shelving unit with open shelves and mixed construction—a metal frame and wood or glass shelves, for example—is a great choice for a first apartment because, besides looking great, it can be used in nearly any room where there’s space.

Another benefit of an open-back style is it can also be used as a room divider—perfect for splitting up a larger space into zones in loft or bachelor apartments—or in front of a window, full of plants, to obscure the view while letting in plenty of light.

Your Art
No one is expecting you to curate a great collection of art overnight, so have fun with less expensive and even homemade pieces of art. Try your hand at macrame or string art, frame a piece of wallpaper or fabric, or scour Etsy and local markets for reasonably priced prints and originals from up-and-coming artists and makers.

If wall space is at a premium, you can also create an impactful look with simple shelving and some of your favourite objects. Framed pictures, air plants and succulents, small books, and collectibles take on a new importance when grouped together within a frame, and the look can be changed up seasonally or whenever the mood strikes.

Furnishing your First Apartment: When to Let Your Heart Decide

That One Special Piece
Sometimes, the perfect piece of furniture or home décor comes along and it’s love at first sight. In Ryan’s case, it was the beautiful Prattville cabinet. In a small space like Ryan’s condo, having lots of hidden storage is key to controlling clutter and keeping the place from looking like the stereotypical “messy bachelor pad.”

What makes this piece a good candidate for a splurge? First, the design works well with a range of styles, so it can keep up with Ryan’s taste as it changes and evolves. Second, it solves more than one problem. Ryan can store dinnerware, cookbooks, and random items for entertaining inside and out of view, while his record player and an ever-changing display grace the top. And, finally, it fits perfectly into Ryan’s current living room, but will work well in a future dining room, media room, or even a large foyer or hall when he eventually upsizes into a larger apartment or house.


Are you furnishing your first (or second or third) apartment or house? Subscribe to our emails to be amongst the first to receive advance notice of our best sales and Shop Now, Pay Later offers with easy terms designed to make furniture shopping easier.