how to furnish your first home.

I lied just a little bit when I titled this post--will you forgive me? Here's the truth: {cv} and I are feeling pretty clueless as we look to furnish our home this fall. I know it may seem like a long way away, but time is flying. {It's already the end of January...when did that happen?} We're doing our best to budget for what will be an inevitable blow to our savings, but it's much easier said than done. Most of the furniture in our loft will not translate into our future home, so for all intents and purposes, we're starting from scratch. Writing that again just gave me the jitters, but I digress...

We've been told a few things:
1) Don't try to furnish the house all at once...
2) Empty rooms are ok in the beginning--it will come together over time!
3) Focus on the rooms where guests will be; there are doors for a reason.

Homeowners {of any variety--be it a house or condo}: please give it to us straight! How long did the process really take? {Does it ever really end?} Where did you find some of your favorite pieces? 
We need all the advice we can get. 

In the future, I'm hoping this post can help other first-time homeowners in their quest to furnish their first homes. The best part? {cv} was the one to suggest this post because you have all been such a fantastic help in the past. Rock on, readers. My husband believes in you--just like I do! 
Many thanks for your help :) xoxo {av}


  1. we too started from scratch! we have been in our house (4 bed, 2.5 bath) for almost a year and a half. i have a list of how i'd like to furnish each room (of course, it changes) and we buy things each month and look for deals. also, remember that you may not get it right the first time (we've repainted walls, moved furniture room-to-room and switched out accessories/pillows a million times). the only room in our house that is "done" is a half bath. everything else is in progress! when will you be moving into your house? can't wait to hear about your design adventures. :)


  2. I move every 2-3 years thanks to my job, and while I'm not exactly starting from scratch every time, it's a continual work in progress. We have a "stock" set of things that work pretty well with each place we've been in but furnishing a house is a continual work in progress. You'll get there, you'll arrange things, you'll live in it a while, you'll want a different flow to a room, you'll arrange things again...

    You'll need kitchen, bathroom, and a place to sleep first. After that, take the rooms as they inspire you, and don't worry about being "done" all at once. People will understand if you've just moved and aren't ready to entertain right away!

    The best advice I can give you is to get some of the basics, and then live in your place awhile to get a feel for the flow you want. If you're always walking across a room from one corner to the patio door on the other side, you don't want to put a couch blocking the way, no matter how good it looks in the design stage!

    :) KC

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  4. I'm excited to see the responses to this! I definitely stand behind the "don't try to do it all at once" advice ... it's more fun to watch your space come together over time, even if it is frustrating to not have a home for everything right away. xo, eliza

  5. Definitely don't do it all at once! Holy craziness and bank account draining. I'm ripping out inspiration of items, rooms, pain colors and keeping it in a folder for easy reference. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed - but it's a fun process!!!


  6. We moved from a small town house to a bigger single family home about 7 years ago and the house is still not "done". At times it drives me crazy but I have found that if I rust to finish a room I buy things that are not really "us" and then the room does not feel "done". So I would have to agree that it is best to take your time, as trying as that can be.

  7. I have no answers for you because I;m not there yet! But I do have a story:

    about 10 years ago, my family went to a party at a family friend's house - I think it was the older son's 10th birthday. They'd just moved into a much bigger house and hadn't furnished all the rooms yet - their old living room / den stuff was in the family room in the back, and the big room at the front of the new house was totally empty. I remember walking in and thinking, as a snotty teenager does, "God, they haven't even finished decorating. Can't they get it together?" But, a few hours later, when all the children were having the most wonderful and artless dance party in that big empty room, I swallowed my words. It was glorious!

  8. Here is my advice: live there first before you make any BIG decisions!! I did a lot of pre-decorating before we moved it to our first place and then learned quickly that the $2000 sectional I just had to have would not fit or work in our living room as I had thought. Thankfully it was returnable but if it hadn't been we would have been screwed!
    It's easy to get so excited and want to do everything ASAP (espeically with Pinterest) but try to get a feel for the home and the flow of how you'll live and then start making decisions. You will be so much happier than if you buy a piece or use a specific paint color and then hate it after 2=3 months.

  9. It took us around 2 years to furnish our house. It was a slow process but I found the pieces I bought right away because I was not patient are the pieces I am now regretting. My best advice is be patient, stalk Craigslist and estate sales.

  10. We had a lot of hand-me-downs starting out. I am glad we did not have to furnish all at once and we have been doing it little by little over the past couple of years. If you can go slow, do it because 1) you won't blow through all of your savings and 2) you can pick pieces you absolutely love versus being forced into a piece

  11. One of my best friends got a great deal on a huge house... so obviously they only had enough furniture to fill about half of it haha... it turned out fine though! She even hosted an engagement party there! Personally I would rather have some rooms empty for awhile and wait until I found pieces I really loved to fill it. Have fun shopping!!

  12. My husband and I moved into our house this past summer. We still have empty walls and a completely empty room that I will eventually be making into my office. When I give the "house tour" I always share my vision for the empty spaces so guest can see the potential.

    The best advice that was given to me was to measure the rooms and decide what size furniture would go well in that space before going shopping. Bring the tape measure with you and write down the dimensions, before you make the purchase, tape off the dimensions on the floor to make sure that it's the right size.

    Second best advice? To buy two sofas instead of a sofa & love seat or a sofa & chair with ottoman.

    Best of luck!!! xo

  13. I felt the same way when we bought our first home 2.5 years ago.

    What did i do? I made a list and prioritized it by room. I'm still working on the list, but it's also ever changing.

    Our biggest purchase was the couch and we scored. I was looking for a sectional and happen to stumble across a modern lazy boy, yes, lazy boy (you wouldn't know it looking at it) on craigslist. The couple only had it for a few months and were moving. The short of the long is we paid $400 for a $2,800. I guess I'm saying take your time and make a list.

    Good Luck!

  14. I totally understand this feeling. When I bought my first house I felt pressured to "fill it up." It was not the right way to go about it. After years of gathering stuff I was "ok" with I came upon this quote by Rose Cumming,in a magazine " If you make a compromise-selecting something cheaper than what you really like-it compromises you, because you are never really happy with the result." It was like a bright light for me. I stopped...I took a second and I realized that was exactly how I felt-and I didn't like it at all. Take your time-enjoy the hunt...let it be exactly what you like instead of just ok and within the budget. And I always go antique when it comes to wood furniture-I never tire of those pieces...and they hold up better. And nowadays you can find great stuff at thrift stores and on craigslist.

  15. When we bought our first house a little over a year ago we hardly had anything to fill it with. We focused on the big pieces first (beds, couches, dining room table, etc...) and then let the rest fall into place as time went on.

  16. Definitely, definitely, definitely do not try to do it all at once. You'll be buying things just for the sake of buying something, anything, to fill the space. And it always ends up looking exactly like that. You end up spending double than if you would just wait two months until you had the cash for the next piece. Ask me how I know ;)

    My best advice is buy the very best quality you can afford, especially on things like a sofa that get a lot of love and use. And a great bed. Spend on the things that you'll use the most or where you'll be spending the most time. You can paint a Goodwill dining table and make it work for a couple of years while you're sleeping luxuriously on your beautiful bed and enjoying tv from your down filled couch.

  17. It never ends! Well at least for me, I feel like there is always something I want to improve or change! And after so many years it's always nice to do a little update!

  18. We have had a perpetual list of things to buy and things to improve throughout 2 homes and 5.5 years of marriage/living together. It hangs in our kitchen, and as things get crossed off, more things get added. No need to tell you this, I'm sure, but try not to stress, and keep your priorities and budget in mind--not the need to look picture perfect. You will get there in your own time.

  19. I could not agree more with number 1–don't try to do it all at once! Not only is that a HUGE chunk of money to part with, but it doesn't give your home time to "marinate"...once you spend a bit more time in it, you'll really get a feel for what you envision, what it's missing and they type of style you can picture yourself living with. I love that homes are never finished.

    The Glossy Life

  20. Oh I do love this post already! We just went into escrow with our first house!!! We bought a condo about 4 years ago and decided it was time for a house with a backyard because of the baby on the way :) For the condo, we actually furnished the house in a little over a year. It only took so long because Lindo and I were so busy that year with our businesses really taking off. We actually slept on the floor of one of the rooms with our puppy for the first few months (talk about movie material). So the first piece of furniture we bought was couches - because if we had company we wanted them to have a place to sit. Then we bought our bed and then a guest fold out bed. From there, pieces of furniture started accumulating :) I found my favorite places was thrift stores in 'high-end neighborhoods' like Beverly Hills (sometimes you found great pieces at steal prices!!) and this little shop my mother introduced me to (her friend works there). But with this new house, I feel like it's going to take a heck of a lot longer!!! I will def be referring back to this post for help!

    Happy Tuesday!

    Redheaded Daybook

  21. I agree don't try to do everything all at once ... focus on key rooms and go from there. Plus I think your home ends up being more complete that way because you take your time with each room!

    World According to Shia

  22. Good luck! It will all work out!

  23. Great post, because I think a lot of people struggle with this! Luckily (on unluckily, depending on how you look at it), our short sale took so long to close that we had saved up significantly more money than intended, so we were able to nearly furnish our house completely from the get go. However, we were cheap where we could be/wanted to be. It was more important for me to have the rooms furnished, even if I might need to upgrade in a few years, than have empty spaces in our home for a long time. For example, we splurged on our classic looking bedroom furniture set that I plan to keep indefinitely (if not in our bedroom, perhaps a future child's), and skimped on our dining room table (got it from Walmart, what what) because I hope our next home will need a bigger table anyways.

  24. This is a topic that I'm dealing with as we speak. We bought our house almost 2 years ago and furnishing/decorating our home has been a continuous project. After moving from a one bedroom apartment to a 4 bedroom house, we knew it would take time and frankly I would much rather get perfect and original pieces over time than buy everything at once from the same store. You're right about prioritizing your rooms. The first two rooms we tackled were the family room (where we spend 90% of our time) and the master bedroom. Two years later we're just now getting to the office and guest bedrooms. We have gotten most of our furniture from antique stores and outlets (pottery barn and crate&barrel) so far. I also found this article to be incredibly helpful for helping us prioritize purchases:

    Good luck!

  25. I had a mattress and bed frame delivered the day I moved in. Other than that I had 1 chair and a side table for a 4 bedroom house. No fridge. No couch. I've been in my house for almost 2 years and am still not done. My guest room only has a bed and bookcase in it. Definitely don't try to decorate it only at once. You'll end up with pieces that "work" in the space, but not necessarily pieces you love.

    The best advice I got was to only buy pieces that I loved and not try to "match" everything. If you buy what you love than you'll always find a place for them in your home. I've always felt I'd rather have an empty space than filled with things that aren't very good quality or that I don't really like.

    My favorite places for home shopping are: IKEA (you can easily dress up IKEA furniture with Anthro or Resto knobs), Restoration Hardware SALE, World Market . Also, surprisingly, Walmart has really great prices and good quality for outdoor furniture. Restoration Hardware Baby has great lighting and a lot less expensive than the core store. Crate & Barrel has great kitchen and dining stuff at their semi-annual sales.

    Good luck and can't wait to see how everything goes!

  26. We just moved into our 3 bed 2.5 bath house. We are by no means done but have done most of the first floor. For us, budget has been key. Therefore, you cannot rush anything. For instance, we found our bar stools at Pier One after 4 or 5 trips to all the ones in the area and finally got ours "as is" for over 1/2 off because they had a few scratches that no one will notice. We got big pieces at a furniture store that was going out of business, but again we went to 45 before we found it. The biggest thing is time. The last piece of this is we used a decorator who frequently works with our builder. She is FREE and we have gotten so many cheap pieces that she has used for "staging" other houses so they are used but you cannot tell one bit. Because we are using her to order things she can get us "staging prices" so we have gotten everything cheap. Good Luck!

  27. you'll get there.. and it IS okay to have empty rooms and for it to take a while to have the whole place furnished. i would start with the room that you spend the most time in. when we decorated our condo we did the living room, kitchen, and then the bedroom (which turned out to be my FAVORITE...ironically). our office has been neglected and it sort of a dumping ground of misc. stuff/guest room/bike storage.. and that works for us. just do your own thing and concentrate on what will make YOU and CHRIS happy, not the perfect rooms you see on pinterest. love you lots lady and i have no doubt you'll make that house a home in no time. xo

  28. I have been a homeowner for 3 years and still don't consider it "finished"... I think its a never-ending process of constantly switching stuff around and out depending on your changing and evolving style and tastes. My favorite pieces are those that have been handed down to us believe it or not... because they have meaning and make me think of the person that gave it to us every time we use it.

  29. I'm there now!
    I have all of these amazing items that I want to purchase NOW- and forget that we need to budget them in.
    Our first guest arrives in April, so I'm giving myself until then to get things "right".

    Manda from Eat Cake

  30. I have been in my house for 4years and I now want to redecorate the first room I started 4 years ago! I love decorating. It is a process. Don't overwhelm yourself. Start with one room at a time and the rooms you will be in the most. Some of my regrets: Buying a cheap sofa from WOrld Market. We have a weird layout in our den and we needed a small sofa. I didn't want to spend a lot on a sofa that I thought wouldn't be forever. It looks cute but so uncomfortable. In a few years we plan to move and I want to invest in a good one. I say buy good basics and accessorize with inexpensive things. I do like Ikea. We have quite a bit from there and it has held up pretty good. Good Luck!

  31. Well, since we just started renting a house this week, I am in the same boat! I am one of those people that wants it all decorated and finished NOW. My mom is an interior decorator and I just want to pull her aside and tell her to GO! Luckily, Tyler and I have enough things together (sofa, coffee table, 2 chairs, recliner, table & chairs, bed and dresser) and my parents got us a mattress for the guest room. Still working on a desk (probably a handmedown from my dad's office), a porch swing, (craigslist), rocking chairs (looking for them), and a few coffee tables which just got at TJ Maxx. I love buying inexpensive things since they don't last and I can upgrade later!

    I've been stalking Craigslist, One Kings Lane, and Joss and Main for things! I'm sure your home will be gorgeous! Can't wait to follow along! xo

  32. All furniture in our home are hand-me-down's when my brother's family migrated abroad. Although sometimes I dream of buying solid wood furniture, we too are on a budget, and purchasing isn't an option I am currently focusing on interior decorating ideas that are low-cost and doable, and fortunately, i see a lot of inspirations online. Since I don't live in the US, buying from furniture from Ebay or other auction sites is not an option either, but I've read a lot of bloggers who were able to find cool things out them. I'd love to see you post about new updates in your home from time to time, and it's okay to take your time =) Hope you'll have a wonderful week!

  33. i'm totally going to come back to this post and read through all of these amazing comments when the time comes for us to decorate too! :)

  34. We've been in our home for 8 years now (it was new construction), but we definitely DID NOT furnish it all at once! Our major purchases in the very beginning were a new master bedroom set, a kitchen table and sideboard, a sofa/loveseat for the family room and of course all of our kitchen appliances. We already had one bedroom suit that we used in a guest bedroom, but the other two guest rooms sat empty for the longest time. We've since converted one of the rooms into an office/den and we eventually bought another new bedroom suit for the last empty guestroom and then furnished our dining room.

    As you get settled in your home, you'll figure out the "feel" of it and it's character. My decor tastes changed drastically about 3-4 years ago and I went through a phase of updating almost everything in the house (including re-painting almost every room). Over the past several years, we've done some major upgrades like adding granite countertops in the kitchen, installing DIY built-in bookcases in the family room, DIY board & batten in the half bath and DIY wainscoting in the dining room (thankfully Chris has some talent with a saw). :)

    We purchased most of our furniture from local stores rather than the big name chains. Take your time with it and just enjoy the process. We hope to build again one day and I can't wait to go through it all again! It's a roller coaster ride and definitely requires lots of patience, but it's SO worth it in the end!!

    xo ~
    Mendi @ Her Late Night Cravings

  35. As a designer my advice is to take it slow and have a plan. Pinterest is a great place to dream and get a handle on your style. Decide what you own presently that will be going with you and focus on doing the most important (to you) spaces. A furniture plan is helpful for understanding the size and scale of pieces for each room. I would also say that it is wise to "invest" in certain pieces such as a good sofa and excellent mattress. The rest you can piece together over time from hand me downs, craigslist or thrifted items etc. Spend your $$ judiciously and hire a designer if you need help establishing the long term plan. I loved the idea of sharing the vision for each unfinished room when giving your house tour shared by a commenter above. Most of all, enjoy the process, it will be fun!!!
    Cathy @ Room Rx


Many thanks for visiting {long distance loving}! I'd love to hear what you think :) xoxo {av}