How to Get Great Deals and Gift Ideas for New Home Furniture
Signing a long-term lease or moving into a new house can be a stressful experience for many reasons, not least of which is the daunting challenge of figuring out how to make a new place look good after dropping loads of money securing it. Whether it’s you or a friend taking this most important of steps toward fully independent living, keeping a few key things in mind as the decorating process begins will make everyone’s life a whole lot easier.
First, take a look around your (or your friend’s) place. If you’re buying a gift for someone and you haven’t seen their new residence yet, well, you’ll have to take what you know about them into account when you assume what their new house is like. In general, though, you want to consider the aesthetic of the place. If it’s a house, how old is it and what kind of style–colonial, ranch, farmhouse, Spanish, midwestern, modern/postmodern, et cetera–does it emulate? Does the interior style mimic the exterior style or are there surprises–kitchen cut-aways, double rooms, skylights, add-ons, half-floors, and so forth–that change the place’s overall feel? If the new place is an apartment, is it partially or fully furnished already? Does the floorplan allow for creative decoration or is it intentionally straightforward? It’s also critical to take context into account. If you’re dealing with an apartment in a large building, take note of how the lobby and other common areas are arranged. You don’t want to copy common area style outright, but it might not be a bad idea to select decorations that complement it.
They say geography is destiny, but thankfully there’s no corollary for architectural style. It might freak out your less free-thinking friends, not to mention your parents, but there’s nothing stopping you from setting up clashing styles in your new place. Space-age angles in a colonial? Antique woodwork in the warehouse district? Go for it! If you’re buying a gift for someone, you must try to separate what you know about their new place from what you know about their personality. If they have particular tastes or go for particular creature comforts, by all means take those into consideration when you’re shopping for their gift. There might be a no-pet policy at your yuppie friend’s hoity-toity new downtown flat, but management is powerless to stop the relentless assault of her Ikea-and-beanbag conceit.
We’ve hit the two big overarching factors that determine decorative style in a new house or apartment, but what about the nitty-gritty things that ultimately decide how a place is going to look? These’s less wiggle room here: if solid blond hardwood floors are the theme throughout, a bunch of sunny plush couches is going to look silly (and hurt the eyes to boot); clashy colors–bright tones in a dark room or pastels north of Jacksonville–are arguably an even greater sin. Of course, if you’re not going to be tied down if you or your buddy owns the new place outright, and it might even be a great bonding experience for you and some friends to get together and do some repainting or re-flooring to complement the gift you’re about to give (or receive). If ownership is out of the question, it’s important to find out from your landlord or other authority what is and is not permissible. Most small-time landlords will allow minor modifications, like a new coat of paint or a new set of curtains, to their properties as long as they’re consulted in advance, but you might be out of luck if you’re dealing with a larger management company or with a traditionally high-turnover area (i.e. a college town, even if you’re planning on staying longer-term).
One final note for those looking to do their furniture shopping on the cheap: going to Ikea, Target or Wal-Mart to get furnishing ideas works when you’re decking out a college dorm or apartment, but none of these places are really one-stop shops for full-home furnishing experiences. Take your time and check out some of those bargain furniture marts out by the highway for your couches and dining sets; try Staples or Office Max for office furniture (competition from the above-mentioned superstores has forced these guys to crimp their margins and increase the depth of their offerings to the point where they offer a far better value); and look around the neighborhood or online for odds-and-ends pieces of furniture that might work well in an auxiliary setting (an office couch, for example, or a nighttable). And remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you like it, it’s probably right for you.