Making Your New Condo Yours

Happy  woman in headphones paints wallWhen you buy, you’re in an enviable position. All of a sudden, after years of renting and having to put up with the paint color, light fixtures, appliances and carpeting that are already in the unit, you get the opportunity to really decorate. And not even just decorate – you can remodel. It’s a heady idea. Here’s how to get started.

Figure out what you want. Since you’ll have control of everything in your new place, you have both great power and great responsibility. Most likely, this will be your first crack at full-on re-decorating, so take your time. Browse the website houzz for ideas on the type of rooms and aesthetics you like. You want something that’s not overwhelming, yet distinctly yours. You want each room to feel different, but none to feel out-of place. Talk to friends and relatives about their remodeling experiences. Watch some interior decoration shows, hit up Pinterest and Elle Décor.

Remodeling should be done before you move in (if possible). Most remodeling/painting jobs are a bit messy and will require you to move all your furniture. Far easier to get it out of the way before your furniture is there.

Your decorating can be spread out over several months or even the first year. You’ll want to really settle in and see what works.  You’ll probably still have your eye on one or two small projects long after the first round of work is completed and you’ve unpacked.

Consider your furniture. Unless you want to buy all new furniture, the new look has to match what you already have. Even if you’re buying some new furniture, the new furniture should complement your old pieces. In other words, shifting abruptly from baroque to Bauhaus probably won’t work.

Figure out what you can afford. You probably don’t have an unlimited budget. So figure out the amount of money you want to spend on remodeling – and remember that you may also have a furniture budget. And you’ll also have a decorating budget. Then prioritize what you had in mind.

There are easy ways to get a new look without spending a lot. The most obvious is painting – nothing changes the feel of a room as quickly or effectively. Or, something as simple as swapping out light fixtures, buying new curtains, changing out the cabinet handles in the kitchen, or buying some large framed prints for the living room – these are all easy ways to effectively accent your place without spending a ton of money.

Consider quality when making your decisions. For example, if you’re putting in a new kitchen counter, it’s cheapest to go with laminate. But laminate quickly wears down. On the other hand, if you spring for nice-quality tiles or granite, you’ll get to enjoy them for years and years. Remember that you’re playing the long game, so doing two remodeling projects with a bit more durable, pricier material probably trumps doing three projects on the cheap. And always keep in mind how things will look to the future buyer of your condo when you sell.

When buying new furniture, go for what lasts. You’re settled. You don’t have to worry about the portability or suitability of your furniture for another space. In fact, going forward, you hope to always have a space large enough to accommodate higher-end furniture. So, consider slowly upgrading in quality as your cheaper pieces need replacing. Nice “permanent” furniture will improve the look of your place, give you pleasure and last for decades.

If you’re lost, call an interior decorator. Their fees aren’t nearly as high as you may think – plus they can usually get you discounts on furniture, and they’ll almost certainly have ideas you’d not considered. And, most important, they’ll know how to pull off a look – you may know what you want, but do you know how to get there? An interior designer will.

While interior design may seem easy, it’s far more intricate than you may think. That’s why studying the ideas of others, assessing what you have, budgeting for what you can afford – and sometimes even consulting with a professional – are important steps to developing the look you want. If done well, the process should be a lot of effort, but also a lot of fun.

Author My First Apartment
Alex Starace

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Alex Starace and his wife own a condo in Chicago. Alex enjoys basketball, biking and jazz. His writing also appears regularly in My First Apartment, South Florida Opulence and TriQuarterly.

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