Decorating For The First Time: What I'd Do Differently


When we moved out west, it was a lot of firsts for us. First major life change as a new family of three. First move as husband & wife, and as parents. First time being responsible for a home we’d be creating together. That said there’s a lot I know now that I couldn’t have known before because, for us, it was all new territory. 

As mindful as I thought I was being when it came to furnishing our new home for our new life, there’s quite a bit a didn’t exactly get right. 

So what would I do differently?

When we got to Washington, the apartment we’d previously visited and saw isn’t the apartment we moved into. Yes, it was still the one bedroom plus den that we’d expected but because we’d ended up with the accessible unit there were a lot of key differences that effected us as a non - handicap family. The wider bathroom and laundry closet, for easier accessibility, came at a cost — we had little to no storage! Purchasing around that apartment ended up creating a domino effect of not so great choices. 

Our First Apartment On The West Coast

Our First Apartment On The West Coast

Master Bedroom —

In the bedroom, the closet was half the size we’d expected it to be — think linen closet — with 2 shelves and it was a shared space with the water heater. As someone who isn’t a huge fan of dressers, I had to get over that quickly! We bought two 4-drawer chests plus the matching 2-drawer nightstand. All of the pieces had a small enough footprint for the small bedroom but enough storage for our wardrobe needs.

The dressers now live in the closet of our condo — yay! — and the nightstand still flanks our bed but starting over, these aren’t the pieces I would’ve chosen. We needed storage. We needed to save space. We needed something quick. Translation: in a pinch, these were perfect.

Operative word being “were”.

To make the small closet work for us we installed wire shelves for our daughters clothes, in addition to drawer units that we still use in her closet now. The rest of our hanging clothes went on utility racks that we put in the den/my home office. Those racks are now in our storage unit, with one being used as that closets shelves.

Daughter’s Bedroom —

Up until now, our daughter has always slept in our room — her bed, our room. Whether it was her mini crib or her now toddler bed, we’ve always had to mindful of the footprint. To be honest, we never even imagined even having the opportunity to give her her own room — first time parents here! — so when the time came and we decided to give her my former office, it was a lot of creative designing. 

Her toddler bed is small for the room, especially now that a settee that was in there is now gone, but the upside is how much space she has in her room for all of her different activities. 

Laundry Closet —

The laundry closet was equipped with the washer and dryer, and that’s it. We immediately installed additional shelves for cleaning products and such things because above the washer and dryer were just empty walls aka wasted space. Those shelves are also now in storage serving no purpose because we don’t need them for all. 

Living Room — 

Despite having lots of kitchen and bathroom storage, in addition to the updates we’d made, we still had a ton of items that were homeless — shoes, linens, etc. — so we chose our living room pieces to solve this. We went to IKEA and picked up a storage sleeper sectional and a wide 3-door sideboard. The storage chaise of the sectional gave us a place — I kid you not — to house our sneakers, while our other shoes simply stayed packed away; and the sideboard was where we put everything from paperwork to tv devices to bedding. As for the sleeper sectional we expected that, since just about everyone we knew lived on the east coast, we’d need a place for out of town guests to sleep.

Sleep plus storage meant sectional made perfect sense all around. 

Truth is, we have only have one out of town guest, and she visits 1 to 2 times of year so really, an air mattress would’ve more than sufficed. We use the chaise for lounging because we have it, but if I’m completely honest, it actually isn’t doing us any favors for our posture or productivity, and we would fair much better with an accent chair and ottoman combo. The most valuable part of the sectional for us is the storage but it’s storage a lot of items that we can either purge or store elsewhere. So while our sectional had held up great and serves its purpose over the years, it wouldn’t be my first choice now. 

Along with the sectional, we bought to accent chairs to fill the long living room — they were large, comfy, and affordable. Guess where they are now? On our balcony! Truth be told, they’re way better out there than in our living room so that worked out great. But in hindsight, what a bad choice! 

That also goes for our cocktail table — hindsight is 20/20! With a young child I went with a round table — no sharp edges plus easier flow, especially with a sectional. I chose a simple silhouette with a glass top for a a more open feel but didn’t take into account that the glass top rests on the base, and it wasn’t till our daughter nearly got her little fingers caught between the two that I realized “oh shit, this was a bad idea!” That, coupled with her using the base to push her chair back — lets just say my nerves are fried.  Its side table companion does exactly what we need it to do and we love the look but being that our daughter spends so much time at that table, I would’ve never picked that one knowing what I know now. 

We also purchased a rug on a whim because the flooring in our first apartment would get so cold and was dangerously slippery. The rug served it’s purpose but once we moved we knew we would be replacing it eventually. And we did. 

Dining Room —

Coming from a studio apartment we assumed that we weren’t dining room people because we never used a dining room. Even still, now that we had the space for one, we wanted a dining area so that we could have holiday dinners together or whatever it is that grown ups do. I knew I wanted a round table with a pedestal base and a dark wood finish. Not expecting to use it often, I really focused my search efforts on the aesthetic and very little on the quality. 

Big mistake!

Turns out we are dining room people, eating nearly all of our breakfast and dinner meals (and sometimes lunch) at the dining room table. And that’s not even counting all the times one of us may sit there to do some work and/or when we have our family meetings. Our dining table has gotten a lot of usage and with that, we quickly began to realize quality matters. We’ve had to take in apart and reassemble twice to get it to stop wobbling, spinning, and/or squeaking. Yes, it’s fine now, but man would I have thought twice if I thought it’d be such a pivotal part of our everyday lifestyle as a family. 

Also in our dining room is the former living room sideboard, which previously lived in my home office. Long story short — the once necessary piece of storage is just something we’re making work because we have no where else to put it. We have it, so we use it. 

Home Office — 

Even though I don’t currently have a home office, I did for quite some time and plan to again. A lot of purchases that were made for the office were able to translate into other areas of our home, while others wireline basically trying to fit a square into a circle. 

A settee I’d purchased as a place to lounge when not at my desk became something that was constantly in the way — we ended up with two, so one was in each room. Finally, I convinced my husband to sell them and within hours of listing, both were purchased and picked up. Talk about a sign!

My first desk, which has seen many lives, is now the vanity in our bedroom, while my second desk is disassembled and stored away for now because I may sell it. I’d also purchased a second desk while in the office that’s now our daughter’s room; and it’s that desk that now lives in the living room. 

In our current condo I’ve made a lot of renter-friendly updates that align with our lifestyle. 

But when it comes to a lot of or furnishings, those purchasing decisions were made not knowing what our lifestyle was as a new family of three. The way we live now is nothing like the way we lived in a studio apartment, pre- or post-baby — you don’t know what you don’t know. 

What would I buy now?

With an opportunity to start from scratch or hit undo on some of our purchases, here’s what I’d keep and what’d I’d replace immediately!

Living Room — 

• sectional: replace with 3 seater sofa, 2 accent chairs (not a matching pair though), and a storage ottoman or 2

• cocktail table: replace with cocktail ottoman

• end table: I can take it or leave it but we’d probably get a lot more usage from a c-table

• floor lamp: keep but probably do a better DIY spray paint job

• bookshelf: keep because it’s dope AF

• console desk: keep and buy ten times over because it’s awesome

• rug: probably keep but against this particular carpet, it’s not living its best life

Dining Room —

• dining table: replace with  sturdier piece

• chairs: I’d keep but my husband is not a fan so I’d compromise and replace with upholstered chairs

• sideboard: replace with a bar cabinet or console

• rug: keep for sure

• table lamp: keep but likely in another room

Master Bedroom — 

• bed: love but would happily replace for one with a higher headboard

• dressers: replace in a New York minute for a less cumbersome storage solution

• nightstand: I can take it or leave it but would probably leave it

• rug: keep no questions asked

• console: keep because why not

• wall planks: keep but install better for sure

• sconces: keep and hold on to for dear life

Daughter’s Bedroom — 

• toddler bed: had we started with her own room, we would’ve gone straight to a full size bed that she could grow with

• storage drawers: replace and get a proper chest of drawers that could hold everything

• dresser: while the dresser itself is great, it’s a reactive solution to not having the right storage in the first place

• rug: it was never for her so I’m not really sure here but let’s say keep

• wallpaper: keep hands down

All the other rooms are things we can’t control — like kitchen cabinets — or they’re exactly as we need them to be. Being that we rent, nothing will ever because exactly to our precise liking, but we’ve definitely come along from the blank slate we started with. And let’s be honest here — these are totally first world complaints because nothing is “wrong” with any of the things I’d change. What it comes down to is how it is serving our family, how they elevate (or aggravate) our day to day, and how they make us feel. 

While I am not exactly thrilled with a lot of what I mentioned, I am grateful that we’ve been able to create a home, live with these things for as long as we have, and really start to really understand what home means to us as a family. 

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