When I moved out on my own for the first time in my 20s, I was excited and a little nervous. On the first night in my new apartment in New York City, I laid on the lumpy mattress of the metal futon that my friend had generously given me and noticed how empty my apartment felt. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized creating a home means more than just choosing a place to live and moving your possessions there.
As I dove headfirst into experiencing my new life in the city, I discovered that having a place of respite was vital. My goal became creating a space that would be both beautiful and practical, so that it would be a sanctuary from the stressors of daily life. Over time, I slowly learned what my own tastes were — what brought me joy and allowed me to feel a sense of peace and relaxation when I stepped into my apartment.
Here are tips for how to create a space that brings you joy and puts you at ease.
Choose your color schemes
I began to look at my apartment as if it were a canvas. The walls had been painted a light cream color which allowed me a lot of versatility when decorating. It was important to me that my bedroom felt soothing — like a cozy sanctuary I could retreat to for a good night’s sleep. So, I chose a light gray area rug with a faint flower pattern that also added a relaxed vibe to the space.
In my living room, I chose something more vibrant. My futon is black, so I opted for maroon curtains that matched the cushions on my chair. My living room window faces a wall (gotta love city living!), so my curtains are more for decoration than for any practical purpose. But, the pop of color adds a touch of life to the room.
Decorate on a budget
In the months leading up to my move, I routinely scoped out sales for household items. I didn’t want to end up stressed out about paying for the items in my home, instead of just being able to enjoy them. I knew that I didn’t want to go into debt unnecessarily and that if I approached things wisely, I could figure out ways to stay within a budget that worked for me– while still making the space feel like my own. When I found a nice storage chest that functioned as an end table in a secondhand store, I was excited for how it would enhance my living room’s décor and also serve a practical purpose.
I also put the word out that I was moving in case friends or relatives had any items that could be useful to me — that was how I acquired my first bureau. A friend knew someone who was moving overseas and giving away all of her furniture. It wasn’t exactly my taste, but it served its purpose until I was able to get something that was a better fit within my price range.
Have practical items on hand
The first time a light bulb burned out in a lamp in my apartment, my first thought was that I would just go grab another one. That is, until I realized that I hadn’t bought any light bulbs. As I trekked to the closest drugstore to get a pack of them, it dawned on me that I needed to consider what practical items I needed to have available for unexpected moments like this one.
I acquired other things that you never think of until the moment you need them — a tape measure, a hammer, nails, tape, a flashlight, batteries, and a plunger. I found that as a young woman living alone in a new city with my closest family three hours away, it was now up to me to handle whatever unexpected challenges came my way. Knowing I had my own back gave me a sense of accomplishment and peace while at home.
Add a little flair
Once you have the basics of your home figured out, remember to add extra touches of beauty! I framed a photo of a red rose and hung it in my living room. The image was one I had taken while on a vacation to Europe, and it brought back good memories. I also bought a spider plant for my bedroom — they’re easy to maintain and pretty hearty even in low light. I purchased throw pillows for my futon, and, on my bookshelf, I displayed a photo of a relative I don’t see often.
And, I found a magnet with an inspirational quote to stick on my refrigerator door. It said, “Go forth and set the world on fire.” When I read these words of St. Ignatius each day while getting my breakfast, it reminded me to always bring my best to the world. These small, meaningful additions made me feel like I was living in a place that truly was mine — not just somewhere I had moved into.
As Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our dwellings; thereafter they shape us.” Making a space your own can be an exciting way of nurturing not only who you are, but who you are becoming. It took time and effort, but I am grateful that this is exactly what I have been able to do in my home.