From Dorm to Apartment: 6 Design Ideas for Your First Off-Campus Apartment

The time has come to leave the noise, mess and cramped quarters of your dorm room. Congratulations! When you find an apartment all you need to do is fill in the blanks.  You probably don’t have a storage unit filled with the furniture you love that will fit in your new place, so you will have to design your space and purchase some items.

Before You Buy

The way you design your new apartment will depend on a couple of factors. Knowing your budget is important. At this point in your life, you should not put yourself on the brink of bankruptcy for furniture. Whether you have a roommate or two will also be an element to consider. If you love a lot of color but your roommate is a “beige-all-the-way” kind of person you will have to discuss the public areas of the apartment; generally, a compromise can be found.

The Big Things

You may envision your new home completely furnished, right down to the throw pillows and serving platters. However, as Billy Mays used to say, “But wait, there’s more!” Before you go on a spending spree, measure your rooms and consider doorways, windows and any other architectural elements that can’t be changed. Buy a pad of graph paper for a couple of bucks and do some rough sketches of each room, include the dimensions, and take these with when you shop. The nuisance of drawing a quick sketch is a lot easier than lugging a table up a flight of stairs only to find out it doesn’t fit.

Use Your Drawings

One of the easiest ways to plan for furnishings is an old kindergarten trick. Again, draw the room on a sheet of graph paper using accurate dimensions. Next, draw the furniture you are thinking of from a bird’s eye view on different piece of paper. A 72” couch will simply look like a rectangle and a chair will look like a square. Cut the little shapes out and move them around on your room drawing. Designers usually use ½” graph paper because it’s easy to draw to scale.  At this point you will be able to tell that the four-piece sectional you were coveting may not really work in your space. Again, a little planning can save time, effort and disappointment.

What First?

It is important to buy some pieces of furniture first. You may love the cute end tables you saw when you were shopping last week but if you don’t have a bed, the tables may not be the right purchase for now. Start with necessities. You need a place to sleep, to sit and to eat. Your bed could simply be a frame, box spring and mattress but that doesn’t mean it has to look like prison issue. Place the head of the bed against a wall and fake a headboard by propping pillows against the wall. If you can afford coordinating pillow shams (covers) and a duvet cover or quilt, you have an instantly decorated bed. The are many stores, online or real, that sell something called A-Bed-in-a-Bag. Usually, the set contains a fitted sheet, top sheet, quilt and pillow shams. Make sure to double-check the sizing; you don’t want to come home with a twin-sized set if you have a full-sized bed. Another important item for your bedroom is a place to keep your clothes. This could be as easy as putting together a shelving unit and adding slide in baskets to keep socks, underwear and other stuff organized. You don’t live in a dorm anymore so you shouldn’t keep your clothes on the floor.

Public Spaces

Your living room area should be comfortable for you, and your guests. If you live in a studio apartment in Denver, for example, with no clear division of space, you may want to opt for flexible pieces of furniture. A futon converts from a couch to a bed with relative ease and the covers can be washed if someone should spill their drink while watching an exciting game on TV. One of the most useful purchases for the living area is an ottoman that has storage inside–they are available in many of sizes. Storage ottomans are a good place for linens, or you could store bulky clothing items inside. The real bonus is the ottoman becomes additional seating when needed.

Eating Areas

Many people eat on their couch while watching television. No rules against that, but sometimes it’s nice to have a table. Tables are one of the most useful pieces of furniture in the apartment. Not only can you set the table and pretend you’re dining royally but before you eat you can use the table for a prep area. A table can double as your office, or craft space. A table can also be a fort when you have little visitors. 
Start with the pieces of furniture that you need for everyday life or that can be used for multiple activities. You can fill in with things like side tables, house plants, art and accessories little by little, remember, it’s not a race; it’s your home.

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