You’ve made it. The lease is signed, the keys are in your hands and you step foot into your new apartment. There’s something magical about these empty spaces and walls, isn’t there? So much room to create a new home, so many opportunities to find and establish your personal interior design style.
But then it hits you. This is real life, not your favorite HGTV show and while you may have all the ideas, you don’t have an unlimited budget. Furnishing an entire apartment can get quite expensive — even the most basic furniture will cost you between $3,500 and $5,800 when you purchase them new.
To help keep your creative spirit alive and make furnishing your apartment as fun as you’d hoped it would be, we created this guide. It outlines the cost of different pieces of furniture, explains how you can create a healthy budget for your project and gives you the deets on items that are worth splurging on versus furniture you can totally buy at the flea market.
Let’s dive in!
Disclaimer: The prices mentioned in this article are estimates for the average or median cost of the items and don’t include taxes.
Before you start buying furniture for your new apartment, ask yourself the following questions. They will help you establish a healthy and reasonable furnishing budget for your new home:
All of these questions will help create your budget. If you plan to move a lot, spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on furniture to fit this specific space will likely be a waste of your hard-earned money. The same applies for anyone who has young kids or pets at home — you’ll be much less upset over spills on a $700 couch versus pieces torn off your $4,000 designer sofa.
Take some time to think about these factors and let them determine how much you’d like to spend on your furnishing project.
The best advice we can give you to furnish the apartment of your dreams without going bankrupt is to break it down based on need. It typically takes more than a couple of weeks to fully furnish an apartment. Besides needing some time to find furniture you genuinely love, taking this time also allows you to scour yard sales or thrift stores for beautiful finds and take advantage of seasonal sales like Labor Day or Presidents Day (which, by the way, tend to be the best holidays to find furniture sales).
Whether your new apartment is a blank canvas that needs all new furniture or you’re bringing in a few existing pieces, follow these recommendations to slowly but surely make this apartment your home.
It's easier to prioritize what you need for your apartment if you think about function first. This is especially true when it’s your first apartment ever, so let’s break down the essentials.
Regardless of the size of your new apartment, the necessities will always remain the same. You will need a place to sleep, sit, eat and/or work, some storage space and kitchen utensils.
These days, many refurbished apartments come with an island or bar seating which means you won’t necessarily need an entire dining set (table and chairs) but may get away with purchasing two to four bar stools. This area can also become your workspace for the interim if your budget is tight.
Let’s break down how much these essential items can cost you:
Obviously these prices will vary based on the quality, brand and condition of the furniture pieces. However, when it comes to items you should consider splurging on, these are at the top of the list! More on that later.
For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to assume that your bedroom has a closet. However, a dresser or two can significantly reduce the mess in your closet and create extra storage space for blankets, seasonal items and bed linens.
With only the essentials, your apartment will still look a bit scarce. The following pieces of furniture should help you define spaces and add personality and functionality to your home:
These items can add up to a couple thousand dollars or more, depending on the quality of furniture you choose and how many rooms you have to fill with extra lamps, bookshelves and seating options. Take your time picking these items as they can define your style and will influence your apartment’s design direction.
Make sure you love these pieces and spend your money wisely so you don’t regret your purchase down the line.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t buy any decorative items until your apartment is fully furnished, but you should do so wisely. Hanging a few picture frames and adding a bit of greenery can instantly make your home feel more, well, home-y. So don’t hold back!
However, when it comes to spending money on the furniture and decor pieces listed below, consider spending the real money on the more important pieces like your essentials and basics rather than these nice-to-have extras.
We know how difficult it can be to turn away from a beautiful coffee table that’s out of your budget but that’s why it’s so important to define your budget before you start shopping . It can also help to know which items are worth spending a bit more money on and which pieces of furniture can be bought at a lower price tag and quality while still doing the trick.
Whether you should splurge or save on a piece of furniture depends on a few factors:
The questions above should help you decide whether to splurge or save on the furniture you’re looking to buy. In general, these are the most common splurge vs. save items you should keep in mind to get the most bang for your buck.
Let’s start with the most important room in your apartment: the place where you tuck yourself in at night for a rejuvenating slumber so you can tackle whatever the next day brings.
Splurge: Bed and mattress
While you don’t have to spend a fortune on a bed frame, a couple hundred bucks or more should go into the base of your nightly retreat. The mattress itself is going to be the item you’ll want to allocate the bigger part of your budget to. A $1,200 mattress may be out of your price range but $300–$500 can still get you a really great Queen mattress so you can sleep like a royal.
Nightstands can get really expensive — we’re talking $100 or more for a very simple design and you’ll likely want two. The price tag for a piece of furniture that’s only purpose is to hold a lamp, a couple of books and your glasses shouldn’t keep you awake at night. Wait for a sale or buy this item used to save a few bucks for more important things.
Next up: your main living space. This area of your apartment will likely be one of the first things your friends and family see when they come over. It’s the perfect space to really show off your personal style and give visitors a sense of who they’re lucky enough to hang out with.
Splurge: Sofa or armchair
While you may find a cozy armchair or a love seat sofa for $250 to $400, that’s not going to provide enough seating when your friends come to visit. A comfortable sofa or sectional will likely cost you upward of $800 but this is going to be money well spent because they will be a staple in your apartment for many years to come.
Save: Side table or TV stand
TV stands or consoles will likely come with a price tag of $150 to $400 depending on the size and style you’re going for. Side tables or TV stands typically don’t see a lot of wear and tear so it’s fine if you save a bit on the quality of these pieces.
If you’re lucky enough to move into an apartment with several bedrooms, you’ll also have to deal with filling these spaces. A spare bedroom can make for a great guest room, meditation space or home office. But whatever you do with it, make sure you don’t fill it with overpriced furniture!
Splurge: Home office setup
We’ve said it before but consider the amount of time you spend actively using the furniture when deciding whether to splurge or save. If you’re working from home, you’ll need a comfortable chair and a desk that meets your needs.
Save: Area rugs
You shouldn’t spend a fortune on a rug that likely only fits this specific space and will be useless once you move. An 8’ x 10’ rug shouldn’t cost you more than $250 to $500 depending on the fabric you choose. The plushier the rug, the higher the price tag!
Buying furniture can be quite an undertaking. If you choose to buy from a store, you’ll have to either bring the items home yourself or pay for delivery — the first option requiring a car with a large trunk, the second often adding expenses you weren’t budgeting for.
While purchasing your furniture from a store gives you the advantage of actually trying the pieces out in person (who doesn’t like to sit on all of the sofas in a store?), it can also become overwhelming with store associates trying to pressure you into buying furniture you aren’t really sure on yet.
If you’d rather avoid all that, try shopping online. Many stores like IKEA, Pottery Barn or West Elm offer a large selection of furniture that you can buy both in stores and online. Websites like Wayfair or Overstock even allow you to create online mood boards or virtually furnish your room before committing to anything in your shopping cart. Many online stores also offer free delivery and have reasonable return policies should items arrive damaged or are just not what you thought they were.
You can also find affordable, secondhand furniture at flea markets, consignment stores or online marketplaces. This way of shopping for furniture allows you to both save some money and find truly unique pieces. Plus, it’s better for the environment.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you what you’d like to splurge or save on but the smarter you make your buying decisions the more money you’ll have available to create the apartment of your dreams.