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10 Essential Steps to Decorating and Furnishing Your First Home

First homes are like our firstborns; we set high expectations for them and want them to look the very best. We don’t ask for much – just that they will look like something that came out of the pages of an interior design spread please. Everything, and I mean everything, has to be Pinterest-worthy perfect.

With the renovation process underway, there can be no time for rest as we move on to the second stage: decorating and furnishing our home. For first-time homeowners, it’s a particularly daunting stage because there is just so much to buy.

N101 Ash Grey Sofa from Ethnicraft

Ideally, you should start to think about the types of furniture and accessories you want right from the beginning when you’re scouring for design themes and styles. But if you get caught up with choosing the perfect laminates for your kitchen cabinets or finding the right spot for your feature wall (it happens), all is not lost. These steps will help steer you in the right direction.


1. Begin by measuring your space

It is important to determine what can or cannot fit into your space, so make sure to do your measurements first! It’s also essential to establish how big your front door is. “There’s nothing worse than buying something you love and realising it won’t fit through your entrance,” says interior stylist Caroline Chin Geyler of Arete Culture.

Besides size, the shape of your space is equally important. The team at furniture retailer Kuhl Home advises homeowners to check the shape of space available. “Is it a rectangle or square area? This affects what shape of furniture to go for. For instance, if you’re buying a dining table, a square space can mean you can also choose a round dining table.”

Mood Table from Kuhl Home


2. Set a budget (and try to stick with it)

You would have set an overall budget for your renovations. But it’s also important to set one just for furniture and accessories (if you haven’t already) before you start furniture shopping, in order to prevent overbuying – an entirely possible scenario especially if you want to create the perfect home.


3. Remember your design vision

“A design vision can be a feeling you want to create at home: cosy, lived-in or
indulgent. It can also be a look. For instance, contemporary or old Hollywood glamour,” says Caroline.

Design: Arete Culture

Most folks would have established a design vision before they embark on their renovation. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping for furniture. This helps to narrow your options, so you won’t feel overwhelmed when faced with the myriad of choices out there.

Use your mood boards to guide your process to determine what styles of furniture and accessories would fit in with your theme. Make sure you see how different pieces of furniture look together, cautions Kuhl Home. “Two separate pieces of furniture may look pretty by themselves, but a nightmare when put together.”


4. Start with the room you spend the most time in

Slice Extendable Dining Table from Ethnicraft

What room you will want to furnish first or spend the most on is largely determined by your lifestyle habits. “If you like to entertain, you might want to start with the common areas like the dining room or living area. But if your home is your private sanctuary, then you will want to start with your master bedroom,” says Caroline.


5. Put in bigger furniture first

When space planning for furniture, always think about bigger pieces first. Accessories should come later, says Ikea. “It’s easier to anchor your theme using bigger furniture first. You can always go for complementary décor pieces at a later stage.”


6. Invest in quality furniture that you will use often

Ethnicraft stresses the importance of buying quality furniture. “Do thorough research on the quality of the products you’re intending to buy. Don’t buy simply because it is cheap. While the costs of furnishing a new home is daunting, investing in quality furniture is crucial in ensuring that you don’t end up spending more to replace furniture that wears out quickly.”

Walnut Office U Table from Ethnicraft

Pro tip: If you’re short on budget, choose to invest in pieces that you use most often, advises Ikea.


7. Think ‘essentials’ versus ‘good-to-haves’

Amber Dresser from Kuhl Home

When shopping for furniture, it’s good to come up with a list of “essentials” versus “good-to-haves” so you can decide which to buy first. Essentials are what you need, while good-to-haves can be purchased at a later stage. Arete Culture, Crate & Barrel, Ethnicraft, Ikea and Kuhl Home share their lists with us.


Arete Culture: “Many of us think of art as an afterthought, but it can really make a space and it’s such an easy way to make a room feel more expensive or luxurious. Plus, it never goes out in style.”

Crate & Barrel: “Sideboards can be used to spruce up a dull space in the dining area. Its versatility acts as an extra storage option on normal days, or as a buffet side table. The top allows for displaying your dishes during large dinners, while the different compartments in the wood case help to keep the space neat.”

Ethnicraft: “Furniture that fulfils basic human needs such as sleeping, eating and social interaction like the bed, dining table and sofa.”

Ikea: “Multi-functional furniture! They are great for small homes as they help to save space.”

Kuhl Home: “Sofas and/or dining sets. Ask yourself: ‘Where do I meet my family members most often – the TV or at mealtimes?’ It will likely be one or the other. Sometimes, both. Hence, picking out a comfortable sofa or a dining table that can accommodate everyone is important.”

Paloma​ ​II​ ​Large​ ​Sideboard from Crate & Barrel


Arete Culture: “I use armchairs in bedrooms to create a cosy reading nook, in nurseries to create a restful space for storybook or feeding sessions, or in the lounge area for dramatic impact.”

Crate & Barrel: “Centrepieces are good-to-haves in your home to help turn it into a more welcoming space. Decor pieces on your coffee or dining table can instantly transform the area.”

Ethnicraft: “For those who want a little more space to display your creativity and precious ornaments, shelves or rack are useful for displaying books, trophies or other significant mementos.”

Ikea: “A touch of your favourite scent will add to your general feeling of well-being, and it’s a great way to personalise your space.”

Kuhl Home: “A good storage system helps to keep your belongings organised. It also makes the room look less unsightly.”

8. Incorporate trends through accessories

Angstorel Bedspread from Ikea

Caroline advises against following trends blindly. “Think about what you love and invest in those. Then bring in trends through smaller, low-commitment accessories. If you incorporate trends through large-scale and high-commitment items, your home can feel dated very quickly.”

Omar Shiddiq, a styling consultant from Crate & Barrel concurs: “It’s important to have a good balance between trend and character when it comes to decorating your new home so you can have a place that not only looks good, but also feels personal.”

9. Remember that rules are merely guidelines

Retailers and stylists we spoke to agree that it’s OK to break a few interior design rules while furnishing and decorating your home. “It’s all right to have your own ideas and break away from the usual cookie-cutter styles. After all, your home should be a place in which you can let your hair down and truly be yourself,” says Ethnicraft.

Design: Arete Culture

Arete Culture’s Caroline agrees: “At the end of the day, you’re decorating a space for you and your lifestyle. There are people who will tell you to keep your sofa timeless and in a neutral shade, and then there are people who will say you should opt for a statement sofa. Consider your lifestyle needs and adapt accordingly. Never feel stifled by what you’ve read or heard.”


10. Finally, take your time to decorate and furnish

Ikea recommends not buying everything altogether at once. “You only figure out what you really need by living in the home, so take time to decide what your necessities are to prevent unwanted clutter.”

Image courtesy of Ikea

“Take your time to decorate your home with things you love,” Caroline tells us. “It’s an old cliché but decorating your first home is a rite of passage and you should enjoy every step, even the hard ones. When you take the time to collect things you love, you’ll find each item means something to you. And that’s what truly makes a house a home.”


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