Fashion is everywhere

Chez Larsson

Starting out

A while ago I got an e-mail from Rachel. She and her husband are moving cross country to live in their first place. She wants to get some advice on how to start out setting up their first home without bringing the hodgepodge items from their college days.

I can only tell you how I would  go about it if I were to start out. Feel free to share your advice for Rachel and others starting out in the comments.

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The rooms themselves

When you move in, keep it neutral. If you’re renting, maybe the renters white isn’t such a bad thing. If it’s your own place still keept it neutral to begin with until you’ve gotten the feel for the place and seen how the light falls, which room is dark, which one might need a bright lick of color etc. If you’re living in a small space like we do, keep the color or colors consistent throughout.

In our small house it means we have the same or very similar wall color on all walls and the two walls which are painted in a different color, one in the livingroom and one in the bedroom work well together. What this does is make the different spaces flow into each other instead of startling you in each new area.  If possible keep the floors unified too and the ceilings. This will make your space feel larger. If you are renting and desperately want wallpaper somewhere one idea is to get a large board and wallpaper that and simply lean it against the wall where you want it. Like behind the sofa or desk.

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The furniture

You spend about a third of your life in bed so get a comforable one. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Ikea make pretty good beds and there’s a wide selection to choose from to get the right one for your weight and sleeping preferences.

If you like wood, choose one type and be consistent in using the same throughout. So if you like oak, stick to oak throughout instead of going for oak on one piece of furniture and beech the next. This will also make for a more unified space.

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When choosing a sofa and armchairs go for a neutral color on those as well. I’m starting to sound like a broken record. When you are just starting out together you might not have found your "couple style" yet. Neural background will allow you to perk things up with pillows and throws and will let you experiment with color and texture without spending a fortune. Martin and I are not starting out, we’ve been together for over twenty years but this is still how we do it. I love changing the mood in our home by simply changing a few pillow cases on our white sofa. Neutral don’t have to be white though if you are afraid of it getting dirty. Beiges, greys and browns are other great neurals which will allow you to switch accent colors freely.

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When you have the big heavy (and more costly) pieces down you can then add tables, chairs and occasional tables. I would suggest you get a good sized table which can do double duty. I love to mix vintage and new here, so you might consider getting a great new table where you can eat and which doubles as a desk or craft area and then get a set or a mix of vintage chairs to go around it. A vintage coffee table will give character to your storebought sofa if you like that kind of a mix.

The storage

Good storage for me is key to keeping a neat house. I like to get a lot of the same color and style of boxes and other storage pieces. This again helps keeping everything unified. If you get two pink boxes, two blue and two green ones your eyes will be drawn to the boxes and in my mind storage is a thing for the background, not to be focused on visually. I prefer to see my art and my chosen objects instead of the boxes with the rest of my nick nacks.

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Again Ikea is a good source for storage, both for boxes and larger pieces like book cases. My favourite bookcase from Ikea is Expedit which can be fitted with different types of drawers which are useful for the not so pretty things which you still want accessible.

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One version of the mantelpiece…

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…and another version of the same spot.

The accessories

Once your furnishings are in place and your stuff is stored the fun begins! Soft furnishings, art, objects and flowers. If you have the neutral background you can probably go a little crazy now adding the colors of your choice. I’d recommend you to keep it quite simple though. You don’t need to display all your objects at once. Choose a few and store the rest. Bring items out from storage every now and then and put some of the ones that were displayed in storage instead. I love doing this, I change the mood by switching a couple of pillows and a few nick nacks and it’s like mini makeover.

I hope this helps! Good luck on the big move!

15 Comments

  • Betsey says:

    For starting out, neutral is a good idea, but if you add color I found a palette works well. This way, there’s “flow,” as my artistic mother has drilled into my head.
    Currently, I live in 720 sq feet in a converted mill. My main living area is a light taupey cocoa with white trim, and all the curtains are the same throughout to keep the space open (ikea white lace – 10 windows). It has helped make the place seem larger and less choppy.
    The pops of color are from books or artwork (I have lots of both). And, I keep my tchotchkes in a floating glass/wood cabinet at the end of a short hallway. This has visual impact and cuts down on clutter.
    The bedrooms are each a complementary color (light cameo, light caramel) as are the bathroom and kitchen (both a spring/tea green). The colors within the room blend with the earth tones of the rest of the house. And, each room has a cozy feel. Plus, I can move a lamp/pillow/throw from one part of the house to another, and the color scheme works.
    For furniture, I go for quality and longevity (and try not to pay full retail), but I’m also practical. There’s only so much in the budget!
    I try and really evaluate if I need a “for now” piece or not. This means, I have some nice pieces that will stand up to time, cats, and family, but I accumulate furniture versus having everything “done now”.
    Hmmm, apparently I have thoughts on this topic, or I really go on.
    Good luck on your new place!

  • Martine says:

    I agree with Benita about the bed, it’s so important to have a comfortable bed, because moving and fixing up a new place is hard work and you need a place to reload. My bedroom was the first room I finished before moving in and I made sure it was a very peaceful place where I could relax.
    Starting out with basic colors and furniture is also a good idea. Once you have those, you can focus on one room at a time and really get a feel for the place. Take your time and let the house grow on you.
    Good luck and enjoy 🙂

  • mona says:

    I am going to use your tips for my small apartment. I did not know that your living space was small because it looks very spacious and airy, I really like your sense of style and I want you to know that I try to visit your blog everyday, take care

  • Marie says:

    Benita, you SO should write a book.
    Really.

  • Lindzi says:

    Please write a book! I’ll buy it if you sign my copy! 😀 You write such inspirational texts and your pictures are always yummie. I am sucking it all in like a dry sponge! Thank you so much for taking your time to share your wisdom.

  • Concha says:

    I am all for white as background. It makes homes feel bigger, clean and modern, and it’s such a good canvas for everything that follows! That’s exactly what I did chez moi and everyone loves it 🙂
    Thank you so much, Benita, for this daily inspiration! I truly look forward to reading your posts everyday. You rock!

  • Barb (Australia) says:

    Benita, you make it sound so easy! Everything you say makes perfect sense. I sometimes find that I am so close to my own space that it’s difficult to see it through objective eyes – does anyone else have that problem? I also find I get so inspired by other people’s places that I then start to waiver on the direction I am going with my own place. I am hoping I am not the only one who has these problems!
    I agree, you really should write a book!

  • Ksenia says:

    Great advice for those starting out *and* for those of us who want to freshen up our homes. I just got a cream-coloured loveseat and I really like the feeling of it against the cream-coloured walls :D. The artwork on the walls is starting to pop out.

  • Nina (UK) says:

    Great post. Very helpful. Like Barb, I also find that I waiver in direction because I constantly get inspired by new ideas I see.

  • Rachel says:

    Benita, thank you for answering my inquiry! You really should consider authoring a book.

  • Gilbert says:

    Nice post.. If this really is whatt you like then soon it will be money for you.. Gambate..:)

  • Alison says:

    Thank you for your continued writings; I’ve been going steadily through your “archives”… but this post has been so helpful to me…I never was able to figure out what looked “wrong” – we have furniture in at least three different colors of wood, and that makes everything look “patchy”.
    While we can’t afford buy new furniture, I’m thinking about how to move things around so all the light pine and beechwood is in the bedroom and all the darker teak and oakwood is in the living room

  • Vilket vackert hem du har! Otroligt inspirerande! 🙂

  • Lizzy says:

    In addition to keeping all woods in the same shade, I’d do the same for metals – at least within each room and preferably throughout the whole home. For example, if you already have a brass lamp that you love, don’t buy a silver one for the same room. Having coordinated wood and metals really makes a room feel harmonious.

  • I really had a problem when it comes to complimenting colors in our house. My mother likes light green and blue , so every time I tell her that white looks good in our walls she would totally disagree because according to her white walls would look dirty in the future. Thanks to your blog , now I can suggest a different color to my mom for our walls.