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    Decorating Your First Digs

    styleIf Pride was any indication, San Francisco is bursting with the recently graduated. Having dreamed of living on their own, these sweet, naïve youngsters are full of lofty ideas on how they will decorate their first place. But the reality of living on one’s own is far from glamorous. Freedom often means roommates, cramped spaces and worse: shared bathrooms. After paying for rent, food, transportation and the occasional night out, extra funds for decorating can be scarce. This month we will be discussing how a young professional can create a stylish and hip first apartment without breaking the bank!

    Game Plan It may sound like a broken record, but space planning is key when working in a small place with a confined budget. A well thought out floor plan avoids costly mistakes and ensures maximum usage from the square footage available. When possible, create designated areas or “zones” in your space to function as the entry, office entertaining/lounging and sleeping. Then assign each zone a set of functions and choose furniture to accommodate those activities.

    Consistent Scheme Stick with one central theme to create a unified and cohesive look. Create a color scheme based on an existing item, such as a rug or an art piece. Pull three to four colors from that item to create a color scheme for the space. Then apply the neutral to the walls as paint, and leave the boldest color for accents like vases or throw pillows.

    styleBeg, Borrow, Thrift Don’t be afraid of borrowing furniture from friends and family to save. People are more often quite happy to give unused furniture a good temporary (and frequently permanent) home. While beggars can’t be choosers, be selective on what you borrow. I tend to recommend looking for pieces that have a mid-century feeling, which ensures that when mixed with new furniture the space has depth and character that can’t be obtained with all new big box store purchases.

    Rethink Your Key Investments “Design rules” dictate purchasing the best sofa you can afford. I disagree. At this stage in life, the best sofa one can afford will probably not be a sofa you will have long term. Invest in a great chair—it will last longer than a sofa, and be more flexible when you move into a new space.

    Ask for Some Shade(s) Most landlords hate it when clients install window treatments themselves. Poorly installed drapery or shades can wreck havoc on window casings and walls. While it may seem bold, ask your landlord if they would be willing to pay for new treatments. Sweeten the pot by stating you will pay for a portion of them if you can help select the options. Remind your landlord that the initial investment would mean less wear and tear on the unit than drilling into the walls to install drapery rods.

    Multi-Use Furniture In a small space, you want to put in the least amount of furniture possible, since small pieces eat up valuable space. Find items that can do double duty like a side table that could sub as a stool, or a desk that can play triple duty as an office, entertainment center and a dining table easily seating 4-6.

    Live it up and have fun with your first apartment! Decorating your first home should be an enjoyable experience that you remember fondly. Whether it is vintage finds or all Ikea, take the time to create a little oasis to call your own.

    Courtney Lake is the interior designer and lifestyle expert behind Monogram Décor ( and its celebrated blog, “Courtney Out Loud.” His work and writings have appeared on television and in writing including “The Wall Street Journal,” “The Nate Berkus Show,” the “San Francisco Chronicle,” “Life & Style Magazine,” “RUE Magazine,” “Real Simple,” “This Old House” and “7×7 Magazine.”