4 Home Furnishing Mistakes First Time Home Buyers Make

Young man and woman carrying a green rolled up rug on their shoulder are smiling.

It's easy to get carried away when furnishing your first home!


In all of the excitement of buying your first home, furnishing it may have been forgotten. You move in and suddenly … wow. There's a lot more space than you had in your apartment. You need new furniture, new rugs, new lamps, new art work, new accessories … and, well, new everything!

Furnishing your first home is a once in a lifetime experience that you want to both enjoy and get right, so before you run out to hit the home furniture stores, take a minute to read through this list of the four most common home furnishing mistakes that new home buyers make and how to avoid them.

1. Buying Everything All at Once

Many new homeowners will rush out and buy as much as they can as soon as they can to fill up the home and be "done with" the move. But that is a mistake. Furnishing the home all in one go usually leads to clutter, mismatches and decorating blunders. You may settle for a less-than-ideal piece simply because it's available now.

A better approach is to take some time to plan what you want each room to look like. Get used to the way light comes in through the windows, how you naturally position yourself in the room and how you actually use the room. Yes, go out and buy things you need right away, but take your time with the other stuff. We agree with this advice from interior designer Nate Berkus: "Your home should tell the story of who you are and be a collection of what you love."

If you are moving from a rental, chances are you already have the basics covered, which means there's no urgent need for the most lived in rooms like the bedroom, bathroom or kitchen. With those immediate needs covered, you can take some time to come up with a really great plan for the more exposed living areas, which also happen to be the areas you'll want to show off.

2. Eyeballing It

In your excitement of finding the perfect piece, you might eyeball the size and decide it'll fit. Not a good idea. You should measure your space before you even start browsing for furniture. You'll want to know the room dimensions (length, width and ceiling height) as well as the available space for where you plan to place the furniture. You may need to account for existing pieces that you'll have to work around, leave room for walkways or avoid windows and doors. If you plan to keep existing pieces, you may want to measure their length, width and height too so you can mix and match new pieces to achieve balance and harmony in the room. Scale is one of the most overlooked parts of home decorating, but one of the most visually impactful. Scale refers to how a piece looks in the room. It needs to fit the size of the room, visually. For example, a too-small sofa may be dwarfed by vaulted ceilings and a broad expanse of uninterrupted wall.

Also, be sure to measure doorways and hallways if you're buying big pieces. You may have a huge great room that will look fantastic with a large sectional, but if it can’t fit through the door or the hallway, you're going to be very frustrated.

3. Going Square

It's really common for homeowners to place furniture up against the walls of the room. This placement is boring and limiting, and it can make an open floor plan feel cavernous and cold. Don't be afraid to get creative with your room layouts. Bring furniture in from the walls and closer together to create cozy spaces for different needs — reading, watching TV, socializing. Depending on how it's arranged, furniture and décor can also be used to break up a large open room or to pull two separate spaces together, like the kitchen and living area in an open concept plan, for example. Be sure to leave enough room for walkways.

4. Overfilling the Room

New home buyers are at an advantage here. They're bringing less with them so there's less chance of the rooms being too crowded. Don't give in to the temptation to cram your new home full of new stuff. You want to leave room for movement, of course, but you also want to be able to see your new home, not just the furniture inside it. A good rule of thumb is to start with the basic essentials of what you need for each room. Then stop. As Kay Wade, vice president and head designer of the Los Angeles-based interior design firm Closet Factory, explains, "Depending on the space and your budget, you can start simply and the space can grow over time."

Personal preference does play a role in how many furnishings are placed in a room. Some people prefer a closer feel; others are more minimalist. Definitely stick with your preferences. This is your home after all and you should love it.

Take All the Time You Need

There is no hard and fast rule about how quickly you need to get your home furnished. In fact, many interior designers say it's perfectly acceptable to take up to a year to decorate your new home. Or if you're of the same mind as author and designer Suzanne Kasler, you may never be finished. "One of the hardest things to do is finish it,” she says, “because you're always finding and adding your next favorite thing." That's okay. Your home should be a reflection of you. Just as your needs and interests can change over time, your home can too. So relax, go shopping and pull your new home together all in your own time.

Sarah Ristorcelli is a freelance writer and editor for leading print and online publications. Formerly editor in chief of Garden Design, she has also written and edited for Cottage Living, Modern magazine and Orlando Arts. You can find her on Google+.

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