Decor & Styling

5 Design Mistakes I Made in My First Apartment That Made It Not Feel Like Home

Source: @reserve_home
Source: @reserve_home

My first apartment as a recent college grad was cozy but sparse. I was living with my boyfriend at the time, and we were grateful to fill the space with mostly hand-me-down furniture and kitchen essentials. It seemed silly to spend too much of our money on our apartment since 1.) we had all the essentials covered, 2.) we shared the space with another roommate, and 3.) this apartment was just temporary. Fast forward a few months and I just didn’t feel settled in our home. The apartment had everything we needed, but I couldn’t fully relax or enjoy my home because I couldn’t shake the feeling of restlessness. I finally realized that the apartment didn’t feel like home because of a few rookie design mistakes I had made.

I learned a valuable lesson about the differences between a roof over your head and a home that’s truly yours—even if you rent or are in a temporary living situation. Here are the design mistakes I made while living in my first apartment and all the solutions you need to make your living space truly feel like home.


1. You have too much clutter.

Having too much clutter is a surefire way to bring down the energy in your space. Clutter can cause anxiety, affect your ability to focus, and dampen your mood, all resulting in excess stress. This is not to say that your home should be spotless and tidy all the time, but over time, a crowded entryway, messy bedroom, or cluttered living area can make your home not feel as inviting.


The solution:

Making sure all your things have a home base is a simple way to keep clutter at bay, but one of my favorite hacks is to simply keep potential clutter out of sight. For example, I used to have a TV stand with open shelving, which never looked tidy because our cable box, internet router, printer, wires, pet supplies, and random knick-knacks were all out on display. The solution? A TV stand with cabinet doors. All of these items were essential, but we didn’t need to look at them all the time. Once they were hidden behind closed doors, that area of our living room suddenly felt much more streamlined and relaxed. Baskets and storage ottomans are also great for storing items out of sight. Designate a few for blankets, shoes, or anything else that may pile up.



2. Your space doesn’t reflect your personal style.

Just like how our fashion choices and what we choose to wear reflect who we are, our homes operate the same way. I got to a point where I realized my hand-me-down furniture and decor weren’t really mine and didn’t reflect my personal style. The apartment didn’t truly feel like home until I began to put my own stamp on things.


The solution:

Create inspiration boards on Pinterest, decide on a budget, and slowly transform your space with items that feel more like you, one piece at a time. This will require some patience, especially as you figure out what your style actually looks like, but the fun is in the process. Take a look around your home, and pay attention to colors that draw your eye, furniture and decor pieces you love, and items that hold a deeper meaning to you. What do you want to incorporate more of? What doesn’t feel right? These can be clues for subtle changes to make, whether you need to get rid of some things or bring in new items that feel more like you.


3. Your space doesn’t match the lifestyle you want.

Simply put, your living space should help facilitate your best life. If your home isn’t set up in a way that makes your daily routines possible and enjoyable, you may want to reorganize your home to create space for the things that are important to you.


The solution:

One of the first steps of organizing guru Marie Kondo’s tidying ritual is to visualize your ideal lifestyle. What kind of home do you want to live in? How do you begin and end your day? What does living your best life look like? Kondo’s process is meant to inspire you to tidy your home, but it can also show you how your home supports you in achieving your goals—or doesn’t. For example, if your ideal lifestyle includes starting the day with a morning meditation, consider setting up a small area with a cushion, a candle, and a cozy blanket. This purposeful shift in your environment could be the push you need to make that goal a daily habit.



4. You keep telling yourself it’s temporary.

For some, homeownership is the dream. For others, renting is just fine and may even be the preferred option. But even if you know your own living situation is temporary, you can still take steps to personalize your home in a way that makes you feel settled and at ease.


The solution:

Whether you plan to move out in six months or could see yourself staying for years, don’t wait to make your space feel like you. Hang art on the wall, set plants on the windowsill, and frame pictures of friends and family. These are all simple ways to make your space feel homier and better reflect who you are.


5. You’re comparing your home to someone else’s.

Comparison is the thief of joy, as they say, and home envy is real. Social media is flooded with influencers who get paid to show off their gorgeously styled homes, and while this content can be aspirational, it’s also easy to feel like your own home just isn’t enough.


The solution:

Keep in mind that social media is just a highlight reel, and remember that it’s always OK to mute or unfollow accounts that make you feel lesser. Honestly, those perfectly styled snaps probably involved moving clutter out of the shot anyway. Practice gratitude for the home you have now, even if it’s a work in progress, and remind yourself of the things you love about it. No home is exactly alike, and appreciating your space and all it does for you can make you feel more settled and at home.