How to Design an Apartment

So you're moving (or rather I am). You don't know where. You don't know what your space will look like (or how big it will be). You don't even know exactly where you're moving to. But you absolutely must get your hands on something to start the moving process.


Where do you begin?


Some might start with moving boxes, tape, and a big fat marker (you must know what's in the boxes after all). But when my family and I first decided on the move to Pennsylvania we were more than 9 months away from moving—much too early to start packing things away.


So where did I begin? With designs.


I am blessed to still be living with my parents. In 2019, when I was investigating colleges, I made the choice to do college online (before the pandemic hit!). Online college was the right choice for me with my medical issues and lack of desire to be on a college campus. While I fully believe this was the right choice for me, it does mean I missed a step in the progressive move towards independence. College does often help students move towards their own apartment or home away from their parents without fear or any other struggles they might otherwise face. To take that step (without college) my parents and I hope to find a home in Pennsylvania with some kind of independent apartment situation for me (potentially in the basement). You can read more about the move in my first post about it.


That being said, once I had all the information, I wanted to get my hands on something. I felt afraid about the move and was sad about the things I was losing. The friends I had made in Redding and the church community I had come to be a part of were important to me and it was going to be incredibly sad to lose these things. My mum helped to remind me that loss would not be all the move would be about. I would be gaining new things as well.


And with that, I allowed myself to think of all I could be gaining...and allowed myself to dream.


The Dreaming Phase:

The first stage of planning your dream house, apartment, room, or office (whatever the space you may be designing is) will always be to dream. Here are some dos and don'ts for this stage of the planning:

  • DO keep your eyes open. Things around you may inspire you. Visit home decor stores, furniture stores, or craft stores and browse. Take notice of your friends' home decor and the decor of shops, offices, and other places you visit. What do you like? What don't you like? What would you improve upon?

  • DON'T limit yourself. Especially by a price tag. This stage of the planning process isn't about budgeting (that will come later and you can lookout for a post on that too!). This is simply about getting an idea for what you do and don't like and what you want in your home. You can plan for how to make it happen within your budget later.

  • DO use Pinterest. In the early days, I believe I simply began to look for posts about decorating a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and dining room. I saved anything I liked the look of to a board labeled "East Coast Home." Once I began to accumulate pins within the board, I could scroll through them and get an understanding of my style. Simply saving pins without thinking allowed me to see the overall style I wanted. From there, Pinterest suggested more pins and I was able to refine my searches, look for DIYS, and organize my board.

  • DON'T over-complicate it. For now, focus on the broad strokes. For me, that was greenery, clean lines, and a simple color scheme. I saved generalized pictures that fit that color scheme and idea that helped to inspire me and keep me thinking. Further planning came later. What are your broad strokes? Do you like rustic decor? Clean lines? Greenery? Color everywhere? Perhaps you like inspiration from a particular culture or paintings and pictures from your children? Focus on the few things you like and go from there.

The Organization Phase:

Once you have begun to dream, you can begin to organize. I know I said you shouldn't get complicated in the dreaming phase. You shouldn't. In fact, I wouldn't even suggest you plan out every detail in this phase either.


Once you have a general idea of the look you are going for, I suggest beginning to organize your ideas into the rooms (or into other groups) that you will be planning. This will help you in the future as you begin to budget, buy items, and move the items that you do have into your new home. It may also help you if you have a different look in mind for certain rooms or want to paint a room or two.


Here's how I organized my Pinterest board. You may choose to organize your plans in a different way if you are planning without using Pinterest. For example, you may keep a folder with paint swatches, pictures from magazines, and other ideas and notes.


I have eleven sections in my "East Coast Home" board on Pinterest. You may use similar ones including sections like "living room" and "bedroom" or you may divide your home planning in a different way. I may also have sections you won't have like "bookshelves" and "organization." They are as follows (I note the significance or lack thereof in my notes about the sections).

  • Living Room: While I can't be sure that I will have a living room, the hope is that I will. This section includes my ideas for such a room—things like my decor ideas for a blank wall, pillows and blankets for the couch, the plants that might go in here, and the chairs and ottomans I'd include.

  • Bathroom: Any apartment needs a bathroom. While this section is simple, it includes ideas for the storage of simple bathroom supplies, plants that would do well in the bathroom, and other ideas to spruce up the bathroom.

  • Kitchen/Dining: This is one of the "rooms" I am most excited to gain (supposing we find a place that has it. With a kitchen, I'll be able to (on occasion because I've promised to still join my mother for some meals!) cook for myself, learn to buy my own food, and pick up the tools needed to survive on my own. I am also excited to get small things from pots and pans to a knife set to a spatula and this section gives me ideas for how to organize and store it all while making the area (as well as the dining area) look beautiful. It hopefully will set me up for success not just in the next few years but in the future.

  • DIYs: I plan to do many DIYs for my apartment on the East Coast. This will help save me in the budget area and often, one can find very solid (used) furniture for half the price of flimsy furniture full price. This furniture can then be renovated to look great. Many of my DIYs include furniture. Others are bookends or other decor items. These are the more costly items I am budgeting for and DIYing them saves a lot. I keep them in a separate board for easy access.

  • Plants: A large part of my aesthetic for my apartment is the greenery or the plants. This board is where I place my ideas for the types of plants I may buy, the kinds of faux plants that may work for me (for I do not have a green thumb and could not take care of many real plants), and ways to display them to make them look good (ex. plant pots).

  • Bedroom: This is likely the only room I know I will have on the East Coast for sure (though I hope to have others). In it, I hope to store my bed and clothing alone (where before I have kept everything here). In this board, I place my ideas for decorating my East Coast bedroom, ideas that are largely very simple.

  • Organization: I am a very organized person and like for everything to have its place. Things will not be any different if I have a larger area to maintain. This board stores my ideas for organizing food, kitchen utensils, cleaning supplies, and other items.

  • General Decor: This board stores my general ideas for the home (ie. the ideas from the "dreaming phase"). More importantly, however, it stores ideas for things that don't fit in the other boards like decor or other elements that might end up between rooms.

  • Bookshelves: You wouldn't have to read very many of my posts to know I have a lot of bookshelves. I own well over 300 books that need to be stored somewhere and when I move, the shelves will be the main decor element in the apartment, sitting in the living area instead of my bedroom. This board contains ideas for what shelves I might get, decor I might put on them, and bookends I might make/buy.

  • Seasonal Decor: This section is highly unimportant at this time. I created it to store the seasonal (Christmas, fall, etc.) decor ideas I came across that I didn't want to miss but I will not use them for a while yet.

  • Things I'm Sure About: This is a section I suggest creating when you are further along in your process of planning. Once you become sure about a few items that you want in your home, begin to set them aside. I have 304 pins saved to my "East Coast Home" board altogether. I don't want to lose the pins I am sure about within that so I save them to this section.


Picture 1: Kitchen Tour (what a cute flavor station!)

Picture 2: DIY blanket Ladder

Picture 3: Coffee (or Tea!?!) Bar Ideas


The Planning Phase:

This is the final phase I'll discuss in today's post because it is what starts before budgeting (and continues beyond it). The planning phase is the longest and most frustrating phase and it is where I am at today. In the planning phase, you must begin to decide on some more solid ideas. You aren't at the point of buying anything yet.


Maybe you are like me and live across the country from where you plan to move. Maybe you live in a smaller apartment than the house you are moving to (and can't accommodate the level of furniture you'll need in your house in your current apartment). Maybe you're moving in with a buddy or getting married and you can't make decisions without your roommate. Whatever it is, this is not the time for buying things, but it is the time to be making a list or two.


Here's what you'll want to decide:


What furniture are you taking with you? If you are moving a long distance (like across the country) is it worth taking that $20 Walmart bookshelf or should you sell it and find something new? What furniture is really important to you? What can't be bought for a good price in your new home/city/state? What is broken and not worth keeping?


What furniture will you need? How many rooms will you have? The same number as you had in your previous home or more? Do you need a couch you didn't have prior to the move? A new bed? A table and chairs? Start to make a list as these are the big-ticket items. Which of these do you already have?


Which smaller items will you take and which will you need? You don't need to list everything out but begin to get an idea of how much you'll need to buy and what those things are. If you have plenty of junk in your closet, start to get rid of it. Put it in boxes to either give away or sell. The money you make can be put towards the new things you'll buy for your home. Make lists of things you are keeping now but will sell or give away when you move.


What is your color scheme? Put that overall dreaming and organization that you have done to the test. The last thing you want is to get into your new home and have 20 different colors overwhelming the home. Or maybe that is what you want. It is up to you. Either way, list the color scheme out now so that when you DO go to buy items, you know what you are looking for. For me, that color scheme is black, white, tan (think woven baskets and light-colored wood), green (plants), and with hints of maroon and mustard.

What is your style? Now is the time to list the elements of your style. Before, I told you not to focus on the small details. Now, you should. List those little details you want to include in your home. Do you like old architecture and want to mirror the look on the inside of your home? Do you like rustic elements? Do you want your home to look modern? Great! All great but those are broad strokes for your home. I want you to list the details. You don't have to say "I want a 1978 victorian mirror with golden engravings of mermaids and birds" (that was something I just made up so please don't go looking for it. What you should list are the things you want multiples of. For example, my mum enjoys rustic details in her home. She enjoys birdcages, wooden signs, and other rustic home decor. In my own home, I will have plenty of plants, woven baskets, concrete or ceramic plant pots, bookends (for my books), and wooden kitchen utensils and trays on display. List some of these elements you want to include in your home. Make sure they give you an idea of your style and coordinate with your color scheme.


Picture 6: Decor Ideas for Wicker Baskets

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