Turning a new space into a home can be daunting. By far the hardest part of furnishing a house from scratch is figuring out where to start. One good first step is deciding on a budget — ideally, before you move out of your old place.
However you proceed, recognize that it’ll take some trial and error: At some point, you’re going to realize that something you had your heart set on is not what you want to spend your money and time on after all.
Whether you’re a minimalist or maximalist, we’ll show you tips for furnishing a home on a realistic timeline and budget.
Recommended: Things to Budget for After Buying a Home
6 Tips for Furnishing a Home
The key to finding the right home furnishings is to follow your instincts. There isn’t one universal definition of good taste. This is your taste, and your home. Here are a few guidelines.
1. Consolidate Your Stuff
Before you set a budget for new home furnishings, walk through your old place and identify what you want to keep (if anything) and what you’ll need to purchase. A new home is the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to pieces that don’t suit your lifestyle anymore. (“What would Marie Kondo do?” is still a good mantra.)
Start with the key pieces of furniture you’ll need for your home to be functional — beds, couches, dining table, area rugs. Did you recently purchase your dream bed, or have you had the frame since college? Decide what to move and what to chuck.
You can sell or donate furniture, depending on value.
2. Prep Before the Schlep
A rule of thumb for interior decoration: Pulling up carpeting and painting the walls are much easier to do before any furniture is brought into the house. Before move-in day, create a list of any changes you would like to make to the existing interior. Ask yourself if you want to include minor home repairs in this budget or create a separate one.
Here are some basics to consider before furnishing a house:
• Walls and ceilings: Choose a paint color, patch holes, remove popcorn ceilings
• Floors: Remove or add carpet, put in hardwood floors, refinish floors
• Appliances: Select kitchen appliances, bring in a washer and dryer, install ceiling fans and lighting fixtures
• Kitchen and bath upgrades: Redo the kitchen counters, choose a backsplash, retile the bathroom
• Laundry room: A laundry room remodel can create a more efficient space or a room with a dual function.
Once you’ve made the list of potential changes, determine what needs to be tackled now and what can wait. You may be able to live with the blue tile in the kitchen, for instance, but the pink walls in the bedroom aren’t going to cut it. Next, determine what you can do yourself and what will require professional attention. You may want to research reliable contractors in your new neighborhood before you need one.
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3. When Buying Furniture, Start with Key Rooms
The living room and main bedroom are two places you likely spend the most time in, so these are good rooms to prioritize. You don’t need to have a fully organized pantry before you have an acceptable place to sleep.
A bed and a couch may be worth spending extra money on in order to get something that will last for years and tie the room together.
• Bedroom: A good bed frame and mattress are wise investment pieces. And it can be a good idea to choose a whole bedroom vibe before buying new pieces so that you have a cohesive theme.
• Living room: A couch is the centerpiece here, so that’s the investment piece (and a good decor starting point). Consider size, comfort, and color. A big TV or entertainment center may also be part of the equation.
• Home office: You may be able to offset some of the cost with a home-office tax deduction.
4. Keep Things Organized While You Unpack
The two elements that really shape the feng shui of a home are organization and decor. An organized pantry or closet makes life easier, while a curated bookshelf can subtly affect the feel of an entire room.
See what you already have that can be functional — baskets, bins, and such. As you unpack your belongings, use these tools to stay organized. Depending on your lifestyle, organizational outlays for your new home could range from slimline hangers to a closet remodel.
5. Little Things Add to the Big Picture
Lay out all decor pieces you own, including art, books, family heirlooms, photographs, trays, candles, and vases. Ideally, you’ve gone through most of this stuff in the consolidation phase and kept only things that are meaningful to you or fit your home’s aesthetic.
Once you see everything in one place, begin picking out things that go together. There are no wrong answers here — you might choose travel books for your office and a series of family heirlooms and photographs for your bedroom. This is the most forgiving aspect of interior decoration because smaller decor pieces can be easily shifted.
Once all of your belongings are in place and the art is hung, you can browse online to find some great pieces that resonate with you and your space. Now may be the time to frame that print you’ve been hanging on to, or to splurge on the perfect pillows for your couch. These may seem like small additions, but they can make a huge difference.
6. Space Out the Purchase of Big-Ticket Items
It’s OK if your home looks like a work in progress for a while. Once you’ve consolidated, organized, and decorated, you may want to buy your investment pieces. Pick three or four non-negotiables — perhaps a bed, sofa, television, and live edge dining table — and get those into the house. Then focus on buying art, rugs, and lights you’ve been eyeing.
How Much Does It Cost to Furnish a House?
One way to estimate interior costs is to set a budget that’s a percentage of your home’s price — typically 10% to 50%. For a $400,000 home, for instance, you’re looking at a baseline of $40,000.
Remember, that includes any painting, flooring work, and minor updates in addition to new home furnishings. That figure also accounts for all interior-related costs in your first few years of home ownership: the inexpensive starter pieces you tolerated until the perfect item materialized, the well-intentioned mistakes, and so forth.
If you don’t have a separate fund earmarked for new home furnishings, it can be hard to come up with a chunk of cash right after closing. One option is taking out a personal loan. In fact, funding home updates and furnishings is one of the most common uses for personal loans.
There are different types of personal loans. Typically, you can borrow between $5,000 and $100,000, and pay it back in equal installments over a term of up to seven years. Fixed interest rates for personal loans tend to be lower than for credit cards.
Here are some cost ranges for key pieces to help you create a budget.
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Painting: $500 to Thousands
The cost of paint supplies will depend on the number of rooms, amount of trim for doors and windows, and the quality of the paint. Paint is about $15-$40 per gallon, but a designer brand can cost much more than that. A gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet, and two coats may be recommended. Factor in all the myriad paint supplies to buy if you DIY.
Expect to pay a painter $2 to $6 per square foot for labor and materials, according to Home Advisor. For a 2,300 square foot home, you can pay from $4,000 to $11,000.
Bed: $200 to $2,000 and Up
Simple bed frames are available from IKEA or Wayfair in the $100-$200 range. Inexpensive bed frames and headboards are also easy to find at thrift stores and yard sales. While you may not want to furnish your entire house with thrifted pieces, one or two second-hand items can free up a lot of cash to put toward a couch or higher-end mattress.
You can also find mid-priced selections from $200 to $1,000 at those retailers as well as more design-driven vendors such as West Elm, Raymour & Flanigan, and Crate and Barrel.
Mattress: $300 to $2,000 and Up
Mattress-in-a-box brands such as Zinus, Allswell, and Nectar offer mattresses starting at a few hundred dollars. Higher-end brands like West Elm, Raymour & Flanigan, and Tempur-Pedic can run upwards of $3,000.
Sofa: $200 to $3,000
The IKEAs, Wayfairs, and Targets of the world offer many starter pieces for a few hundred dollars. Midrange selections run from $300 to $1,000 from these and other retailers, such as Ashley Furniture, West Elm, Raymour & Flanigan, Crate and Barrel, and CB2.
At the higher end of the spectrum, more sophisticated designs are available at Roche Bobois, Ligne Roset, Design Within Reach, and other luxury brands. And don’t forget second-hand designer marketplaces — such as Apt Deco, Kaiyo, 1st Dibs — and antique stores.
Dressers and Wardrobes: $500 to $5,000 and Up
Bedroom furniture can be found at the same kinds of retailers and run from modest to extravagant. While coordinating bedroom sets used to be de rigueur, in recent years they’ve been replaced by a less matchy-matchy aesthetic.
Rugs: $30 to $1,000 and Up
Rugs are a cost that’s easy to forget about, and they can be a lot more expensive than you expect. A high-quality Persian rug can run thousands of dollars, but some of the midrange retailers discussed have area rugs starting at $100. Look out for Labor Day and Black Friday sales, too.
Organizational Pieces: $20 to $300 and Up
Baskets, bins, storage ottomans, and closet systems can bring order to chaos. The Container Store offers inspiration.
When furnishing a home, start with a budget. One rule of thumb suggests putting aside 10% to 50% of your home’s price for interior decorating. Before you move, cull your belongings and prepare the new space for move-in (pulling up carpet, redoing countertops, remodeling a closet). Then identify initial key purchases. Many homeowners today choose a mix of high and low-end furnishings, plus second-hand items from thrift stores and online designer dealers.
When you’re making your new house a home, a personal loan can help ensure that you don’t have to cut corners. SoFi offers no-fee personal loans that come with a fixed rate.
What is a good budget for furnishing a new home?
Some experts recommend setting your home furnishings budget as a percentage of your home’s price: say, 10% to 50%. That includes any cosmetic work done on the interior before you move in, as well as new home furnishings and decor pieces.
Can you furnish your home with a personal loan?
If you have an emergency fund tucked away and feel comfortable making another monthly payment on top of your mortgage, a personal loan can be a good option. In fact, home furnishings and updates are one of the most common uses for a personal loan. Just be prepared to prove to lenders that your debt-to-income ratio will remain below 36%.
Can you furnish a new home with a $10,000 personal loan?
A personal loan is a good option for covering new home furnishings. Just make sure $10,000 will cover your costs — you can’t add to a personal loan amount after the fact. One rule of thumb suggests budgeting 10% to 50% of your home’s price for furnishings and interior updates.
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