Couple relaxing on couch.

How To Furnish A House: 10 Tips From Design Experts

Hanna Kielar7-Minute Read
UPDATED: May 25, 2023

Purchasing your first house is an exciting time and there are endless possibilities for how you can personalize your space and make it your own.

We reached out to expert interior designers to get their insights on furnishing your first house. Let’s uncover their tips!

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Top Tips For Furnishing A New Home

From establishing your style to finding the perfect lighting, our design experts are here to help. Let’s get started with the basics on the best way to furnish a new home.

1. Focus First On The Bare Necessities

Before you add any items to your online shopping cart or start pinning design inspirations to your Pinterest board, take a moment to establish a budget for new home furnishings and what you need to invest in. Remember: You just moved into your first home. There’s no pressure to have a fully furnished home right from the get-go.

First make a list of furniture necessities, suggests Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada. “[A] bed, a table with chairs and maybe one sofa … allows you to entertain, share a meal and get some sleep,” she explains.

After living in your home for some time, you’ll start to realize what you need versus what you want. Ashley Marino, the owner of Ashley Marino Designs, advises decorating one room at a time, prioritizing your purchases based on where you spend the most time in your home. We’ll delve more into this next.

2. Prioritize High-Traffic Areas

If you’re in the market to buy new furniture, Marino suggests focusing your efforts on the areas in your house that get the most use, like the living room or dining room. Then, prioritize furnishing these areas before the other rooms in your home.

“Do you love snuggling on the couch while watching Netflix, or are you a host who loves to have dinner parties? Prioritize the areas that you’ll be in most when it comes to purchasing furniture,” Marino suggests.

By prioritizing the rooms you know you’ll get the most use out of, you can spread out your trips to the best furniture stores, give your budget a break and take your time.

Spencer Chambers, owner of The Chambers Organization, recommends you “keep things basic in the beginning, if necessary.” Chambers asserts that “making the home livable at first” should be prioritized over styling and decorating.

3. Refurbish, Repurpose, Recycle

You’ll soon find that the funds to furnish your first home are among the hidden costs of homeownership. And while you might be in the market to buy some key pieces of furniture (a bed, a dining room set, a couch), other pieces may come at a pretty penny.

If you find that you have a tight budget for home furnishings, Chambers suggests reaching out to family members and friends to see if they’re looking to get rid of any extra furniture. This route is ideal, because even if they’re looking to sell the furniture, you might still be able to get it at a bargain.

Additionally, any Pinterest or DIY website will tell you that refurbishing old or outdated furniture is in. Marino suggests this as a more affordable option.

If you’re in the market to buy home furnishings, there are places with affordable home décor that will help get you started.

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

4. Make Sure It Measures Up

Before you begin styling your space, make sure you account for the amount of room you have to work with in each area of your home.

“Looks can be deceiving in a showroom, and that chair or sofa may take up much more room in your home than you think,” warns Pam Faulkner of Faulkner House Interior Redesign.

Faulkner recommends considering the height of the ceiling as well as the architecture of each room, accounting for the size, the placement of doors, and the windows and walls. This “will determine how the furniture, lighting and wall decor may be used and placed,” Faulkner says.

To prepare yourself, Faulkner advises having a floor plan with exact measurements and the location of outlets as well as floor and wall vents, plus the height, width and length of doors, doorways, halls and stairways. To make this process easier, check out an app for interior design.

5. Establish Your Style

Your personal style essentially reflects who you are. Are you an outdoorsy nature lover? Are you seeking more of a minimalist style? Or are you seeking more of a boho-vibe? Think of the attributes that represent who you are and translate them into furniture. After all, you’re the person who’ll be spending the most time in your home, so make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy aesthetically and functionally.

However, if you don’t know how to find your style, the best way to start, according to professional organizer Maria Stone, is by doing your research. “It could be a mixture of styles, a more eclectic look, or it could be traditional, contemporary, modern or vintage,” explains Stone, a décor and Feng Shui specialist at I-Deal Lifestyle.

You can also utilize online platforms like Pinterest that help you build a board of home decorating and design ideas. When you figure out what home decor items best represent your style, you’ll be more prepared to add your personal touch to your new home.

6. Personalize Your Space

If you took the route of repurposing furniture or snagging hand-me-down decorations from friends and family members, it can feel like your space is more eclectic rather than the best representation of your personal style. Emma Lundwall, an intuitive interior decorator based in New York City, says there’s an easy way to fix this.

By adding small, personal details to your space, you can enhance your furnishings and provide a more fluid style between the old and new pieces in your home.

“Splurge on a scented candle or two and get into the habit of lighting one every time you come home,” Lundwall says. “This will instantly create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and guests won’t mind so much that not everything in your home matches perfectly.”

Lundwall also suggests a bouquet of fresh flowers or a luxurious Egyptian cotton hand towel in the bathroom to create a welcoming vibe in your home.

7. Decorate Around Your Favorite Pieces

Much like adding small personal touches to your home, Marino suggests picking a few of your favorite current pieces – perhaps a statement sofa or enticing end table – and decorating around those pieces to draw attention to that area.

“Go on Pinterest to see what kinds of rooms you’re drawn to,” she advises, “and then go from there to curate your own personal style.”

By decorating around your favorite pieces in each room, you’re emphasizing that particular space with the intention of drawing the eye of guests who enter that room. This is an easy way to add a decorated and completed look to your space without the pressure of having to decorate every corner of the room.

However, make sure you don’t overdo it. By adding a few striking items, you can make a larger impact in the room.

8. Remember That Less Is More

There are many benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle that don’t just apply to decluttering your closet. From psychological health to financial freedom, many people find benefits by applying minimalism to every aspect of their lives.

To clarify, minimalism doesn’t mean only having one couch in a basically empty room. It just means getting rid of anything that’s not a necessity, like furniture pieces you don’t use or clothes you don’t wear. So when you’re decorating your new space, think about furnishing your home with items you’ll actually use on a somewhat day-to-day basis.

“Make sure you only let things you actually want, and need, enter your home,” Lundwall says. “Moving is an excellent time to declutter.”

Lundwall recommends cleaning out your space regularly, donating any items you find that you’re not using regularly. Quality over quantity is the name of the game when making your home more minimalistic.

9. Know That Neutrals Are Your Best Friend

Hand-in-hand with the ideals of minimalism is keeping the base of your home as neutral as possible. Make sure you don’t overload your space by painting your walls too many colors or adding too many textures and designs in your furniture and decor.

Keep your design simple by keeping all walls, floors and ceilings white or neutral (like beige or cream), Lundwall suggests, and then add pops of color on items like a throw pillow on a couch or a bedspread in your master bedroom.

“You can always change it up as you feel like it or as the seasons shift, and you don’t need to decide on an overall color scheme right from the start,” she adds.

If you have issues with color commitment, Lundwall proposes living in the space for at least a few months to “get a feel for what colors you want to surround yourself with.”

10. Consider That Lighting Is Key

It should come as no surprise that access to good lighting sources is a must for a functional space in any home. Faulkner stresses that “good lighting is key” for the “overall look, feel and function in any room.”

You’ll want to make sure you have adequate window coverings for privacy, light and temperature control. Faulkner recommends curtains, shades and shutters for critical use in controlling the natural light in your home.

If you don’t have the best access to natural light in your home, creating a cozy ambiance in your home is as easy as adding many smaller light sources around the room, Lundwall suggests.

“Whatever you do, stay away from blue, fluorescent light bulbs,” she stresses. “Opt for ones with more yellow, warmer light.”

The Bottom Line: Furnish Your Home To Reflect Your Style

Of course, the most important tip to remember when furnishing your first house is that every first-time homeowner is unique. While some might have a little more wiggle room in their budget for home furnishings, others might want to save by shopping at discount stores.

Remember that this home is completely yours. At the end of the day, you’re the one living in it, so it should work for your personal style and needs. For more tips and topics like this one, check out the Homeowner Guide from Rocket HomesSM.

Need Extra Cash?

Leverage your home equity with a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto℠, RocketHQ℠, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.