Reluctant Nester Seeks Decorating Advice

This is my new apartment:

When I get it, it will be completely unfurnished. I, a 29-year-old man with two master’s degrees, am a mewling infant in the face of the challenge of decorating an apartment. I have literally been losing sleep the last week thinking about the process (what do I buy first?!) and implementation (I don’t wanna carry a sofa up the stairs!) of turning two empty rooms into a comfortable living space.

The furniture problem I’m attempting to solve by limiting my options. I’ll buy the beds at IKEA, but everything else I want to get from thrift stores. Berlin apartments are huge and sporadically abandoned, which creates a thriving market for used furniture. It seems like a waste of my new city to get everything all shiny and unpronounceable.

The problems I’m left with are how much furniture to buy and how to arrange it all. ‘Room layout’ is a term I had never come across before I googled ‘furniture where to put’ last night, and there’s apparently not only a science to it, but an art.

If left to my own devices, I’d buy a single bed and a yogurt spoon and call it a day. But I’m trying to take this seriously. Anyone who has any tips (or used furniture!), lemme have it.

9 Comments

Filed under Berlin, Personal

9 responses to “Reluctant Nester Seeks Decorating Advice

  1. Cate

    I recommend a couch. A comfortable one. Pop it in the ‘not bedroom room’, probably.

    Perhaps you could write down the items you can see in the photos that you think would be useful, and duplicate? Then randomly move them about the rooms, until you think ‘oh yep, that’s how I want it!’. The trouble I always come across is that I can think of so many combinations, all of which I like… I don’t think there’s any getting around that, though.

  2. Sarah S.

    For me the most important part of setting up a room is the lighting. I like lots of soft light from lots of sources, meaning lamps in all shapes and sizes. Maybe you like a bare bulb swinging from the ceiling, but I bet you still want the surface you’re sitting on to be close to that bare bulb so you can enjoy whatever computer/book/media consuming activity. So look around at the lighting in your room and go from there. Also, you can put just about anything on the walls and call it art!
    Can you do any painting? My first order of business would be to change up the bright white walls.
    Also, I love all the organization stuff at IKEA. They’re great at providing ways to hide your odds and ends. For me, nirvana is having a clearly labelled basket for everything. Everything has a place to go. Oh, and I love all their kitchen organizational stuff: hooks, bars, paper towel dispensers…bliss.

  3. My advice is to just do what I did – find a girl that’ll help you do it. Mine happens to be my fiance, which is probably not the route you want to go, but if you have any close female friends around, ask them. If stereotypes have taught me anything, it’s that ladies love to nest up a place – but if stereotypes were always accurate, you wouldn’t need help decorating 😛

    Honestly, if you’re happy with a bare apartment, just stick with it. If it works for you, it works for you. If anyone complains, say you’re a minimalist and stare them down, challenging them to complain about your subjective taste.

  4. elephantwoman

    Ha, reading Pavel’s comment, I concur. Ask a female friend in town. But mainly I’m struck by how enormous your apartment is and I suspect that you have more space than you’ll need. So go for minimalist.

  5. Thrift stores sounds like loads of fun. Get a GOOD mattress. not the cheapest fouton from IKEA, you’ll regret it within a year… I speak from experience….

    I get all scientificky and measure the space up, draw an exact plan of the flat, cut out little bits of paper representing each piece of furniture (measured to scale)… and then I sit and move them around and imagine the spaces with the bed over there and the table here and the walking space to get from this door to that window free or obstructed… It has saved me much back ache of trying to move things into spaces where they wouldn’t fit…
    but that’s just making stuff fit in… not actually decorating as such…

  6. Just take it a room at a time.

    Bedroom:
    You’ll need a bed, a dresser, what else?
    Maybe a bedside table and reading lamp.
    Anything else is just because you like it – you could add a comfy chair, a mirror,
    even a wardrobe (if you are short of hanging storage).
    Drude’s right – do go for a good mattress, but otherwise thrift stuff will be fine.
    The bed and dresser are needed pretty soon, and the rest as you find things you like.

    That hallway?
    I’d just leave it empty and put up a wall hanging, or pictures, or posters – take your time and feel free to switch things around.
    By the way there are these weird things called Command hangers that they say hold things up and don’t mess up the walls.
    They actually work (!!!) and just pull off without leaving even a mark.
    Utterly cool.

    Kitchen:
    Do you have stuff like dishes and dishracks and all that?
    If not, you might want to start a list.
    For furniture, you could put a table and chairs there, like in the picture.
    It can be nice in the morning to have a place to just grab something quick and sit.
    But that is optional.
    If you are putting in a larger table in the main room, you don’t really need both.
    The space isn’t really all that big and you might want the space to put something else there.
    I dunno – wine racks, recycling bins, folding rack for drying clothes.
    Or just empty space so the room doesn’t feel cramped.
    No rush on any of this, so see what you find, what you need.

    Bathroom:
    Does it have shelves for storing towels?
    Places for hanging robes and stuff?
    Again, see what you need nothing urgent.

    The main room:
    You’ll need a sofa, and a comfy chair or two, and probably want them pretty soon.
    (Even if you are entirely antisocial, more than one comfy place to sit is nice, and a sofa lets you stretch out.)
    And a table for near them to put stuff on, and a lamp for reading.
    This could be a coffee table equivalent, or end tables, or both – not rules, just what you like.
    You could just go for an Ikea sofa to begin with, and accumulate chairs and other stuff as you find them.
    You will need a table for eating, and chairs enough for the most social you are likely to be (4? 6?).
    You don’t need this immediately, but maybe pretty soon.

    Other than that:

    Bookcases?
    However many you need/want, can go in the main room, or bedroom, depending on where you want to put

    Desk/workspace?
    Which depends how you like to work.
    But you’ll probably want someplace to keep bills and such, whether you work at it or not.
    Me, I’d stick it in the main room, because I hate to have work staring at me at night.
    Media stuffs?

    TV, music, dvds, cds, whatever, all need a place to be.
    I’d stick them in the main room, where they can be shared, and just make sure the sofa area was comfy for me.

    So, I would hit Ikea for:
    bed
    sofa

    And look immediately for
    comfy chairs
    table and chairs
    dresser

    And fill in the rest as you find things you like.
    (Me, I’d make a list of the things I’m looking for and have it with me, but I like lists.)

  7. I’m with Sarah: lighting is the most foundational part of a living space. I’m a HUGE fan of full-spectrum and very cool-white lighting (at least color temperature 5500), though I’ve had no luck finding it in either Sweden or Norway. If you can find it in Germany, buy it!

    Ordinarily I’d agree with the comments about the need for organizational shit, but having seen your previous residence, I’m just not sure you keep enough around that requires organizing.

    DON’T buy a bunch of shit from one matching collection, at IKEA or elsewhere. You’ll get tired of it all at the same time.

    And buy a sofabed! Or some nice way for you to house guests!

  8. Thanks guys!

    Like Sean says, the issue of storage space is slightly hilarious, since I literally own nothing other than clothing. I’ll buy bookshelves, of course, but they’ll be empty for a few years unless I take up taxidermy.

    Sarah, remember those old Radiohead posters that were on my wall when we lived together? They’re still in storage in Seattle, and I’m legitimately considering having them shipped over. They might be terribly outdated by now, though, I can’t even remember what they look like.

    Still: Lists are good, lighting is crucial, shop around, got it. Houseguests are precisely why I got a two-room place, so I’m definitely aiming to make it squatter-friendly.

    I’ll let you guys know what I come up with. Danke!

  9. Late to the party, but: plants. Everything else: just buy it when you determine you need it. But if you have a plant or two, the space will look healthy and lovely and not depressing.

    If you’re the type that kills plants, whatever, it’s just a plant. Buy extra and eventually there will be one hardy enough that it stays alive.

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