Setting Up Your New Home

October 14, 2008 at 8:13 pm 2 comments

As an interior designer, one of the biggest challenges I see people face is moving into a new home.  There’s something really intimidating about that big blank slate.  I think it is for that reason that so many fall into the trap of trying to arrange the new home exactly like the old one, in spite of the fact that they are nothing alike! While I totally understand the rationale in this behavior, its success rate is precisely one in a million… and that would only be if you’ve bought the exact same model of home you just moved out of.  THESE rooms are a different size, different shape, different configuration, with different walls, different windows, and different traffic patterns! Trying to set up the old house in the new space usually just ends up a total function failure and looking like a confused hodge-podge.

The steps I go through for my clients are very simple, and you can do them yourself. 

#1.  Before moving in, try to spend a little time in the new house – a couple hours if you can.  Stand in each of the empty rooms, and try to imagine how you’d like the finished space to feel.  Don’t be thinking about your furniture at this point, just let the space “talk.”  Walk repeatedly from room to room.  Get a sense of how the major traffic patterns are going to flow.  Which doors get used the most?  How do you enter and exit each room?  You may also want to take note of where the cable and electrical outlets are for rooms which will have television and computers.  Have a notebook with you, to jot down any ideas that come to mind, or important features that you want to remember.  Also bring a camera, and take about four pictures of each room, standing in each of the corners so that you get all views. 

#2.  When you are finished, take an inventory of what pieces you own that you intend to bring with you to the new home.  You may want to prioritize them if you don’t think they will all work going forward, but if it’s coming with you, make sure it’s on the list.  This should include primarily furniture, art, and lighting, but if you want to be really thorough, you could include accessories as well.

#3.  Now it’s time to start imagining what pieces might work where.  Have your photos in front of you.  Do NOT be married to pieces living together just because they always have in the past!  Remember how you felt when you were in the home, and use your judgment regarding how best to fill the needs of each space.  Your matching upholstery set doesn’t all have to be in the same room if one piece would function better elsewhere, or if there isn’t sufficient space!  Let the loveseat become the main piece in your master sitting room, or in the kids’ basement playroom.  That’s one less piece you need to purchase!  The art that has ALWAYS hung over your sofa may be the perfect piece for your entry hall.  Further, don’t bind yourself to the intended function of a piece of furniture.  Sure, it was meant to be a sideboard, but now it would be a beautiful sofa table.  Tell me why that china cabinet wouldn’t be an awesome bookcase at the top of the stairs.  The best way to approach this is to view each piece as an individual item, unrelated any other.  This will allow you to really use your imagination.  Get outside that box! 

#4.  Let’s just talk for a moment about sentimentality.  Yes, it has it’s place, but if there’s no room for that item in your new home, that place is somewhere else.  Home should be inviting, relaxing, and uncomplicated.  It’s hard to feel at peace with stuff crammed into every nook and cranny – it’s too distracting.  If something was a gift, that’s great!  Remember that the item is NOT the person who gave it to you, or your memory of them and the event.  The same goes for inheritances and “first purchases.”  (“Oh, but that was the first thing we ever bought together!”  Yes, it has served you well, and now it’s 25 years out of date.  Let go.)  If these things simply don’t work in the new space, don’t wallow in guilt about parting with them.  Take a picture and write a story about what that item means to you.  Put it in an album where you can forever enjoy it, without having it dominate your life.  That person never meant to give you something that would become a burden.

In the end, having this flexibility with your possessions will pay off in a big way.  It will save you a ton of time and backache trying to rearrange after the movers have left.  Better still, you will get more use out of more of your existing items, which means less that you have to purchase, or at least that you can phase your purchases over a longer period of time.  I also find over and over again that when my clients see their items in this totally new context, the reward is two-fold.  First, it makes them feel as if all of the pieces were brand new, and second, being surrounded with the things they know and love has the effect of making this stranger of a house suddenly feel like home.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. PaintandSoul  |  October 15, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    The designer hands out insider tips!! I always do this, it’s one of the reasons I’m a little addicted to moving and redecorating. I’m a change addict. A lot of these ideas were a part of the Apartment Therapy process I put myself through this past summer that seriously made my previously hated apartment entirely wonderful and enjoyable again. You helped me then, and I’ll be looking back at this when I move next so you can help me again!

  • 2. limeliteshines  |  October 17, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I’m with Paint on this one. I’m a serial mover. (apartments, AND furniture placement!) In a span of 10 years, I have moved to a new place 9 times. Yikes. But I love the excitement of NEW. I’m a Gypsy really. But I do find myself stumped about WHAT TO DO. I have great ideas . . . and I often put them into use in many homes . . . . other than my own. My own tends to leave me worrying that I’ll “make the wrong decision!! omg!!”

    eventually I’ll put art on my walls. I’ve lived here for over 2 years . . and all of my wall hangings are still on a shelf. *shaking head*

    I love the tips you have here . . . I could probably use them to actually get my artwork / photographs UP! 🙂


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