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Furnishing your first home? Here's 6 tips to keep you right on track


Now that you have nabbed yourself your very own space, it’s time to make it look like home sweet home.

modern living room in townhouse.
© Monika Mlynek | 123rf

Forget about your teenage love for all things sparkly and shiny, and shrug off your college dorm rule of “If it’s cheap, its a win!” Even though it’s going to take a while for you to grasp this ‘adulting’ thing, your house should never show it.

For aspiring homeowners: How to buy a house in Malaysia in 12 steps

These 7 home furnishing and decorating tips will have your home looking like you’ve got it all together.

1. Budget, budget, baby 

Source: Khalil Adis

Purchasing your first home is a huge achievement that’s for sure, but your financial journey does not end there. You still have to be especially diligent with your expenses – Scale back on daily food deliveries or impulsive online purchases.

It is recommended for first-time homeowners to squirrel away roughly 10-15 % of their house purchase price for their home decorating fund – this includes home renovations and the purchase of furniture as well as fittings including lighting fixtures and also miscellaneous items such as throw pillows and vases. 

Set a budget for each area of your home, one each for the living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms, respectively.  You wouldn’t want to blow your entire budget making one room perfect down to the tiniest detail, only to realise that you don’t have enough to purchase the essentials for the rest of your house.

Speaking of which,…

2. Purchase the essentials first

Now that you have your own paycheck, it can be hard to avoid splurging on trendy pieces for your home. One way to avoid blowing unnecessary amounts of money on things you don’t need is to rank your purchases by priority. Determine first and then purchase the items you can’t live without. Think mattresses, kitchen appliances, lamps/light bulbs and ceiling/stand fans.

Even if you have the financial capability, you must avoid falling into the trap of rushing things through. Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy everything in one go – your home decoration is a marathon, not a sprint!

Oftentimes, gung-ho homeowners will make the mistake of falling in love with an Ikea showroom, and thinking it is a capital idea to buy everything and paste it into your home, only to realise that…your home looks exactly like an Ikea showroom. When all the furnishings and knick-knacks look too similar and pretty much blend into one another, the home will lack personality might even feel a little clinical.

The safest route is to take your time to shop and fill your home; slowly add items, especially unique pieces that you find while travelling or goodies received as gifts. On that note, there’s no harm in dropping a casual hint to family and friends that you would prefer stuff for your home as birthday/festive season gifts!

3. Shop smart

You want a stylish home, we get it. Who doesn’t, right?

The good news is that:
1. You don’t have to shop for high-end items to make your home look stylish
2. Ikea is not the only option for home furnishings either 

Instead, keep a lookout for warehouse sales where you can purchase bigger items for half the price and prowl through online stores for décor and knick-knacks.

Alternatively, you can scope out second-hand furniture or artisanal home furnishings. One such budget-friendly store is Abumama, which refurbishes preloved home and office furniture and offers them for resale at affordable prices.

MORE: 7 unique local furniture stores you need to know about

In fact, these next few months is the perfect time to shop for furniture as the new government has recently zero-rated the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from its previous 6%. Consumers will get to enjoy a tax holiday as the Sales and Services Tax (SST) is only to be reintroduced and implemented from 1 September 2018 onwards!

4. But don’t just settle for safe choices!

Okay, so we all agree that the most responsible and adult thing to do is to be thrifty and opt for budget-friendly pieces; do not even cast a glance at the expensive or bespoke pieces! This advice has to be taken with a grain of salt, you would not want to overdo the whole ‘budget’ thing and settle for furnishing that is cheap and convenient.

Fear of overspending might result in you buying most of your furniture from the same budget-friendly store and voila,  we have another case of a boring and clinical home on our hands. The same fear will transcend over when making other choices, for instance when deciding over paint colours.

You’re afraid to make bold choices and fear that the room won’t come together, so you keep not just your furniture and décor neutral, but your walls too. This results in a “vanilla” home that probably doesn’t match your personality.

Do not let a budget constrain your creativity – instead, take the leap with your furnishing choices! Invest in one or two sturdy, expensive features (e.g. rug, headboard) and decorate the room around it. Or you could opt for fancy, bright cheery wallpaper, complemented by neutral furnishings. Likewise, include a bold feature (e.g. yellow wall, quirky chandelier) and leave the rest of the room neutral.

5. Bring in some plants

Cozy dining room interior with hanging plants
© Katarzyna Białasiewicz | 123rf

Nothing says I’m a grown-up more than keeping a plant alive. Throw out the fake plants, then go visit a nursery and bring home a few green buddies. Apart from being an aesthetic upgrade, plants help clean the air, fight colds and can balance your overall homeostasis.

This is a list of indoor plants you can’t kill easily.

6. Details in the décor

Room interior with hammock
© Katarzyna Białasiewicz | 123rf

No, we don’t mean hang up posters using sticky tape or string up fairy lights. Introduce art pieces and nifty décor items into your space that reflect your personal style and that of the home. Art and framed images are the hallmarks of a grown-up home.

TIP: Speaking of details – First aid kits are a general necessity in every household. You’ll never know when you may need them but it’s always best to keep a fully stocked first aid kit in your home. You’ll be able to dress small cuts, manage burns and alleviate bigger medical emergencies while waiting for the professionals.

This article was repurposed from’s First-Home Décor Mistakes You’re Probably Guilty OfDecorating Your First Home? Here’s What You Need to Know.

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