Adultify: How To Buy Furniture Like An Adult

Step away from the Ikea displays

The time has come to accept the inevitable: You're growing up. Embrace it! Becoming an adult can be daunting, but not when you have guides as easy (and, let's face it, as cool) as the ones in our Adultify series. Now, you won't ever have to utter that cringe-worthy term "adulting" when you accomplish something like doing your laundry—you know, basic, responsible grown-up activities—because you'll know these truths to be self-evident.

You’ve reached the throes of adulthood. Congratulations, it’s nice to have you! Maybe you’ve skimmed through our other Adultify guides, one of which is how to take your apartment from college to mature in eight easy steps and, now that you have the rules in place, it’s time to start furnishing your place with items that aren’t futons. 

It can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive. But it can be done and it doesn’t have to include spending half of your paycheck or days fawning over mazes of Ikea displays. Real talk: We get that they are supposed to serve as inspiration, but they’re more like an unattainable tease for most. Not to mention, can you imagine how long it would take to put together an entire living room made up of Ikea furniture? *Shudder*

To help navigate us through the world of couches, chairs, and coffee tables, we tapped interior designers Kirsten Grove and Emily Katz. Click through to see what wisdom they had to dole out. 

Invest In A Good Couch

When buying furniture, you can often wing it with certain pieces. But one item you want to make sure to invest in fully is your couch, says Grove. “You’re spending so many hours sitting on it and entertaining on it that you want something that’s good quality and well-made,” she tells us. “You can find accent chairs and coffee tables and buffets all day long that are a little bit more budget friendly, but you can always tell when you’ve invested good money in your sofa.”

What does good money entail? Grove says to be careful of anything under $900. A good starting out sofa is anywhere between $1,200 to $2,500. How you determine whether or not a sofa is worth the equivalent of a month's rent brings us to our second point…

Shop In Person When You Can

How does one determine whether or not something like a sofa is worthy of taking up space in their home? They test it out, of course. And that’s a pretty hard task if you’re buying everything online. “I once bought a sofa online, and literally you could sit on it and you would pop right off because it was so firm… TV time just got less and less,” Groves says. “My advice would be to make sure that you sit, try it out, feel the fabric, and all that kind of stuff."

Same goes for items like dressers and coffee tables. Sure, the measurements are usually listed online, but you don’t know how an item is going to look until you see it IRL. “I think that we are so visual, so it’s easier to see it in person to understand where it should go,” Grove says. “I’ve worked with clients, and we’ve gone over and over the measurements, and it's not until they actually have it in front of them that they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s what you meant when you said it’s a bigger scale.’”

But The Internet Can Work, Also

Though buying items in person is preferred, the internet can also be a gold mine for furniture—especially affordable items. Both Grove and Katz list One Kings Lane as a great site for picking up pieces. Katz also lists Chairish, Etsy, and, surprisingly, Instagram as go-to places of hers. “There are all these apps that are even embedded into Instagram where you can just click on the photo and it takes you to their shopping page, which is kind of dangerous but also amazing,” she says. “You're actually helping, let's say, a stay-at-home mom who is supporting herself by selling cool vintage or something like that.”

If you are going to go the internet route, Katz recommends always, always reading the reviews beforehand and gravitating toward companies with great return policies and free shipping, if possible. “Having something delivered is a super grown-up thing to do,” she says. Agreed, especially if they’re willing to bring it up your four-floor walk-up and assemble it, also. It’s the little things. 

Websites are also great for comparing prices before purchasing from a brick-and-mortar store if in person is your jam.  

Shop Ikea Sparingly

We totally understand the appeal of the blue and yellow hub, but try to not fill your entire space with hard-to-assemble items that will likely fall apart two years from now. We’re not saying you should forgo the store altogether—both Katz and Grove agree that there is a time and place for Ikea (like storage items)—but, as you get older, you should gravitate toward pieces that are going to last forever.

If you do give into aesthetic temptation (it’s okay, we’ve all been there), Katz recommends customizing items so your apartment doesn’t look like one of every other 20-something. “[My husband and I] like to customize [items] to make it feel a little bit special, like doing some kind of Ikea hacks,” she advises. “We brought a little butcher block for the kitchen and put casters on the bottom to raise it up so that it meets the stool height. I think the DIY stuff can be really fun.”

Hand-Me-Downs Are Your Best Friend

Tables you find on the side of the road, mirrors you pick up at your local garage sale, that chair your parents passed down to you, these will often grow to be some of your most cherished, unique, and well-made pieces. Not only will these items last for years to come, but they’re often a lot cheaper or, if you're lucky, free. Just because your paycheck reads “adult,” doesn’t mean you have to spend in excess. (Saving is just as grown-up as spending!)

When you can, Katz also recommends shopping locally: “Finding a cool crafts fair in your area and meeting the people that make the things that you're interested in having in your home is the coolest thing because then not only are you putting your dollars back into the community, but you're also finding something that no one else is going to have.”

Remember That Everything Good Comes With Time

You’re not going to find your dream couch on your first visit, nor do you want to rush such an important (and pricey) purchase. If you can wait to find The One (whether it’s a couch, mattress, dresser, etc.), do it. Also, because it will probably go on sale in the near future.

You have your entire life to build up you collection, and decorating your apartment should and will be a lifelong process. It can take years before your home starts to come together and feel like “you.” Make sure the items you bring in are worth it.