First Apartment Living Room Checklist

Things You Need for Your First Apartment Living Room

When it’s time to move out of your college dorm or childhood home and into a place of your own, that also means setting up a new living space. Shopping for first apartment furniture is an exciting chance to explore your personal style. Still, a little direction in figuring out which pieces are essentials is a big help to first-time renters.


This guide offers a handy checklist of living room furniture for a first apartment. We’ll go step by step through the major purchases for this important space to discuss places to spend your money or to look for a deal. In addition, we’ll point out some common pitfalls and insider tips for decorating apartment living rooms.

Start with Layout

Before you start purchasing the things you need for your first apartment, it’s vital to know how much space you’re working with. Having the dimensions of your living room handy makes arranging furniture much less stressful.

Take Measurements

Begin by measuring the size of the room as well as the width of doorways. Even a bargain couch isn’t a good deal if it’s too big to fit through the door. Write these numbers down and use them while buying apartment necessities. Check the dimensions of anything you want to buy against the available space.

Special Considerations

As you measure the room, be sure to note the location of outlets and vents. Avoid covering vents with rugs or low-profile sofas and chairs to maintain proper airflow. Think about how you can arrange furniture to locate seats close to a convenient outlet as well.

Choose Seating

An Investment in Comfort

When you have to furnish an entire apartment, funds can be tight. It may be tempting to take a deal on a garage sale sofa or settle for a worn, hand-me-down couch. However, of all the items on our first apartment furniture list, seating is the best place to put your money.


A sofa, loveseat or sectional is the most important factor in the equation when you’re hosting family and friends or just relaxing at home. You need enough seats for everyone and a spot to sit down that’s truly comfortable. Which type of seating you should pick depends on the available space and how many people you plan to entertain.

Couch, Sectional, or Loveseat?

The right fit for tiny studio could be a loveseat or apartment-size sofa. These seats typically fit two to three people and have slim profiles designed for small areas. Larger living rooms may be able to handle a full-size couch for three to four people. To hit maximum seating capacity, put an L-shaped sectional into a corner to accommodate four or more.

Is a Sofa Bed Right for You?

Practicality is key when furnishing an apartment. Sleepers can be a great option for studio apartments with one large room. These pieces look like a traditional couch but fold out to reveal a mattress inside. They can save space and your budget by eliminating two big-ticket items, a bed and mattress, from your first apartment checklist.

Stay Organized with Storage

Surveying your stacks of moving boxes packed with odds and ends, you’ll probably wonder where all this stuff will fit into a new place. That’s why plenty of storage is an apartment necessity. Small homes fill up quickly, so it’s crucial to do everything possible to make the living room feel open and inviting.

Organize the Essentials

Cabinets and bookcases keep novels, games and more orderly, while smaller cubbies or chests can hold shoes or blankets and take up little room. If your building allows nails in the wall, inexpensive hanging shelves take advantage of little-used vertical space to keep the floor clear.

Store Media Neatly

An entertainment stand is a high-priority piece of first apartment furniture for many people. These consoles display your television and gaming systems while organizing controllers and cases for games and DVDs. Choosing a sturdy design meant for media, rather than any spare cabinet, offers stability for expensive electronics plus features like pass-through holes for cords.

Put Your Room in a Good Light

Lighting is one of the most easily overlooked pieces of first apartment furniture and decor. A well-lit room will be more uplifting, feel larger and lend more productivity to work at home. Consider how much lighting already exists in your apartment and supplement it accordingly. Does your space supply the three main types of light?

Overhead Lighting

This light source on or near the ceiling offers broad, general illumination for your room. Some apartments come with dome or pendant lights, while others rely on natural sunlight from the windows. Add a shade or cover to any bare bulbs for a soft, pleasing quality, or use standing lamps to make up for a lack of ceiling lights.

Task Lighting

To brighten up your desk, couch or reading chair, try a directed and focused type of illumination called task lighting. Apartment necessities in this category include standing and table-style reading lamps. A model with flexible arms or adjustable height can put brightness right where you need it.

Accent Lighting

Accent or mood lighting from a fun table lamp gives off a warm and welcoming glow. These decorative lights can be a simple way to start adding personality, ambiance and color to your decor.

Practical and Stylish Tables

Another thing you need for your living room is a coffee table. This versatile apartment necessity can serve a variety of purposes. You might use one as a dining table for meals and snacks in front of the TV, a spot to lay out board games, storage for remotes and magazines or a display surface for candles, photos, and plants.

Side tables are an optional addition that can be nice to have around, perfect for setting down a glass or bringing a reading lamp closer to the couch. If you want to save money, splurging on a coffee table and checking out sales for end tables will provide the best return on your investment.

Personalizing Your Space

Finally, it’s time for the finishing touches. Decorations might seem like luxuries rather than things you need for your first apartment. Still, choosing a few affordable accessories lets your creativity shine through the blank slate of a rental unit. It can also begin the process of making a new apartment feel like home.

Bang for Your Buck

When you’re shopping for decorations, a couple of high-impact pieces may be all you need. Search for wall art in hues that complement your furniture, choose some pillows for a pop of color on the sofa, or look for a vibrant area rug to bring visual interest and coziness to your seating arrangement.

Style on a Dime

Decor can be budget-friendly and still elevate your interior. A set of simple frames makes your favorite photos into unique works of art, while potted plants add life and freshness to the room. For an accent that brightens up your space and delivers a hint of luxury for less, try hanging a mirror.

Wrap Up

When selecting first apartment furniture, keeping both style and functionality in mind will help you end up with a space you love. Remember to choose items that fit the room’s size and layout as well as your design vision. Select apartment necessities such as couches and storage first, then finish by decorating with personal mementos.

Make shopping for your first apartment’s living room simple by checking things off your list as you go. With these simple tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to a stylish new place in no time.