By Chris Zoia
A couch is the epicenter of your new life of independence—it’s where you socialize and where your friends sleep; it holds remnants of most of the meals you’ve ever eaten at home; and it serves as a repository for a small portion of your monthly income
. In short, it tells a story (though sometimes it’s seen “too much” and the time must come to start a new chapter). Even if we dispense wit sentimentality for a moment, the fact remains that having a place for people to sit down is a pretty basic necessity—egg crates may say “urban chic,” but they may also say “poor and depressing.”
Thankfully, the best couches are not always accompanied by the highest price tags—like tee shirts, the cheapest, most well-worn ones are sometimes the most comfy. Still, it’s important to think about your specific sofa needs (e.g., a bed for your friend to crash for the night, a place where you can hook up, a seat where you can watch bad reality TV alone), as well as how long you plan on keeping it. Whether you’re buying the couch of your dreams for the long-term or you’re just getting something you’ll be using for one or two years and sharing with roommates, it’s still an investment. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Does It Fit?
Before you trek out to Ikea, make sure you take accurate measurements of your apartment. The last thing you want is to find the perfect bargain on an enormous couch you can’t fit in your living room (much less up the three flights of stairs to your apartment). In addition, you’ll want to plan the layout of your living room beforehand to avoid purchasing a couch that extends halfway across the entrance to your bathroom. If after you’ve taken measurements and planned out your pad you find that any couch would be too big, then maybe getting a loveseat would make more sense. To make planning easier, check out this nifty Arrange-a-Room tool that allows you to forecast how things will fit into place in your living room.
Which Should You Buy?
Couches come in many different shapes, sizes, and fabrics. If you plan to have guests over often, the “social” sofas—futons and pullout couches—are always a favorite, but there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are the major players.
By Christopher Schonberger
Beds can be copped for anywhere from $0 (if you find them in a dumpster) to $2,000+ (if you go high-end or require the comforts of a Tempur-Pedic mattress). But if you are going to choose a single item to spend a reasonable amount of money on in your new apartment, a respectable bed is one of the most important investments you can make—a good night’s sleep and a healthy back are the foundations of success for a recent grad. Furthermore, a bed is a long-term investment, so think of it as such when deciding how much to spend. Unless you are planning to move abroad soon, expect your mattress to last for 8-10 years. So what you should you buy? Well, everyone’s preferences are a bit different, but here are a few guidelines.
Before you even start your search, figure out what type of sleeper you are. Do you sleep on your back, your stomach, or your side? Most sleep experts suggest a firm mattress for back and stomach sleepers, and a soft mattress for side sleepers. Two of the biggest names in the mattress game are Sealy and Simmons, but there is a major difference between the two. In a Simmons mattress, the coils are “individually wrapped,” which means they shrink and expand independently of one another. This style might work well for a side sleeper. Sealy “posturepedic” mattresses, on the other hand, have attached coils. Thus, they offer more support but won’t conform to your body as much—probably better for back and stomach sleepers (and more durable as well). Basically, if you prefer a softer mattress, just beware of the fact that it might lose its shape quicker than a firm mattress.
Measure your room before you entertain dreams of a California King. Here are the standard sizes:
If the bed you want doesn’t fit in the space, there’s nothing you can do about it. That said, if you are still rocking a twin post-college, you’re going to look like a rather sad individual. Remember that this mattress should last you a decade. If you don’t already, you might one day have someone to share it with, so you might want to think about getting a little size beneath you.
Where to Buy, and at What Cost?
Despite what we said before, a more realistic price range to consider is $400-1,500. But where should you start looking?
Well, that all depends on your budget and time constraints, kemo sabe. You can call up 1-800-Mattress , give them your size and price preferences, and have a bed delivered the next day. Another cheap but potentially gross option is to buy one second-hand off Craigslist (konnichiwa, bed bugs!). If you want a bit more control over the process but still don’t want to shell out the big bucks, you can go to one of the major chains (e.g., Sleepy’s , Sleep Country ) or the local mattress warehouse that you...
By Erin Kandel
I never thought I’d miss my college dorm room furniture until, staring into the barren, white-walled expanse of my first apartment, I truly realized that it was gone. Overwhelmed by the emptiness of it all (well, all three rooms of it), I had a sudden distorted nostalgia for all those
university-issued fixtures: Blonde-wood dressers and their perpetually dislocating drawers. An unyielding love seat with a penchant for inducing back spasms. My twin-sized plastic mattress that buckled under the weight of even the tamest sex act. It's not that I actually liked these furnishings (or the Soviet-era design sense they evoked). But faced with the prospect of buying everything from scratch, they seemed, well, homey.
Thankfully, bolstered by advice from my apartment-dwelling friends, some help from family, and a lot of scrupulous bargain hunting, I successfully pieced together a fully furnished apartment (for a reasonable price) within a month of signing my first lease. Best of all, I banished dorm room furniture to my distant memory. Here are a few guidelines to help apartment newbs do the same.
If you don't even know what you need, check out About.com's Top 10 Furnishings for First-Time Buyers . Also, for advice on purchasing specific items, check out our guides to buying a mattress , TV , couch , and air-conditioning .
Before You Buy
Before you start filling the pad with furniture, bust out that tape measure and draft an accurate floor plan of your apartment. Take especially careful measurements of hallways, stairs, and elevators, as well as any turns in your new building’s staircase in case you have to haul large pieces of furniture up to a fourth-story walk-up. Once you know the dimensions, use this handy Arrange-a-Room tool for ideas on how to set everything up.
Trick of the Eye
Very few first apartments are mansion-sized. Most recent college grads (myself included) have to make the most that they can with little space. Here are tips for making that small pad seem larger:
Decide on a Décor Style
Your new pad may not be worthy of the pages interior design mags like Domino , Home , or Martha Stewart Living (which are great places to troll for design ideas, by the way), ...