How To Choose Furniture That Will Work In Any Space

Hi, Yes and Yes! I’m the new design & DIY contributor and want to make myself acquainted. I’m an interior designer and professional member of the ever-so-fancy ASID. I have an intrepid attitude when it comes to the DIY realm. I’ve also only lived as a renter; from a military kid to the “temporary” rental in middle school that lasted until I moved on to a series of apartments as an adult.

I spend my work life helping homeowners renovate and personalize their homes while I live in a cheap apartment on Cleveland’s west side. Straddling the worlds of high design and rented beige-town on a daily basis leaves me thinking a lot about how to merge the two!

I currently work for an amazing luxury design firm but am transitioning to my own gig after my husband and I decided to move three states away from my employer.

Traveling and working remotely can’t continue forever, and we just decided to put down permanent roots here in Cleveland, where homeownership is financially possible.

So I’m starting BOLSTER, a studio focusing on helping renters and homeowners create the most incredible living spaces possible. I’m offering e-design and hourly consultation services now with full-service design rolling out in September. I couldn’t think of a better time to start writing for Yes and Yes!

Let’s talk about collecting the right furniture to make your rental space feel like home while keeping future moves in mind.

My advice for furnishing a home doesn’t stray too far from the advice we’ve all heard about building a wardrobe: define your style, buy timeless pieces as a foundation, focus on versatility, and account for current trends with accessories and less expensive pieces. Not that I take that advice when it comes to clothing; 92.6% of what I wear is black because I love stereotypes. And I’m lazy.

Defining your style will make it easier to shop for furniture or turn away free items from well-meaning relatives. Don’t let mom’s cast-off wingback chair crush your dreams of having mid-century decor.

This decorating style quiz is a good place to start.


Photo credit

Once your style has been identified, build the foundation. Sofas, dining tables, beds, and storage pieces that are timeless with refined details lend themselves to evolving trends and tastes. The classics also elevate your style and will look purposeful in a variety of architectural environments, including spaces where you can’t control paint colors.

Keeping it simple goes for fabric on large pieces unless you’re down with slipcovers. Remember the black and white damask trend of 2007? It’s easier to change pillows on a white sofa than address dated upholstery.
Photo credit left, right
Sturdy materials like wood and metal will hold up to multiple moves better than laminated particle board. My $200 Swedish superstore dresser only lasted three years and collapsed after two moves. But the two solid wood vintage waterfall dressers found at a garage sale for $90 are in it for the long haul.
Photo credit left, right
Focusing on the versatility of furniture will help you make a home in future apartments.  An entire room of matching furniture purchased from a warehouse is not only stayed and overpriced, it’s also inflexible. Versatility is aided by mixing in metals, acrylic, painted finishes, and neutral upholstery that complements the style and scale of foundation pieces. It’s easy to move pieces from room to room if all works together!
Choose seat heights that are consistent. A sofa with a 17” seat height won’t mix well with a chair that sits 4” higher. Seat heights are critical if several dining chairs are part of the plan.
Avoid oversized pieces. Don’t be like me and drag home a free, oversized sectional to a 98-year-old apartment with narrow doorways. Go with two sofas for the same function.
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Be mindful of ceiling heights. This 101” tall wardrobe would be incredible in an apartment with soaring ceilings, but it will never fit in a place with standard eight-foot ceilings.
Once you’ve built the base of classic and sturdy furniture pieces, go wild with bringing in personal style in ways that won’t break your bank when you’re ready for a change. Save the shots of color for occasional tables, drapes, accessories, and art. Pillows may be recovered with little effort or cost, and go a long way to breathing new life into those classic foundation pieces.
So much helpful info, right guys? If you have any furniture or decor questions for Liz, leave them in the comments!
Photos by Lauren Mancke and Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

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  1. Kate Whaymand

    I actually don’t have any questions, I just wanted to say I loved this!!! Super subject, fab photos & great ideas – thank you!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Liz did a great job, didn’t she?!

  2. k

    should be staid and outdated not stayed and outdated

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