Furnishing the House

So Now You Have a House to Furnish!

You have done it!  Lived like half-a-monk in the rent-a-room phase and you have a nice, little place.  Or a bigger place if you are going to rent out rooms due to no supply of the preferred duplex or other small homes.  Either one means you have 3-4 rooms to furnish, leaving the extra rooms in the bigger house empty for your room renters.  Since you have not really accumulated a bunch of stuff, it is a blank slate.  Before you buy the IKEA(R) catalog, take some time to plan.

Is This a “Terminal House?”

You have gone room to room for 10 years or so, you are probably looking to get off that merry-go-round.  Stay a little while.  If you buy a house you are probably planning to stay at least 5 years.  You may plan to stay 10-life.  Unless you absolutely know you will move in just 2-3 years, consider it a terminal house.  You should not buy a house to stay for less than 5 years, this was a big thing pre-2008.  Prices going up so fast people just bought anything, left the walls painted contractor white, did minimal improvements, and tired to reap the benefits.

For family men, there is some validity to the idea.  Guy gets married and it is the two of them.  Instead of renting an apartment and saving up, they buy a small place, this way they save by building equity.  They have a kid or two and need a bigger place, so the cycle repeats.  5 years after that, they have saved and stabilizes, they get the “dream home” and they get it by equity building and appreciation.  For a bachelor, this makes less sense.  At most, get 1 place that is a shack, save up, then get a better place.  Rent-a-room is preferred to a shack IMHO, because it lets you be mobile.  Some guys cannot take the “rommie life” and are better off in the shack.  Choose wisely.

Quality, Room by Room

Now it is time to get quality room by room.  It is unlikely you have enough cash saved to do everything you want to do.  Remember, it is now your place, so besides furniture you will want to paint, carpet, and even remodel.  One can blow through $20,000 fast in this phase.  SLOW DOWN!  Think.

First, what HAS to be done.  Is the plumbing sound?  Is there a modern circuit breaker or an old fuse box, yes, places still have them.  Hot water heater good?  You probably had a home inspection, or like me it could be a handyman’s special.  I skipped the inspection since I was gutting half the house.  Since I had almost $3oK in repairs to do, I took donations!  All of my furniture is donated, except a few items I owned before in my apartments and house.

There is no shame here.  The mattress is clean.  The furniture looks so new people refuse to believe someone gave it to me!  Only cost a U-Haul!  Desk, donated.  Dressers, DONATED!  Coffee table and dining room table I have owned 20 years now.  Family and friends hear you have an empty place and they ask if you want stuff.  Even television sets!  Though those are better to take in the room phase since one of the perks of your own place is a nice set.


You spend 1/3 of your life in your bed, asleep or trying to fall or stay.  This is nowhere to skimp.  While a fancy bed is not required, get the best mattress you can afford.  LIE on it in the store, don’t just feel it with your hand.  My goal is a Sleep Number bed.  Some guys like waterbeds, why I have no idea.  There are adjustable beds, and just good, conventional mattresses.  This is a 10-20 year thing, take your time.

Dresser and nightstand are your choice.  The Thrift Store or craigslist are one start.  You might want to refinish some antique-looking one.  IKEA gives some sheek-looking things, though they may not hold up style-wise.  Think about how much room you really need.  Don’t overpay for junk with a cheap veneer finish that will fall off in a few years.

Paint and carpet first, as to move all that furniture is a hassle.  My friends in the know say carpet first then paint second if you are using pros or just make sure to really, really cover the new carpet well and be careful.  Carpet installers are more likely to bang on the walls than a painter to drop paint on a covered carpet.


The kitchen is more important than you think, and easy to blow too much money on.  Walk into Bed Bath & Beyond and you will see so many gadgets your head will spin.  Avoid gadgets,  go for classic items.  For cooking, get a small and large cast iron pan.  They cook better than almost anything and last forever.  Learn how to take care of them (HINT: *NOT* Dishwasher safe!)  Get a couple pots to go with them.  The thrift store is again an awesome place to start looking.  As you decide how fancy you are going to get with cooking the better a decision you can make to buy.  Since you are in the house several years, you may want a deep fryer, a big pot to make and freeze soup, who knows?  Still, look a the thrift shop first.  I got a brand new stock pot for half price of new.

One minimalist I heard online said you really need one plate, one glass, one setting of silverware.  Yeah, that’s crazy.  Thrift store look, though you may just end up buying new.  Glasses are less than a buck each at IKEA to name one place.  I can’t live without a dishwasher, so I have many plates.  All gifted or donates, and three different patterns.  I live alone, who cares.  I have had donated glasses for 20 years!  Those I will slowly upgrade, at least for my morning smoothie.  Do yourself a favor and get half-decent silverware, manly and hefty.  The thrift store has cheapo stuff here, it is cheap for a reason.  Really, you will save at most $20, on items you will use for DECADES.

Depending on the house, you may prefer to remodel the whole thing.  Be careful, this adds up fast.  IKEA looks oh so cool in the showroom, when you live alone you will tend to use the same few things over and over.  This is human nature.  You need size for one or two, that’s mostly it.  Should you be going the roommate route, each roommie will be best with their own cabinet or a few.  Make it nice, though not a palace.


Not much to say here.  Hard to go way overboard, even if you do, you are not spending much.  If you are doing a gut-job remodel, do some research as to what is available. you may be able to make it nicer than you think.  Just don’t drop three times as much as you need on a better tub you may not use.

Living Room/The Rest!

Now we are talking!  This is where you can make your pad, A PAD!  Some things I have learned.

  • You are better off with a small, cottage-style “open” place if you live alone than a few smaller rooms.  You will not use more than the living area, kitchen, and if you have an office for work-from-home.  You will sit in the same spot most times.
  • Don’t waste space and money on nick-nacks or even loads of sports collectables.  It all just takes space and gathers dust.  Tasteful pictures and some things are fine, but think of it all as dust collectors.
  • I have always had donated furniture.  You may get as lucky.  What I bought I got a deal on and have had it 20 years.  Furniture is not cheap, buy careful.
  • DON’T GET CABLE!  Get a decent TV, but cable is $1,000 per year and what do you watch?  5 channels?  Too many other options.
  • Over time you can build up to nicer and nicer things.  Wait until you can pay cash.  Don’t buy on credit.  Remember, the goal is to still be living small so a job or income loss is no emergency.

I’ll mention more here and there around the blog, but that is about it.  Do all of this and you are enigmatic at work, people will be wishing they were you!