1. Arts & Entertainment

The 9 affordable buys that make every first home look expensive

Designer family home casual living room in neutral tones and textures [Shutterstock}
Published Jan. 16, 2018

Whether you're moving into your first apartment or a new rental, there's always a myriad of things to consider. But perhaps the first and foremost is your budget. While your stylish eye wants all the designer pieces, your frugal purse is looking at those luxury look-alikes with an affordable price tag. But you don't have to declare war with your bank account — it is possible to achieve a happy compromise. Low-cost decor that looks expensive really exists.

Once you tick them off your first-apartment checklist, the fun can really begin. Inject some personality with curated vignettes, vintage knickknacks, and objets d'art. Ready to get started? Ahead, we share our top nine must-have pieces that look expensive without the high-ticket price tag. Yep, we did it.

A multipurpose table

When you move into any new space, the first thing you'll need is a place to dine. Make sure the table you choose has ample room to accommodate unexpected guests, and if you don't have the space for a large table, simply choose a design that's extendable. Find furniture that works hard for the money and looks good doing it.

Stylish storage

Despite your best efforts to keep clutter to a minimum, life happens, and inevitably our homes fill up with stuff from the kitchen counters to the bathroom drawers. We are big believers in prevention rather than a cure, and that applies to more than just our health. Stop your mess in its tracks with storage that looks like stylish decor and makes chaos look chic.

A chic rug

No home, whether it's your first or not, is complete without a rug (or three). It's the single most transformative thing you can do to any space, aside from paint. While there are several styles you can choose from (and this process is very personal), we recommend a jute or a flat-weave style. It's incredibly hardy so it withstands any spills or wear and tear, but we love it for layering with — it's the one home hack that transitions your home to winter. Throw a vintage or colorful small rug over the top for instant texture and visual flavor. It's a super-simple change, but it makes the biggest difference. Promise.

Sleek lighting

When you move into a new rental, the space doesn't always come with stylish lighting. In fact, it's typically mismatched, cheap (not in a good way) and dated. It's one of the first things Athena Calderone switches out. "The best thing about a lighting investment is you can take it with you when you leave," she told MyDomaine. If you can't swap the pendant lights, purchase some polished table lamps to spruce up a dimly lit corner or side table. If you consider the placement of each lamp, you don't even have to turn on the ugly ones that come with the apartment. Or opt for a stylish floor lamp to light up a dimly lit corner.

Luxe bedding

When you consider how much time you spend in it, it's pretty easy to see why luxury bedding is a prerequisite for any new home. If you love the new messy bed trend too, make sure you add linen sheets to your cart. This beautiful fabric feels just as good as it looks and adds an instant air of luxury to any boudoir. While they're typically very costly, you can source some cost-effective sets from H&M.

Elevated dishware

Whether you plan on hosting guests for refined dinner parties or prefer to dine alone, you should always keep your buffet or kitchen cupboard well-stocked with upscale dining sets from dinner plates to bowls, salad, and side dishes. After all, a good hostess is always prepared for unexpected guests.

Clean towels

Before you move in, it's time to toss all your tired, ratty towels and replace them with fresh ones that match your new space. There's nothing more satisfying than stepping out of your shower or bath and wrapping your body in a fluffy bath towel or unique Turkish varieties. It's the simple things in life that count, right? While you can certainly spend a fortune on towels, there are plenty of luxe low-cost versions that look the part but won't break the bank.

A comfortable couch

If there is one thing every living room needs, it's a cozy sofa that looks designer but doesn't make your credit card go into hiding. You also want it to be durable and withstand house parties and movie nights. Because spills happen.

Get the latest on home decor trends, design ideas, shopping guides and food news, and take a look inside your favorite celebrity homes on


  1. Graham Nash will perform at the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre on March 19. Courtesy of Amy Grantham
    Catch up on today’s Tampa Bay concert announcements.
  2. Gondolas move to various locations at Walt Disney World on the Disney Skyliner aerial tram, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Disney officials said the resort’s Disney Skyliner started operating again on Monday.
  3. This Sept. 30, 2019 photo released by ABC shows former White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, left, and Lindsay Arnold during the celebrity dance competition series "Dancing With the Stars," in Los Angeles. President Donald Trump tweeted Monday, Oct. 14, that viewers should vote for Spicer. The president called him a “good guy” and wrote, “he has always been there for us!” Spicer told USA Today there’s no question a “huge” amount of his votes come from Trump supporters. ERIC MCCANDLESS  |  AP
    The president called Spicer a “good guy” and wrote “he has always been there for us!”
  4. From left: Jason Mewes as Jay and Kevin Smith as Silent Bob in "Clerks II." The Weinstein Company
    Catch a showing of the ‘Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,’ the Jokes on You Comedy Tour continues and celebrate the 40th anniversary of ‘Alien.’
  5. Actors emerge from a simulated farmhouse at the center of the Infected Haunted House at Scream-A-Geddon in Dade City. Luis Santana
    Fall fests, haunted trails and other scares kick off Halloween festivities.
  6. The French onion soup dumplings at Tropez. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The approach at this restaurant/bar/lounge might be a little too eclectic. | Restaurant review
  7. Mumford and Sons will headline the 2020 Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in South Florida. Courtesy of Alistair Taylor-Young
    Vampire Weekend, Haim, Rufus du Sol and Kaskade lead the eclectic 2020 lineup.
  8. Families enjoy carnival rides at the 2018 Rattlesnake Festival at the Pasco County Fairgrounds. The festival returns Oct. 18-20, kicking off with a concert featuring the Bellamy Brothers on Friday and food, entertainment and educational activities throughout the weekend. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Musicals, art exhibits and other things to do in Pasco and Hernando counties
  9. Alison Krauss will perform at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 20. Capitol Records
    The Clearwater Jazz Holiday returns with a strong music lineup, Zac Brown Band plays Tampa and Barry Bostwick will be here to screen ‘Rocky Horror.'
  10. Festival goers move through the midway during the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church's annual Ethnic Festival. This year's festival will be Oct. 17-20 at the church on Spring Hill Drive at Coronado Drive. Tampa Bay Times | 2010
    The 28th-annual Ethnic Festival returns to St. Joan of Arc.