Related: 5 Tips for an Amazing First Home
Leslie Cotter Interiors, original photo on Houzz
Framed mirrors. It should go without saying that taped-up, unframed photos should be left back in your dorm room days. But another element of your grown-up home could also benefit from the addition of a frame: the bathroom mirror.
If you have a simple sheet of glass on the wall (often attached with little claw-like hooks and perhaps nothing else), consider replacing it with some shapely framed mirrors such as the glam hexagons seen here, or simply adding a frame to the one you have. A little plain molding that’s 2 to 6 inches wide will cap off the mirror beautifully, giving it a more mature look.
Area rugs. Speaking of frames, a great area rug is like the frame for your furniture: It anchors and reinforces the look of the pieces above it, and adds a sense of polish to a room.
This is true, however, only if the rug is properly sized. Optimally, an area rug should be large enough to let furniture easily sit on it with at least two legs, if not all four.
If you already have a rug but it’s not quite up to this task, try moving it to another, smaller room. A rug that feels too small in one space can be luxuriously grand in another. And, in the meantime, your floor is better left completely unadorned than underdressed.
A headboard. A headboard is technically optional, but it goes such a long way toward finishing a bedroom that once you have one, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
No Chintz, original photo on Houzz
Choose one in a dramatic pattern like this to add a lot of life without the fuss of wallpaper, or simply choose a nicely detailed model (with perhaps some tufting or classic wings) in a neutral fabric that will match whatever bedding you may fall in love with in later years.
Matching towels. This is really one of the easiest upgrades on the list, both to achieve and to justify in terms of price. Towels will always wear out eventually, and older towels that have been retired from display in the bathroom can still get plenty of use as rags, beach towels, pet towels and so on.
Treat yourself to an attractive matching set to make your bathroom feel instantly more sophisticated and tied together. When in doubt, choose a strict white for the most classic, high-end appeal, and to avoid fading or bleach spots that will instantly ruin the effect.
Kerra Michele Interiors, original photo on Houzz
Stylish knobs. Your first grown-up home may not come with your dream kitchen, but that’s doesn’t mean you have to settle for what’s there. If your kitchen has plain white plastic or chintzy metal knobs, consider upgrading them to something with more personality, such as leather strap pulls, brushed brass handles, cut glass knobs — the possibilities are endless, and often not very expensive. It can make the whole kitchen feel like it got a renovation in a snap.
You’ll also be able to bring your chosen hardware with you to a new home, so it’s a great upgrade even for short-term renters.
Full pillows. This means two things. First, although your sofa may have come with two matching pillows, it could probably use a few more. Piling up enough cushions to have more than one layer gives a much richer look, and allows you to add lots of color, texture and personality.
Related: Stock the Sofa With Throw Pillows
Second, thin and floppy pillows look sad. Make sure they have enough fill in the inserts to look full, fat and fluffy, but not so taut that you can’t give them a little designer “chop” to get that pleasing crease at the top.
Tip: Rather than replacing old inserts, just double them up. Add a second, inexpensive insert into the same pillowcase to fill it out without having to throw the old one away.
Zunica Interior Architecture & Design, original photo on Houzz
A coffee table (that you didn’t assemble yourself). Big-box stores can be great for some pieces, but coffee tables are not often one of them. A chunky particleboard table really says “first apartment,” and it can fall apart the first time it suffers an unfortunate spill.
Try a stone- or glass-topped table in an interesting and dynamic shape, such as a circle, an oval or a diamond. It can be an investment statement piece or a relatively inexpensive find, just as long as it looks like a thoughtful accent to your decor — and not like it fell off an assembly line.
A true work of art. Sure, artwork can cost thousands, even millions, of dollars, or it can cost $5.99 — for a little print of a landscape on faux canvas, for example.
But somewhere in between are plenty of options for real art. Try browsing local markets or student art shows for true one-of-a-kind art pieces. You can also find high-quality prints online, and in a scale that will feel grand — think 40 to 60 percent of the width and height of your wall for a dramatic statement.
Areas like the entryway, hallways or other nooks that don’t contain a great deal of furniture can really benefit from having a piece of art that makes a strong statement — just make sure it’s not something with the name of a band or sports team on it.
Toronto Interior Design Group | Yanic Simard, original photo on Houzz
A faux-fur blanket. Here’s an easy one: Buy a faux-fur blanket, then fold it neatly at the end of your made bed. (Yes, made bed. You’re a grown-up now. Making the bed each morning will take an extra 10 seconds or so, but the minimal effort will really polish off the space.)
Then, when you feel like switching things up, take that same blanket and drape it casually over a side chair. Or spread it out on the seat of a sofa and tuck it in. Wrap yourself in it when you have the flu, rather than in that tattered robe. Any way you style it, it’ll be a smart decor upgrade.
Living plants. Fresh flowers are a great way to add varying pops of color from day to day or for special events, but a real sign of maturity in your home is the presence of a living, thriving plant.
Of course, here the key detail is “living.” A plant won’t impress anyone if it is limp and brown due to neglect. Luckily there are many low-maintenance plants to choose from, for any room and climate. Ask for help with your specific situation at a garden center, or try a hardy cactus (many varieties need to be watered only once a week or even much less often).