Leveling up doesn’t begin and end with the clothes you wear. Live stylishly every day, and at every age, with Style Girlfriend’s home guide for your 20s (and every age!). Find the basics you need upgrade your digs in your twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties…
Moving into your own place for the first time as an adult feels like “Oh yeahhhhhh” mixed with “Oh sh!t.”
Don’t worry, this kind of anxious excitement is completely normal. Time to put the old “fake it ’till you make it” mojo to work for you here.
There’s always room for experimentation and upgrades after you nail down some basic essentials that you need now (as in tonight!) and will serve you for years to come.
Start out with this solidly stylish essentials. You can always upgrade later.
The essential home guide for your 20s:
1. A good mattress
Here’s the thing about investment pieces: the sooner you get one, the longer you can enjoy it (because they’re made to last).
Meaning, it’s time to get rid of whatever second (or, shudder) third-hand mattress you were sleeping on in college and buy yourself something new.
Thankfully, a good mattress will set you back less than it used to, with all the dtc mattress companies on the market today. Brands like Casper, Tuft & Needle, and Purple offer mattresses that cost less than if you were to walk into a department store or mattress showroom.
And look at it this way: would you rather spend more upfront and sleep on a quality surface every night for years or buy the inferior version, be less comfy every single night and have to replace it two or three times?
You’ll probably wind up spending roughly the same amount in either way, so if you can swing it, get the good one now and save yourself the hassle.
And remember, a good mattress—or even a good mattress topper!—deserves a decent bed frame to support it because no one feels like a grown up sleeping on the floor.
2. Feel-good linens
Literally, your bedding and towels should feel good on your body.
No one likes scratchy sheets or threadbare towels, so it’s worth the extra bucks to upgrade from the cheapest of the cheap to a version that feels good – not gritty – when you’re drying off after a shower.
Look for sheets made from cotton or other natural materials (no polyester please, you want your body to breathe) with a thread count of at least 300 (a higher number means a finer fabric but don’t go crazy, after 800 or so, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference).
Little things really do make a difference when you’re using them every single day and go a long way toward making your feel like a real life grown up. Trust!
3. Thoughtfully-selected art
Art doesn’t necessarily mean an oil painting over the fireplace like your parents had. Think of art as anything you feel like putting on your walls that makes you happy when you look at it!
Your twenties are a time to have fun, try new things and develop your taste. That includes your taste in decor so take a risk here.
Whether it’s an abstract painting (in a frame please, you’ve graduated from your dorm days) or a wrecked guitar you found at a flea market, the best homes are the ones that really show off the personality of the person who lives there.
When you find a piece of decor (or something that can become decor, don’t get boxed in) that you just can’t stop thinking about – even if it’s not what you’d usually choose – that’s your personality shining through. Listen to you instincts. Then decorate.
4. Good lighting
Does your home have two options: pitch black or glaringly bright?
Every room looks better (and cleaner fyi) with great lighting so if you’re lacking in that area it’s time to put some effort into getting a glow. Here’s how to do it: mix up the types and heights of the light sources in your room. See if you can get away with never using that ugly overhead at all.
Have one of those multi-armed floor lamps from your college days? Try my favorite trick and repurpose it by aiming one or two of the heads up a wall. It will add a nice ambient glow without shining directly in your face.
5. Something to make each room smell nice
That could mean a candle. Or an essential oil diffuser. Or fresh flowers! Hell, it could be incense!
Anything to keep you from spraying Febreze around the entire place in a panic anytime someone comes over.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on candles. Target has some great ones, and you can always troll stores like T.J. Maxx for good-looking and good-smelling styles for a deep discount.
6. The right kitchen tools
A good rule of thumb for the kitchen: have enough gear in your cupboards to make and serve a simple meal for two people.
That means plates that aren’t paper, real utensils, and wine glasses made out of, well, glass.
Bonus: Once you own this stuff, it’s far more likely that you’ll start putting it to good use more often.
Kicking your nightly takeout habit AND growing your kitchen skills? A classic win-win.
7. A basic toolkit
Man or woman, everyone needs some basic tools to get stuff done around the house (after a friend caught me trying to hammer a nail into the wall with a dictionary, I knew it was time to invest here).
Having the right tool for the right job is not only safer, but it nets you much better results.
Sure, you could play that endless game of “hang a picture frame, back up and see if it’s straight, approach and adjust” or you could get a level and call it a day.
Just like the other investment items in your home, you will never not need to own tools, so get them early so you can start using them.
Not sure what you need? Start with the basics: hammer, screwdriver set, wrench and measuring tape.
Those four will get you through most small tasks but if you find you need to do a job that you don’t have the tools for, don’t hesitate to add to your collection.
Chances are if you’re doing that job now, you’ll need to do it many more times in many more homes.
Now, head to Instagram and tell us:
What’s the last piece of art you purchased?
Editor’s note: A version of this story first ran on Primer