Furnishing an entire apartment is challenging. That's because buying furniture takes both time and money. You also need to understand your taste and how the new apartment needs to function. It's hard to determine a furniture budget beforehand because the cost to furnish an apartment can vary widely.
So, how much does it cost to furnish an apartment? That depends.
How much space do you need to fill? Are you bringing furniture with you or do you need to buy everything after you move in? Do you prefer vintage and antiques or do you like things shiny and new? Is it an unfurnished apartment or is some furniture provided? How much time, money and energy can you devote to the project?
Determine your furniture budget
To determine the cost of furnishing your new apartment, first determine what furniture is essential to you and learn the average cost. Then, make a list of furniture you already have and a list of what you need.
Invest more in items you'll use every day and classic styles that will stand the test of time. Buying used furniture or accepting secondhand items can keep furniture costs low.
Decide on your essential furniture
Everyone needs a place to eat and sleep. But the exact furniture we need varies from household to household. A sturdy desk and a comfortable chair are the top priorities for people who work from home, while a large dining set is a must for roommates and families who gather around the table every night.
"You do not need to adhere to the notion of needing a 'complete set of furniture' in any room of your home," Tate Swanson, boutique and marketing manager of The Sitting Room in Excelsior, MN. "I suggest starting with the biggest piece, whether it be your bed or your dining room table, and then fill in from there."
If you're setting up a new apartment, purchase the essential furnishings first. These are just the basics, the bare minimum that you'll need to spend the night in your own space. Budget $25 for a plastic shower curtain liner, soap and cleaning supplies to get through your first week.
We've listed the ballpark cost of each item. It assumes you're purchasing the item new, but it doesn't include tax, assembly or delivery costs. Prices might change over time or vary by region.
A quality mattress and box spring support your back and neck, so you can sleep well and wake up refreshed. A typical price is $500 to $1,200. A twin bed costs less than a queen or king.
Always buy a new mattress. An old mattress won't offer proper support and could be full of allergens like mold or dust mites. Even worse, it could have bedbugs that infest your whole apartment.
A bed frame evenly distributes your weight and supports the mattress. A basic metal frame starts at around $80. Decorative options (like platform beds, sleigh beds and trundle beds) may include storage, headboards and footboards. But they'll also cost you more, too.
Sofa or loveseat
A sofa anchors the living room, so choose wisely. You want something comfortable that works with the budget and your style. Styles range from a compact love seat for two to a family-size sectional sofa.
Sofa prices ($300 to $2,600) reflect this variety. A slipcover can make an old sofa work in a new room for much less.
You can find a dining table and chairs made of metal, stone, wood or glass. You can also find the table and dining chairs of the same material, or you can mix and match. Buy enough chairs for all household members and frequent guests.
If you have a counter, reserve $150 to $400 for bar seating. The average cost for a dining table and chairs is $400 to $1,200.
"Plan for a minimum of three feet of space from the edge of the table to the walls to allow space for chairs to move in and out," suggests Swanson. "The table shape and size are determined by the size and shape of the room. A lot of dining rooms are rectangular, so a rectangle or oval table often works best."
Furnishing an apartment doesn't have to happen all at once. If your apartment budget is tight, you can buy the essentials and add them as you go. This gives you time to save money, invest in quality or find the perfect piece to reflect your style.
Bedroom furniture includes dressers and nightstands. Small rooms might only need one or the other, while a larger room adequately accommodates both.
The amount of furniture you need depends on the number of bedrooms you have. So, the cost of furnishing a one-bedroom apartment will almost always be cheaper than a larger unit.
A typical dresser costs $150 to $350. You can find nightstands (around $100 each) that are a simple table or a larger unit with drawers for additional storage space.
Bookshelves are often living room furniture. But they're useful in bedrooms, dining rooms and offices, too. They can also line hallways or awkward nooks.
If you have books, plants, art or a collection to display, you'll need a few shelves. They cost between $80 and $275, so budget accordingly.
As you settle into your new apartment, you'll notice that the overhead lights don't illuminate every inch of the space. You might need to buy a floor lamp or two.
Place them in dark corners, on either side of the sofa or provide ambient light in the dining room or bedroom. Floor lamps cost an average of $50 to $175 each.
Table lamps are a type of task lighting, which means they illuminate a particular activity zone. So, put a table lamp on your desk or near your favorite armchair. They also work well on nightstands, bookshelves, dressers and anywhere else you need a small pool of light.
They're functional, so you won't know exactly how many you need until you've arranged your furniture.
Desk and office chair
Choose a desk based on the work surface and storage you need. Make sure it doesn't overwhelm the space or block doors and windows.
The average desk costs between $140 and $300. A basic chair can cost between $75 and $150. An ergonomic chair will cost more, but it's a good investment for people who spend hours at a desk.
Most living rooms need seating for four or five people. This usually includes a couch and an accent chair or two. But a bench or a pair of stuffed ottomans can work if the room is small, irregularly shaped or if you have a limited furnishing budget.
A single armchair sells for $175–$500 at full retail price. Ottomans are cheaper at $50–$200 each.
TV stand or entertainment center
You can't drill holes in the wall if you want your security deposit back. So, an apartment living room needs a TV stand. The right stand puts the television at a comfortable viewing level. It can also hide cords, video game consoles, speakers and other entertainment systems. Some offer extra storage, too. Most cost $150–$400.
The decorative flourishes
Choosing wall art, plants and home décor is one of the most enjoyable (and least stressful) parts of furnishing an apartment. You don't need to study interior design to understand your own personal style. Pick colors and pieces you love to make your new space feel like home.
Rugs ($150 to $500) are both decorative and functional. They warm up cold floors, provide a safe surface for kids and pets and add a pop of color to a room.
Use a large area rug to anchor a dining room or living area. Smaller scatter rugs work well in front of the kitchen sink, in the entryway or inside the front door, while bathmats offer traction on slippery floors.
Once you have seating in the living room, you need a place to put your coffee or display a lamp. Depending on your square footage, a coffee table or a few side tables will complete the room.
A new coffee table averages $130 to $350, while side tables cost $100 and up. You can find these tables in almost any material: wood, plastic, metal, even vintage crates and reclaimed lumber.
For some renters, the bathroom mirror is enough. But if you want a full-length mirror to check your outfit or a mini mirror to apply lipstick as you head out the door, set aside $80 to $400. (Large decorative mirrors double as art and make up the high end of this estimate.) Check your lease to see if you can mount them on the wall before you buy.
Even unfurnished apartments usually come with basic window coverings. Ask your landlord if you can install decorative curtains and curtain rods ($50 to $150).
Art is an easy way to add personality to your apartment. The price ranges from a few dollars for student work, mass-produced prints and postcards to thousands of dollars for art purchased in a gallery. Budget $100 to $150 for art and frames.
Miscellaneous home décor
Set aside $50 to $100 for the little details that make a house a home. Put soft bath towels and a decorative shower curtain in the bathroom. Put fresh flowers in a pretty vase, burn candles and display plants along the windowsill. These individual touches make the space your own.
A fully furnished apartment
If furnishing an apartment feels overwhelming, you can rent a furnished apartment instead. A fully furnished apartment will contain a sofa, coffee table and living room seating. The kitchen and the bathroom will be functional. (You may have to provide cleaning supplies and towels.) The bedroom will contain a bed and basic storage, although the add-ons vary widely.
Buying new apartment furniture
You can buy new furniture at several price points. The average person sources furniture from a variety of new and used vendors to keep the cost of furnishing their apartment within their budget. To avoid bedbugs, allergens and water damage, buy upholstered chairs, sofas and mattresses new.
Furniture stores let you see and test furniture before you buy it. Most stores offer delivery and assembly assistance. This furniture is high-quality and designed to last, so it's more expensive.
Many stores offer financing and specials like 0% interest or deferred payments to counteract the higher prices. Just remember, if you have to begin paying immediately or have a high-interest rate, you're not really saving money. Wait for holiday discounts, instead. Presidents Day and Labor Day are some of the most popular times for furniture sales.
Home furnishing stores
Specialty home shops like Pottery Barn, Anthropologie and West Elm offer an artfully edited selection of furniture and décor. From budget-friendly IKEA to high-end RH (formerly Restoration Hardware), there's a home furnishings shop for most budgets.
The merchandise is seasonal, so buy before it's gone. The store's aesthetic will be consistent from season to season, so the items you buy over the years will work together.
Big box stores
Big box stores have traditionally offered decorative accents, textiles and art. But now, they've branched out into furniture, as well.
Target offers the items listed above, as well as lighting, TV stands and a selection of living room furniture and storage options. Walmart sells all that, too, plus dining room sets, office furniture, bedroom sets and mattresses.
Shopping online can save you money. You can't try things before you buy them, but having something shipped to your door is very convenient. Many home furnishings stores and big-box retailers also offer online shopping.
Amazon is a good place to browse many vendors. You can also add assembly assistance to your cart before checking out for a small fee. Wayfair offers a variety of styles and financing options. Burrow specializes in modular, expandable furniture.
For new furniture for less, head to a liquidation store. These companies purchase unsold inventory from other shops, then sell it to customers for less than retail value. The furniture selection and style vary from store to store, but most have mass-market appeal.
Buying used furniture has many benefits. The cost of furnishing an apartment goes down when you can buy at least some items secondhand. Buying more affordable furniture means you can splurge on other items.
Since you're buying something that already exists, you reduce waste and shrink your carbon footprint. And when you purchase old furniture, you're giving a time-tested gem new life. Furniture from many eras makes your home feel curated and distinctive.
Friends, relatives, old roommates and colleagues are a great source of secondhand furniture. They might give you the furniture. Or, you can trade or offer cash.
Buy nothing groups
Buy nothing groups have popped up on social media over the last decade. Participants can trade, lend, gift or share items, but they can't pay money for goods and services.
"Don't be afraid to ask for items you need," suggests Sarah Cottrell, a Minneapolis resident who has sourced children's furniture and books this way. "I think it's best to approach it with less of a scarcity mindset and only take things into your home that you truly want."
Resale shops, consignment stores and thrift shops
Resale shops sell previously owned goods at a discount. The average prices are much lower than retail, so your dollar goes further. And your local thrift store is often a non-profit organization that gives back to the community, so your money helps others.
There are over 25,000 resale, consignment and thrift shops in the U.S., according to the Association of Resale Professionals. Some, like Habitat ReStore, focus on building materials, furniture and appliances. Others offer home décor and furnishings.
Craigslist, online classifieds and Facebook yard sale groups
After scouting the thrift shops, Craigslist and other online classifieds are a logical next step. They make it easy to search for used goods in your own city. Study photos carefully, don't pay without seeing something first and only meet strangers in public places.
Yard sales and garage sales
Garage and yard sales are a great way to keep the cost of furnishing an apartment low. They're a good source of furniture, home décor and accent pieces. Look for listings on Facebook or Craigslist. Or, search the Garage Sales Tracker for sales near you.
Flea markets, antique shops and estate sales
Find vintage items with character at antique shops and antique malls. Or, search for treasures at flea markets and estate sales.
Antique sellers and flea market vendors often specialize in certain styles and eras and can guide you to items you'll like. Estate sales often include the contents of an entire house, condo or apartment. They're a great source for well-made but cheap furniture that has already lasted for generations.
Keep calm and furnish on
Buying furniture can feel overwhelming at first. And, the cost to furnish an apartment can vary. But learning how to furnish an apartment is a life skill. And just like any skill, it gets easier with time and practice.