20 of the Best Decorating Lessons I Learned in My 20s

Soft pink pastel bedroom with wooden nightstand.

House of Harvee

With my 30th birthday rapidly approaching, I’ve naturally been doing some major reflection. And in the spirit of looking back at everything I’ve learned in my 20s, I of course had to make note of all of the design-related tidbits I’ve gathered over the past 10 years, too.

Admittedly, some of these takeaways are simply notes to my future self (hello, numbers 1 and 18), but hey, at least I’m trying to make progress.

Without further ado, here are the top 20 decorating lessons I learned in my 20s. 

01 of 20

Stop Purchasing Coffee Mugs

Cozy living room with lit candle and coffee mug.

Home and Spirit

You don’t need another coffee mug—like, ever. Yes, they’re cute and full of fun designs and witty sayings, but you’ll realize that you only end up using the same handful each week anyway. Save yourself the cash, the cabinet space, and just stop buying ‘em. 

02 of 20

Embrace Change

Soft neutral white bedroom with plants.

Home and Spirit

Your style will constantly evolve, not just because you love design, you’re always catching wind of new products, and swooning over all types of rooms, but because a change in preferences over time is natural. The pink and gold accessories of your early 20s may make you want to cringe now, but they brought you joy at a certain stage of your life, and that’s all that matters.

03 of 20

Save for a Splurge Piece

Large leather sofa with throw pillows and blanket.

The House on Hillside Lane

In the long run, it’s more economically savvy and sustainable to buy the expensive item once rather than opt for the budget-friendly finds and replace them every few years—looking at you, cheap sofas and nightstands. So if it’s possible to wait a bit, you’re better off saving up for a durable piece that will last. 

04 of 20

Rearrange Furniture for a Fresh Feel

Living room with wooden coffee table and pink candle.

Ann Living

Moving your furniture around can be a great way to make a space feel new and fresh without spending a dime. Just don’t drag your furniture across your apartment’s hardwood floors...or else. 

05 of 20

Invest in a Good Rug

Soft neutral kitchen with jute rug.

House of Chais

A good rug can majorly transform a space and add tons of personality to any room, no matter how small. It doesn’t need to be expensive to be chic and functional. 

06 of 20

And Quality Bedding

Soft neutral bed with cane bedframe.

House of Chais

Comfortable bedding makes everything better at the end of a long day. Linen sheets and duvet covers are 100 percent worth the investment. 

07 of 20

Enjoy Single Living

A neutral bed with abstract art above.

Living alone is something to enjoy and celebrate—your circumstances will likely change in the not-too-distant future, so don’t waste the opportunity to design the bachelorette pad of your dreams. Fill the bathroom cabinets with all of your favorite beauty products, display your prized possessions freely, and enjoy the freedom of having an entire closet to yourself. It probably won’t last forever.

08 of 20

Let Your Style Grow

Soft pink pastel bedroom with wooden nightstand.

House of Harvee

Go ahead and change up your style a bit each time you move apartments. Not all spaces are meant to be decorated in the same way. Take your apartment’s unique physical features into account when deciding which items to feature. 

09 of 20

Enhance Your DIY Skills

Painted teal dresser in traditional bedroom.

Kaelyn Guerin

A little DIY or IKEA hack can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to bust out that spray paint and revive a piece with good bones. You’ll be happy owning something that’s totally one of a kind but doesn’t break the bank. 

10 of 20

Mix and Match Materials

Neutral bedroom with metal chandelier and wooden bedframe.

House of Hanes

Mix and match colors, metals, textures, and the like. A room should never be too uniform-looking, and it’s more fun to feature a range of items and styles anyway. 

11 of 20

Shop Small

China cabinet filled with antique decor.

Kaelyn Guerin

Shopping small when it comes to artwork is the way to go. Why stick to the same prints everyone else has when you can support a local maker or up-and-coming artist (and hey, maybe their work will be worth a pretty penny in a few years).

12 of 20

Thrift Away

Antique inspired dining room.

Kaelyn Guerin

Don’t forget to always keep your eyes peeled for new treasures, whether you’re traveling for business or just exploring a new neighborhood in your own city. You never know what gems you might find. Visit flea markets, pop into vintage stores, and go to those garage sales, too.

13 of 20

Avoid Impulse Purchasing

Minimalistic bedroom with large plant.

Domm Dot Com

Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale. That pillow cover may be cute and cheap, but if it doesn’t go with your apartment’s color scheme, leave it behind. A happy home is a curated, clutter-free home. 

14 of 20

Embrace a Perfectly Imperfect Home

Bedroom with neutral furniture and olive green painted arch.

Home and Spirit

Any apartment can be made better with a little TLC. Not every unit you come across will be full of perfect character and charm, but it’s easy to add everything from wall molding to a faux fireplace. Think outside the box and embrace the space you live in now, even if it isn’t your ultimate dream home. 

15 of 20

Let Good Lighting Shine

Modern funky dining room lighting fixture.

Dwell Aware

Good lighting is everything. If you can find a space with lots of natural light, take it. If not, fake it. Lamps are more than purely functional—they can add lots of personality to a room, so have some fun with them.

16 of 20

Stay Practical

Large comfy gray sofa.

Design: Lindsey Brooke; Photo: Amy Bartlam

Practicality should win. If you spend most nights curled up on the sofa, skip the dainty piece that’s only meant for occasional cocktail parties. If you’re a reader, display those brightly colored books with pride, even the tattered ones. 

17 of 20

Embrace the Unconventional

Modern eclectic living room with funky throw pillows.

Maite Granda

Rules are meant to be broken. There’s a reason why designers like to take risks and go beyond the basics. If you like how something looks, go for it, even if it’s a bit unconventional.

18 of 20

Leave DIYing for the Daytime

Kitchen with wooden barstools with wallpapered island.

House of Harvee

Don’t attempt DIY projects late at night—and don’t bust out your hammer and hang a gallery wall in the evening, either. It’s a very quick way to annoy your neighbors.

19 of 20

Be a Plant Parent

Boho bedroom with plants.

JC Designs

Always incorporate a plant or two into your home. Green friends have a boatload of benefits, and they look pretty darn cute, too. 

20 of 20

Take Photos in Your Current Space

Living room with pink sofa and orange chairs.

House of Harvee

Photograph your space often. You’ll want to look back on each stage of your life and remember what you liked and how you lived. Your older self will thank you.