The 12 Things Every First Apartment Needs

Finding that first place to call home after college can be a stressful experience for a recent graduate.

While retailers like IKEA, Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond are here to help, such massive stores can leave you feeling overwhelmed and uninspired. Even worse? You might miss the opportunity to transition your space from the poster-clad dormitory of yesteryear to the stylish, adult space of tomorrow.

Fear not -- we've created the only list you need when it comes to making that first apartment your own. Check out the 12 must-have items below.

1. ARTWORK that was not purchased from the college bookstore.

Just keep in mind the fact that you don't have to break the bank (or even step foot in a gallery) to find something that works for your place. And at the end of the day, a little framing goes a long way.

2. A PLACE FOR YOUR MAIL that doesn't take up valuable kitchen counter space.

place for keys
Having your own place also means having your own bills to pay. Find a small spot, like a side table near the door, where you can keep everything from keys to thank-you notes.

3. A RUG that isn't actually the mat you took from the bathroom you shared with several roommates.

a rug
Adding a rug isn't just a way to keep things cozy; it's also a great way to cover floors that you might be stuck with in a rental.

4. LIGHTING that isn't the hideous fixture your landlord hasn't updated since buying the apartment building.

Again, this is another place where you can mix personality with practicality. The right lighting can compliment the theme of any room and can also make your home feel more spacious.

5. BEDDING that didn't come in an all-in-one bag.

While the pre-styled package is an affordable and easy option, it completely takes away one of the best ways to bring some character to the bedroom. Even if you start with the bag as a base, add a few hand-picked touches like different sheets, vibrant throw pillows or a luxe blanket.

6. A PLACE TO SIT that's not a futon or the floor.

place to sit
Granted, not everyone has room for a love seat, sofa combination or a perfectly placed sectional, but there should still be an option for you and a few guests. Try a couple comfy chairs or a smaller settee for a welcoming vibe.

7. BOOKSHELVES that aren't filled with textbooks and notebooks.

Bookshelves can be used to hold your books, provide a place for decor and serve as extra storage -- all of which are necessary in a first apartment.

8. A COFFEE TABLE that doesn't primarily function as a clutter station.

coffee table
And with a coffee table comes those epic coffee table books you've always wanted to own.

9. PLACE SETTINGS that aren't a hodgepodge of alma mater glasses and silverware stolen from the fraternity house.

place settings
No, you do not have to "register" for your first apartment so you have enough plates to serve your extended family at Christmas -- but you should have enough dishes that you and your roommates can eat on something besides paper plates. And if you have guests over for a drink? A set of wine glasses beats out plastic solo cups every single time.

10. WINDOW TREATMENTS that aren't blinds that came with the apartment.

Unfortunately, blinds are usually one of those things that you agree to live with when you sign a lease. But curtains are a great way to hide whatever you're working with, give yourself some privacy and (if hung properly) make your ceilings look even higher.

11. TOWELS that aren't terribly mismatched and faded.

Whether you're talking dish towels or bathroom towels, it's always good to start with a fresh set in a new place. They give a clean, cohesive impression.

12. A PERSONAL TOUCH chosen by you, not your mom.

personal touch
From your favorite fresh flowers to a bold paint color, add something that will let people know it's your home when they enter.

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