“I even have one in my bathroom right now. It’s such an elegant way to store things. And they’re easy to move, which is ideal for a recent graduate unlikely to stay put for more than a year or two.”
Tip: For the bachelor’s chest, look for a piece that isn’t too deep, so it can function in the narrowest of spaces; less than 20 inches is ideal, says Elliot.
A light fixture can alter the feel of a room, especially in a small space. Every room should have multiple sources of light, including table lamps, floor lamps and sconces, even if you have a ceiling fixture, says Radhakrishnan. (But stick with your basic needs first.) “Lamps are to a room like jewelry is to an outfit,” she said, “so go bold and have some fun!”
Tip: Antiques shops (online and physical storefronts) are the best sources for lighting, says Radhakrishnan. “They won’t always come cheap, but you are much more likely to find a vintage lamp that’s very well made, unique and beautiful for little more than the price of regular store-bought ones.”
5. Original art
Forget framed posters, says designer Dana Tydings of Laytonsville. Instead, start building an art collection.
Works by students and other undiscovered artists are original and affordable. Buy several smaller pieces to hang together, or save for one or two large statement pieces.
“Good art hung over an Ikea sofa will make [the sofa] look like a million dollars,” says Tydings.
Tip: Affordable, original art can be found at local art schools, such as the Corcoran College of Art and Design or the Maryland Institute College of Art (call to ask about upcoming art sales); the Torpedo Factory ; 52 O Street Studios; Columbia Pike Artists Studios and Jackson Art Center. Online options: www.etsy.com, www.lostartsalon.com, www.20x200.com and www.fineartadoption.net.
Everyone needs a designated place to keep a laptop and writing utensils, check e-mail and sort bills.
A desk can also be used as a bedside table, a console table (add lamps), an entry table (tuck stools beneath for extra seating) or a dressing table. In a pinch (and with the help of a tablecloth), a desk can even serve as a small dining or buffet table, says Cavin-Winfrey.
Tip: Hide unsightly computer components and wires by having a tailored table skirt made. Use a colorful patterned fabric for more punch.
“When you receive a diploma, you also graduate from the land of futons,” says Meyer.
An upholstered headboard is a classic piece that doesn’t take up much space, so it’s a sensible option for smaller studios and will also work well in a large master bedroom down the road, she says.
Tip: Have several slipcovers made in different colors or patterns to change the look of your headboard (and your entire room) in an instant.
8. Leather club chair
“A good leather club chair will stand the test of time and only get better with age and use,” says D.C. designer Patrick Baglino.
Choose a classic style, and a leather chair can work in a contemporary or traditional setting and in many rooms, including a family room, living room, bedroom and home office, he says. “Look for a chair made by a manufacturer with a reputation for good quality.”
Tip: Avoid leather chairs that are too trendy or too distinct in style because they won’t be as versatile later on, says Baglino. “Light-colored leather or dyed leather may not be the best choice.”
9. Dining table
A dining table that can have multiple uses in smaller spaces (a place to eat, work and entertain) will also serve you well when you move.
“If you get a pedestal table now, it can be used as a center hall table in your next house,” says D.C.-based designer Joe Ireland. “Or a game table in a great room or a kitchen table.”
Depending on what size and style you choose, a dining table can add the wow factor in your temporary place, he says.
Tip: The outlet section of Baker Furniture in Georgetown (in the basement of the store) has floor models discounted up to 60 percent off the suggested price, says Ireland. It has upholstery, leather furniture, beds, etageres, dining room tables and chairs and more.
1 0. Something unexpected
Not every investment piece has to be a staple, says Baglino.
“I always love to add a ‘jewel piece,’ ” he says, “something that reflects the individual’s personality, tells a story and stands on its own. ”
The Jonathan Adler bench, above, “is sort of retro but it works today and will work well down the road,” says Baglino. “It’s beautiful walnut; I love the teal. It could work as a bench, a table, storage. It can go in a bedroom, living room, media room, could be cool in a kids’ room down the road. It’s quirky, it’s fun, it has personality.”
“It’s not inexpensive,” admits Baglino, “but you’re getting a lot for your money.”
Tip: Sticking with the investment staples is smart, but adding a special piece that reflects your personality adds style.