When Scott Roewer, founder of the Organizing Agency, finished his master’s in education in 2000, his parents asked him what he wanted as a graduation gift.
His response: real silverware.
“I wanted to feel like an adult, so I asked for really nice silverware,” he said. “Not actual silver, but I wanted nice utensils and I wanted nice plates and I wanted real dishes. I didn’t want something pieced together.”
His parents got him Dansk utensils from Pottery Barn. Roewer, now 45, still uses the same set. Quality flatware, he said — a set that doesn’t require polishing and has a sturdy feel and tips that don’t bend — is one of those investments that can make a person feel more grown up.
We asked Roewer and other experts for more ways to upgrade to a bona fide adult home. Here are their top picks.
A home bar (and the ability to mix a cocktail): Vodka and cranberry juice may have cut it in college, but Jaye Langmaid, 33, owner of the D.C. design firm and home store Hudson & Crane, recommends party hosts learn to make “a proper cocktail.” The basic tools to start — which include a muddler, shaker, jigger, mixing glass and bar spoon — are a great foundation, he wrote in an email.
Langmaid said he uses his personal bar for himself and when he has people over. “It’s a great way to entertain guests and keep things exciting,” he said.
Roewer also recommended buying a set of wine glasses that aren’t made of thin glass.
“Go take a wine-tasting class [and] understand how wine should taste,” Roewer said. “And then enjoy a nice set of wine glasses that are either for red or for white. And then find a really good-quality bottle opener that you’re going to enjoy.”
A quality mattress: You spend practically half your life on your mattress, so it’s something you should spend real money on (and buy brand new), Langmaid said.
“If you are on the same mattress that you’ve had since you left home for college, it’s time to upgrade,” he said. “It’s time to get the piece that is made for you, that you sleep well on. . . . Everybody needs a great mattress.”
Mattress preferences vary from person to person. Langmaid said he likes a bed that will swallow him up, while others might prefer firm support. The key, he says, is to go to a store, rather than shopping online, and try them out.
He cautions buying a cheap mattress because it should last for at least 10 years, but one way to alleviate any financial burden is to opt for financing or a payment plan.
He said a high-quality mattress was the first real piece of furniture he bought after graduating college, and although he uses it for guests now, it has lasted him all this time.
“It’s the best piece of furniture I own still,” he said.
Hardwood furniture: It’s wise to invest in furniture made of hardwood rather than particle board, Roewer said.
If hardwood isn’t an option, solid wood veneers are better than laminate, he said.
“If you’re trying to ‘adult,’ that means we’re going to be a little bit more established while putting roots down,” he said. “And we want to have things that are going to last us for a period of time in our new space.”
He said it’s important to make sure drawers extend fully and glide smoothly. You can also look for drawers with dovetail construction, because corners bound by staples or glue can come undone after time.
Where to find quality furniture on a budget? Roewer’s top picks include Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor. He also likes checking auction houses and antique malls.
Wireless speakers: Everybody streams their music these days, but not everybody has good speakers to play that music, Roewer said.
He loves the Sonos brand of wireless speakers and has them throughout his home; sometimes he’ll group them together in one space if he has guests over. They can all be controlled with one remote.
“I have Scissor Sisters playing in every room” while cleaning, he said.
Clothes organizing tools: “When you’re in your 30s and you have people over and they open your drawer and it’s a hot mess, it kind of is a reflection I think on just you in general — how you keep your home,” says Meg Biram, 35, a D.C.-based lifestyle blogger. She recommends investing in containers to organize your closets and drawers.
“If you have everything piled into one closet but it’s not well-organized with containers and hangers and dividers, then it can just be a nightmare every day trying to find stuff,” she said.
She said she’s organized her shoes with tools from the Container Store. If your budget doesn’t allow for store-bought accessories, she suggests small shoe boxes to help organize drawers. She uses these to organize garments by type — hiking socks vs. athletic, for example.
Vacuum: Everybody needs to have a good vacuum, Langmaid said. “You need to spend at least $100 on a vacuum that suits your needs,” he said. “And you need to use it regularly.”
Biram recommends the Dyson Animal Stick Vac V8, which is a pretty hefty investment at $350 , but she said it’s worth every penny. When she and her husband got married several years ago, they got a $70 vacuum from their wedding registry. It lasted about a year before they replaced it with another vacuum for less than $100.
“We realized that buying vacuums under $100 was the problem — that we need to invest in something really good,” she said.
So they recently upgraded to the stick vacuum. “There’s no cord, so you can basically quickly clean your whole house [and] the floors really fast,” she said. “That’s probably one of my favorite items that we have.”