There are many reasons why you might find yourself renting a furnished apartment. Whether you are studying abroad for a semester or are moving temporarily for work, it doesn’t always make financial sense to ship furniture or appliances or boxes filled with cookware and dishes to your new abode. A great alternative is to rent an apartment that is already stocked with all of the furnishings and amenities it needs and that is, for whatever reason, being leased by the owner for a period of time.
How convenient it is not having to pack towels and bed linens and silverware and wine glasses! Convenient, yes, but also a little disconcerting. How in the world can you feel comfortable and at home in an apartment full of someone else’s stuff? I pondered this same question when we moved into our furnished apartment in Paris. It felt so strange at first, like we’d been planted in someone else’s world! I can assure you, though: we didn’t feel that way for long. Time has a way of working things like this out. Even so, there were things that we were able to do (and that you can do too!) to actively make the transition as smooth and as seamless as possible.
In the first 48 hours:
1. Take some time to get acquainted with the space.
Of course you could stumble upon things as you go, but there is no better way to quickly feel comfortable in your furnished apartment than to figure out what amenities you have to work with and where they are located. This is especially applicable in smaller European apartments where things may be stored in strange or unexpected places due to space limitations. You don’t want to go 2 months thinking you don’t have an iron when in fact it’s tucked under some used lightbulbs in the top drawer of the dresser! Intentionally get the lay of the land. And, don’t be afraid to ask the apartment owner if you can’t find something during your walk-through!
2. Find a place for the things you DID bring along with you. And put your suitcases away.
You’re in it for the long haul. Don’t prolong the living-out-of-your-luggage phase any longer than you have to. Unpack your bags and find a home for all of the clothes and shoes, books, toiletries, trinkets, etc. that you chose to bring with you. The trick is to work with the space you’ve got and to, as best as you can, integrate your belongings with everything that’s already in the apartment. This might be an iterative process; where you decide to put something when you first move in may not be where it will end up over the coming weeks. But, at least you’ve made an attempt at settling in (and you aren’t tripping over your luggage for days on end).
3. Go grocery shopping and stock your fridge and pantry with the essentials.
It might be more exciting to eat out, but the longer you resist getting to know your new kitchen, the longer it will take to feel completely moved in. The kitchen is the heart of the home, after all! Fill up the pantry with staples and snacks. Buy and frozen pizza (for emergencies) and a carton of milk. Prepare your first in-house meal – even if it’s just a ham sandwich on rye – and sit at the kitchen table. There’s nothing like a full refrigerator (or a full belly) to make you feel safe, comfortable, and satisfied.
In the first few weeks:
4. Add your own (simple) decorative touches…
So what if the apartment is not your style! There are plenty of ways to add your personal touch without breaking the bank over items that you can’t eventually bring home with you. Photographs are the obvious choice. These can be photos you’ve taken over the course of your travels or of friends and family from back home – whatever will spice up the space and bring you the most joy. Consider cutting out an article in the local newspaper that means something to you. Or, maybe try your hand at calligraphy or drawing and display your own art. Ticket stubs, programs, and guide maps also make excellent, personalized décor as you begin exploring the area. And, if you are a book lover, tactfully stacked books on a coffee table or shelf can also be a great way to draw attention to your personal tastes. The possibilities are endless.
5. …and buy some potted plants.
Not only do plants add color and liven up a space, but they also are proven to enhance your mood and improve the air quality! It’s a no brainer, in my opinion. Purchase a few hearty succulents and maybe some leafy spider plants or English ivy and place at least one in every room. Cut flowers are nice too, but remember, unless you dry them they won’t stay pretty for very long.
Over the long term:
6. Invite a new friend to your apartment for a meal.
One of the best ways to help you feel at home in any apartment, furnished or not, is to invite over a guest or two for dinner. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just a casual meal or even just a cup of tea. Suddenly, you must take on the role of host in the place that was once unfamiliar and new. The act of welcoming someone in, inviting them to sit down at your table and eat the food you prepared in your kitchen, can help you take some ownership of the apartment. Hospitality is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
7. Be patient with yourself and your new space.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: you might not feel at home in your furnished apartment overnight. In fact, you probably won’t. Give it time! Approach the process with patience and without cynicism. After all, the more times you pass through that door after a long, hard day of work (or sight-seeing!), the more the apartment will feel like your personal haven – safe, comfortable, home.