When to Set Up House (Or: Why It’s OK To Buy Nice Dishes Before You’re Partnered)

When Did You Set Up House for Yourself? | Corporette2018 Update: We still stand by this discussion on when to set up house (especially the idea that young professional women should feel OK about buying nice dishes or sheets or even houses before they’re partnered!) — but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion about how to stop putting your life on hold

When did you first really set up house for yourself — buy dishes and nice furniture? Did you wait until you were married, or when you bought a house or apartment for yourself? When you turned 30? Are you still waiting? I don’t know why this has been on my mind lately, but I just thought it might be an interesting topic.

For my $.02, I had some basic (cheap) stuff — kitchen basics and furniture — from college onward, but it wasn’t until I was 29 or so that I started buying nice dishes and furniture for myself.  This was due to a lot of factors, I suppose:  when I was in my early 20s I was on a tight budget; I spent my middle 20s in law school; and I spent my late 20s working extremely long hours so I was never really home that much.  (I am also about as far as you can get from a domestic goddess like Martha Stewart.)  I do think another big reason is that I spent my 20s, for the most part, single, and didn’t want to “jinx” future happiness/”give up hope” by setting up house by myself. A few random memories around this topic:

a) I remember being around 22 and seeing a silly pizza-shaped plate (pictured above). I was living with a roommate but we didn’t hang out together, and my friends and I all met out and about, so buying plates for myself felt domestic, like something I should only be doing if I had a significant other. I remember feeling… dishonest? hopeful? when I bought two of the plates, because I couldn’t imagine ever using two at the same time.  (Of course we still use them now and we all wish I’d bought more.)

b) I remember a good friend, age 26 or so — possibly going through a fairly big breakup, if memory serves — going to Crate and Barrel and picking out a ton of plates for herself. It seemed very grown up to me at the time, and rebellious in an odd way.  (I was about to go to law school and dorm life again so nice plates were definitely not on the schedule for me.)

c) When I was 29 or so, I remember shopping in Macy’s and for some reason being on the home goods floor — maybe buying a wedding present for a friend? — and seeing a teacup that I absolutely loved (pictured above with the pizza plate). I’m not a big tea drinker, but I’d never really felt that way about a dish — and so I paused. I’d bought jewelry for myself before, and had even considered buying myself an apartment by that point — but to buy dishes for myself just felt weird. I decided to buy four of the tea cups anyway because hey, who knew when I’d love a set of tea cups again so much? (My mother, upon hearing this, went a bit nuts and bought the entire set of dishes for me — and kept seeing them on sale so she’d buy more…)

Of course, I look back now and think, I was a strong, independent woman with savings — why was it so weird to me to buy anything for my home beyond the mere functional?  So I’m curious, readers — when did you upgrade from your college dishes, furniture, and so forth?  When did you set up house for yourself?

Picture of yellow flowers and blue plates via Stencil.

Kat remembers how when she was a single young lawyer she wanted to buy nice china and set up house—but felt she had to wait until she was married/settled/partnered. Fooey on waiting! Here's why it's ok to buy nice china and sheets for yourself -- or even a house -- even if you're still waiting for your partner.


  1. Anne Shirley :

    I’ve been buying little things for the home since college, scaling up to big girl Crate and Barrel furniture in my first post law school apartment. I have lovely linens, oodles of kitchen stuff, but I’m not buying myself a Kitchenaid, fine china, formal flatware or crystal because gosh darn it I wanna register for that someday!

    • A fancy hand mixer is on my future list.

      • I just got married in April and registered for a Kitchenaid. No one bought it for me :( I say just buy what you want now. Don’t count on getting married or some other milestone.

        • No one bought mine either, so the Hubster and I used some of our wedding money to get the one I really wanted. So I consider it a wedding gift — and told the person who gave us the $ what we bought with it.

        • New Bride :

          Kitchenaids are like $800. There wasn’t really anyone in our lives that could contribute that (and wasn’t already contributing heavily to the wedding budget itself, like my father).

          • Anne Shirley :

            Only if you want the ultra top of the line professional model. I see them on registries for under 400 all the time. And they’re always marked fulfilled.

          • I’ve had my 5-quart kitchenaid since 1988. Cost was about $300, probably less since my mother bought it with all the Macy’s coupons and discounts she could get her hands on. I use it weekly and it works perfectly, has never needed a repair, etc. I can’t imagine why I would need a pro model.

          • Anonymous :

            I bought my 5-qt Artisan for like $240 after Kohl’s coupons and ebates. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that’s the model–the one that comes in all the colors–that people are referring to when they say “a KitchenAid.”

          • The artisan model that most people get is more in the $300-400 range.

          • Anonymous :

            I think my first post got eaten, but I was going to also add that the 5-qt Artisan that comes in all the different colors is nowhere near $800. I paid around $250 at Kohl’s during a 20 or 25% off period and using eBates. I think that’s the model most people get and think of when they say “a KitchenAid.”

    • Originally, I thought I would wait to get married and ask for a KitchenAid then. I love baking and cooking, and realized that I would get years of use out of it before I was even engaged. I use it several times a week now. Sure, it’s an extra appliance to move/keep on the counter, but I think every person has their item that makes an apartment/house their home, and for me, my mixer is it.

      That said, cooking gadgets are my weakness. I only have four plates and six glasses, but I have a whole drawer full of non-essential stuff (microplane zester, cookie scoop, pastry brush, etc.). Fortunately these don’t take up too much space :)

      • anon in tejas :

        i use my microplane all the time. i shred hard cheeses, grate ginger, grate garlic. it’s one of my most favorite kitchen tools.

      • Gail the Goldfish :

        My mother bought me a Kitchenaid mixer for my birthday this year because “at this rate, you’re never getting married, so I thought I should go ahead and buy it for you.” and it’s awesome. (This is the same mother who told me to pick out a china pattern for myself and she’d buy me a piece a year. I’m 28. I live in a tiny NYC apartment. What am I going to do with nice china?)(also, Mom, BF and I will get around to getting married when we get around to it and have the money…)

        • Gail the Goldfish :

          I have no other adult furniture or appliances, though, except for one AllClad saute pan, also a present from my mother. Everything else is Ikea or various other randomly acquired pieces. I figure one day I’ll have matching furniture made of real wood, but not until after the law school loans are paid back.

        • What are you going to do with nice China? Throw a dinner party and use your fancy China and stop waiting for your next life to begin. ;)

          • I love variety – so I made a point of getting white Lillian Vernon, and use it daily. The variation comes with the placemats, tablecloths and napkins – for formal, holiday and casual. The only exception is the cups and saucers – we have plenty of mugs, so they get used for desserts (mousse & puddings with fruit) mini-desserts get put in shot glasses, with a few reserved for coffee.

            Soup plates get the most action after plates.

            I don’t have space/time for a formal set, as well as dealing with breakage & replacement.

    • A KitchenAid was one of the first nice household things I bought myself after college/ starting my first job. Sure, it’s a four quart, but it cost me $100 on Craigslist and I used it tons before I got married, and use it to this day. I might upgrade at some point, but even with lots of bread making, etc. it does the job pretty darn well.

      It kind of drives me nuts that people wait for marriage to get good kitchen stuff. I cooked (still do) all the time- you can bet I wasn’t waiting to ask for a good saucepan until I got married, not with generous parents and Christmas just around the corner…

      And even without generous parents, Craigslist is a cornucopia of other people’s unused wedding registry items.

  2. I started buying household things (pretty mismatched plates, some art for the wall) when I was living / working in SF. And then I promptly moved to Europe. I’m starting to feel a bit more settled and looking forward to hanging things on the walls / investing in nice things.

  3. I guess I see it the opposite way. I live alone in my house, but rather than feeling like I can’t start living until I have a SO to share it with, I’m using this time to set everything up exactly how I want it while no one can possibly disagree. It’s so much fun to decorate it and I don’t have to deal with anyone complaining about pink walls.

    • I agree with Pippi. I would LIKE to be MARRIED and have a husband to do the dishes and stuff in the celler, but now, I onley have an apartement in the city b/c I have a JOB in the city where I am earning money, and hopefully lookeing to find the RIGHT guy who will buy me a house in a place near ROSA like Chapaqua, and then we can have children and HE can work and I can raise the children in the suburb’s.

      So I realy can NOT buy furniture or even alot of kitchen stuff, b/c there is NOT alot of room in the kitchen, even tho MOM send’s alot of food home with me when I go out to LI. I have a few recipees that I willtry on the RIGHT guy, but do NOT want the wrong guy that I will have to get divorced from. FOOEY on that. I need a guy with alot of money, a great job, and a great personalty who will be abel to complement everything that I bring to the table.

      The manageing partner keep’s mentioning his nephew, but he is balding at age 23, so what will he be when he is 30? OMG, no way will my children be bald. DOUBEL FOOEY ON THAT!

      Sam is OK, but his British accent is not sootheing to me, and I do NOT want to have to see his winkie all the time. Rosa says alot of women are after him b/c of his accent, but I am not seduced by that, nor his winkie. She said I would have to act fast, but I say I have to think that one out first. We will see. He does have a nice car tho.

      • KraftEasyMac :

        I do hope you know that male pattern baldness is a genetic trait passed on from the mother.

    • LOL, I love that mindset. Sometimes I wish I had had time to have a “real” apartment to myself post-college to do however I wish. Graduate school kind of ate that.

    • I did the same thing – I started buying art in college (not super expensive, just nice stuff from art fairs), and started buying good furniture after college. Lots of friends and family members disprove (and it has made apartment hunting more difficult since I own things like a queen sized bed and a sectional couch), but it makes me so happy every day to come home and be surrounded by comfortable, beautiful things.

  4. Anonymous Biglaw Associate :

    I decided to do this right after law school, and for me that was at 29. I am very much into cooking and like housegoods and furniture. I really enjoyed putting my apartment together. I was renting at the time (still am, as I live in an expensive housing market). I got things on the nicer end, but not excessively lavish. I opted for Fiestaware for my dishes, mid-range Riedel wine/drinking glasses, Global knives, an All Clad set on sale, and Calphalon baking pans. For furniture, I got a lot of things at Scandanavian designs (including a lovely light cherry bedroom set, leather sofa and arm chair, and a walnut writing desk). I discovered the Greenington line of bamboo furniture and went with that for a cafe table, stools, and wine cabinet. For linens, I went with Natori and Vera Wang things from Macy’s (on sale and with a discount code). It was a series of somewhat major expenditures to get it set up, and I don’t regret it at all. And I think my other half will like already having all this stuff when we move in together soon. :)

  5. DINCs for now :

    Sorry for the early TJ, and going anon for this. My spouse and I recently interviewed with a co-op board and were approved. Hooray! During our interview, we inquired about the two-person per unit occupancy limit and our plans to start a family in 3-5 years. One member of the board stressed that the policy is two people–ironically enough, this board member is our future neighbor. The board president, however, acknowledged that the board is limited under the law from, well, I can’t exactly remember what he said. He also noted that the building does not currently have any shareholders with children. I don’ t know much about housing law, but I do understand that it is illegal to discriminate against owner/tenants on the basis of familial status. The unit we’re in the process of buying has 2 bedrooms and is relatively large. Does the law protect us from the co-op board refusing to increase our unit’s occupancy limit to three people, should I get pregnant?

    • They sound pretty baby-unfriendly, whether they can legally enforce that attitude or not. I think you need to consider not just whether you’re protected under the law, but whether you want to buy in a building/with neighbours that will cause problems and complain every time your baby cries. Grumpy neighbours can be miserable as is – grumpy neighbours plus new baby does not sound like a happy way to live. I would look for a more family-friendly building with other young families just to preserve your own sanity in the future.

      • DINCs for now :

        @Marilla, I agree with you in theory. But the housing market where we are buying is so tight right now, that just wasn’t something we could seriously consider. Since we aren’t sure when we plan on starting a family, it also made sense for us to subordinate this concern to other priorities, such as size, location, price, resell ability, etc.

        • It sounds like you may be in NYC. If that’s the case, consider that leaving the building on bad terms with the board could also impact your resell ability as the board will need to approve your future tenants. Not to mention that the market will not always be like this and not being able to sell a two bedroom to anyone other than a childless couple (I’m assuming they don’t allow co-purchasing either if they have a strict policy like this re: occupancy) will also be a potential issue.

    • I seem to recall that limiting the number is allowed by federal law, while limiting the “type” of person is not. They can’t say “no kids” but they can say 2 people. But some states and cities might have different rules.

      I also think that there are upper limits set by other regulations, such as 200 square feet of living space per person.

    • Housing attorney weighing in here: occupancy policies that arbitrarily restrict housing choice for families with children are illegal. HUD uses an occupancy standard of 2 people per bedroom (so 4 people in a two-bedroom apartment); standards that are more restrictive are generally presumed to be discriminatory against families with children. Look up the federal Fair Housing Act for more information.

      • DINCs for now :

        Thanks @J. This is basically what I understood after researching this area of the law, but I feel much better with your verification in mind.

  6. I didn’t set up a house until I got married (more accurately, the year we lived together before the wedding). Partly out of laziness because who knows when my roommate and I were going to move and if one of my hand-me down plates got broke or we lost some IKEA forms, no one would cry about it.

    Kat, how often do you use the china/teacup set you bought? Our “nice” wedding dishes are pretty much unused, unless we have family in town. I also bought a teacup set from an estate sale…but I don’t drink tea often.

    • We use the Mikasa dishes all the time — they’re our every day ones — and they’ve held up so poorly that if and when we move out of this apartment we may just chuck them rather than bother moving them. (Massive cracks and chips.) The whole collection was eventually so far discounted that I wonder if the manufacturer didn’t know it. We have another set of fine china — Lennox? I forget — that we only use for the occasional dinner party.

    • Merabella :

      We have Lennox china that we use daily – the chirp pattern. It is a sturdier china, not bone china. They have held up great, and I put them to the test on the regular. I have dropped several bowls and plates and haven’t had any issues with breaking. I highly suggest them.

      We didn’t bother to get “fancy” china – we figured we would never use it and would rather get stuff that we would use often.

  7. I didn’t start buying really nice stuff until I got married three years ago. I like to bake and always wanted a KitchenAid stand mixer, but waited until the wedding until I got one (it was not worth it to me to take up valuable counter space, plus face moving it every 1-3 years). During my early 20s, I used to buy a few plates here and there in patterns I liked, but never a full set of dishes — it just felt too “settled” for single me in tiny apartments. Why did I need a set of 8 matching plates when it was never more than me — and maybe someone else?

    That said, there are still “nice” things I wish I had that I don’t: a set of everyday dinnerware that I like (currently using my grandma’s hand-me-downs), a place to display my fancy china that I love (it’s still in the box *sigh*), and getting rid of / upgrading all of the stuff that I feel says “college / singleton” — but we’re actively getting out of debt / save up for a down payment so I’m trying to keep my eye on that prize. And making a mental list of all of the nice things I’d like to purchase with cash in our new house ;)

  8. Calibrachoa :

    I first set up my own household when I was 18; A ton of things came form my mother’s house or were donated from other relatives, but I was also able to get a few decent pieces of furniture (which have since then been adopted by my mother)

    However, when I was 21 I moved to a different country and here, most rental apartments come furnished which was extremely handy for me as you can imagine. I thus have no furniture of my own but I have invested in good linens, good kitchenware, etc. Although I admit I still have this habit of going for the cheapest option possible and hitting all the thrift shops for mismatched pieces because that’s how I like it. I am planning on buying some more storage that will be easily taken with me if I move again because of my, ah, wardrobe habit, but I won’t be committing to any large pieces soon. The current market for housing here is in such shambles, I have no desire to stop renting any time soon, a decision that admittedly has been influenced by the fact that my ex had a mortgage on his place and so did the other bloke I have been that serious about in the past few years.

    I admit, I miss having a house where I hand-picked everything, as jumbled up as it was. And I really look forward to eventually getting a “proper” house but as it is, being 28, still very junior in my career, and not 100% certain I will stay in this country, I will just have to satisfy my nesting urges while dealing with renting.

  9. I started buying/inheriting good quality furniture right after law school when I was living in a nice apartment by myself. I also bought good quality linens and a huge TV (you call tell where my priorities are). Then I changed careers, moved in with my parents for 2 months (and stuck my stuff in storage), then lucked into a great, but mostly furnished, house rental in my dream neighborhood, with a roommate. Now I’m 27, three years out of law school, paying to store a 2-bedroom house worth of furniture and accumulated stuff, and only have my clothing, a few pieces of bedroom furniture, linens, and aforementioned huge TV with me in my current place. At this point I’m glad I splurged on the TV and linens, as they’re the only things of mine I’m currently living with, and I’m very glad I didn’t start collecting dishes and kitchen appliances. I plan on buying a house in the next couple years, and will start slowly collecting things like dishes and art as I need/find them.

  10. Anonymous :

    Not until I got married, which was a few months after graduating law school. Before that nearly everything my husband and I had was a hand-me-down or from Target/Ikea/etc. Not to say I still don’t buy from Target and Ikea but now we have nice things from the wedding and have made more substantial purchases from stores that are a little higher end– i.e. west elm, crate and barrel, pottery barn.

  11. TO Lawyer :

    I’ve been living in my condo for two years and should start actually settling in but I still have all my Ikea furniture from law school. I’ve found new “grownup” furniture I actually like but I’m having trouble pulling the trigger. I think now I’m going to start really settling in and stop waiting for something to happen or the next step to invest in my home.

  12. Interesting question. My experience is probably pretty atypical, but it was a very gradual process. My mom took me out to buy pre-college stuff when I was 18 – my school had apartment-style housing, so that involved some dish-buying. I got married at 21, and about 6 months before then, my (now) husband’s parents moved out-of-state, but thought it would be fairly short term, so they kept the house and we stayed there. They left a lot of their stuff, so we used that and my college stash for a while. When we moved out of their house, we took what we needed (with their blessing! Some other family members moved in after that, and the in-laws eventually sold it). Also, we got some nice stuff for wedding gifts. Over time since then (more than 10 years), we’ve just gradually gotten more and better stuff as gifts and when we’ve caught it on sale or actually needed or really wanted it. I

    ‘m the sort who will “make-do” for ages before I actually go out and buy something, so it’s just been piecemeal, but we have a very nice collection now. And a soon-to-be-toddler, who will surely destroy it all in due time. :)

  13. For the record: I’m 29, single, graduated law school 4 years ago, and have absolutely no idea if I qualify as having “set up house” yet. I guess I’ve never worried about it.

    I’ve lived in four different apartments since college and have gradually accumulated things as I moved around and combined stuff with various roommates. I have a lot of inherited furniture, some nice and some slightly ratty, but I also have things I bought myself. My dishes are from Target, but I store them in a beautiful china cabinet. My couch is the same beast my brother and I used to build cushion forts out of as kids, but most of my serving dishes are handmade works of art by a potter I know. Etc, etc. Does any of that qualify me as a grown-up?

    As each year goes by, my “house” gets tougher and tougher to move– more heavy furniture, framed pictures, lamps– so in that sense, my life is getting more permanent. It’s a little frustrating, since I’m nowhere near ready to settle down in one of those mythical “forever homes,” but what else can I do? I can’t put my life on hold until I find the location and job where I want to stay forever.

    I know what you mean, though; my mother engaged in some extensive hand-wringing when I bought matching silverware in 2010. We had a very entertaining discussion/fight about whether a woman should wait to be given all her household items as wedding gifts. She eventually conceded that getting married was not something you did just because you needed matching towels, and if I wanted silverware, I should just buy some damn silverware.

    Oh– and it’s nice silverware. I’m glad I bought it. :)

    • I love this about the conversation with mom. I grew up in a very traditional, God-fearing family. I didn’t marry until I was thirty (an old age compared to my sisters). Eventually my mom agreed that I shouldn’t have to get married to have nice housewares or have sex (threadjack?). Thanks, mom!

    • I agree. I am married, graduated 6 years ago, and most of my furniture is from Goodwill and other consignment stores or even picked up from the sidewalk in NYC (everything other than the bed and a coach). But it is all pretty and everyone thinks my “house” is fully furnished and grown-up. I have a nice china set and nice silverwear we got for our wedding, but we use them every day, because life is too short to only enjoy nice things when you have fancy guests. We also bought very nice red-wine glasses, but we did not bother to buy the kinds of glasses for drinks we don’t drink (white wine, champagne…). Like you with your art serving dishes, we have collected crafts (including paintings, sculptures and dishes) from our travels so our home is fully decorated.

  14. My aunt (who is also my godmother) started buying me dishes for birthdays and Christmas when I was about 12 or 13. She picked a pretty pattern from Pier 1, and I slowly began amassing this collection. Sortof like you would put in a hope chest, I guess. I don’t know if she discussed it with my mom, but she definitely didn’t clear it with me first.

    When I was 12 I thought it was a little weird, but I would dutifully add each new piece to the collection. I lived with roommates in college and worried about the nice dishes breaking, but I started to use them in law school and I love them.

    All my other furniture/household goods are pretty cheap still. I’m currently staying with family, but planning on relocating soon and I think I’ll start buying “nice” stuff then as I can afford it. I have to say I relish the idea of decorating exactly as I like: in college I had roommates, in law school I had no money. And immediately after law school I STILL had no money and lived with a boyfriend who was very boring and very opinionated re: home decor. After we broke up, I immediately bought a very colorful, gorgeous comforter that he would have hated. I’m really excited to set up house exactly as I want!

  15. Don’t wait!

    The BEST thing I’ve ever done, that I will always remember fondly was when I bought my own condo and lived alone right after college. I had some great things from college (thanks to mom – she always pushed me to get the right thing the first time, rather than the cheap thing) like a full set of corelle dishware (that I still use now, 10 years later!) but I spent the first couple months setting everything up for myself. And I loved it. But after a while of living there I realized I’d made some poor choices…but I talked myself into waiting, thinking my boyfriend at the time and I would eventually move in/get married and everything would change anyways.

    We broke up and I used that time to be completely independent for a while. I sold everything I didn’t like, redecorated my whole place with things I loved. Almost all of those things came with me when I moved to San Francisco and now that my current boyfriend and I live together – those things simply became ours.

    This fallacy that women share – that we don’t fully exist or aren’t fully actualized until marriage or an SO – is just that, a complete fallacy. Set up YOUR life, YOUR way – a husband is someone to share that with, not someone to define that for you. I’ll always remember that little condo and my bachelorette appt in SF, with a smile, that will always be a part of me even as I start to build a shared life with someone else. No man is going to come in and say “well – I wasn’t there when you bought those dishes so they’ve got to go!” haha. and if he does I’d say that’s a red flag…

  16. Equity's Darling :

    I’m 26, but I’ve been out of law school for a couple years- I feel like I should “set-up house” but I really have no desire to put in the required work to find things I like, etc. I don’t even know what style I like, it varies from day to day, so I’m really hesitant to commit to anything.

    I’m going to bet I don’t do it until I get married or buy my own place. I’m hoping to buy sometime in the next couple years or so, so I should probably put more thought into what things I like for setting up house.

  17. I’ll let you know when it happens! 25, still living with roommates. I bought myself a nice set of bedroom furniture on pretty deep discount when I graduated from college but other than that I’ve been moving roughly once per year so it hasn’t seemed worth it to buy nice stuff that may become lost/broken. Most of what we have now are hand me downs or IKEA/Target purchases. New silverware and a nice set of knives are at the top of my list for whenever I move to a place that’s more permanent.

    • Even one or two knives makes a huge difference. You’re so much more efficient with good knives.

    • Same here! My mom bought me a couple of good knives, a copper-bottomed pot, two pyrex bowls, and 3 corningware containers from Ebay; I bought myself some pretty artisan ceramic bowls/teacups earlier this year, and everything else I have comes from Ikea, Target, Costco, and discount/dollar stores. Honestly, at the rate that my spoons keep on mysteriously disappearing, it doesn’t make sense to invest in high quality silverware.

      That being said, I wish I had a little more income so I could afford a nice bedframe and a real wooden dresser. At least I don’t have to worry about finding nice art for my walls, that’s the advantage of being a hobbyist nature photographer.

  18. I got married and moved in with my husband when I was 26. We got a lot of items for the kitchen as wedding gifts, but our furniture was mostly just leftovers from college and we didn’t buy many new things ourselves. We bought a house 2 years later and at that point we hired a decorator and bought nice furniture. Just recently I’ve been thinking of doing a second round to finish up the house, get a new blender/food processor as the wedding gifts are showing some wear, and get new everyday dishwear – we have nice china from the wedding but still using the old college plates and bowls for everyday!

  19. I bought nice dishes when I still lived with my parents so that when I moved out I wouldn’t have to buy them. I think I always knew that I wanted to elope and wouldn’t have a gift registry (and that’s what I ended up doing). I used the dishes for a couple of years when I lived with roommates and on my own. I relocated across the country in my mid 20’s and ended up leaving the dishes behind. I don’t know if my parents gave the dishes away or what. After relocating, I bought a condo right away and got nice furniture, lived by myself for five years and then got married. Nearly 20 years later, my husband and I still have the bedroom furniture. In retrospect, it was nice not having those extra expenses on top of a new mortgage and all the other things you need when moving to a different home.

  20. Guess I’m still waiting despite being married for five years and living by myself for five years before that. I have nice kitchen/dining stuff, but my furniture is a combination of hand me downs and craigslist. DH is annoyingly against replacing things for purely aesthetic reasons. I have a reoccurring daydream where I pretend I lost all my worldly possessions in a fire and get to start over.

  21. Buy the silver! :

    I had a cancer scare (found a lump that grew enough to have us thing it was inflammatory breast cancer initially) right before I turned 31 that was right before 9/11 (and I lived in Hoboken then). People had given me silver then, maybe out of pity, in my mother’s and grandmother’s silver pattern. I started using it. And then buying it for myself at flea markets (but in a pattern I liked, mainly for serving pieces).

    Now, I’m an old lady. Eventually got married and had children (and it turned out to be a hemoragic cyst — spelling that wrong, but not cancer).

    It doesn’t take up a lot of room and will be something that you can enjoy forever.

  22. I bought a “grown-up” bed/dresser/nightstand set and brand new living room furniture when I bought my condo two years out of law school. Before that it was childhood furniture and hand-me-downs. I got nicer home items gradually, and recently upgraded a lot of stuff when I got married. I already had a Kitchen-Aid and didn’t want china/silver, but it’s nice to have fresh new quality items in the kitchen. Same with sheets – the ones I had were perfectly serviceable, but the ones I got for the wedding are glorious.

    As furniture/decor goes, I’m a big believer in not buying all your stuff at once, or from the same store. I’m not a fan of the cookie cutter/magazine look. Things feel more “me” when I get them as I like them, not because someone else told me that chair perfectly matches this couch.

  23. I’m at the point now where I WANT to set up home and buy the nice dishes and furniture for myself. I’m about to celebrate my first year wedding anniversary next Monday, so part of it was getting married, but part of it was just feeling more grown, too. I’m 27. But I’m also in my last year of graduate school, so the budget isn’t quite there yet to buy the good stuff.

    My husband and I have sort of been doing it in pieces…we both came with a hodgepodge of cheap stuff from college and post-college apartments, but now when we replace something or get something new we get something good quality. And I’m in that nesting age now, so I’m obsessed with houses, housewares, and decor. I made my first trip to Crate & Barrel a week or so ago (I needed some kitchen tools) and about died.

    I expect that we’ll start buying real furniture in the next 2-3 years, once we both finish our degrees and my postdoc, and find jobs and get settled somewhere.

  24. My parents bought be a set up dishes from Target before I went off to college. I think the entire set was something like $20, but I used them to eat in my dorm room instead of paper plates/cups.

    When I got my first apt. post college I was broke and remember trying to save money by cooking at home. My sister was staying with me and I decided to make us blueberry muffins for breakfast, then realized I didn’t even own a muffin tin! Luckily, I poured the batter into a cheap cake pan I’d once purchased from the grocery store.

    Throughout my 20s I bought cheaper kitchen stuff at Target and kitchen outlet stores. I got a KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday one year (Maybe 26?).

    I didn’t get married until I was 30, and when I did I eloped, but my parents gifted us with a juicer and my company gave us a VitaMix blender from Williams Sonoma.

    I still don’t have fancy dishes…my set is a different one from college, but it came from target and my husband’s came from World Market. I’m fine with it. When we break them it’s no big deal to us.

    I am holding out to buy nicer furniture until we purchase a house (so we know how it will all fit in). Right now most of our stuff came from our family, World Market / other reasonably priced local furniture stores. We got our dining room set used on Craig’s List.

  25. Interesting topic. I guess I’m a bit surprised at your attitude in your 20s! I got my own apartment out of college and got full dishes and glasses, I think on sale from crate and barrel. My mom helped me pick them out and I LOVED them (butter yellow dishes). I bought cheaper furniture (ikea/used), but a real dining table. I told a bunch of the furniture when I went to law school and had a roommate, and still regret selling the dining table. I used the dishes and glassware into the ground. Bought new stuff when the hubs (then BF) moved in together, because I had broken the vast majority of my first set. But that was almost 10 years after I graduated college.

    The only thing I would have never bought for myself was a real bed. And even that we didn’t buy until I was pregnant with our first baby. For some reason that seemed like something I should buy with my partner (even if I did buy it off of overstock!).

  26. I grew up with a mother who is a bit of a snob about dishes (not label wise, but quality wise) so I started getting nice dishes pretty early, a lot of stuff she even collected for me when I was a kid as a sort of de facto dowry (much of which she actually also broke in the process of many moves). Not really “bridal registry china” stuff (but I can’t stand that anyway), but nice cups, plates and bowls in pretty patterns that made/make me happy. A lot of them are mismatched but they all tend to go together really well and I like the look of coordinated, but not part of set, dishes. I also took a lot of my grandmother’s china when she died, so that’s added to my collection substantially.

    I like to cook so I have accumulated nice pots and pans, too. I am not someone who ever wanted a big wedding and corresponding registry, so early on I told my mother that she should get me nice stuff for the house as gifts (holidays, birthdays). So for the past few years, I’ve gotten LC dutch ovens and all clad pans from her. After Mr. AIMS and I moved in together, his parents started doing the same thing after we broke it to them that we had no plans for any kind of big wedding and that’s been really helpful, too.

    For furniture, I’ve been a little bit more reluctant/unable to get really nice stuff so our stuff is a mix of flea market finds, IKEA and some upgrades from West Elm, Crate & Barrell, and a really great mattress from Sleepy’s. The main reason for the reluctance besides that fact that it’s expensive to do all at once has to do with not knowing where we’ll be living in 5 years. NYC apartments tend to all be small and special snowflakes and it’s hard to know what will work in the next space because the spaces are so small and limiting. The stuff that I have invested in however should work in most places and makes the current apartment feel nice and homey: these are a nice rug or two, pretty table lamps, some art work, nice curtains (our windows are really tall, so I will always be able to cut them down to smaller size), and good linens.

    If I knew where we would be for the long term (or at least the definitive near future), I would invest in custom window blinds, more plant boxes for the balcony, a great professional paint job and California closets. Oh my god, what I wouldn’t give for organized closets!

    • Ha! I laughed at the special snowflake comment. It was such a liability looking for an apartment and owning furniture you like. Everyone thought we were somehow high maintenance because we wanted an apartment that could fit our dining table! I daydream of closets, too…

  27. Threadjack- Iappreciate everyone’s advice in advance!

    My boyfriend and I plan to get engaged in the next 6 months. I’ve been thinking a lot about where we should get married. Here’s some background: I’m from Texas, he’s from New Jersey, we both went to school (and met) in Nashville, TN, and now we both live in NYC, not together (not that it matters). I’ve been considering all four of the above locations, and here are my pros/cons:

    I have a much, much larger family, and all of them are in the east Texas/west Louisiana area… i.e. within 4 hours of each other. However, most of our close friends live in the NYC/northeast, as do most of his (small) family. We’re talking about 75 people in the Texas/La area and maybe 65 from the NYC/NE area.

    I’ve also considered Nashville, since it’s pretty close to the center of the other two, and has significance. I like this option for the reason mentioned above and because I think there would be a lot of good venues for the type of wedding I want… outdoors, relatively casual but traditional. Also, cheaper than the NYC area. However, I am SO not a fan of destination weddings, and I wouldn’t want people to think of this as such.

    It would obviously be easiest for me to plan a wedding in the NYC area, but I’m not sure the convenience is worth the (possibly much larger) cost.

    Does anyone have any advice or anecdotes? I don’t want to have to stress about this major decision too long into the engagement… Thanks again!

    • New Bride :

      Hate to break it to you, but no matter where you get married, if you invite people that don’t live there (and it sounds like you will have those people, no matter where), then it will be a “destination wedding” for them.

      The only other option is to have a small ceremony one place (i.e., near your family) and receptions in Nashville and NYC.

      • Veronique :

        +1. I’ve had to travel to every single wedding that I’ve attended in my adult life, including those in my hometown. That’s just the world we live in, where most people travel away from their hometowns for school, jobs, etc and have friends from all over.

        No matter where you pick, at least half of your guests will have to travel. Based on that, as well as the other factors that you’ve mentioned, I would pick Nashville. It will not only be cheaper for you, but it will be cheaper for your guests who have to travel (as opposed to NYC hotel prices) and more convenient than traveling from NYC to Texas or vice versa. When so many people have to travel anyway, you might as well pick the place that’s best for everybody.

    • I’m in NYC and was invited to a Nashville wedding for a law school classmate a few years ago. A lot of our mutual friends went and were really excited to go because it was somewhere fun without being really expensive to get to from here. You could even drive in theory and make a roadtrip out of it. I think what helped was that the couple provided some inexpensive accomodation options there (they arranged for some deal with some local hotel or b&b). Also, I didn’t go and didn’t feel bad about not going because it was far enough away that I was comfortable with not having to explain my decision.

      So I guess my point is just that it seems like a good compromise if you’re okay with the fact that some people won’t come (but that will be the case anyway).

      Also, personally, I would much rather go to Nashville than Texas for a wedding from the East Coast, and having a wedding in NYC is really expensive, not mention that hotels in NYC for your out of town guests will be really, really expensive. I would not vote for a NJ wedding because if you have enough people coming from NYC, it’s almost as much of a pain to go to middle of NJ as it is to TN and much less fun. And for your out of town guests, it would involve the hassle of having to rent a car and then not have much to do by way of tourist sites. Nashville seems like it would have something for everyone.

    • I would pick Texas. It is cheaper and your family can help with the planning. If you pick Nashville you will require all you guests to make the trip, rather than just some of them. It has become very common for weddings to be held in the bride’s hometown.

      • Thanks for all of the advice… I do love Nashville, and I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks it’s a viable option.

  28. I lived in dorms and university apartments throughout college, so I graduated with nothing but a tube TV, a bookcase and a few mugs. I furnished my lawschool apartment with Ikea pine furniture and a matching sofa, oversized chair and ottoman from Storehouse and a new set of flatware and dishes from BB&B. After my clerkship ended I bought my condo and sold all my existing furniture and bought new furniture. I bought “grown-up” furniture, dishes, and everything else. I felt like it meant that I would finally stay somewhere. I was 28 and had not lived in the same house/dorm/apartment/etc. for more than two years since I was 8 years old. DH and I got married four years later and registered and bought crystal and china. Now we are building a house and when we move we will keep most of the furniture we have now and get more to fill the extra spaces we will have that we don’t have now (eat-in kitchen, deck, porch, separate offices, etc.).

  29. Isn’t the answer to this big question, like, “When I had the money”?

    • Not for everyone. I think most people expect to purchase these types of things with a partner and when people remain single in their 20s, 30s or even beyond because of the way life turned out, we have a whole generation of people with transitional-but-kinda-permanent furniture.

      Monster with Used Furniture but Brand New Shiny Mirror

  30. Veronique :

    I have a mix of nicer stuff that I’ve gradually been purchasing since I started law school and IKEA stuff. For example, I have a nice mattress but no headboard. My linens and kitchen supplies are a similar mix of IKEA, mid-range TJ Maxx/Homegoods products and nicer finds from online sample sales (gilt, ideeli, etc.). I am about to move and am currently undecided between moving it all or selling most and getting new stuff. I expect to move to another country in less than 5 years, so I don’t want to invest too much in anything that isn’t extremely portable.

  31. Through the end of my twenties, I was perfectly happy to use a hodgepodge of dishes (now passed on to a young cousin) before upgrading through a wedding registry. But we still have my law-school IKEA furniture, mostly so that we’ll have freedom to decide what works best in our eventual house (likely in a different city after my husband finishes school). If I didn’t still love all of my law-school pieces, though, I would certainly consider updating at least a few of them.

  32. DH and I got married during grad school – that’s where most of the dishes/kitchen items came from. We didn’t start upgrading furniture until I finished up and got a job (we were 27 by then). It’s been 10 years, and we are still updating furniture and trying to decorate. A few issues – 1) We’d rather throw extra money towards larger home improvement projects or the mortgage 2) We actually like having bare walls and open spaces and 3) I can never seem to find exactly what I’m looking for in furniture and decorations.

  33. Unlike most of you, I bought nice dishes, towels, and flatware when I got divorced. It was a big step toward building a new life in MY taste without compromise.

  34. I don’t see it happening until I get married or engaged. I’m 24 and finally moving out of my parents house. I’m getting some hand me down dishes from a friend that is moving back home and can’t store them. I’ll buy some new furniture and accumulate stuff as I need them. I travel a lot for work and don’t cook much. I’m not even a big dinner eater because I’d rather have a large lunch and then something light at the end of the day. I’m going to hit the two year mark in my relationship with my boyfriend soon but I’m in no rush to move in together and get married. I’m only 24! But I figure that’s when I’ll take my living space more seriously.

  35. My now husband and I had a motley assortment of cheap and hand-me-down furniture and kitchenware until we moved into the condo we bought. At that point we acquired a number of nicer things over time; a small piano, custom-made furniture, higher-end fixtures, expensive appliances (nice TV, KitchenAid, Miele vacuum, etc.).

    And then we up and moved from Canada to the UK.

    It was a corporate relocation, so they paid to move all our furniture, etc. but it does weigh heavily that we may have to pay to move anything we want to keep on to another destination if we decide to relocate again. And because of the electricity issues, I had to leave my beloved KitchenAid and Miele behind, and my husband had to leave his nice TV.

    Not to mention, now we have furniture with us that we paid quite a lot for, but doesn’t exactly fit well in our current space (and may or may not fit well in whatever space we end up in next). But I’m reluctant to get rid of it, because it’s great quality, and we’d never replace it with something as nice.

    Lesson? No need to set up things for a ‘forever home’ if you aren’t going to be there (or very close to it) forever!

    Some things about living more transiently annoy me (*sob*KitchenAid, I miss you!), but the benefits (more travel, new experiences) far outweigh them.

  36. I bought my house when I was 35. I decided to get new dishes and glasses to replace the mess of hand-me-downs I had been given. The store clerk looked at what I had brought to the register and looked at me and asked “Who are these for?” When I answered they were for me her response was “Really?” in such a doubtful tone I didn’t even know how to respond. All these years later I still don’t know what her problem was with a grown woman buying a set of dishes for herself. My best guess was that since she was an older woman her experience was that dishes were for young brides or something.

    Just a weird experience.

  37. We lived together for a year before getting married, but I didn’t start setting up house until after we bought a house (a few months after getting married). We’re still in the process of doing so, and it still feels a little bit weird. Like spending money on good quality dishes, and furniture, etc. still feels like it’s way more “grown-up” of a thing to do than the stage of life I feel that I’m currently in. I’m not a domestic goddess by any means (no time for that…)

  38. Also,

    I’m old enough to have a grown son that likes to cook. It was cool to see that some of the nice dishes (sushi-related, hand-crafted pottery smaller serving items) were in use when we went to visit him at his first non-army apartment with his sweetheart – with their first Target-ish set of dishes. Yay!

    They just bought a bedroom set as nice furniture.

  39. I thought I would after I got married and bought a home, but we also have kids and right now upgrading our IKEA furniture doesn’t make much sense. Two working professionals but I feel like I still haven’t set up home.

  40. Recent Grad :

    27, married 4 years (almost), and just out of LS here… hubby and I didn’t register for much and are SOOOOO glad we didn’t, as we now live in a studio that we adore but that doesn’t even have room for a dining room table, and what little we did register for (other than a KitchenAid and flatware, both of which we use daily) is in my poor in-laws’ basement collecting dust. We have consistently downsized since moving into our first place (huge 4-BR with roommates) and LOVE living simply. Linens, etc., are often remnants of our college years even. We do, however, splurge on good art though – does that count??

  41. When I was 24 – I’m 29 now (and single). When I was 24 I moved from an apartment into my own house, and it seemed like a good time to get some “grown up” things!

  42. Little Red :

    I was almost twenty-six when I moved out of my parents’ home for good so I’ve been setting up home for the past fifteen years. I’ve always had the attitude of not wanting to wait for a husband to start my life. When I first broached the idea of buying my own home, at the age of twenty-eight, my parents’ response was why since I wasn’t married. Since then, I’ve bought my own condo, bought furniture including a queen-size bed, hung art work, and bought all sorts of house stuff even a stand mixer so that I can bake what I want.

    I don’t understand this attitude about holding off in setting up home until you’re married. What if you never meet the right person?

  43. Another vote here for not waiting.

    If you start now, you can slowly accumulate pieces, which means you can afford to spend more on quality things as you go. Then by the time you get to a house or a more settled place, you have a good set of items, whether it’s furniture or linens or kitchen appliances. You can use your registry to supplement and replace anything that’s worn out.

    But the best reason is: enjoy it now! The same goes for any kind of home upgrades. I learned this when we put our first house up for sale. Only then did we have painters come in. When they were done I thought, “Why didn’t we do this when we moved in? I could have been enjoying it the whole time.” So the first thing I did before we moved into the next house was have it repainted.

  44. MissDisplaced :

    For me it was my first (all by myself and no roommates!) apartment in Los Feliz.
    It had some beautiful old hardwood floors. I went to IKEA and furnished just about the entire apartment and even some new dishes for $1,200. It looked just like a photograph from one of their catalogs. Funky and cool if I do say so myself! LOL!