We understand that decorating in your 20s can be limited by your budget, the tastes of your roommate, or an undecided personal aesthetic. Once you hit 30, however, you’re more likely to be better positioned for personal and economic autonomy, whether that means making the final decision between sofas or being able to splurge on statement art.
Your personal style will have matured, too, so some of the décor and furnishings you purchased in your 20s may not fit with your newly defined aesthetic—nor should it. We spoke with Larina Kase, the principal interior designer behind the Philadelphia-based interior design firm Larina Kase Interior Design, to help us define 10 items that no one north of 30 should have at home.
Ready to graduate from your 20-something apartment? Read on for the list of items to ditch—and what to buy instead.
Meet the Expert
Larina Kase is the principal interior designer of Larina Kase Interior Design, which she founded in 2013. Her award-winning firm has been spotlighted on Houzz, House Logic, Bob Vila, Realtor.com, and more.
Whether you scored a deal on a furniture set in your 20s or inherited a set from a family member, your 30s are the time to break up the bundle. Doing so gives you the freedom to express your personal style beyond the confines of the set.
What to buy instead: Mix-and-match pieces. “The two keys for mismatching furniture are color scheme and scale,” says Kase. In the dining room, for example, your end (host) chairs can be taller than the rest of the chairs. “The taller they are, the more drama that you will create,” she continues. “Stick within the same general furniture style (modern, vintage, etc.) to ensure a cohesive look.”
In your 20s, your personal tastes and preferences are pushed aside as you willingly accept décor donations from family members. The result? A not-so-chic garage-sale vibe that doesn’t reflect who you are or what you like. Your 30s is a time to change all that. Focus this decade on being selective and purposeful about the furnishings that you bring home. In turn, you’ll be able to develop your signature style while creating a cohesive look within your space.
What to buy instead: One or two favorites from the lot—or scrap everything and start from scratch. When you start reintroducing furnishings into your space, start with the largest items first, like a sofa or bed. This will make it easier to map out the rest of the room (Kase recommends using painters’ tape on the floor to help you visualize your room’s new layout).
The ill-effects of hand-me-downs aren’t limited to just furniture. If your shelves host a ragtag assemblage of cast-aside towels, raggedy quilts, and mismatched sheets deemed unworthy of a space in your parents’ linen closet, it’s time to reevaluate your whites.
What to buy instead: High-quality bedding and towels. Opt for crisp white bedding crafted from natural fibers; the look is timeless and allows you to experiment with trends against a neutral palette. Similarly, classic white towels are always a welcome accessory in the bathroom—especially plush, spa-quality towels crafted from Turkish cotton.
When you’re in your 20s and scarfing down pizza between classes, almost any flat surface suffices as a dining table—including your lap. In your 30s, however, the act of dining becomes a little more civilized. Meals are more apt to take place around a true dining table, at a reasonable hour, and in the company of friends and family.
What to buy instead: An actual dining table. If you’re short on space, carve out a dining nook in your living room by setting up a small bistro table with a pair of chairs or stools. Anchor the space with a rug (preferably one that can be spot-cleaned) and a pendant lamp.
Once you hit 30, you can rightfully say goodbye to bean bag and Papasan chairs, lumpy futons, and blown-out mattresses—because with age comes the confidence to banish any and all uncomfortable furniture from your life.
What to buy instead: Investment pieces. Side-step the flat-pack furniture and seek out durable, well-constructed furnishings that provide the proper support and will withstand the test of time. While quality and comfort typically come with a higher price tag, these are pieces that you could conceivably keep for decades.
While your lighting options in your 20s were limited to your landlords’ style and budget, your 30s give you the autonomy to bid adieu to bad lighting—including string lights and the ubiquitous boob lamp of apartments past.
What to buy instead: Flattering fixtures. Even if you don’t own your home, you can easily install quality lighting to illuminate your space in a tasteful, purposeful way. A corded pendant light can brighten up a dark reading nook, for example, while sleek task lighting can be temporarily installed in the kitchen.
All the Knick-Knacks
Is it wrong to hold onto treasured keepsakes, collectibles, and (ahem) shot glasses that you’ve amassed since your 20s? Absolutely not, especially if these items make you happy. However, the key here is being able to identify the moment when your kitsch becomes clutter—and self-editing when it does.
What to buy instead: Larger statement pieces, like framed paintings or bust sculptures. “Leave empty shelf space to allow your new pieces to be the focus,” suggests Kase. “The more shelves that you have, the more simple you will want each shelf and the more large pieces to include.” To make an impact with smaller items, group similar items together in a vignette.
Ripped posters and random magazine clippings are suitable décor for the dorm room, but they’re not a good look in your 30s—unless you curate them and put them behind glass. Create a cohesive collection by framing your art in coordinating frames, giving preference to frame colors that don’t compete with the artwork. “If the pieces that you’re framing are more bold, consider using the same frame or color so that the art stands out and not the frame,” Kase advises. “For example, we are framing my husband’s brightly colored Pearl Jam posters in wood frames [painted the same color].”
What to buy instead: Store-bought or custom frames.”The best way to elevate your art or photo collection is to re-frame the pieces,” suggests Kase. “You can custom frame unusually sized pieces, but first check all of the great retail options for unique frames.”
Along with everything else on this list, your window treatments should do more than just serve a purpose; they should bring beauty to your space. So while unattractive window treatments like aluminum window blinds are good for providing privacy and shade (and collecting dust), they don’t deliver much on aesthetics.
What to buy instead: Expensive-looking curtains, drapes, or shades. Even if you scored your window treatments on sale, you can give them a luxe look with a few tricks, like installing curtains just below the ceiling and accessorizing drapery with chic tiebacks and finials. Pro tip: When in doubt, go with white linen Roman shades or drapes with black hardware, suggests Kase.
Now that you’re in your 30s, you know that nothing can set the tone for a room quite like a rug. It is, after all, the foundation of your décor, so its presence and position within a room shouldn’t be an afterthought. In other words, your days of impulse-buying too-small rugs are behind you.
What to buy instead: Appropriately scaled rugs, which will instantly make your space “feel fresh, bigger, and more pulled together,” promises Kase. “Make sure that the rug goes under at least the front legs of sofas or chairs that are in the arrangement.”