The New Basics: The 12 Home Items I Can’t Live Without

by Grace Bonney

I was talking with a writer from a few weeks ago and it wasn’t until that conversation that I realized I’ve lived in seven apartments in the last ten years of living in New York City. From Greenpoint to Williamsburg to Park Slope and back to Greenpoint, I’ve learned a thing or two about editing one’s personal items and how to tell which pieces will stay with you for years to come. That conversation, along with this radio show about finding one’s personal “uniform” basics, made me think about what my home basics are. So I looked around my apartment and assessed which pieces of furniture and decor have stayed with me- or will definitely be with me- for the next few years (and however many moves) to come.

Throughout the process of coming up with this list, I realized that the majority of pieces that are my “basics” are super-affordable items from IKEA. Mixed with a few key investment pieces (and some vintage items), these make up the small grouping of furniture I will always have with me and hope to see blend into my homes to come. The rest of the D*S team will be sharing their basics soon, but it made me wonder what YOUR basics are? What are the pieces you can’t live without? If you’ve got a Pinterest board started or just a few links, I’d love to hear your favorites in the comment section below. I’m so curious to see if we all have pieces in common… xo, grace

Image above, clockwise from top: $169, $17, $58+, , $299

Image above: (in ‘Spa’ linen), $29.99, $150, (I prefer a solid base in metal, but there are more that fold), , (vintage options on Ebay and Etsy are my favorite choice for keeping costs low)

Image above: $22.99 per unit

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  • I can’t live without a wing back recliner. They are comfortable and fit my style. I like that they are up off the floor and look formal. But then when you are ready to snuggle up with a good book BAM! recliner. I particularly like the Lazeboy wing back. My second is currently being recovered.

  • I’ve been looking for a white dresser and haven’t had much luck. I’m guessing you love the Malm dresser? Do the drawers slide easily? Has it held up well? Thanks!

  • I am surprised the Malm is up there—although I’ve never had that dresser, I’ve always found that anything from Ikea with moving parts seems to fall apart over time. Glad you’ve had better luck than I have!

    As for my keepers: definitely this Jonathan Adler lamp which traveled to college and back safely and has been a key piece in my apartment ever since. And… although I just got it recently, I suspect this poster will be with me for a long time—it’s huge and I loveeee it. Reminds me of summer vacations I spent in Poland growing up (although the print makes it look a lot more glamorous than the real thing).

    Looking forward to the rest of your posts, figuring out how to “edit” my life and what my staples are has been a theme for me lately.

  • My 12 home basics:
    *1. blue IKEA Hemnes dresser ()
    *2. my found-by-the-side-of-the-road bureau which holds art supplies
    *3. a 7’x9′ seafoam rug because it’s the perfect size ()
    *4. my tribal beige rug because it goes with everything
    *5. my mattress (practical) and my tulips vintage pillowcase from Etsy
    *6. my giant blue poppies print from Target (no longer available)
    *7. handmade quilt from my aunt for our baby
    *8. 9. 10. our pets (all three of them)
    *11. our collection of decoy ducks
    *12. a portrait I painted in college

  • I’ve admired your sofa ever since you posted about your couch-breaking experience. The link says it’s 86 inches long. Has it been a challenge to incorporate a piece of that size into your tiny NYC apartments over the years? (I ask because I’m considering getting one like it.)

  • I have moved apartments 3 times in the past 4 years, and a few things that have stayed with me include my National Park blanket, kilim pillows, IKEA Kivik sofa (which is comfortable, nice-looking, and such a great value!), and cacti plants!

  • My basics:

    1. China Blue Maine Cottage Bed – Love it!
    2. I have two butterfly chairs with metal bases and white covers – SO comfy!
    3. My Serge Lesage “Peas” cotton rug for my bathroom in periwinkle, lime and baby blue…SO soft (it’s getting worn – I need a new one. Too bad that pattern is discontinued.) :(
    4. A HUGE abstract painting by someone named T. Cox – A bunch of bright colors and things that look like flowers and bugs. Very fun.
    5. I, too, have a couple MALM Ikea pieces – one we use for our buffet, and one I use for storage in my studio.
    6. A brightly-colored pastel I recieved from an artist I used to work with at a home store (Kathy Heerwald) Beautiful!

  • I have to say, the Ikea hasn’t been good to me when it comes to moving (falls apart, too heavy, looks cheap with patina), so have slowly been purging it all with vintage or handmade stuff. My list is super utilitarian oriented in terms of being durable and compact, but maintaining a bit of masculine style.

    1. Danish Modern Nesting Tables (the legs come off and can fit into a suitcase – I’ve moved overseas and cross country with these).
    2. Stack of vintage trunks. Storage meets furniture.
    3. Cow hide rugs. Durable, compact, inexpensive.
    4. Vintage Danish Sofa (built for apartment living).
    5. Parisian leather club chair. I got lucky. Looks better as it ages another century.
    6. DIY surveyors floor lamp. Collapsable with big impact.
    7. Herman Miller fiberglass chairs. (removable legs and stackable shells make for easy moves).
    8. Old Library Table/Desk. Goes with everything and can move from kitchen to bedroom to office seamlessly.
    9. Gray Linen Bedding. CB, Resto, or Muji.
    10. Vintage Enameled Pendant lamps. Office to Workshop.
    11. Peruvian wool blankets.
    12. Expandable Mid Century Slat Bench/Coffee table.

  • Can’t live without a cylindrical white ceramic garden seat(stool?). I use it to put my coffee and phone on while I’m working so that I don’t spill onto my keyboard. It’s an extra seat in the living room. I can pull it close to the couch when I’m lolling around and need a place for a glass of wine while watching the Daily Show. Sometimes I’ll put a small ambient lamp on it, and turn off the overheads. And it always looks so great.

  • …a craftsmen/mission style oak rocker, it looks at home anywhere, in any interior. A quilt my mother and I made when I was going off to college. A persian rug that belonged to my husbands grandfather. A teak MCM credenza I found at a thrift that holds endless things. A framed burlap seed corn bag from nebraska.

  • Living in Europe – and on not an abundant budget – I’ve found such great basics from Ikea as well. The Malm is wonderful! We’ve had ours for several years now and it’s held up better than anything else I’ve ever had from Ikea. That black and white Stockholm rug is one I’m eyeing for our new apartment as well… As for my favorite pieces, I don’t have very many that I feel I couldn’t live without. Our Anthropologie Cotswold leather sofa (nabbed as a deeply-discounted floor model) is still one of my favorite things I own. Our nice, thick mattress, a super-luxurious wedding gift, is like absolute heaven to come home to after a trip full of so-so- hotel sleeping experiences. I also have a couple of thrift store/roadside vintage consoles I have refurbished into something that makes me proud, and looks beautiful to boot. I’m looking forward to finding more pieces in the coming years for our new home in Berlin that will really become staples in our home for many years to come.

  • It’s been more than two years since grad and I’ve yet to move into my own place, so I don’t have a whole lot of basics. I’ve put off buying anything of value for the common areas (aside from the dining table I inherited) because you just never know what will happen when sharing a house. That aside, here are a few basics of mine:

    1. IKEA Malm dresser, in white
    2. Inherited country-style dining room table, similar:
    3. Inherited square-shaped wooden dresser (I’ve used it for everything for clothes to art supplies)
    4. also inherited: a rose-coloured sofa chair. Very comfy but still compact in size!

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