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Experts share 14 first-time homeowner must-haves

The experts agree that a good plan is key.
Happy couple unpacking boxes in living room at new home
Maskot / Getty Images

Being a first-time homeowner is an exciting (and sometimes overwhelming) experience. Now that the papers are signed, paint colors are picked and the keys are in your hand, it's time to furnish it.

When it comes to furnishing a house, most people spend a majority of the time thinking about big-ticket items: TVs, couches, dining room sets. And while you do need all of those, there are things you are bound to forget. At least, there are going to be products you didn't even know you needed until you sat down and looked around after getting settled in.

We spoke to a few interior designers about things first-time homeowners often don't know they need and what they can do to stay ahead of the game.

What do first-time homeowners not realize they need?

Once the madness of moving slows down and first-time homeowners really get a chance to look around, they start to notice all of the little things they're missing that pull a space together. While that could be a variety of things depending on the person, the interior designers we spoke to collectively agree that rugs, stair runners and decor are the things people most often forget about.

"If you have hardwood floors, you're going to want to have something to put on those floors so that you don't scratch them up," Janet Bertin of Bertin's Decorating Den Interiors told Shop TODAY. That's where rugs come in. While they are designed to protect your floors, they can also add color and dimension to a space.

While rugs are important, you'll want to get your purchase right the first time because nothing is more annoying than playing the return-and-exchange games, especially with large items. Alexandra Fernandez of Staten Island-based ALX Interiors said that size is often where people go wrong. "They always go too small," she said.

Jonathan Gordon, founder and owner of Stamford-based interior design company Design by the Jonathans, said that people should also be thinking about home security systems. "You have a house [now] you need to keep an eye on your home," he said.

Bertin also mentioned that window treatments are something people forget about when they buy a house. While it's easy to be charmed by how big and beautiful the windows are, they may not realize how much it will cost to get treatments for them or not take into account how other things like privacy or sunlight affects their view indoors.

Like you would accessorize an outfit with jewelry, you can use decorative pieces like floor vases, wall art, sculptures and greenery to accessorize your home, according to Fernandez. "Your jewelry accents and enhances the outfit, and that's what [decor] does for the rooms, as well," she said.

You might be wondering: Why is having all of these pieces so important? Gordon has a very simple answer. "It makes it feel like home."

What can first-time homeowners do to make sure they have everything they need?

Bertin, Gordon and Fernandez agree on two things — aside from hiring a decorator — that you can do on your own: plan well and don't try to do it all at once.

"Take your time," Bertin said. She recommends doing things like window treatments first because they impact your privacy, but to not rush with everything else. "The less you attempt to do in one fell swoop, the better off you'll be. You don't want that that house to look like you went shopping on Saturday afternoon and the truck drove up on Monday morning and offloaded everything."

Fernandez also recommends starting a file — digital or physical — for every room where you can plan where things are going to go. "A lot of people just buy pieces and say, 'Oh, I'll put it somewhere' and they never find that somewhere," she explained. By planning your purchases and creating a vision for each room, first-time homeowners can be intentional about their choices and ensure that everything has a proper place. Fernandez says to keep looking at your files as you begin shopping to keep you focused.

If you're not sure what exactly to put in your home or what you might be missing, Gordon says to make a list of things you notice in other people's homes that could be useful for your own.

Any final advice for first-time homeowners?

"Don't feel that you have to furnish everything at once, because making all [of] those decisions is more than most people are able to do," Bertin stressed. While it may feel like a race to have your house fully furnished as soon as possible, you'd only be racing against an imaginary clock. Take your time!

"Plan, plan, plan," Fernandez said. Having so much space to decorate can be overwhelming, especially if you're upgrading from something much smaller like an apartment. Having a plan will help you stay focused and keep things manageable.

"Enjoy using all of your spaces," Gordon also recommended. Owning a home for the first time can be a rollercoaster of emotions, but allow yourself to have fun and get creative with your decor.

First-time homeowner needs

1. Unique Loom Sofia Collection Vintage Rug

This traditional vintage-style rug will blend in perfectly with any minimalistic design. It is stain-resistant and easy to clean, making it perfect for high traffic areas like entryways or living rooms. It even has a 4.5-star average and over 13,900 verified five-star ratings on Amazon!

2. Unique Loom Moroccan Geometric Modern Area Rug

This stain-resistant rug features an eye-catching white geometric pattern atop a navy background. It comes in sizes ranging from 6-by-9 feet to 10-by-14 feet and is available in 14 other colors. Like Fernandez said, people often get rugs that are too small, so don’t be afraid to grab the larger size!

3. Wanderer Shag Rug

This plush rug is hand-tufted from premium New Zealand wool, so you’ll never have to worry about comfort. It features abstract line work with pops of color that will make it blend easily with any decor theme. It comes in different shapes and sizes from traditional rectangles to 6-inch round styles.

4. Natco Sapphire Fleur de Lis Black Stair Runner

Bertin recommends having a stair runner in your home, especially if you have dogs that are prone to slide on slippery surfaces like wood floors. This patterned black option measures 33 inches wide and you can order up to 100 linear feet at a time.

5. Dakota Fields Geometric Non-Slip Stair Tread

If you don't want one long runner, try this non-slip stain-resistant stair tread. This set includes 13 pieces that you can lay on individual stairs to protect your floors, while allowing both you and your pup to go up and down safely.

6. John Boos Hard Rock Maple Reversible Cutting Board

"Everybody needs a good cutting board," Gordon said. The Boos block boards are a favorite of his. He notes that they are quite heavy and, at 2 1/4-inch thick of hard rock maple wood, we're not surprised. This reversible board will make avoiding cross-contamination during food prep a breeze.

7. ArtbyHannah 6-Piece Framed Botanical Gallery Wall Frames Kit

The best part about this set is that there are six separate pieces you can work with. You can choose to keep them all together in one area or spread them out amongst your house for a little pop of color in every room. The set comes with two frames in each of these sizes: 12-by-16, 8-by-12 and 8-by-10.

8. Crossweave Cordless Roman Shades

If you’re looking for a window treatment that will give you maximum privacy, consider blackout shades. They block the sun and any outdoor light from shining through, which is also perfect for those extra-hot summer days. And you won’t have to worry about unsightly strings swinging around. To lower these shades, just gently pull the handle and they will automatically stop when you do.

9. Echo Print Curtains

Who says curtains have to be plain? Add a pop of shimmer with these gold-dusted curtains from West Elm. What may look like a random scattering of gold shimmer from far away is actually a detailed pattern that was inspired by Egyptian artwork.

10. Hearth & Hand Tonal Texture Curtain Panel

If you’re looking for more traditional curtain panels, this cream-colored set from Hearth and Hand is a great option. It is made out of 100% cotton, making them lightweight and durable. They come in three sizes and, for under $30, this is a deal you don’t want to pass up.

11. Live 10" Majesty Palm Plant

This live plant stands at about three feet tall and is perfect for adding a bit of greenery to your space. It's delivered to you in a grower pot, so you only have to focus on maintaining it. Transfer it into a decorative planter that matches your theme to make the most out of every addition to your space.

12. Faux Potted Green Fern Plant

Lacking a green thumb? Not a problem. This faux fern looks realistic and is the perfect addition to any space without having to worry about taking care of a real plant.

13. Pauline Stanley Studio Waves & Sun Wall Art

Keep a little bit of the beach with you all year long with this sunny wall art print. It'd be a great addition to any bathroom or home office, and you can even choose between a wood or black wood frame.

14. Ring Doorbell

This bestselling home security system has a 1080p camera that allows you to see, hear and speak to anyone from your phone, tablet or PC. If you have the Ring app, you can get mobile notifications whenever anyone rings the doorbell or triggers the built-in motion sensors. A quality security system can give you peace of mind that your home is protected, even when you're away.

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