Experts weigh in on the essentials for upgrading your pad

Congrats. You've just landed your first real job, and you can finally stop living in squalor. Or you've recently married, and your beloved doesn't belove that couch your parents gave you.

We've all been there Ñ that moment when you realize that 'early off-campus housing' decorating scheme simply isn't working anymore. But before you return your kitchen table from whence it came (the alley), or attempt to pawn the cinder-block shelving off on your brother, it might help to get a little 'inside' guidance.

Six Portland-area interiors specialists weighed in on the essentials of nesting.

Mary Jane Lowe, a home staging expert for the Hasson Co., feels no need to count beyond two.

'An ottoman and an armoire are necessities,' Lowe says, 'because no matter where you move in the future, you're going to be able to reuse them.

'An ottoman is great because you can move it around, and it's good for extra seating. It also could be your coffee table by putting a tray on it. And of course, it makes a basic chair more comfortable because you can put your feet up on it.'

Lowe likes an armoire for its versatility.

'It can be used in every room of the house,' she says. 'It can hold a TV and a stereo in a family room, china and crystal in the dining room, or linens in the bedroom.'

Tod and Lisa Breslau own Sofa Table Chair on East Burnside Street and Hunt and Gather in the Pearl District. They suggest starting with their slipcovered sofa. 'This is your most versatile piece,' Tod Breslau says. 'It's casual, washable, and when you add a sleeper mattress, you've got a guest room.'

Next on their list is an oversized coffee table.

'A large-scale coffee table serves as a great game table, hors d'oeuvres table and even an intimate dinner table,' he says.

A dining set is an important element in any home. Tod says: 'Our English Gothic dining set makes for perfect everyday use and dinner parties. It can be used for anything from bill-paying to writing your Ph.D. thesis.'

When it's time to call it a day, the decorating duo suggest a beautiful bed. They go for strong, elegant lines. Next to the bed, you'll need a good night table. The Breslaus suggest their Old World table, which features drawers and a sturdy shelf.

Also in the bedroom, a dresser that serves two is a good investment. The Breslaus' New Orleans dresser is large enough to hold both his and her clothes and has a surface space big enough to hold a TV or stereo, they say.

Finally, Tod says, 'Any true home needs a dazzling rug Ñ something that's not only a piece of art, but something you can lie on, sit on and unwind on.'

Michael and Karin Knapp are the owners of Mono, a newly opened interiors shop at Northwest 10th Avenue and Davis Street. They believe the final component of a well-appointed home isn't as tangible as a sofa. Rather, it's anything that personalizes your environment.

'Whether it's art on the walls, a hand-fired ceramic piece or a colorful throw or pillow, it's important to personalize your environment,' Michael Knapp says.

If the idea of investing in furniture still has you hiding behind your beanbag chair, try thinking outside the (refrigerator) box.

Corby Watkins is the owner of Hexafoo, a custom interiors business located at Southeast 33rd Avenue and Belmont Street. She says a little creativity with fabrics will tide you over until the next promotion:

'Big floor cushions make a great statement Ñ especially if you can't afford a couch just yet.'

Watkins also suggests replacing the superhero sheets with proper window coverings, such as silk roman shades. Finally, a bed skirt does double-duty. The decorative treatment can also hide the stuff that will have a place in your next purchase Ñ a house.

Contact Jill Spitznass at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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