12 Easy Tricks For Having A Grown-Up Apartment

Photographed by Erica Gannett.
When can you truly call yourself a grown-up? It’s nearly impossible to define, because it’s different for everybody. Maybe it's the first time you had to fire somebody, or when you refinance your mortgage. Maybe you don't feel grown-up until you have your first child. And then there are the people who never, ever grow up.

You might not feel like an adult, but like most of us, you’re probably at least trying to fake it. And it turns out, a lot of how adult we feel has to do with the way we present ourselves in our living spaces.

I distinctly remember the first time I visited the home of my very successful friend and her very rich boyfriend. Since I looked up to them as the pinnacle of adulthood (in a serious relationship, living together, making a boatload of money, at the top of their professional game), I assumed their apartment would reflect this success. I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly — oriental rugs, heavy chandeliers, more kitchen gadgets than they knew what to do with? Instead, I was greeted with what seemed like the home of two college bros. Posters were tacked haphazardly to the walls. The kitchen was overflowing with free plastic cups from sporting events. They had one couch and used an overturned crate for a coffee table.

Huh, I thought. Even I can fake being a grown-up better than this.

And so can you. Do you want to live an adult apartment, even though you still rely on mom and dad for tax advice or have yet to master how to boil a pot of water? We’ve got you covered. Read on to discover the 12 surprising, small things you can do in your home that will have your friends saying, “Wow. She’s an adult.”
1 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Space #1: The Bathroom
I know the bathroom isn’t exactly considered the heart of the home, but trust me: This space will give you away for the fake adult you really are. My friend told me about a recent visit to her boyfriend’s buddy’s apartment: “He didn’t have hand towels — just, weirdly, a stack of napkins printed with Christmas decorations (mind you, this was in April). There was a bottle of Neutrogena face wash that was clearly meant to double as hand soap. And the kicker was he didn’t have even have bath towels — just a bath mat hanging over the towel rack." This is not the bathroom of a grown-up. But yours can be. Check out the simple tweaks ahead.
Advertisement
2 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Have hand soap. And put it in a lovely container.
If you don’t have hand soap, that’s just gross. But if you have a scum-covered plastic bottle of old hand soap from your local drugstore, that’s no good, either. Grab an attractive and affordable (and nice-smelling) bottle from Trader Joe’s. Or put whatever type of hand soap you like in an attractive yet affordable bottle (you can get them for next-to-nothing at Target). You’re an adult. You care about your friends washing their hands. Now show it.
3 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Invest in matching bathroom towels.
I visited a friend recently whose entire bathroom was layered in old beach towels hanging off of every hook and rack. You’ll feel more grown-up the second you stop drying off your body with a towel that has a fish in sunglasses on it.
4 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Don’t have loose rolls of toilet paper hanging around.
Nothing says “child masquerading as a grown-up” like somebody who can’t be bothered to refill the toilet paper holder and instead has rolls sitting on the back of the tank. Want to go the extra mile? Buy a cute little basket to store extra TP. Convenient, thoughtful, and attractive? You’re adulting pretty hard.
5 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Space #2: Living Space
Once you’ve cleaned up the bathroom so it doesn’t look like it still belongs to a college kid, it’s time to focus on the bigger spaces: the living room and bedroom. You want these places to feel homey and polished, not like a frat house. It’s easier than you think to create this sort of pulled-together space. You just need to start with the small things.
6 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Frame your art.
When I talked to people about what made their apartments feel adult, far and away, framed art was the number-one fix. No more tacked-on movie posters, guys. No more postcards adhered to the wall with Scotch tape. It’s time to get legit.

Luckily, framing has never been easier, now that there are online services like Framebridge. And when all else fails, you can’t go wrong with the basic Ikea RIBBA frames (just make sure the art fits and doesn’t slip and slide around when it’s hanging on the wall).
Advertisement
7 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Give everything its own space.
You can’t overestimate the grown-up-ifying effect of clearing piles of clutter from your house. Get containers for everything, and put everything in containers. Put your mail in a little basket. Try an attractive hamper instead of that smelly mesh laundry bag you’ve been using for your dirty clothes. Have a bunch of wine and alcohol bottles lying around? Buy a tray to put them on. Try wicker baskets in your entryway to hold your umbrellas, scarves, shoes, and other miscellany. Most adults have endless amounts of clutter; they’re just better at disguising it than you are.
8 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Buy a houseplant. Heck, buy two.
Nothing says “Hey! Look at me! I’m an adult!” more than keeping something else besides yourself alive. And it doesn’t have to be hard, even for those of you out there who have severely non-green thumbs (the secret is watering the plant).

Consider a jade, aloe, or spider plant, all of which are hardy; Easter lilies, snake plants, or a Peperomia plant are good choices, too.
9 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Get a headboard.
We’re going to assume that your mattress is not merely lying on the floor, because that’s really the first step here. But if you’ve got your bed on an actual frame (nice work!), the next step is adding a headboard. It’s a small addition, but it gives the room a central focus that immediately makes it feel more polished. And headboards don’t have to be an expensive investment: Overstock, Wayfair, and World Market all offer affordable options.
10 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Space #3: The Kitchen
In my opinion, when trying to come off as grown-ups, people overestimate the importance of the kitchen because they make it all about the wrong things. Buying fancy accessories and expensive gadgets does not an adult kitchen make. Instead, it’s the thoughtful and polished touches that will make you say, “Dang! An adult cooks and serves meals here.”
11 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Have napkins.
No, ripping off paper towels does not count as napkins, at least not in a real adult’s kitchen. Buy actual paper napkins to use when eating. You get bonus points for cloth napkins.
Advertisement
12 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Have enough matching flatware, plates, and wine glasses.
If you’re having a dinner party and are using mismatched plates, Solo cups for wine, and plastic forks and knives, you’re adulting all wrong. Get a set of basic white plates, matching silverware, and wine glasses — enough for parties of at least eight people. These don’t have to be big investments — anything from Ikea would be fine. The key is that they match, and you have enough to serve a crowd when the need arises.
13 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Place condiments in proper containers.
In the past, when people came to my apartment and asked for salt, I just handed them a container of Morton’s. I’ve learned, embarrassingly, that this is not very grown-up. I’ve since bought a little salt cellar, as well as a good container for my olive oil and vinegar. So classy.
14 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Get a chef’s knife.
If you’ve mastered the basics (making pasta, scrambling eggs, etc.), the next step up on the adult chain is getting a good chef’s knife. You won’t believe the difference it will make in the ease of chopping up veggies and more.
15 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Have, at all times: coffee, alcohol, nice snacks, and a platter to serve them on.
Let’s face it: You could live in the twentysomething equivalent of a frat house for years if you really wanted to, and it doesn’t really mean you’re not a grown-up. But most of us adultify our space to impress our friends when they come over. We want them to see how together we are. And that means serving more than a bag of chips and some beers when guests visit. The easiest way to impress is to have, at all times, enough coffee, booze, and snacks to serve to anybody who drops by, even without notice (bonus points for serving that cheese on a pretty platter).

Then, whether or not you really consider yourself an adult, everybody else will. And isn’t that what being an adult, as with so many other things, is really about — faking it properly for the sake of others?
Advertisement