Putting my apartment together has been an ongoing process. I live in a one-bedroom in a 20-unit pre-war building in Logan Circle, which I love because it feels like a house rather than apartment: pleasantly-scuffed hard wood floors, brick exterior and windows on all sides. I spend a lot of time trying to make a 600 square-foot space look like my parents' farm house in Goochland County, which in practical terms means that I go home every other weekend and Momma gives me a bunch of cuttings from her garden.
Making a space your own in a new city is something you do in stages. You can't be in a hurry about it. Accept, from the beginning, that you can't do it all at once. When I first moved to D.C. my bedroom was a spartan shell (it's still not finished). Almost everything in my apartment was purchased at different times: The couch is a hand-me-down and I waited patiently for that adorable One King's Lane rug to go on sale FOREVER. The white Jonathan Adler chair that I got at a warehouse sale in Bushwick and the slate-gray Crate & Barrel leaning desk are left over from my New York days; the 19th-century trunk in my bedroom was a bomb find at GoodWood on U Street last week.
(By the way, if you haven't been to GoodWood, go. They have marvelous taste, and they call themselves a "dry goods" store, which I find totally charming. They pull off being "rustic" without being an asshole about it, so kudos to you, GoodWood.)
The trick is to find one important space and make it yours. Where do you spend your time in your apartment? For me, it's my writing space. I always keep fresh flowers here (Mom sent me up with some glads on my last trip home), and I stack whatever I happen to be reading at the time behind my computer (Right now: Cheever, Dubus, Pancake, Dahl).
My bedroom, on the other hand, is still a work in progress:
That headboard was another bomb find. It's from Knots & Biscuits, an Etsy seller in California. Kristen was a delight to deal with. The whole thing is a tiny bit structurally unsound, but totally worth it aesthetically. The light fixtures are on both sides of the headboard and I have Edison bulbs in them, which puts off a really nice warm light. My bedspread (not pictured) is a vintage Bates. Lying on top of it with a book always makes me feel like I'm at my friend Molly's river house in Tappahannock. Wheatland is a wonderful old clapboard planation house, built in 1848, and the most righteous place in the world to nap: tired from jumping off the wharf, listening to the whirr of open-faced fans and letting the little pills of the Bates make imprints on your skin.
These floating shelves were also an Etsy find. I have four of them crawling down a long wall that needed something to tie it to the rest of the room. Also, if you can't tell, I decorate with books (here: Saul Bellow and Faulkner). I think they make a room look lived in, and they help me maintain my carefully-cultivated image of being some kind of farmer/scholar.
There's always a risk with Etsy that what shows up at your apartment isn't going to look quite like it does in a carefully-lit photo, but I'm still a huge fan. If you're willing hunt around, you can find affordable and unique pieces that straddle the line between kitschy and country (see: my ongoing complaints about things that are "rustic").
A final word on Mason jars: Super over-done. You get one in your apartment, max. One. Pixie's on 14th Street has a million of them (and a bunch of vintage Playboys, which is cool, you know, for the articles). They also have this cool sign that tells you which era your particular jar is from. This one was manufactured between 1923 and 1933.
More to come on this topic, I'm sure, as my bedroom develops. I have some adorable curtains (from good old Tar-jay) under my bed right now. (I don't know how to hang curtain rods. Any volunteers?)