Finally, an inviting entryway--how a furniture purchase changed my apartment (and my life)

I'm sort of joking about the life-change, but not really. Since my family moved into our Victorian San Francisco flat three years ago, I've been on a quest to make it feel like a home--a warm, cozy, serene, organized home that my husband and daughter and I can really make a life in. It's a big, drafty place with high ceilings and, being on the first floor, not a ton of natural light-so there are definite challenges. Still, there are great things about it-the character that comes with an old house, the wood floors, the view of palm trees out the front windows (to remind me I'm in California), and our lovely, family-friendly neighborhood.

I'd long been coveting a table for my entryway-something nice to look at when I walk in after a long day, a place to put my keys and sort the mail, and maybe even put a vase of fresh flowers. I felt like if I could just tackle this one area, I'd be on my way to organizing our big, chaotic house. I'd looked through Pottery Barn catalogs (too expensive-but basically the style I was looking for), scoured flea markets, even eBay for homemade versions, but for some reason, never found exactly what I wanted-a long rectangular wooden table with a rich veneer, with a drawer to put keys in-at the right height for looking through mail.

NOT my actual entryway, but you get the idea!

A couple of weeks ago, I picked my daughter up at preschool and we headed to the suburbs of San Francisco to hit Trader Joe's. On a whim, I decided to take her to Cost Plus World Market-a fun store for kids and a place I've always enjoyed browsing. While she ran around admiring the Halloween decorations and other colorful objects, I casually looked at the furniture-with the idea of a console table ever in the forefront of my mind…and there it was. The perfect entryway table, for around $250. I didn't buy it right then but I made a mental note of the name of the piece and looked it up later at home, checking the dimensions, and whether or not it made more sense to have it shipped. I went back alone on Sunday, bought the piece and a wool kilim runner rug to go with it, and jubilantly returned home. I'm frugal and don't use credit cards anymore, but this felt like the best $400 I'd ever spent on non-essentials.

My husband gamely began assembling it right away and within two hours, our entryway had transformed from a cluttered mess of backpacks, shoes and mail to an orderly, festive-looking autumn display (I took the opportunity to break out the pumpkin candles and other fall goodies to set the tone). The shoes were corralled into a low bookshelf and into shoe pockets hanging on a nearby door. Now, I'd like to find a nice mirror and maybe some framed art to complete the scene, but already, it's a million times more homey and pretty. When I walk in the door in the evenings with my daughter, there's something nice to look at rather than just a big mess. I can't believe what a difference this simple change has made.

Now, mail is placed in a basket on the bottom shelf of the table, and keys in the drawer. It does tie the front of the apartment together nicely and makes me happy every time I look at it or put my keys in the drawer. My house is still not as organized as I'd like, but it's definitely getting there.

Did you purchase something that made a huge difference in the way you feel about your house?