The Overflow

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Apartment Decorating on a Budget

CreativityJoanna Chipman1 Comment
Apartment Decorating on a Budget

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Decorating an apartment can be challenging. Not only are you usually budget-conscious, but you don’t want to put a lot of money into something temporary. On the flip-side, you want to make your house a home no matter what season of life you’re in. While far from an exhaustive list, here are some tips and tricks I’ve come up with, to do just that in my few years of apartment living.


Paint. After you buy all the paint and supplies, this can be an expensive undertaking. But if you paint just one main wall in each room you’re able to add a pop of color without racking up the bills. Of course, double check your lease agreement before you add anything to the walls.

Paint Chips. If painting is still outside your budget, you can still head to the paint aisle to add color to your walls. All this trick takes is a hefty stack of free paint chips from your local home improvement store and some double sided tape. Use the tape to attach the paint chips to one wall or part of one wall in creative designs. I first saw the idea on Pinterest where paint chips of many colors were put on the wall to create a rainbow effect, but in my kitchen I’ve chosen to do an ombre effect using a deep red in a bottom corner and coming out to a tan paint chip further up the wall.

DIY Wallpaper. A fun and inexpensive twist on traditional wallpaper is to take sheets of artwork and use double sided tape to attach them to a wall. I used small pages of quote artwork from a book that I took apart, but you could make your own artwork or use pages from any book (e.g. sheet music, chapter books, coloring pages) that will give you the look you want.

Frames. Pictures and artwork are a great temporary decoration for an apartment. Another idea is to get old picture frames from a thrift or dollar store, spray paint them, and hang just the frames. Consider adding objects such as initials in the center of a few frames for a more personal look.

Apartment Decorating on a Budget


Storage. Don’t get frustrated if you lack cabinet space. If you need more room for storing things, consider putting inexpensive shelving against an empty wall. Use this space to display your plates, bowls, and cups. These things may seem ho-hum and not worth displaying, but they take on a new light when stacked creatively on shelves (and it’s a popular trend).

Cabinets. Get some inexpensive cardstock paper and tape it down on or behind each of your cabinet shelves. A surprising pop of color when you open the cabinet door or an inexpensive way to cheer up the room if you have open shelving. Another easy idea for quick change is to take off your cabinet doors (make sure to store them for when you move out!) and embrace the open shelving look throughout your kitchen.

Counters. You probably don’t want to take up a lot of precious counter space by piling on décor, but consider thin artwork or frames that can almost lay flat against the wall and prop one or two of those up around the space.


Simplify. To help you de-stress and wind down at night, it’s best to keep your bedroom uncluttered and simple. It only takes a few minutes to put away that load of laundry (even better, fold it in the laundry closet) or to make your bed.

Makeshift Dresser. If you can’t spare room in your bedroom for a dresser, then consider using short, inexpensive bookshelves that can be tucked away in a closet.

Bunting. Popular but pricey, these flags can easily be made. Cut out cardstock triangles and glue or tape them to heavy duty string. They can be hung up by tying the string to a very small nail in the wall or ceiling. Hang them along a big empty wall or in place of a headboard.

Apartment Decorating on a Budget


Shower. Spruce up your shower curtain by tying a ribbon bow around each shower curtain hanger.

Apothecary. Find glass containers at the dollar store and fill them with your cotton balls, cotton swabs, and makeup rounds.

Soap. It’s cheaper to buy a soap dispenser you love and refill it rather than to keep buying plastic soap dispensers (either the cheap store brand or expensive name brand, of course).

Living Room

Curtains. Window treatments can cost a pretty penny. Instead, hot glue ribbon loops to classy bedsheets, hang from inexpensive hardware, and no one will know the difference.

Chalkboard.  Instead of shelling out the money for a pre-made chalkboard, why not make your own? Use a door mirror and chalkboard paint.

Filing. For papers that need to be saved, odd wires that you might need someday, and stamps for tomorrow’s mail, consider photo boxes instead of a filing cabinet. These can easily be stored in the living room and serve a dual purpose since they are decorative as well.

Flowers. I’m all for real blossoms and the freshness they bring to a home. But when you need to spend that extra money on food and not flowers, paper or tissue flowers hot glued to sticks and placed in a vase serve well.

Fruit. Seasonal fruit is an edible decoration that can be displayed in a bowl on your coffee table. For that waxy shine, put some olive oil on a cloth and rub it on the fruit.

Seasonal. The living room is a great place to display your seasonal decorations. But when you’re on a budget and limited on storage space, seasonal decorations aren’t a priority. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you feel like getting a little crafty. Consider making paper pumpkins, filling vases with paper hearts or beads, or finding a tutorial for muffin liner Christmas trees.

Two More Things (Most Important)

Keep it clean. If your house is clean, it looks and feels prettier. Whether you have an eye for knickknacks or a flare for minimalism, keeping your home clean will allow you and others to enjoy the home and not stressing about the dirt covering it up.

Love where you are. For some of us, apartment living is just a season of life on the way to owning our own home. It’d be easy to dismiss it and dream about the future instead. But this is our life, this is our home, here and now. If you don’t care about making your apartment a home it will not matter how many things you hang on the wall or how many rugs you put on the floor. It’s infinitely better to have a sparsely decorate abode where everyday life is lived and loved rather than an elaborately decked out residence you can’t wait to leave.

What are your favorite inexpensive decorating tips? How have you made your house a home?