One of the most daunting (but exciting) things about moving to New York City was the task of decorating a brand new apartment. As someone who has always lived either a) with my parents at home or b) in an on-campus apartment furnished by my college, filling an entire (OK, small
) apartment was a challenge. Sure, dreaming up ideas for our space was super fun (no person should be allowed to Pin
as much as I did in those few weeks…), but implementing them with that dark budget
cloud looming over our heads–ah, well therein lies the problem.
My roommate and I were strongly against our apartment looking like a hodgepodge of tag sale items–we wanted it to feel like a home that reflected both of our personalities. The entire process turned out to be a complete pleasure–and a learning experience (like, um…you should probably measure things before you try to get them up your narrow stairwell). Here’s a few tips for decorating on a budget!
Re-use and Re-vamp
I am grinning like a proud mother when I tell you this: the only furniture we bought for our apartment was a couch. Which brings me to my first tip: re-use what you already have. The trick is seeing the potential behind “hand-me-down” items. Plus, it can be so much more special when you’re sitting eating dinner a table that used to belong to your grandparents, not Ikea. Our kitchen table and chairs, beds, dressers, and living room chairs were all things that came from parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint (like a sunny yellow on the new-to-me headboard, above) is all it takes to make an item yours.
Narrow down your “style.”
Consider this: there are a bajillion couches in the world (that’s just a rough estimate). The same goes for chairs, lamps, beds–the whole lot. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed when trying to decorate a single room, let alone a whole apartment. My advice is to really take a few creative days narrowing down your design preferences. You don’t have to restrict yourself to a single style of design, but you should be able to choose four or five words that sum up your aesthetic fairly well. Mine? Eclectic, unexpected, bright, vintage and clean. It helps to make a few inspiration boards to keep yourself on track–I pulled the above one together from pictures I’ve pinned on my Pinterest
(can you tell I really want a fireplace?).
Stick to the budge
Try your hardest to set a spending limit for yourself–and stick to it. You know how they tell a bride to never try on a dress out of her price range? Same goes for you. Don’t go wandering into Jonathan Adler
when you know you can’t afford anything in the store. Take a sharp right and head into Pier 1, or better yet, a flea market.
Think outside of the box when decorating–could that thrifted table base make a cool mirror
? Could you turn that old window frame into an entryway piece? Could you paint that chair to give it a new lease on life (it’s true–you can! We painted the one above a great coral shade.)? Coming up with unexpected DIY
ways to decorate your home is half the fun–and they’re always
great conversation starters!
Don’t forget the little things
Try not to get so caught up with the big
stuff that you forget about the little things that make a home, well, a home. Pictures, candles, throw blankets–items that make your home cozy and lived in and you
. A lot of times, these are things you already own, but if you’re looking to add, check out the great products so many Etsy shops
have. They’re often far less expensive (and better quality) than anything you can find in a store, and they’re almost always made with love.
Let it evolve
There’s no rule that says your apartment has to be perfect on move in day (or the month after, or by your first Christmas). Give it a chance to evolve and change–you’ll find new places to put things and think of items that you never even knew you wanted. Pressuring yourself to decorate your apartment perfectly within weeks is first and foremost a quick way to lose loads of cash, and it takes away the fun of decorating a lived-in space. Take your time (or at least as much time as your lease allows!).