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How to Decorate Your First Apartment

High-style, low-cost design tips to get you started.

Decorating1stApt0328Moving into your first place can be terribly daunting. Even the smallest empty apartment can seem overwhelming to fill, especially on a tight budget, but it doesn’t have to be. You can do a lot for just pennies on the dollar. Cutting corners simply requires a little creativity, thriftiness, and decision making (because some items are absolutely worth the investment). Outside of Trulia’s suggestion to purge your college furniture, here are six high-style, low-spend tips to get you started.

Take hand-me-downs

Accept whatever items your parents, friends, and other family members offer. It’s easier — and more fun — than you think to restyle furniture that’s not quite your taste. Couches and love seats can be stylishly slip-covered; dark, dated furniture can be repainted for a fresh and modern look; and an inexpensive, elegant tablecloth is all you need to hide flaws and add a touch of personality to your preloved kitchen table. So take what you can get from those who are willing to give, and enjoy making it your own.

Choose decor that reflects your lifestyle

Surround yourself with things that are important to you. One belief is that a room should feel carefully curated, not decorated in a hurry. Collections take time, so be patient, choose pieces that matter to you (such as sentimental family heirlooms or treasures from your worldly travels), and eventually you’ll have created a look that’s uniquely your own.

Do splurge on your bed

A good mattress and box spring will carry you far. If you’re single, opt to get a full- or a queen-sized bed. You’ll be happier that you did, and you’ll get more life out of this purchase in the long run. Stick with brands you know and trust. This is one purchase you should not cut corners on.

For sheets, comforters, and decorative pillows, stick with big box or discount stores. Retailers such as HomeGoods sell designer items at a fraction of the price and are a great source for accessories such as lamps, candles, picture frames, wicker baskets, decorative bowls, and more.

Decorate within your means

A word to the wise, but eager, renter: Make a budget and stick to it. Your apartment doesn’t have to be perfectly styled with pricey items from magazines. Scour flea markets, visit garage sales, and sift through secondhand stores. In taking your time, you’ll develop a better sense of what your personal style is, and you’ll probably save a few cents along the way.

Do buy an inexpensive couch

Buy the best basic sofa you can afford, then accessorize and make it your own with inexpensive throws or decorative pillows. You typically need this purchase to last a few years, not a lifetime, so you might even consider secondhand shops, where you can find high-quality furniture brands on consignment. And by purchasing a repurposed (aka recycled) couch, you’re reducing waste and helping the environment!

Don’t forget the artwork!

If you don’t have much to put on your walls, don’t fret. There are great websites such as where you can buy posters or prints of your favorite paintings for a fraction of the cost of an original. Go to your local craft store and pick up a blank canvas and a few tubes of paint, then let your creative juices flow. Put together a gallery of family or vacation photos, which are inexpensive to enlarge. Or think outside the frame and hang unique or sentimental items such as a vintage Hermès scarf. Virtually anything can be considered artwork: framed remnants of bold fabric, vintage postcards, and plates with interesting patterns all easily add interest to bare walls. And don’t forget that mirrors can work wonders as well. They not only make your space appear lighter and larger, but they also serve double duty when you need a quick once-over before running out the door.

For more great ideas on decorating your first apartment, hop on over to Pinterest!