How can I Decorate my First Apartment on a Budget?

Sheri Cyprus

It doesn't have to be expensive or nerve-wracking to decorate your first apartment if you take just a little time to think about what you need. The first step is to consider what furniture you have and work from that. A general rule is to concentrate on your bed first since that should be the most comfortable piece of furniture you have when you decorate your first apartment. Then, consider living room furniture, a table and chairs, storage and accessories. When you have everything thought out, unify it with a color scheme and/or theme.

A new duvet is an inexpensive way to decorate.
A new duvet is an inexpensive way to decorate.

A color scheme and unifying theme can really make a jumble of recycled, new and inexpensive furnishings look like they actually belong together. Stick to a color scheme that will work when you decorate your first apartment. In other words, work with the colors that are already there. Most rentals are in neutral colors but first apartments can sometimes have a "surprise" feature like a bedroom the color of guacamole!

Red is symbolic of warmth, passion, and boldness.
Red is symbolic of warmth, passion, and boldness.

If this is the case and you're not allowed to repaint, make it work by considering color options you like that will help tone the strange color down. For example, yellow or red in your bed cover, curtains, rug, pillow and other accessories may work really well with the green walls. Or, you could just add black or white furnishings as either a dark or light contrast to the bold green color.

Whatever you do, coordinate the colors of all of your soft furnishings such as bedding, curtains, rugs and pillows. Then, either paint or stain all of your hard furniture such as tables, dining chairs and coffee and end tables to coordinate well together. Everything doesn't have to be the exact same color, but try to keep the wood tones similar and use only one or two finishing colors.

Adequate storage is important. Look for units with doors to hide clutter that you can paint or refinish to go with your other furnishings. Don't be afraid to be creative and resourceful as you decorate your first apartment. If you can't afford a coffee table at the moment, even an old wooden toy box can serve as a handy storage coffee table if you paint or stain it and add some decorative items on top.

Coordinate the colors of all soft furnishings in a first apartment, such as bedding and pillows.
Coordinate the colors of all soft furnishings in a first apartment, such as bedding and pillows.

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Discussion Comments


Great tips, both of you -- thanks! For the framed photograph idea -- I've also done this with calendar pages, fabric and gift wrap. All of this works as long as the result looks classy and goes with the room's style and colors.


@sneakers41 - I bought some of those storage bins at IKEA and I love them. Another good idea for decorating an apartment on the cheap involves creating your own artwork. Taking close up photographs of colorful objects and then buying three standard size frames and placing the three separate photographs in each frame on a wall creates an upscale focal point to dress the rest of the room. The photographs should be vibrant enough but not contain too many colors. You can also buy three separate frames preferably in white and take pictures of say your loved ones or a pet but develop the prints in sepia tones rather than in color. This creates an old-fashion, yet classic look for any room.


I love the idea of focusing on interior storage units for controlling clutter and maintaining a sense of style. These units are functional and serve a dual purpose of controlling clutter and adding stylish character to the space. Interior storage units offer options in various colors with different color drawers and baskets which enhances a room’s aesthetic appeal. By creating a chic space with additional storage cleaning up should be easy. Large chain stores that sell furniture and general home goods sell these units. If you shop during a major holiday, you might find them on sale.

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