How to Decorate Your First Apartment on a Budget

Moving out is a big deal. Getting to decorate your own place is an even bigger deal. Okay, maybe not, but it’s still pretty exciting! It’s your chance to get a fresh start and carve out your own space. Unfortunately, wherever you’re living this year, be it a dorm room, basement suite, or rental house, it probably isn’t your dream place. Plus, you’re likely working with existing furniture. After spending the summer making various Pinterest boards, hassling friends and family for advice, and watching way too many interior design documentaries, here are my top five hacks to take your home away from home to the next level.


1. Fairy lights

Fairy lights are a dorm room staple, and for good reason. If you haven’t gotten on board with the fairy light trend, it’s about time you did. Available as lanterns, string lights, and even attached to clothespins, fairy lights are a super easy way to bring additional light and warmth to a stark dorm room or chilly basement suite. You can even get them as curtains to make a headboard or transform an unused corner into a cozy nook!


2. Posters

Posters are a given when it comes to adding your personality to a place. When thematically chosen, they’re also a great way to set the tone of a room. Curating your wall art and having a cohesive colour and/or content theme can really tie a room together. For instance, posters with a green/blue/white colour scheme can make a room feel more soothing. Or if you love being outdoors, go for posters with natural elements. Your own taste should be making the final call (you’re the one who has to look at them, after all), but when you’re next buying posters, try considering the following: Do I have somewhere to put it? How will it contribute to the overall ambiance of the space? Does it fit with posters and furniture that I already have? Asking these questions can help you curate an overall look, and cut back on impulse buys.


3. Blankets and throw pillows

Ugly couches and drab furniture putting a damper on your creative vision? Using blankets to cover them up is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Blankets literally and visually warm up the room, as well change its whole look. You can also cover the couch in a cheap set of bed sheets (use the fitted sheet on the bottom cushions) and use throw pillows to add colour and interest. IKEA, Walmart, and JYSK all have affordable options. Don’t be afraid to bring in lots of texture—faux sheepskin throws can make even the blandest dorm room desk chair, or chilly basement suite, feel warm and homey.


4. Plants

I have loved flowers for as long as I can remember, and a couple months into my first year, I got into the habit of buying them for myself every few weeks. I was desperately homesick, and tired of looking out of my room at the paved parking lot. Flowers made my room feel a bit more like home. It was also way too expensive to keep up. Buying plants is a much more sustainable and wallet-friendly way to bring light and life into your place. Hard-to-kill plants that tolerate low light and drought, like snake plants, are ideal for the first time plant mum. Peperomias are a leafier alternative if you want to be a little more involved, and the pothos plant is perfect if you want a trailing plant that gives your place bohemian vibes.


5. Bedding

If all else fails, or you’ve got more lights, posters, blankets, and plants than you need, try investing in a new set of sheets. Not only does your bed occupy a lot of visual space, making it a great canvas for a new statement, but new sheets are a private little luxury that you’ll be able to enjoy every night.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to feeling at home. It may be a cliché, but there’s a lot to be said for finding what makes you happiest and having fun with it. Happy redecorating!


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