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Affordable DIY Tips to Make Your Small Apartment Look Amazing!

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

Decorating on a budget doesn’t mean your apartment has to look cheap! You can shop for caviar on a dollar when you know what to look for and how to spend smart.

I’ve had my fair share of cheap, small apartments and hadn’t a clue where to start creating the storage, space, and personality I desired. After much “DIY decorating trial and error,” I learned what works and most importantly, how to make things work!

Decorating a small rental apartment is easy and most rewarding when you put your personal stamp on your very own décor.

Let’s look at the most affordable decorating ideas for your small apartment.

Beautiful DIY Decorations
Beautiful Wall Decoration

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How to Prepare Your Small Apartment Makeover

Your apartment is your home. A place where you can relax, unwind and feel safe. A great way to achieve these experiences the moment you walk through the door is by decorating your small apartment. The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot and even the tiniest spaces can be made to feel bigger. It all comes down to planning and knowing what to look for.

The first step to decorating a small apartment on a budget is to learn where your most pressing needs are. Do you require more storage, is your focus purely on decorating, or will you need a combination of both?

Creating a space that reflects your character and supports your lifestyle makes it a vibrant space no matter the size or location. To help you on your small apartment decorating journey, I have found a few nifty tips and tricks you can use to start an apartment makeover.

Small Sailor Decorated Room
Small Rooms - No Problem

The Do’s and Don’ts of Decorating an Apartment Rental

Decorating a rented apartment shouldn’t stop you from adding color and workable spaces; however, it is important to remember to consult with your landlord before making drastic changes. While repainting the walls to suit your color palette is a great idea, I don’t know if ocean blue hues or canary yellow would go down too well with the landlord!

Speak to your property manager if you wish to paint, hang shelves, or make significant changes. You can also read your lease terms concerning modifications.

Time to start decorating!

Checklist of Dos and Dont's
To Do or Not To Do - That is the Question

The 60 30 10 Rule of Apartment Decorating on a Budget

You don’t have to have an inner “interior decorator” to make the most of your small apartment. A simple apartment decorating philosophy is the 60 30 10 rule. This rule makes it easier to guide your color selections from choosing to scatter pillows to furniture and throws.

Created by principal designer Sarah Lynn Brennan, the rule requires that 60% of the room be the predominant color, 30% the next shade or texture, and the remaining 10% an accent shade.

If you choose white as the main color, a secondary could include shades of grey across furniture and throws, with a splash of blue in décor for the accent shade.

Number Measures
60-30-10 Rule for Apartment Decorating

Choosing Color for a Small Apartment

Looking at the 60 30 10 decorating rule, colors for the small apartment should include a neutral shade as the dominant color. A combination of greys, beiges, and neutral tones with natural light will instantly make a room feel bigger.

Have fun with choosing your color range for your newly decorated apartment!

Colors can make any room look different
If You Can Paint, You Should Paint

Bring the Outdoors in with Affordable DIY Apartment Decorating

An apartment decorating trend that never seems to go out of style is using plants or cut flowers to enhance the look and feel of a space. You also don’t have to spend on expensive pots to achieve the perfect look.

Growing your own plants is the best way to create a modern and airy space. If you live on the top floor, use your patio to create a miniature garden. Plant herbs, flowers or succulents depending on your preference. You can easily use old wood or plastic crates and barrels as pots. Spruce it up with some spray paint or use hot glue and rope to cover the exterior. Once you have decided on a container, apply a waterproof lining, some drainage chips, and compost. Decorate your patio by growing your own little apartment garden.

Beautifully Lit Backyard
Beautifully Decorated Outdoor Patio Setup

Create Apartment Storage By Recycling

One of the biggest issues with a small apartment is storage. Fortunately, you can save money, create unique décor items, and create storage by recycling!

Recycling is good for the community.
When You Can - You Should Recycle

Used Jars

For the bathroom and the bedroom, you can clean used glass jars and place cotton buds, and other small items for storage in each jar. You can also fill jars with pebbles, shells, or marbles and place them on shelves as an attractive feature.

Candy filled jars for everyone.
Maybe Fill a Jar with Candy

DIY Jar Design

Further decorative jar ideas include:

  • Tying ribbons around the jar

  • Painting the inside of the jar with chalk paint

  • Filling with water to add some fresh flowers

  • Applying mosaic tiles to the exterior

For some unique décor ideas, you can check out this interesting DIY Jar Mosaic tutorial! With so many different ways to modernize and improve a simple glass jar, you may even start a new hobby.

How would you decorate a mason jar?
DIY - Mason Jars

Gift Boxes

When you go to the store and see a beautiful gift box, it doesn’t only have to be used on a birthday or through the Holidays! Git boxes are cheap, available in different colors and sizes making it a smart choice for storage. You can place cosmetics, hygiene items, hair accessories, and similar valuables in a gift box. Stack these on your side table next to your bed or as a centerpiece on your dining table.

Beautifully Decorated Gift Box
How Would You Decorate A Gift Box For Your House?

Choosing the Right Furniture on a Budget for a Small Apartment

One of the biggest décor questions for a small apartment is what furniture to choose? You don’t have to go out and purchase an entirely new suite but rather look at key items to improve flow and space. If you have large sofas and tables that won’t fit into your apartment, consider storage before selling it.

I look at the simple, inexpensive furniture you can include to add space and design a contemporary apartment.

DIY Your Apartment With Your Small Budget
Even With a Small Budget You Can DIY

Flatpack Furniture

Modern styles of flatpack furniture offer shelves and simple storage. The best thing about these items is that it is quick and easy to assemble!

You can use a standalone shelving unit for your bedroom or living room. It is a simple decorative feature and offers much-needed storage.

Flatpack Storage Container in an Art Room
Simplistic Storage to Amplify Any Room

Multi-use Furniture

Multi-use furniture is also a great way to decorate while maintaining your budget!

Save space, save time, and save money with items that add value! An all-in-one mirror and desk drawer or a chest of drawers used as a side table are examples of furniture with multi-purpose features.

Pastel colored childrens room
Simple But Beautifully Decorated Childrens Room

Used Furniture

The secret to success is to look around and to compare prices. An online search will also help you find space-saving and stylish furniture that someone no longer uses and is in pretty good condition.

If you are purchasing second-hand furniture, ask for new pictures of the item from different angles. It would be best to see the item in person, but if you can’t, ensure the seller is verified on the site and is transparent about the goods being sold.

Beautifully used furniture
Estate Sales & Yard Sales are Perfect for Finding Used Furniture

Where to Find Modern and Affordable Décor for a Small Apartment

You can easily modernize and accessorize your apartment on a small budget. A great way to find decorative items at a fraction of the cost is to look at a thrift store. With some creativity and imagination, you can replace an outdated fabric on pillows or find interesting features to incorporate on a shelf or counter without blowing your budget.

Again, looking online for valuable deals or sites offering affordable décor will help you improve the look and feel. It is all about expanding your search and thinking about what you need. Before you shop online or at a local store, look at your apartment and think of what you could add of interest or that would reflect your personal space. This way, you go into your search with an idea and a plan, which makes it easier to spot what you are looking for.

Simple Decorations Can Sometimes Do All You Need
Decorate According to What Best Suits You

How to Create DIY Artwork for a Small Apartment

Unleash Your Inner Artist

If you’ve looked at decorative prints and art pieces, you know how costly these can be. A simple way to add color to your small apartment is to make your own artwork. It is affordable and you can get the whole family involved.

The first step is to purchase a canvas. The size of the canvas depends on the area you wish to cover.

Find some acrylic paint. Consider the colors you have already used to decorate your apartment and apply your artwork as an accent piece for a pop of color.

You don’t have to paint a portrait to create DIY art. Simply blend your preferred colors on a canvas and voila! You have a one-of-a-kind art creation!

If abstract art is not your idea of décor, fear not. You can easily design unique art with a stencil or a family portrait. Stencil a pattern onto a canvas or picture board for a more structured piece. You can also add warmth to the space by adding images of your family or your pets to a canvas or inexpensive frame.

DIY - Because You Can

Hanging Your Art in a Rental Apartment

If you cannot hand your art on the wall, you can use a wood canvas stand to display the piece. This prevents creating any fixtures. Alternatively, you can use mounting squares for small and lightweight canvas. Remember, sticking a mounting square on the wall will leave a residue. Be prepared to clean it prior to your end of lease inspection.

Art Storyboard
How Would You Decorate With Art?

Apartment Living Room Upscaling Ideas that Won’t Break Your Budget

Rugs for Small Apartments on a Budget

You can easily upscale your apartment with simple additions such as an attractive rug. For a small room, I don’t recommend choosing a tiny carpet. This simply makes the room look and feel smaller than it is.

Apartment décor for a small rental is all about creating an illusion of space. A larger rug with a flat and robust material that is placed in the center of the room can draw your eye across the area rather than focus on a single, small feature.

Along with the size of your new rug, pay attention to the color. A lighter carpet creates an instant light and airy room, but it is also harder to maintain, especially with regular foot traffic. Patterns that are not overpowering but add design interest will introduce flair and character.

For deals on rugs, be sure to shop around and compare prices before making the final choice.

White furry rug with feet
Keep it Fun With a Furry Rug

Lamps and Shades

You can easily create a feminine or a masculine feel in a room when you purchase a table lamp. From metal frames to acrylic bases, an inexpensive side lamp for the bedroom or living room will enhance your apartment, and with the added benefit of extra light!

Glass Lamp; Antique; Vintage
Beautiful Glass Lamp

Repaint or Reupholster Outdated Furniture

Breathe new life into old furniture with a new coat of paint or change the fabric on a chair or set of scatter cushions. A simple sand down and the use of chalk paint in a neutral or metallic finish can instantly update furniture and at a fraction of the cost!

Reupholster Old Furniture
Not Only is it Fun, But It Saves Money

Get Creative and Have Fun

Your decorative ideas all depend on your preferences. You can easily improve the look and the feel of a small apartment with budget-friendly decorations. Don’t be afraid to use color in the form of scatter pillows, throws, and DIY art.

With some creativity and research into prices and the decorative items you can incorporate into your small apartment, you can certainly design a modern or classically styled rental that is affordable too.

For tips on improving storage, check out our blog on Increasing Storage Space in Your Small Apartment.

Beautiful Yellow & Blue Paintings on Window Shades
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