Affordable Ways to Make Your Apartment Feel Like Home
Apartments are the bane of existence for those of us who love to decorate. Living in a rental unit can severely limit your design options. So how do you give that small, generic space a dose of your personality? Fear not, we'll show you how to decorate to your heart's content without breaking the landlord's rules!
Believe it or not, there are a number of tricks you can employ to bring your apartment to life. Let’s take a look at the most common issues facing apartment dwellers and solutions for each. Accomplish most of these fixes with little or no out-of-pocket expense.
White Wall Syndrome
Many apartments and rentals come with unappealing white walls. Although some apartment communities offer tenants the option of choosing custom accent wall colors, there’s also a chance you’ll find a benevolent landlord who will agree to let you personalize a wall or two with paint.
If a painted accent wall is totally out of the question and you're stuck with boring white, you can still get creative without the risk of losing your deposit. Removable wallpaper is one solution, but you can get the same effect with a less expensive DIY project.
Lightweight fabrics are a great way to add color to bland apartment walls. Purchase clearance decorator fabric and apply it as a wall covering using liquid starch (do not use regular wallpaper or fabric adhesive). If you've never hung wallpaper, enlist the help of an experienced friend. Test a swatch of fabric for colorfastness before proceeding. Simply dampen the fabric with a wet sponge to remove. Your landlord will be none the wiser.
Easy On, Easy Off Fabric Wall Covering
Easy Artwork to the Rescue
Another way to add color to your walls is with artwork. A few well-chosen pieces will give your stark walls new life. Try these personal design secrets to decorate your walls with things you may already have on hand:
For this project, all you need is a couple of inexpensive ribbon memo boards to create a collage of cards or photos that coordinate with the colors in your room. These pastel paint chips from the home improvement center add subtle hues to the bedroom wall and coordinate with the room's soft color scheme.
Plate up a super easy fix for your dreary apartment walls. Dust off those decorative dessert plates hiding in your cupboard and show them off. Or head to the thrift store and pick up a few plates to give your white walls some pizzazz. These fanciful floral plates create a lovely display above a bedroom headboard.
How do you hang a plate? Try adhesive plate hangers. They are much more stable than the jiggly wire versions. These adhesive coated discs come in multiple sizes and adhere directly to the back of your plates. If you want to remove the discs, simply soak the plates in warm water to dissolve the glue.
Adhesive Plate Hanger
Stylish Storage Solutions
When shopping for apartment storage options, look for textural pieces to add interest to bland rooms. Avoid hanging heavy shelving that might damage your drywall. Instead, use decorative baskets or cloth bins to organize books, magazines, closet, bedroom and bath items. Purchase lidded plastic tubs as under bed storage for off-season clothing and seldom used items—inexpensive bed risers will give you extra under bed storage space.
Frugal Accent Tables
Coffee tables, end tables, and nightstands can put a crimp in your decorating budget. Here are a couple of creative solutions that won't break the bank and round out your apartment's stylish design.
Check out your neighborhood discount retailer for inexpensive nightstand options. These black wooden TV trays are adorable and budget-friendly. If you don't require drawers, they are the perfect spot for bedside lamps, an alarm clock, and phone.
Instant Coffee Table
The inspiration for this coffee table sprung from the pages of a home decor magazine. This round, skirted table is a classic look that will work with almost any decor style. And guess what? You can easily create this coffee table from a basic 30-inch round particleboard table.
Cut the legs down to size, add a round tablecloth and top it with a glass protector and you have the perfect perch for your morning coffee and a few decorative items. Want to recycle a round tablecloth but don't have a sewing machine? Use iron-on fusible web tape for a no-sew hemming job! If you don't want to go to the trouble of hemming, cut the legs of your 30-inch round table to a height of 20 inches. A 70-inch round tablecloth is the perfect size for these dimensions.
We all know landlords typically skimp on window coverings. Nice wood blinds or shutters would be great, right? Unfortunately, most come with dreaded builder grade minis. Nothing says "rental" like horrendous off-white metal or plastic mini blinds.
Hanging Curtains Without a Rod
Curtain hardware is often a no-no in rentals because of the holes in the wall created by mounting hardware. Here's a great idea for hanging stationary curtain panels on either side of a window using common picture wire and small nails. (Note: two sets of hands will come in handy for this project.) Upon move out, fill the nail holes with spackle, and your landlord will be none the wiser.
How To Do It
Gather a rod pocket curtain panel onto a 20-inch section of picture wire. Partially hammer two small nails (spaced approximately 15 inches apart) into the wall above each side of the window. Wrap the ends of the picture wire around each nail, pulling it taut.
Hammer the nails into the wall to secure the wire and clip off any excess. You will not only have curtains that disguise the mini blinds; they will also frame your windows beautifully.
If you need to block light and heat in a bedroom, purchase inexpensive thermal-backed curtains. Hang them on a tension rod positioned just in front of the mini blinds. The rod should fit snugly just inside the window frame and won't interfere with the mini blind mechanism.
Beautify a Cramped Kitchen
Apartments are notorious for having less-than-roomy kitchen work surfaces, drawers and cabinets. Once you put a toaster and coffee maker on the counter, it leaves little room for anything else. Likewise, cabinets and drawers can easily become overcrowded with basic kitchenware. Go minimal for a clean, organized look.
Clear the Counters
Free up counter space by setting your sights higher. An under mount paper towel holder and spice rack leaves more room for food prep. If your knife block is carving out too much of your counter space, install a strong magnetic strip on the wall to keep kitchen knives off the countertop and within easy reach.
Find a Perch
Take advantage of large expanses of empty space above your kitchen cabinets. Large pots and seldom-used small appliances will fit perfectly atop upper cabinets. Keep a step stool handy when you need to access these items.
Make a Backsplash
Apartment kitchens seldom include a backsplash, which contributes to their barren, mass-produced feel. Buy a roll or two of low-tack contact paper at the dollar store and apply it along the wall between the cabinets and countertop. Choose a pattern that reflects your design style and the kitchen's color palette.
© 2012 Linda Chechar