Decorating an Apartment on a Budget

Making Your Rental Space Uniquely Yours

Stylish scandinavian interior of living room with small design table and sofa. White walls, plants on the windowsill. Brown wooden parquet.
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Decorating an apartment or rental home can be challenging. Renters are usually stuck with the existing wall, floor, cabinet, and other finishes, which can often be generic and dull in rental spaces.

In some cases, many landlords today are happy to foot the bill for approved property improvements. The catch? You usually do the labor yourself (for free), and you cannot take the improvements with you when you move. However, if you plan to stay put for a while, it may be worth it to you to invest a little time into the property. Some landlords may even be willing to negotiate a smaller rent in exchange for some free sweat equity.

If making property improvements is not an option, there are still many affordable ways to dress up a rental space and take your rental home or apartment from drab to fab.

How to Decorate an Apartment: The Main Considerations

  1. Walls: Make or get wall art or wall decals, adorn walls with curtains, invest in mirrors, or paint.
  2. Floors: Throw rugs are inexpensive, and you can take them with you if you move.
  3. Windows: Get or make window coverings.
  4. Lighting: Look at updating old fixtures, add mood lighting with lamps or accent lights.
  5. Furniture: Furnishings guide the room's flow; space savers do double-duty like ottomans that also serve as coffee tables; many options range from budget to high price.
  6. Accessories: Pottery, plants, throw pillows, and decor items give a space personality.

Try these simple budget decorating ideas for infusing unique style and personality into your apartment or rental home.


Budget (and free) wall art is extremely easy to make, even if you are not the artistic type. Plain stretched canvases are affordable, and almost anything can be decoupaged or painted on them. For an even simpler alternative, frame coordinating colors of pretty fabric or scrapbook papers to match your decor.

Wall decals are inexpensive and readily available, and most are made to remove easily. Decals can even be applied to furniture and tile. Want to save even more? Make your own. Get a roll of removable, adhesive shelf liner. Decals can be easily cut into various shapes or designs, applied to the wall, and removed before moving out.

Curtains do not have to only cover windows. Hang inexpensive curtains or fabric along a wall to create a nice feature and provide color and texture to your space. You can even hang a curtain from the ceiling to divide a large area.

Mirrors are a frugal way to enhance a space. Mirrors make small rooms look larger and dark areas look brighter. Inexpensive mirrors can be found at home decorator stores or check estate sales for bargain finds.

If you are allowed to paint, choose light neutral colors that will be easier to repaint before you move. Add color through other elements such as art, furniture, and decor.


Throw rugs are a renter’s best friend. Not only do they protect the floor (and protect your deposit) but they are also a great way to add warmth, color, and pattern to an otherwise bland space. In a studio apartment or large room, throw rugs can also be used to define living areas.


Many times the window treatments are already installed in a rental property, but if you need or want window treatments on a budget, consider making your own—no sewing skills needed. Fusible bonding web (also known as stitch witchery) is available at fabric and craft stores and can be used to create simple, finished-edged panels of fabric to hang over windows or glass doorways.


Changing out existing lighting fixtures in rental properties is usually not allowed, but if a certain fixture is ugly or not functional, it may be worth mentioning it to the landlord. A good landlord may surprise you and offer to replace it or reimburse you for doing so.

Adding additional lighting to a room is a cheap way to brighten up a drab space. When lighting a room, think in layers from top to bottom. Overhead lighting is a given and lamps can provide a soft glow or task lighting, but do not neglect floor uplighting or accent lighting to highlight art, cabinets, or bookcases.


If your rental space is small, consider furniture that does double-duty. A sofa bed, Murphy bed, or loft bed can be very functional in a studio apartment. Ottomans that double as storage solutions or coffee tables that transform into dining tables are creative solutions for small spaces.

With Craigslist and online exchanges, ample flea markets, and yard sales, furnishing a rental home on a budget is easier than ever. Invest in a new mattress, but shop used for everything else. It is amazing how gorgeous an old dresser can look when painted peacock blue.


One of the best ways to add color and personality to a rental space is through accessories. Accessories are easily portable. To add uniqueness to an otherwise bland apartment or rental home, look for handmade or vintage items to spruce up your space.

Add punches of color through throw pillows and small accessories such as pottery, photo frames, or book covers. These items are inexpensive, can be easily painted, covered up, or donated if they do not match or fit into your next home.

Houseplants can add a much-needed touch of life to an otherwise bland space, and houseplants are affordable. If you work long hours or are not interested in a lot of upkeep, try your hand at succulents or other easy-to-care-for species.

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