Decorating an Apartment On a Budget

Making Your Rental Space Uniquely Yours

Young couple relaxing with their new born baby
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Decorating an apartment or rental home can be challenging. Renters are usually stuck with existing wall, floor, cabinet and other finishes, which in rental spaces can oftentimes be generic and dull.

But there are affordable ways to dress up a rental space and take your rental home or apartment from drab to fab. Try these simple budget decorating ideas for infusing unique style and personality into your apartment or rental home.

Walls

Budget (and free) wall art is extremely easy to make, even if you aren’t 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? Consider making your own! Removable adhesive shelf liner can easily be cut into various shapes or designs then removed before moving out.
Curtains don’t 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, or hang from the ceiling to divide a large area.
Mirrors are a frugal way to enhance a space. Mirrors make small spaces look larger and dark spaces 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 over before you move. Add color through other elements such as art, furniture, and decor.

Floors

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.

Windows

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 is available at fabric and craft stores and can be used to create simple panels of fabric to hang over windows or glass doorways.

Lighting

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 don’t neglect floor uplighting or accent lighting to highlight art, cabinets or bookcases.

Furniture

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 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’s amazing how gorgeous an old dresser can look when painted peacock blue!

Accessories

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

Add punches of color through throw pillows and small accessories such as pottery, photo frames or book covers.

These items are very inexpensive and can be easily painted, recovered or donated if they don’t match or fit into your next home.

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

Decorator's Tip:
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 can’t 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!