Home is Where the Art Is: Decorating your First Apartment on a Budget
Graduating from college and landing your first job with benefits are huge milestones when it comes to this whole “adulting” thing, but how do you know when you’ve made it as a responsible, self-sufficient human being? Try the sweet, sweet moment you receive the keys to your first apartment or step inside your first home that is entirely yours (and maybe also your roommates’). But with this sanctitude of adulthood comes a vast amount of alien responsibilities, including paying bills, managing the thermostat, and — perhaps the most fun and daunting task — furnishing and decorating this new living space on your limited budget. It can be intimidating to go shopping for your first piece of furniture while you’re paying off student loans, covering rent and other bills, and trying to save for the future, but the reward is so worth it.
I spoke with two bloggers who are experts when it comes to decorating a home on a budget. Here are some ways you can make your new abode all your own without breaking the bank (or your credit score):
1. Buy second hand
According to Erin Spain, the founder of the Atlanta Home & DIY Bloggers group and DIY on the Cheap, shopping at thrift stores and flea markets is the way to go.
“You can find so many diamonds in the rough that just need a little makeover or sprucing up, and they'll look good as new,” Spain said. “You can actually find some really great things and create a beautiful home by doing this, and you'll save tons of money.”
Similarly, hit up estate sales, garage sales, and auctions to score one-of-a-kind treasures for next to nothing. Check local listings or drive around town on the weekends and follow the signage.
2. Think of your “forever home”
“I think that it’s important to fill your rental space with pieces that you love enough to take with you to your forever home while mixing in thrifted pieces with sentimental pieces that mean something to you,” Spain said. “It's all about balance.”
Remember, just because your current living space is temporary, that doesn’t mean what you fill it with has to be. If you’re going to spend a bigger percentage of your budget on select furniture pieces for your first apartment, make sure it’s something you’ll still value one, three, five, even 10 years down the road. You’ll want to get your money’s worth.
3. Your apartment doesn’t have to be fully furnished
Lane Harbin, a writer, ETSY artist, blogger, and newlywed living in Nashville, Tennessee, says one mistake a lot of renters make when moving into their first apartment is thinking that it has to be fully furnished right away.
“Your home doesn't need to be fully furnished within the first six months you're there,” Harbin said. “As you save up for certain pieces or spend time looking for that perfect piece, it's a good exercise in contentment to live with what you have. It might also open your eyes up to what will best suit your lifestyle and personal style.”
4. Vignettes are your new best friend
“What you lack in money, you can make up for in creativity,” Harbin said. “Some of the most fun I've had decorating has been re-arranging and creating little vignettes from the things I already own.”
A vignette is a small grouping of objects that creates a pleasing focal point. Read: more bang for your buck. They’re an affordable way of bringing charm, character, and life to any space, not matter the size.
5. Invest in good art
“Find art you love, frame it in real glass, and hang it on the wall,” Harbin said. “For renters — especially those who might be transitioning from college — this is the number one thing you can do to make your place feel more lived in and loved. I know that some landlords may not approve, but trust me: a few holes in the wall is a small price to pay for how much a beautiful piece of art can do for making your temporary space feel a little more permanent.”
6. Do a lot of it yourself
DIY projects are huge money savers, and they can be a lot of fun, too.
“Not only can you save a ton of money by taking on home projects and creating things yourself, but the sense of satisfaction that comes along with knowing you accomplished those projects is absolutely priceless,” Spain said. “Plus, you're able to customize your space and make it really unique by pulling it all together with projects you did yourself.”
Spain recommends that someone who is interested in taking on DIY projects should always have a basic toolkit handy along with paint supplies. A few power tools, like a drill, brad nailer, or miter saw, are staples when it comes to tackling bigger projects like headboards or cabinets.
While Harbin doesn’t consider herself a DIY-er, she has been known to strongarm her husband into painting a piece of furniture white or mounting floating shelves made from found lumber.
“No matter your skill in this area, the big takeaway is to remember that there is always a different way of doing things,” Harbin said. “Pick some of your favorite photos from Pinterest, a magazine, or a coffee table book and start brainstorming about how you can incorporate those themes in your own home.”
7. A tiny space does not mean tiny furniture
According to Spain, a mistake that some people make is assuming that a small space means having to buy tiny furniture
“Sometimes that just makes the space feel smaller,” Spain said. “Scale is important, and I wouldn't recommend buying a giant oversized sofa, for example, but buying fewer pieces and settling on a layout that works best tends to be a better plan than buying really small scale furniture."
8. Remember this is your new home, so make it feel that way
The most important part of decorating your new apartment on a budget is making this space your own. Even though this won’t be where you grow old and live happily ever after, it is your home (for now).
for more delightful design inspiration
ETSY shop: https://www.etsy.com/people/lanescotch