Small Space, Small Budget: 20 Inexpensive Ways to Decorate an Apartment

in Home Improvement

Whether you are moving into your first apartment or downsizing to an apartment from a larger home, the challenge of decorating in a small space can be daunting. You still need seating for guests. You may need space for a home office or to pursue hobbies. Storage is probably the most difficult problem in a small apartment.

Start the process before you even move into your small apartment. Don’t bring anything into your space that you don’t really love or need—and that goes for everything from your favorite pictures for the walls to the flower seeds you want to grow on your window sill. Go through your clothes and eliminate anything that doesn’t fit or that you have not worn in the last year. That includes shoes and boots. If you have some stand-alone appliances, do you use them often? Do you drink coffee daily to justify the room taken from your very limited counter space?

If your current furniture is large or oversized, consider selling it online and using the money to buy space-saving furniture. Large furniture will be more difficult to fit in the space and a crowded room will make your space seem even smaller and more confined.

  1. If there is open space above your kitchen cabinets, use it for things you need but not frequently. Purchase attractive containers to store flour, sugar, rice, pasta, etc. DIY containers can include an old shoebox covered with decorative paper or fabric. Large glass jars with lids are perfect for storage.
  2. Use storage containers that fit under your bed to store out of season clothing or for bulky things like sweaters.
  3. Add some flowers. Not only will plants look attractive, but they help clean the air in your apartment. A small bouquet of flowers on your table or counter will last at least a week or two and look cheerful. The good news is many flowers can be easily grown in a pot on the windowsill for the cost of the flower seeds.
  4. Use mirrors to make a small room look larger. Watch for old picture frames in good condition. Often, they are very inexpensive if the picture is ugly. Toss the picture and replace it with the mirror. The frame can be painted to match your décor. Tip: Places that repair glass windows will also cut mirror glass to size.
  5. Try to find things that are multipurpose. An old wooden stool can serve as an end table or a plant stand, or as extra seating. Use an ottoman that opens or a flat-topped trunk as a coffee table. Store extra blankets inside for winter, or a pillow and bedding for an overnight guest. Both can also be used as seating.
  6. Use the space between the refrigerator and the lower cabinets to store sheet pans, pizza pans or cutting boards. If the space is larger, you may be able to store a folding step stool in the space. The step stool is great for reaching the top shelf in your cabinets or the storage on top of the cabinets–and it can be used for seating if needed.
  7. Glass end tables and coffee tables give the illusion of more space in your living room. The only negative is there usually is no storage option.
  8. Don’t neglect the balcony if you have one. A couple of small, brightly painted folding chairs and lots of plants and flowers can add a lot of charm and visual space to your apartment. For cost savings, grow your own with herb and flower seeds you plant.
  9. Don’t allow clutter to accumulate. Keep your home clean and tidy. Minimize the accessories to keep a spacious, open feel.
  10. Incorporate nesting tables in your living space. Nesting tables take very little space. Use them separately if you need more table surface. The nesting tables give a lot of flexibility and functionality. Paint each table a different color for a fun vibe.
  11. Go for a monochromatic look. Paint the walls a pale grey or white and match the upholstered furniture in the same color. Then, add color by accessorizing with artwork on the walls and lush leafy houseplants.
  12. Use floor lamp lighting and eliminate the need for a table to place the lamp on. There are lots of different styles to choose from, some of which look like an art piece themselves.
  13. Use rugs to define spaces. If your apartment is one single room, adding area rugs can help by visually separating the living area from the office space from the dining space. Carpet will also help to connect the pieces of furniture and visually replace walls.
  14. If you are starting with furniture that doesn’t match, use a colored carpet that contains all the colors of your eclectic furniture and pull them together visually. Or you can use a neutral carpet and celebrate the uniqueness of each piece.
  15. In the kitchen, make use of the wall space between the upper and lower cabinets. Hang utensils on the wall. Hang coffee mugs. Open counter space by hanging your paper towels. Cover the space with a metal pegboard (available at most big box stores) for greater flexibility. Hang your pots and pans from the side of the cabinets or empty wall space.
  16. Hang a fold-down table to the wall. Extend it for extra counter space for meal prep and then use the table for dining. The same table could be used for a desk when needed and folds up when not needed.
  17. Place a table behind your couch and you can use it as a desk and for dining.
  18. Use wire magazine organizers to hold and store your vegetables like potatoes and onions. The open weave of the wire will provide good air circulation.
  19. Use cabinet risers to give maximum use of the shelf space in your cabinets. Instead of stacking bowls on top of lunch plates on top of dinner plates–all of which has to be moved to get to the item you need–cabinet risers add another shelf.
  20. Use floating shelves or even a floating desk that can double as a dining table. Floating units provide usable space without taking up floor space. They are great for those weird little nooks or an angled wall.

Watch for garage sales and estate sales, check out your local thrift stores, find treasures put out by others on trash day or look for exchange opportunities on social media. You can find lots of usable items that people toss rather than move and the price is right! It’s the perfect way to find little things that can make your small space feel open and welcoming.


Image Credits: Artur Aleksanian

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