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Inexpensive Ways to Decorate your Apartment

Updated on September 23, 2010

When it comes to interior design, I can make the big decisions like furniture and paint color pretty easily, but I have always struggled when it comes to the finishing touches – the decorative elements that really pull a room together. I can’t just justify spending a huge chunk of my paycheck on something I might change my mind about two months later.

My current roommate is a very talented interior designer with a great eye for detail and a habit of changing out our apartment’s décor every three months or so. I have followed her around for tips and tricks of the trade, and the most important thing I have learned is that small details can make a big difference and you don’t have to spend a fortune to turn your apartment into a home.

Bring The Outside In

I’m not suggesting you plant a tree in the middle of your living room (I would imagine that most landlords would be opposed to that….) but using nature as a design element can be a colorful – and FREE – way to decorate your space. Taking bare branches and setting them in a tall vase makes a great fireplace decoration. Pressing and then framing flowers is a simple way to beautiful a bedroom. A handful of stones and tea lights in a pretty shallow plate can make a great centerpiece.

Go on a walk in your local park and just let inspiration be your guide. You can even paint things you find like branches and stones to match your décor.

Creative Framing

Wall art is one of the more difficult things to decide on because there are so many options, many of which can break the bank. Here are just a few options of things that I have framed in the past that have made great wall decor:

Fabric and Wallpaper. Fabric and wallpaper can be a very inexpensive framing option because many stores will give you samples for next to nothing. For fabric, stretching it across an art canvas and securing it with staples on the back makes a contemporary look. A pretty sheet of wallpaper in a decorative frame could work well with a traditional look.

Postcards. I collected a set of postcards from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and rather than keep them in a box under my bed, I bought two reasonably priced frames, a solid color mat and attached the postcards in groups of 5 to each of the mats. Hung one on top of the other, the collection makes a big impact on a hallway wall. You can also buy antique postcards on Ebay of a place you are dying to go, or pick up funny postcards at rest stops on your next road trip!

Making Your Own Art

This is a great idea for people who have great travel photos that they want to display in a way that really highlights their importance. Recently, I was contemplating an oversized art piece that I wanted to use over my bed as a makeshift headboard. I was swimming in options – contemporary, traditional, what colors, etc. Also, I didn’t know how much I should pay. Good art by well-established artists seemed out of my league cost-wise, but I didn’t want to pay for just anything.

Then, I walked in to a frame shop that I frequent for work and spoke with the owner. He turned me on to one of my best design decisions ever – a personal photo canvas. Basically, I chose a wonderful, colorful picture of two ladies bickering on their balconies that I had taken during a memorable trip to Spain. He blew up the photo, adjusted the color to brighten the whole image and printed on a quality canvas and wrapped around a gallery frame. For $150, I had a one-of-a-kind art piece that fit perfectly over my bed (since I gave him specific dimensions) and every time I look at it, I remember a special adventure.

Name Your Price

A lot of people are intimidated by auctions and antiques, but there are definite bargains to be had, especially if you set your sights on a unique piece that other people aren’t really interested in purchasing. A friend of mine got a really cool, aged luggage crate for $75 – she uses the crate as a side table and found that it was actually full of books, which she uses to decorate her living room shelves (another great idea – use old books as a decorative element!)

Go once to check out the scene before you buy to get yourself comfortable with the scene since the bidding process will be new, and for some people might seem overwhelming. You will see what types of things go for cheap and strengthen your reserve to come back, get your own number and bid away.

Think Again

Decorating doesn’t have to mean brand new accessories. Aside from antiques and consignment stores, which are great places to mine for new décor, think outside of the box for resources in your town. For example, most places that have Habitat for Humanity affiliates have ReStores, which are retail stores that sell furniture and home accessories. Not only will you find things at a reduced price, but your purchase will go toward a great cause – building homes for people in need.


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