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How to Decorate on a Budget: Twenty-something Chic

Updated on April 22, 2012
janikon profile image

Stuart has spent three years trying to convince his boyfriend he is not hiding books under their bed and they are certainly not multiplying.

butterflies taking flight
butterflies taking flight

I'm currently being stared down by the coconut monkey my roommate slid atop the new media unit, nothing will make you feel more inadequate than the disapproving stare of a monkey, playing a guitar, carved from coconut. I recently moved into my first apartment - one I share with one of my best girlfriends - and have taken great pleasure in casting off the design-shackles of parental involvement and decorating to whichever whim takes me at the time.

I've always been interested in how people decorate their spaces, whether it be in the bedroom in their parents home, the cramped dorm room they've been forced to share, or the first bedroom they have in a house they share with friends - no matter what the space, you'll notice, the way it's decorated is always different. While visiting my friend B, while she was away at Uni, I noted her design concept had become very minimalistic; everything was bright, airy and low to the ground. The colours of the room were muted and calm which was very different from the yellow she'd painted her room while in high school.

There is something about putting your unique touch on something which makes it yours, allows you an easier time settling into the newness of the situation. It can be overwhelming and many people do not decorate their apartments or bedrooms for fear of not liking the finished the product. My friend E - now my roommate - didn't decorate her first, basement, apartment for a year, well until I convinced her ANY colour would be better than the butter-yellow she'd been living in.

I look at first apartments, or to a lesser extent, dorm rooms as 'starter-spaces' in essence blank slates ready for you to go crazy, make mistakes and slowly build your personal design style from foundation up. We all wear our individuality through our clothing and, for some, make-up, so why live in a painters-white room?

coming up with a concept

I'm a big fan of lists. The best way to organize your thoughts is to make a list of all the things the room is going to be used for; ie: bedroom - sleeping, entertaining hot guys, private dance parties, homework, exercise, etc - usually an idea will be born from there. Some people find it easier to build the room around one specific piece, so if you have an awesome bedspread - the bed would be the focal point of this room - draw from it and create something amazing.

It's also VERY important to create an initial budget for your space, so you don't spend the majority of money in one room and leave the rest of them lacking.

E and I have been slowly, but surely, working on the kitchen - it has been hard because of my supreme dislike for yellow and her irrational love for it, so we comprised and picked a shade of yellow - mustard'ish - that I felt wouldn't assault my eyes every morning when I crawled to the coffeepot. We set an initial budget for the kitchen at $100.00 and have been really good at staying within - look for sales people, they are your BEST friend when you're living on your own.

It wasn't until we were shopping for some glass jars did I find something that would truly make the yellow bearable - butterflies; think Serena Van Woodsen's bedroom with the bird wall-art. With an apartment you have some confines with what you can change in the actual rental, so creating a design focal point allows you to draw attention away from ugly-undesirables (like the mildly disgusting countertop we cannot scrub clean).

Not everyones taste and I wasn't sure how it would turn out but as the first step to the kitchen face-lift, we've gotten a great deal of compliments from friends and family.

Mustard Paint (On Sale): $14.99/per gallon (Home Hardware)
Butterfly Wall Art (24 set): $19.99 (we picked up two boxes) (BINZ Toronto)
Four Glass Jars (varying sizes): $2.99 - $6.99 (BINZ Toronto)

We haven't finished the kitchen; we still are going to add some floating shelves to create more storage which will create more space on the galley counter. We're also going to change the hardware on the cupboards and drawers since they have about twenty years of paint on them, apparently, when you're getting a unit ready for the next tenant - you paint EVERYTHING.

The most important advice I can give to anyone decorating their bedroom, kitchen, living room or dining room is to have fun - the only person who has to love the space is you (and your roommate if you choose to share space).


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      BethDW 5 years ago

      I'm glad I stumbled upon this hub. My girlfriend and I are moving into 'our' first apartment in just a couple of days, and are psyched to finally have an entire space to ourselves to decorate, but are on a SUPER tight budget at the moment. So your advice is awesome :)

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      As a twenty something in a rented place with too much paint slathered on everything, I totally empathize!

    • janikon profile image

      Stuart A Jeffery 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      @amy11692 thanks!

    • amy11692 profile image

      amy11692 5 years ago

      i enjoyed this hub a lot! nice ideas!