Ultimate Guide to Decorating an Apartment

graphic1 If you’re like most renters, you won’t be living in the same apartment forever. However, you still want to make the space look nice. Most renters understandably don’t want to spend a lot of money on furniture and decorative pieces. Successful apartment decorating is certainly possible – regardless of how long your lease is. Of course, you’ll probably have limits and boundaries to consider when decorating a rental apartment. Here’s a breakdown of tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your space without breaking the bank.


Even if you think your apartment is short on storage space, you can always improvise. By making the most of what you have available, and keeping things organized you’ll spend less time looking for things you need, and will have the added benefit of extra room to decorate your apartment the way you want. Here’s a list of some storage solutions around the apartment:

  • Entryway: No foyer? No problem. Make your own welcoming entryway instantly by strategically placing a console table near the door. A few extra hooks work wonders for creating smart storage options for keys, bags, jackets and other items you normally grab on the go.
  • Bed: Your bed can be a great storage option. If your bed frame is too low for adequate storage, set it on bed risers. This inexpensive solution provides you with plenty of room for everything from bulky luggage, extra blankets and books, to your vacuum cleaner. If you need some extra coverage, a simple bedskirt should be enough to conceal bins under the bed.
  • Storage bench: A bench with built in storage is another handy way to free up space in the bedroom. Seldom used items like winter blankets and off season clothing is perfect for storage in this area.
  • Coffee table: Coffee tables are an essential for nearly any main living area. Yours can easily double as handy storage space; especially it has shelves or a lift top. The extra room is particularly useful for storing books, magazines or similar items that are often left lying around the living room.
  • Pot racks and hooks: It’s no secret that pots and pans can take up a lot of space in a kitchen. If you need to free up valuable cabinet storage, a pot rack is a must-have. Go with a commercial-style rack, which not only looks great but is also quite durable. No room for a pot rack? Try using hooks on the wall and arranging your pots and pans attractively. Hooks also work well for items you use often like measuring cups, and utensils. This open storage style is trending and allows you to access your cooking tools in a flash.
  • Sink cover: If you’re really tight on space, a sink cover can give you a bit of extra room. They can be found in a variety of finishes from stainless steel to butcher block. Another option is to use a large cutting board or serving tray as a mobile storage area that can be moved as needed.
  • Bathroom Solutions: Keep your toiletries accessible but organized using a toiletry tray. Another option is adding over-the-door hanging storage, or hanging shelves to keep your everyday items conveniently located. Towel rods or hooks will keep your towels and textile items neatly out of the way and off the floor.
  • Pantry display: Small apartments don’t always have a separate space for a pantry. In this instance, you can create a handy shelving system for showcasing produce, bulk goods, and even bags of staple items like flour and sugar. Consider using a wire basket storage cart with casters, which you can move out of the way when you need more space.
  • Floor-to-ceiling shelving: A fast and efficient storage solution, floor-to-ceiling shelving often works best in larger spaces, such as living rooms or media rooms. Another alternative is tall bookcases that stretch up to the ceiling. Remember to install anti-tip devices on any furniture that could topple over. These are available at any hardware store.


Whether you’re repainting a single room or multiple ones, the type and color of paint you select can have a huge impact on the existing space. There are many different paint colors that will help make just about any room look bigger. In general, lighter and more soothing colors work best for decorating in a small space. However, darker tones can work well too. This is particularly true when they’re paired with white moldings or furnishings along with colorful accents in shades such as pink, lavender or light blue. If you decide to go with a darker colored paint, opt for one in high gloss, as this type of paint reflects light. If your walls have flaws you want to hide, use a satin finish. This will still allow you to wipe it clean, but will conceal minor flaws in the surface. Remember if you’re renting, to clear any paint choice with your landlord.


Lighting is another great way to make your apartment appear larger than it actually is – especially if the space is a bit dark to begin with. You don’t have to break your wallet to add tons of lights to your apartment. A few strategically positioned lamps can effectively illuminate the small space. For example, you can place lamps or lights on side tables, end tables and nightstands. If you have particularly dark corners, one or more floor lamps are optimal. Torchiere lamps, which point their light towards the ceiling are perfect for adding a soft, unobtrusive light to the room. Need more light in the kitchen? Bright under cabinet lighting is an ideal investment. Many options available today use LED bulbs and run on batteries, making them the perfect option when you can’t install something permanent.


Using wallpaper can give your apartment a more cheerful and personalized appearance. You’ll want to invest in temporary wallpaper rather than the permanent kind, especially if you’re only renting for a short span of time. The best choice may be peel-n-stick paper, which cleans up easily and doesn’t damage the existing paint job. Don’t be afraid to get creative by doing an accent wall in the living room, a backsplash in the kitchen, or even putting wallpaper inside a closet.

Corner Space

Most people don’t place furniture in the corners of a room, which leaves space for additional storage options. This is particularly helpful for households with children, as their games and toys can be easily stashed away when guests come over. If you want to make the most of your corner space, consider angling the existing furniture so that there’s enough space for baskets, boxes, and similarly sized storage bins to be hidden behind. graphic2

Statement Pieces

Renting doesn’t mean you need to dull down your furniture. While you don’t want to overcrowd a small space by filling it up with large furniture, a bigger piece or two can actually make the room look larger. For example, a grand, dramatic bedframe or an oversized couch can give the illusion of a much bigger space than what actually exists.

Natural Materials

If you want your apartment to look causal and more rustic, materials drawn from nature are a must. Bamboo, cork, wood, cotton, copper and stone are a few options. This is particularly true in spaces such as your kitchen, where the material can serve a dual purpose. Try to coordinate any natural materials with their surroundings, such as cabinets and cupboards. This will make the room look warmer. Be sure to repeat the same materials and finishes throughout your room, to draw it all together.

Bold Details

Some spaces have rooms that flow into one another. If you want to create distinct spaces without using a room divider or a wall, bold details are the way to go. For example, a big rug underneath your main dining table can give the illusion of a distinct dining space. You can achieve a similar goal by tiling a particular section of the floor. Using a monochromatic pattern – such as black and white – promotes an open and inviting design without causing the space to feel overcrowded.

Room Dividers

Room screens, are a simple way to create separate spaces or add privacy. Many of these screens fold up, making them easy to use in another room, or take to a new apartment when you relocate. Hanging lightweight curtains from hooks attached to curtain wire is an inexpensive way to accomplish the same purpose. Glass room dividers can effectively create distinct boundaries between rooms while adding an upscale look to your apartment. A huge benefit of using glass is that it promotes light flow, so that all the spaces get plenty of natural light. You don’t have to go with clear glass, though. Other potential options include frosted glass, which promotes a more subdued appearance, or smoked glass, which is a great choice for ensuring privacy when it’s needed.


Bulletin boards and peg boards are convenient methods for staying organized. They’re also handy organization tools in a smaller space. There are several types of boards to choose from, including magnet boards, frame chalkboards and standard peg boards. You can even go the DIY route and put together a message board by using pieces of thin wood or even metal sheets as boards.


A gallery display is a unique and interesting way to show off your personality while giving the existing space a makeover. One way to achieve this is to use floating shelves to display an art collection. Aside from pictures and paintings, you can use the space to show off decorative pieces. If you’re going for a unique appearance, staggering the shelves can quickly give your space a boost. You can also keep it simple by switching up standard shelves with a rotating display. Whether your decor is darker, lighter or a mix of tones, shelves generally blend in well within every setting.

Redecorating an Apartment

Whether you’ve recently renovated your apartment and want to switch things around or you’re getting tired of an existing setup, there are several ways to successfully redecorate an apartment. Most renters are keen on saving some money without sacrificing appearance. You can easily meet both of these goals when decorating a rental apartment.

Rearrange Furniture

You don’t have to spend a lot on furniture, especially if you already have what you need. For example, if you’re searching for a desk, a small unused or underused table in another room could work. If one piece of furniture seems better suited for a specific purpose, swap them.

Multi-Purpose Use

One of the best ways to redecorate an apartment or small living space is to find a piece of furniture with more than one use. For example, a storage ottoman can double as seating space and a convenient storage area. You may also find that a piece of furniture that’s already in your apartment actually serves an additional purpose as well. For example, you can use spice containers to hold smaller office-related odds and ends; a sofa table could also become a desk. graphic3

Furniture Rentals

If you’re really short on space or have minimal use for a specific piece of furniture, another option is to rent furniture. This way, you’ll only have the furniture when absolutely necessary, such as for a family gathering or a party. One benefit of renting furniture is that you often have the option of making several smaller payments over time, saving you a large initial investment to get the furniture you need. Another bonus is that rental companies typically transport the furniture to and from your apartment, or even to a new address for you if you move, saving you the hassle and heavy lifting.

Trim-Based Detail

When it comes to room details, sometimes less is actually more. If you think your living space needs a bit of a pop but are reluctant to spend money on paint or expensive upholstery, there is a much simpler and more affordable solution. It’s easy to add detail to any room by using trim. A great combination is adding white to a darker color, such as navy, which makes for a brilliant and budget-friendly contrast.


Prioritizing is crucial, especially if you’re on a budget. This often means considering the space’s most frequent use, whether it’s work, entertaining or relaxing after a long day. Prioritizing will help you focus on the type of furniture that will best match your interests. It’s also a great way to save money by avoiding splurging on items that you won’t use very often. Simply because the space is centered on one or two primary activities doesn’t mean you can’t make it work for other purposes as well. For example, if you have a work-centered space but want to be able to entertain guests, you can easily accommodate them by having extra chairs or other seating arrangements available. graphic4

Decorating an Outdoor Space

If you’re lucky enough to have an apartment with outdoor space, you’re probably going to be working with a limited amount of room. However, you don’t have to forego style or comfort. Depending on the type and amount of space you have to work with, you can dress it up in a variety of ways, whether it’s putting plants on a windowsill or creating a cozy yet comfortable balcony setting. The following suggestions can easily brighten up just about any outdoor space.

Window Sills

Whether your apartment already has a small outdoor space or you’d like to create one, windowsills are a perfect opportunity. A few houseplants or herbs can brighten up the building’s exterior while enhancing the existing decor. For best results, find the windowsills with the most direct sunlight. Plan ahead to determine whether a single pot per plant or one, long trough will work best. Common herb plants such as basil, cilantro and parsley are generally quite forgiving – and go well in a variety of dishes.

Outdoor Rugs & Draperies

Instantly add warmth and color to your outdoor space by simply adding an area rug. Many of these rugs are relatively inexpensive and will add much enjoyment when using your outdoor space. Make sure to choose one that is listed as indoor/outdoor, or strictly outdoor use. Want some privacy? Galvanized steel piping makes a cheap, rust-proof curtain rod, and canvas drop cloths can double as patio draperies. When not in use, draw them back with a tie and let the sunshine in.

Plant Edibles

If your outdoor space involves a tiny balcony or patio, you can spruce it up with edible plants. This is a great way to upgrade the outdoor area’s appearance while giving yourself easy access to fresh, ripe produce. Some of the most popular plant edibles include herbs and vegetables. Many of these can be purchased, pre-potted in hanging baskets, or patio pots.

Vertical Gardens

Pots and planters are fine for a few flowers or plants, but if you really want to build up a garden the best approach is to spend your time, effort and money on a vertical garden. Vertical gardens are ideal for setting up your desired amount of exterior plants while making more room for outdoor furniture. If you’re getting ready to fix up or redecorate your apartment, there are several efficient and budget-friendly ways to do this. Smaller spaces have obvious limitations, from lack of storage options to tiny rooms. Visit IFR Interior Furniture Resources’ showroom for design inspiration for your apartment or compact living space. When you’re decorating a small space, you may find that having a combination of ideas works best.