A bar cart is a fun design element, but carts from stores like Restoration Hardware and Crate & Barrel can be extremely expensive.
Instead, you’re likely trying to furnish an apartment that feels more elevated than a college dorm room but also doesn’t leave you indebted to West Elm for the next couple years. I wanted to make my apartment feel like home, and I had more time than money, so I spent quite a few hours trying to life-hack good style and function for under $1,500 (which, if you split the common-use items with roommates, is pretty manageable).
A 16-piece dinnerware set that I got for 50% off during an Overstock sale.
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A sectional couch that does the trick but doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg.
We’ve also got you covered with buying guides that rank the best options (including the best affordable option) in everything from the best sheets, pillows, mattresses (many of which are under $200 on Amazon), and mattress toppers.
Can’t afford fine art to decorate every room just yet? Colorful shower curtains that pull in the colors from other areas of your living space is one nice life hack. Since our bathroom is on the smaller side, we opted for a bright color that makes the space feel enjoyable to be in.
We gave ourselves a $2,500 budget to completely outfit a typical one-bedroom apartment. Our picks come from Amazon, Target, Etsy, and Overstock.com, among other online retailers.
Just like removable wallpaper, there are tile stickers designed to add patterns to existing kitchen and bath tiling, as well as removable granite film or “instant granite” that uses adhesive to stick onto existing counter tops. Both are removed easily, and are relatively affordable, especially if you plan to stay in your place longer than a year.
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A better option is to find a cheap cart at your local flea market or hardware store (Harbor Freight and Ikea both have affordable utility carts, too). Spray paint the hardware or the entire cart to suit your tastes, and then add your own decorative elements, like tumbler glasses, cocktail recipe books, and bar tools. Use the bar cart to show off your favorite prints, tableware, and expensive bottles of liquor, too.
A floor length mirror can make a room appear larger and more open, especially in tiny apartments.
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Dinnerware isn’t something you really think about much, but you use it every day. I got this set for $50 off from Overstock (as you’ll see is the case for most of my looks-high-end, priced-cheap purchases) and it was a pretty incredible deal — you can find 16-piece dinnerware sets for less on Amazon, but it looks pretty bland. I waited for a sale and got something I genuinely like for about $10 more.
More interesting shelves than whitewashed boards, for the same price.
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Chances are your current ceiling lamp or fan hasn’t been updated for over 20 years. Instead of letting these eyesores ruin your décor, switch them out for more modern lighting options. The effect this minor change will have on your space is amazing. (Just make sure that if you rent, you keep the original fan or light fixture to reinstall before moving out.)
Tile stickers fit onto existing tile and quickly update a bathroom or kitchen.2Jane.com
One of the hardest parts of starting out on your own is furnishing an apartment.
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I moved myself into my first post-grad apartment using judiciously timed uber pools and three large suitcases. To put it in the most positive lighting possible, I’ll just say it was an “inventive” and affectionately scrappy time in my life.
For those unsure of how to create a certain effect or where to start, head over to a local craft store and ask for advice about recreating a specific painting or design.
Especially if you’re spending a bit more on your dinnerware, it makes sense to go on the cheaper end for something as standard as utensils. You can get a stainless steel kitchen set with all the basics for $30, a 20-piece silverware set for under $20, and a set of 12 drinking glasses for under $25. For essentials like cookware sets, you might want to check out our buying guides.
An abstract art area rug that won’t be in every one of your friend’s apartments, but runs at about the same price as what you’d find at Target.
An interesting shower curtain to customize our small apartment in lieu of fine art installments.
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American Atelier Oasis 16-piece Dinnerware Set (Service for 4), $66.49
First, remove all of the hardware and wipe down the piece with a cloth to get rid of any dust. Use sandpaper to lightly buff away the glossy finish, and then either spray paint or add two regular coats of paint. After it dries, add a coat of water-based lacquer, polyurethane, or a thin coat of clear paste wax to make the new finish last.
Browse local flea markets or Craigslist to find huge mirrors at affordable prices.
A ClosetMaid system that leaves you more room and likely more money in your budget than a dresser would.
Clutter will make your home seem smaller than it is. Get rid of unnecessary room accessories, magazines, and books, and invest in furniture that does double-duty like storage ottomans, chests, or vintage suitcases stacked to look like a table.
If you need it now, though, Wayfair is a good in-between, with plenty of options that are more interesting than stores offering the no-frills basics and not as luxe as Overstock’s designer-at-a-discount.
Your kitchen table will depend on your space and how many people you live with (or plan to host), but we decided to buy a cheaper staple piece like this one since most dark wood looks the same to an untrained eye (which is most recent graduates). Plus, if you’re splitting the cost of big furniture purchases, it’s nice to decide on something ambivalent that nobody feels keen to argue for ownership of once you move out (at which point you’ll likely want a nicer table than what you can afford now). For cheap dining room sets, we found ourselves shopping on Wayfair most.
11 Brilliant Ideas For Decorating Your Apartment On The Cheap
If you just graduated, most of your savings are likely headed to some other, more worthy place (like your building’s security deposit) than to things like leather couches and the zen lobby fountains that work without making a sound.
Manhattan Comfort Ellis Dark Oak/Black Four-Shelf Bookcase, available at Overstock, $170.99
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Below are the 11 main purchases my roommates and I made to fit the bill of a unique, adult space that didn’t break the post-grad budget.
Area rugs are oddly expensive, but they help ground the space and can make small rooms (like mine) look bigger than they are, according to interior designer Kate Lester. At most shops, the rugs that fit my budget looked either dorm room-like or bland and unappealing. I winced at spending $100+ on this one, but it helped knowing I was getting a comparatively good deal on something I really liked that also packs a lot of impact in a small, white-walled room.
Here’s how I outfitted my first apartment for less than $1,500 — and still made it look unique Here’s how I outfitted my first apartment for less than $1,500 — and still made it look unique
SEE ALSO: The 10 best purchases I’ve made to save space in my small apartment
Permanent wallpaper is intimidating because it’s so difficult to remove from walls. For renters or home owners who are design commitment-phobes, removable wallpaper is the perfect solution for adding color and personal style to a room.
ClosetMaid ShelfTrack 5′ – 8′ Closet Organizer Kit, available at Amazon, $122
It sticks easily to walls and is simple to apply and remove. Tempaper and Chasing Paper are great brands to browse, and Etsy also has a multitude of designs to choose from.
This faux-linen curtain was one of the cheapest options I found for a classic white, sheer curtain in a long length. It lets the light in and makes the rooms appear bigger.
Here’s how I outfitted my first apartment for less than $1,500 — and still made it look unique
You could buy an expensive painting, or troll flea markets and vintage stores until you find something you admire. But an easy way to get art you love is to simply create it.
And if you don’t have a roommate, things like the couch, TV, and decor can start to add up.
Stainless Steel Kitchen Utensil Set, available at Amazon, $29.99 20-Piece Silverware Set, available at Amazon, $18.99 Heavy Base Highball Drinking Glasses, 15 oz., Set of 12, available at Amazon, $21
A white faux linen sheer curtain that looks more expensive than it is.
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Intelligent Design Kennedy Printed Shower Curtain, available at Overstock, $29.49
Danya B. Laminated Silver Grey Floating ‘U’ Shelves, Set of Three, available at Overstock, $23.79
Another fine option is placing certain furniture — such as chairs, tables, or cabinets — at an angle in the corner of the room to create a built-in hidden spot for hiding extra stuff.
But decorating doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are 11 brilliant ways to decorate your apartment on the cheap.
The two mirrors give the room a brighter feel.Restoration Hardware
To keep lighting from looking dated, switch out old lamp shades for new, clean ones. Certain older styles can date a room, and over time, lamp shades attract dust and grime that makes them look dingy. Keep the original lamp base, and buy a new shade that adds a pop of color or a graphic pattern to liven up your space.
I’m not necessarily proud of having the most utilitarian bed frame in existence, but it was a smart move in terms of storage and floor space, just like the ClosetMaid was. Plus, like the kitchen table, I didn’t want to commit to sinking money into something I wasn’t even sure would fit the next apartment I move into. You can find similar solutions for even less on Amazon.
After splurging on essentials like couches and tables, it’s daunting to think about how to make a new place feel more like home.
When you get sick of your bed or other pieces of large furniture, consider painting over the existing finish instead of dumping your stuff. A new coat of paint on an old dresser can drastically change a piece without costing very much.
If you’ve got a modest budget, though, it pays to do the heavy-lifting of research and guarantee you’ll be happy and only need to spend the money once.
These look more modern and expensive than their cost relays and definitely add more style to your space than the white shelf boards you’d otherwise find at IKEA. Plus, they usually cost less.
Knobs like this one are available at Anthropologie for around $14.Melissa Stanger/Business Insider
This took me and a power drill a few hours to put together, but that’s par for the course on a budget. It’s modern, interesting, and uses the space it takes up in a useful way (keeping all my books off the floor) and doubles in aesthetic value.
Similar to the logic behind the kitchen table, we decided to go thrifty on the living room couch. No one wants to pay one-third of the price for something that isn’t valuable enough for anyone to ultimately want to go through the pain of moving to their next apartment. This sectional fits our small living room and didn’t cost us an arm and a leg to buy. Plus, it’s reversible — meaning if you choose to transition it to a new apartment, you can switch the side that juts out to fit your new space if needed.
How To Make Your 1-Bedroom Stylish On A $2,500 Budget How To Make Your 1-Bedroom Stylish On A $2,500 Budget
A fresh coat of paint can liven up even the most boring desk.Melissa Stanger/Business Insider
Click here to see how to furnish your apartment on a budget > »
Exclusive Fabrics Gardenia Faux Linen Sheer Curtain Panel, 108-Inch, available at Overstock, $31.87
Life Hacks Storage space Insider Picks 2018 Overstock.com Bedroom Home Goods Area Rug Arts & Culture Recent Grads
DuraBed Queen Foundation and Frame-in-One Mattress Support Bed Frame, available at Overstock, $116.99
An inexpensive dining set that will do perfectly until you move out.
Removable wallpaper is a great option for renters.Chasing Paper
If you want something more rustic, we also picked up some reclaimed wood shelves from Etsy for less than $50.
11 Brilliant Ideas For Decorating Your Apartment On The Cheap 11 Brilliant Ideas For Decorating Your Apartment On The Cheap
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Position the mirror so it reflects a window and catches the most light, adding dimension to the room.
Plants immediately add life to any room. The easiest options, of course, are self-sufficient plants such as cacti or succulents like aloe vera that not only look nice, but don’t require a lot of maintenance. Find an interesting pot or bowl and go to a local farmer’s market to see what flora options are available.
Amazon sells large pre-stretched canvases for around $20, and you can buy paint and brushes from a local craft store. Search around for works of art online for inspiration, and then make it your own. You may want to opt for a modern-art look, so that your talent (or lack thereof) can be skewed as creative and not child-like.
New drawer handles or door knobs can transform old furniture (plus, it’s cheaper than buying something brand-new). Quality stores like Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, and Anthropologie all sell fancy and attractive hardware to help even a Wal-Mart dresser look high-end.
Clay Alder Home Hillsboro Modern Abstract Vintage Blue Area Rug, 5′ x 7’5, available at Overstock, $100.39
You’ll want to double check with your landlord before drilling holes, but I found that adding well-planned shelving to my closet made more sense than spending money and devoting limited space to a dresser.
Cazenovia Reversible Sectional, available at Wayfair, $471.19
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