Cheap Apartment Decorating Ideas

January 2, 2019Kelly Baum

//not sponsored, affiliate links included

I’ve moved once a year for the last 6 years…so I’m a little bit of an expert on taking a rental from drab to fab! Here’s a few cheap apartment decorating ideas you can do to spruce up your new home rental!

Cheap Apartment Decorating Ideas

Cheap Apartment Decorating Ideas

There are a few golden rules to turning your apartment from drab to fab, without doing anything permanent:

  • Don’t hang or build anything that needs to be fastened to the wall with anything other than a few nails. If it’s too big to plaster and paint over easily, you can get charged on move out for wall damage.
  • Don’t paint the walls anything too dark or too neon. It’s a nightmare to prime and paint over.
  • If you’re shopping on a budget, Ikea and the DIY boards on Pinterest will become your new best friends.

My rental decor philosophy is to keep it inexpensive, simple and maintenance-free. It’s bad enough to have to pack your life up when you’re moving out, but having to worry about priming and patching holes is another headache you don’t need. Plus, when you took those funds you were careful to review your options to make sure the effort you spent getting that guarantor wasn’t wasted alongside any loans you’d gotten for this first new place, and it’s best to be financially responsible with your first rental, or indeed any rental at all. Take that money you would have spent decorating and use it elsewhere in your life.

I like my money where I can see it…hanging in my closet.
Carrie Bradshaw

Here’s a mix of DIY and cheap finds at the store that you can use to give your home a mini-makeover without breaking the wallet…at least, not too much!

Cheap Apartment Decorating Ideas

// DIY a Pinboard

This is by far my favorite project to make. I just DIY’d another to be a mood board for my bedroom and it cost under $20 to complete. I found a 36×48 inch trifold display board at JoAnn’s, so that takes up a large amount of wall space without having to hang anything!

Click here for the full tutorial on how to make your own mood board.

// Add Wallpaper to a Bookshelf

I love patterns but if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do in a rental, it’s apply any kind of “removable” wallpaper. It’s a 50/50 endgame – it may remove cleanly, or it may be stubborn, cause a mess and ruin the wall. So, my compromise is to take cheap bookshelves from Ikea and apply removable wallpaper to the backing so you get this beautiful, expensive-looking effect with just a few bucks!

Click here for the full tutorial on bookshelf upscaling techniques.

// Add height with a blanket ladder

One of the struggles I have with not hanging anything is that all of my pieces are pretty low to the ground and it makes the space look, well, flat. So, I use things like really tall bookshelves and large pinboards set on top of shelves to add height.

A blanket ladder is another one of those items under $50 that is both functional and adds a lot of height in a chic way. Click here for my favorite blanket ladder that’s perfect for a budget!

// Add a plant table (or three!)

One of the first things that will make your small space look drab is clutter. I use these plant tables that I get for $30 on Amazon to hold various things:

  • Keys and sunglasses by the front door
  • Go-to laundry supplies in the utility room
  • Fresh plants by the balcony
  • Washcloths and perfumes in my bathroom

I love that they’re so versatile and you can even paint the inside of the tray for a pop of color or get fancy with your favorite pattern!

Cheap Apartment Decorating Ideas

// Stack wooden crates

This is another one of my secret-weapons to a chic but functional space on a budget! I’ve found that in a lot of my apartments, there’s not a lot of organizing space. My solution was to get a bunch of cheap wood crates from craft stores, painted them and put wallpaper in the bottom of some, and then stacked them.

Stack these and use them in the kitchen, as end tables, in the entryway closet to hold bags and shoes – you can make these as fancy or as indie chic as you like!

Here’s the tutorial on the supplies I used to paint and wallpaper my crates.


If you’re moving into a new apartment this year, or just looking to redo your space in the new year, good luck!

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