Confession: I’m addicted to interior design sites. I don’t know what it is about pouring through photo after photo of industrial bohemian bedrooms and bright red, retro kitchens, but I constantly find myself hopping on design blogs for inspiration while I’m on the L or waiting in the always-endless Dunkin Donuts line.
The same goes for the Pinterest home decor section, the #homedecor Instagram hashtag and the Home Depot paint swatch section (yes, really). When it comes to decorating my place, I just can’t get enough. That being said, a great many of us want to get creative with our apartment decor while still thinking green and making the most of what we already have.
The Process of Elimination
The first thing you need to do when redecorating you space is create a somewhat blank canvas. Go through everything you have and purge what you don’t like or use on the regular. This can be a little scary if you’re sentimentally attached to your stuff or you fear briefly being totally couch-less (population: me), but it’s nearly impossible to revamp a cluttered and chaotic space.
A big part of going green is reducing waste, so don’t forget the old adage “one man’s trash is another’s man’s treasure.” Try not to throw away what you could donate or sell instead and make sure you recycle and compost. I hear this also earns you major thrift shopping karma while you’re redecorating, too.
Use What You Have
That bottle of Rogue Dead Guy you just finished? Add a screw-top nozzle, and it’s a custom-made soap dispenser. That stack of Polaroids you have from your trip to Portland?
Use clothespins and a large piece of twine to hang them along the width of your wall. Stacks of vinyl records look fantastic on coffee tables, and your prized collection of motorcycle boots will look straight out of an Urban Outfitters catalog when you put them on display.
The idea here is to look at what you own through a totally different lens. Nearly any object can be repurposed if you give it the chance, and you’ll be amazed by how little more you need to buy while you’re revamping your apartment.
Stay Thrifty, My Friend
Kitchen tables don’t make themselves, and sometimes you really need to bite the bullet and buy one (population: me). If the mere thought of shelling out $800 for a new sofa makes you cringe, fear not– that’s what thrift stores are for.
Not only are the things you find in thrift stores super inexpensive, but they’re also totally unique and usually have quite a bit of character. Keep in mind that many things you find can be painted or reupholstered to make them a bit more modern, too. Garage and estate sales, Goodwill is also a fabulous places to hunt down new decor and cheap furniture.
Draw it First
The worst thing about decorating on a budget? There’s no room for error (aka, wasted dollars). If you purchase a sofa only to find that it blocks the entrance to the kitchen or pick out a desk that won’t find through the doorway, you’ve wasted your time and money.
As tedious as it sounds, drawing your apartment out– and everything you want to furnish it with (on scratch paper) to scale helps you both streamline the redecorating and pare down your shopping list.
Think About What You Do
The foundation of your apartment design should be functionality, or how you use your space from day to day. I’m a writer (as I’m sure you’ve gathered), so it’s important for me to have a peaceful spot to zone out in front of my laptop and plenty of pens on hand.
Give some thought to your daily routine. Are you a gamer? Then take a cue from my little brother, who has a mini fridge located directly next to his bean bag. Are you a sommelier? They even sell wine-glass holders made for the interior of your shower. You get the idea– your apartment should make your life easier.
Repurpose Your Furniture
Despite how it may seem when you flip through PBTeen (admit it– you still love that catalog), not all furniture needs to be used for its intended purpose. An extra bookshelf makes a great shoe rack (I’m not sure if the same is true in reverse, but I’m not above trying), and a desk can make a fantastic vanity.
I’ve seen mirrors used as headboards and file cabinets used as bedside tables– and I’ve personally adapted the “if you can dream it, you can do it” mantra as my decorating philosophy for life. Repurposing and up-cycling items you already have is good for the planet and good for your budget.
Call Your Parents
There is no shame in soliciting help from family members while you’re young, especially when it comes to otherwise expensive pieces of furniture. Most of your relatives probably have a couch, kitchen table, or other random furniture that they’d love to move out of their attic.
So spread the word to the whole family: You’re currently accepting furniture donations. Case in point: I’m slightly obsessed with dolphins, and my aunt once gifted me an old dolphin coffee table that she no longer had space for. That, folks, is priceless.
Take Your Time
The most important thing to keep in mind while you’re redecorating your place, though? It doesn’t all need to happen at once. For those of us on pretty tight budgets, buying everything we want at once just isn’t possible, and that’s OK.
An apartment that’s decorated over time is far more curated and personalized that one put together in one fell swoop, and your place doesn’t have to be perfect right away. And if I’ve learned anything in my early 20s? No one cares if you have a bar cart, so long as there’s wine in the fridge.