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26 Ideas to Steal for Your Apartment

Living in a small space is tough, especially when your decorating options are limited by rental rules and landlord laws. Let these ideas inspire you to make the home (and space) you want.


    Everything in this slideshow

    • Gallery Display

      Use floating shelves to show off a collection of decorative objects and mementos. Stagger the shelves for a unique look. Basic shelves serve as a strong basis for rotating displays. They will go with almost anything, which means you can change the look of the vignette, leaving the shelves in place and avoid making any more holes in your apartment walls.

      Shop shelving finds now!
    • Dress Up Your Windows

      You're not limited to the mini blinds that come standard in most rentals. Dress up you windows with easy DIY curtains. This no-sew project can be done in a weekend!

    • Paint Options

      If you can't paint the walls in your apartment, paint your furniture. A new paint job on a bed frame or nightstand can be just as impactful as new color on the walls. 

    • Personalized Accessories

      Add a little pizzazz to your entryway or bedside table with a customized tray. Use this simple stencil technique to transform a boring metal tray into something you'll be proud to display.

    • Embrace Open Storage

      Employ an industrial metal shelving unit as extra kitchen storage if your apartment's kitchen storage options are less than generous. The cool finish of this unit recalls metal touches that are standard in pro kitchens. Use baskets to corral kitchen staples, and incorporate a few decorative touches to keep it fun.

      Shop kitchen furniture now!
    • Floor Coverings

      Often in a rental situation, you are stuck with whatever finishes are in place when you sign the lease. If your apartment's carpet is not so stylish, camouflage the problem with an extra-large area rug that coordinates with your other decor. If the room is on the small side, you won't need an oversize rug, which can start to get pricey.

    • Work with It

      Vintage buildings have plenty of charm, but some original elements can pose a decorating challenge. Rather than cringe at something you don't like, embrace it and find a work-around. If the bathroom tile is a shade you can't stand, pick a color you do like to serve as the room's main hue. The tone of green used in this bathroom has just a twinge of yellow, which helps the accents to stand out and the yellow tile to recede. Try a blue-green with powder blue tile or sherbet orange with salmon-color tile.

    • Add an Entry

      If your apartment lacks a designated entry, create your own with a bookcase. Remove the top shelves and install hooks on the back wall of the bookcase for hanging coats. Add more hooks to the sides of the books case for hanging leashes or umbrellas. Outfit the bottom shelves with baskets and small drawers for storing mittens, sunglasses, and other out-the-door essentials. Add a memo bar from an office supply store to the top of the bookcase as a place to organize reminders.

    • Shine On

      In any small space, using mirrors is a decorating trick that works wonders. They reflect light and make a space feel bigger. Hang a large mirror in your apartment's dining space, living room, or bedroom across from a window, so it is in a prime position to receive natural light and reflect it back into the room.

      Shop mirrors under $100!
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      Be Entertaining

      Turn your TV wall into a focal point. Hang paneled artwork behind the TV to frame it, and surround the TV with plenty of storage. This TV could have been placed on the console beneath it, but to maximize space and functionality in an apartment rental, take your TV to the wall and place a console beneath it that can be used as a serving surface when entertaining. Plus, having a piece of furniture beneath a wall-mount TV grounds it and prevents it from seeming as if there's a random black object floating on the wall.

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      Adapt Your Apartment

      Finding nonpermanent ways to update your apartment is key to making a rental feel like home. You might want to switch out your sink, but your rental agreement makes it a no-go. Instead, modify it to suit your tastes. Hang a skirt around an open sink, using adhesive-backed hook-and-loop tape to hide unsightly plumbing. Hide baskets or a low shelving unit of bathroom essentials behind the skirt.

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      Cozy, Chic Dining

      A cramped dining nook can become worthy of dinner parties with a few smart strategies. Use clear chairs or a glass-top table to visually expand the space and make it feel bigger, hang up some artwork, and adjust the lighting. Install wall-mount sconces that don't need to be hardwired, or place lamps on a narrow console. If your dining area came with a chandelier, see if you can cover the bare bulbs with shades, which will diffuse the light, softening the room's glow.

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      Furniture Placement

      Picture your apartment's living space without any furniture to help you think beyond your current furniture arrangement. Decide if the room is large enough to divide up in to zones that will make the space more functional. Then get creative with how you start to arrange furniture. It might make the most sense to "float" the sofa in the middle of the room and place your TV on the wall facing it. You can then use the space on the other side of the sofa for an office or dining area. Place a console behind the couch to use for storage to serve both zones.

    • Apartment Ideas from Eddie Ross
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      Editor's Tips

      Better Homes and Gardens edtior Eddie Ross spills the decorating secrets he used to make his own apartment look fabulous.

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      Outside In

      Use colorful garden stools as impromptu coffee tables or as bedside tables. These relatively lightweight furniture pieces can easily be moved from room to room and are much easier to carry up apartment stairs than a bulky table.

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      Apartment Assets

      Turn awkward apartment features in your favor. Tap odd corners or narrow closets for storage or a cozy seating area for one. In this living room, two narrow nooks provide storage for office and crafts supplies, and curtains can be drawn to conceal the spaces.

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      Bathroom Furnishings

      Bring furniture into your bathroom and you'll be adding plenty of function. A slender table with a drawer can be used for storage and a sturdy chair can become a perch for clean towels.

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      Curtain Illusion

      Introduce a rental to luxury with gorgeous drapes. Hanging several sets of drapes along a wall is an apartment-approved way to give your walls personality without the permanency of wallpaper or paint. It also gives the illusion that there are windows hidden behind the drapes, rather than just an expanse of blank walls and one tiny window.

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      Hardworking Furniture

      A daybed can be a couch by day and a guest bed by night. Plumped up with plenty of pillows for back support, you can sink comfortably on to a daybed to watch TV or read a book. But when overnight guests come, they'll have a comfortable place to sleep. Keep a large basket nearby for extra linens to make the transition from couch to bed easy.

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      Faux Built-In

      Some vintage apartment buildings come with gorgeous built-ins, ideal for storing modern necessities. If your apartment is lacking, fake the look by flanking a doorway with identical bookcases that reach almost to the ceiling and install moldings around the tops of the shelves. As a style bonus, paint the bookcase before installation, or line the backs with pretty paper.

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      Save Space

      When space is at a premium, invest in a large, one-stop-shop bookcase that will serve multiple storage needs. Place it in a central location in your apartment unit and store books and dishes on the upper shelves; place bins, baskets, or drawers on the lower shelves to house linens, flatware, office supplies, and any extra things that don't have a place to live.

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      Fill It Up

      Go all out to fill up boring walls. Hang a grid of favorite pictures or prints inside frames with large mats. The bigger mats will provide much-needed white space for an active display. Onlookers will be able to take in each photo, which makes for an effective display.

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      Multipurpose Hamper

      Employ hampers for more than just dirty clothes. Use them around your apartment for stashing umbrellas and hats, extra linens, or kids' toys.

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      Pillow Panache

      Even if your rental walls are white and your seating is nondescript, the smallest of decorations can make a big impact. Bring personality to your apartment with plenty of fun throw pillows. To make changing your look easier down the road, buy pillow covers and pillow forms separately. New covers can go on the forms and the old covers can be stashed away without taking up much storage space.

      Shop decorative and throw pillows under $25!
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      Hidden Storage

      A beautifully skirted table hides a secret. Beneath the sumptuous fabric is a shelving unit that holds dining room extras. Use the skirted-table trick in bedrooms and house shoes or handbags below, or in a living room to hide media components.

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      Apartment Lighting

      Good lighting can completely transform a room, and its source doesn't necessarily need to be a hardwired ceiling fixture. Invest in lamps to place on end tables, nightstands, and side tables. Position floor lamps to illuminate dark corners and hang plug-in wall sconces in hallways or above sofas. Plug-in undercabinet lighting will give your kitchen work areas new life and make cooking tasks easier.

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      Secret Stash

      Place furniture in the corners of rooms at an angle and use the space behind to stash baskets of extra linens, toys, crafts supplies, or whatever else you need to store.

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      Next Slideshow Our Favorite Small Kitchens that Live Large

      Our Favorite Small Kitchens that Live Large

      A successful small kitchen needs an efficient layout, smart cabinetry, and plentiful storage. See how it's done by touring these savvy compact kitchens packed with impressive features.
      Begin Slideshow »



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