33 Ideas to Steal for Your Apartment

layered rugs in living room with gray furniture
Living in a small space is tough, especially when your decorating options are limited by rental rules and landlord laws. Let these small apartment decorating ideas on a budget inspire you to make the home (and space) you want.

Gallery Display

Use floating shelves to show off a collection of decorative objects and mementos in your apartment. 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 without making any more holes in your apartment walls.

Statement Piece

You might be stuck with apartment finishes and materials that make your skin crawl, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fabulous furniture. Fill your space with pieces you love and the rest will seem to fade away. In every room, choose a statement furniture piece to become the focal point. With a stunning emerald green sofa or midcentury modern dining table, everyone will forget your tiger-stripe orange oak floors.

Studio Living

Employ a few smart studio apartment ideas to make your all-in-one dwelling seem cozier. Stick with a consistent color palette from kitchen to bedroom. Similarly, repeat finishes and materials to create a cohesive look. Employ rugs to anchor different zones and provide visual boundaries between areas.

Apartment Art

Small apartment decorating ideas on a budget require a little creativity and ingenuity, especially if you want your deposit back. Proving that temporary can be clever, this art display of black-and-white prints is installed with neon pink washi tape. Mixing almost-all-black prints with lighter fare brings depth to the casual arrangement.

Color Strategist

Neutral walls can be the bane of an apartment-dweller’s existence. But rather than lament, use the sea of beige to your advantage. Layer in luxe-looking elements, such as sumptuous bedding and enviable area rugs (yes, it’s OK to put a rug over carpet), all in similar neutral tones. Then add a strategic punch of color. Stick to a two-color scheme and place the colorful elements so that the eye travels around the room. Here, blue patterned curtains dress the window. The color travels to the bed with throw pillows and passes the baton to the room’s second color, a cheery yellow headboard.

Storage Smarts

Using the storage your apartment comes with, such as a bathroom vanity, to your full advantage is a smart small-apartment idea for saving space. By maximizing what you already have, you eliminate the need for add-on storage units that make a room feel cramped. Stackable storage in a bathroom vanity fills the vertical space and tidies up bathroom necessities. Here, bins stack to the top of the vanity cabinet, and their open fronts keep everything accessible.

Rug Trick

Layering gives a ho-hum apartment a touch of sophistication. Take this trick to the floor with a duo of area rugs. Anchor a furniture arrangement with a simple neutral rug, and place a second statement rug on top. Arrange apartment furniture around the rugs for a cozy seating area.

Give plain curtains a bit of personality with this easy painted stripe technique.

Dress Up Your Windows

You're not limited to the mini blinds that come standard in most rentals. Dress up your 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. Use the furniture colors as a springboard for other small apartment bedroom ideas to incorporate into your space. Repeat the colors on accessories and linens for a pulled-together look.

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.

Floor Coverings

In a rental situation you're often 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. Plus, if you’re looking for small apartment decorating ideas on a budget, this fills the bill. If the room is on the small side, you won't need an oversize rug, which can get pricey.

Work With It

Vintage buildings have plenty of charm, but some original elements can pose roadblocks for your best small apartment decorating ideas. 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 bookcase 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 reflect natural light back into the room.

Add pattern to a plain tray with this simple stencil technique. Our secrets to success will show you how to stencil like a DIY pro.

Personalized Accessories

For smart small apartment decorating ideas on a budget, look to 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.

Be Entertaining

Turn your TV wall into a focal point in your rental. 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 taking the TV to the wall creates a surface that can be used for serving 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 object floating on the wall.

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.

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 (keeping safety in mind and taking measures to ensure the bulbs won’t get too hot with the shades—and, of course, checking with your landlord). Shades will will diffuse the light, softening the room's glow.

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 into 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.

Outside In

Use colorful garden stools as impromptu coffee tables or 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. Look for a color or finish that coordinates with several spaces in your home so they can travel from room to room and always look like they fit right in.

Tour the apartment of Eddie Ross, Better Homes and Gardens East Coast editor, and learn his decorating tips for achieving a style that mixes collected finds with modern pieces.

Editor's Tips

Better Homes and Gardens editor Eddie Ross spills the small apartment decorating ideas he used to make his own home look fabulous. Embrace these inspiring ideas and customize them for your own decorating needs.

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.

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 as extra counter space. A sturdy chair can become a perch for clean towels.

Curtain Illusion

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

Hardworking Furniture

A daybed can be a sofa by day and a guest bed by night. Plumped up with plenty of pillows for back support, you can sink comfortably onto 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 sofa to bed easy.

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.

Save Space

Small apartment ideas for space saving rely on multipurpose solutions. 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.

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.

Multipurpose Hamper

Hampers can hold more than just dirty clothes. Use them around your apartment for stashing umbrellas and hats, extra linens, or kids' toys. Employ clever add-ons, such as a basket intended for over-the-door storage, to prevent the hamper from becoming a bottomless pit. Here, a basket “clips” to the side of the hamper to corral hats and scarves.

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.

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 as a small apartment bedroom idea and house shoes or handbags below, or in a living room to hide media components.

Apartment Lighting

Good lighting can completely transform a room, and its source doesn't 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 sconces in hallways or above sofas. Plug-in undercabinet lighting will give your kitchen work areas new life and make cooking tasks easier.

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. Select baskets that coordinate with the room’s style. This way the very functional storage will read as decor.

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