Apartment Decor on a Budget

I know that I am not the only person in the world who has design tastes that are loftier than my current means. While what I have now is infinitely better than the shared roommate spaces that I have had over the years in which I have made the best of leftover furniture and dollar store pieces (which I still stand by), I still do not have the budget to create a fully curated Crate & Barrel home. However, I have learned a few tips and tricks that make my spaces feel like I invested the totality of my social worker sized paycheck while actually allowing me to keep a bit in my savings. Below are some tips for apartment decor on a budget!

Houseplants are Living Decorations

I may not be able to buy all the sculptured end tables and furniture pieces that I want but boy do I have plenty of plants. Houseplants are my favorite budget apartment decorations. While I could practically live at beautifully curated local plant shops like Solabee, Pistils, Arium, and Birds and Bees Nursery I also don’t count out finding an affordable little guy at my local Ace Hardware. I love huge plants just as much as anyone else but I have learned that initially purchasing a smaller plant is not only more affordable but you can have pride in yourself as a successful plant parent when you grow yourself a large plant statement piece! A word to the wise, map out the kind of light each room in your apartment gets and buy and place accordingly, I admit that I have killed plants because I stubbornly wanted to place a plant that needed bright light way too deep into the apartment to get the light that it needs. If you are stubborn like me and have a little extra in your pocketbook you can always invest in a few Soltech grow lights. While plants take some time, work and care, they are one of my favorite affordable ways to make your apartment feel like a home.

Functional and Affordable Kitchen Decor

Overall, I try to reign myself in budget wise when purchasing items for my home. However, to quell my itch to have beautiful items I allow myself to buy what I refer to as “small nice things.” For example, I may not be able to purchase a $1,000 accent chair but I will spend more than I “should” on a few beautiful coffee mugs or a well designed Terazzo cutting board from Ecovibe. I don’t hide these items in my (very crowded and cramped) kitchen cupboards. Instead I try to integrate them into my home decor. Those mugs became a key part of my coffee bar and that cutting board is central to the design of my mini bar atop my credenza. This not only helps my apartment feel more homey, but is also a matter of convenience-I don’t have to put my head deep into the scary pits of my cabinets and try to wrestle out my cutting boards because they are already out and ready for my attempts at cooking fancy food.

Be Patient and Wait for Sales

I used grocery store apple boxes for nightstands for longer than I could admit. I dreamed of having simple, but stylish nightstands to gingerly toss my items on before I go to sleep. The curved terrace nightstands from West Elm really caught my eye. This was one of those products that I continued to visit but couldn’t rationalize spending a considerable amount on nightstands, until one day there was a 40% off sale. To be honest I might have over rationalized the purchase and still bought them if it was only a 5% off sale but sticking it out and holding off for a sale really paid off in this instance for me as they are one of my favorite pieces in the bedroom. It looks like I color I have (petrol blue) might not be available anymore but I think they look just as chic in gold! Either way, if there is something that you love, have patience and it may go on sale. Or it might go out of stock and you will be left dreaming about what could be- life is a gamble!

Be Thrifty, Buy Vintage

I referenced my new credenza when I talked about small space storage in a previous blog, but I didn’t go into detail about the journey to find it. I honestly spent several months scouring the internet for something that was small enough to fit the space, but still roomy enough to hold all the items that I needed it to hold, while also not being a trillion dollars. I found plenty that fit the first couple of requirements and still sometimes daydream about those choices. However, I found that the ultimate solution is a classic one, buying vintage. Not only is my credenza from Lounge Lizard PDX perfect for the space and function but it is well made, sturdy and makes me proud to have bought something that was previously well loved and used. Buying vintage can not always save a bit of money (if you look in the right places) but it can also help you flex your creative muscles. Sometimes you need to sand or paint a vintage item to make it work in your space. When I look at my credenza I feel pride, and my credit card feels like it still has plenty of space on it.

Frame it Yourself

One day I might reach the point where I can buy endless amounts of pre framed, high quality artwork as I please. However, today I am plenty happy to engage in a work around that I find works plenty well for me! I have been known to purchase a print by itself and then take myself to Michaels and purchase a frame and a mat myself. While I wouldn’t really want someone to do a close inspection of my work I feel pretty confident about the color and fun that I am able to add to my walls without breaking the bank. Currently I have my eye on a couple Lili Arnold prints that really deserve space on my wall.

Throw Blankets & Throw Pillows

I have a throw pillow problem. As someone who talks about small spaces and small space storage solutions you would think that I am not someone who has throw pillows stuffed in every little conceivable and concealable crevice of my home. If you think that you would be absolutely wrong. However, I am not all that ashamed since changing up a couple throw blankets and pillows is pretty much one of the easiest and affordable ways to freshen up a room. Want to make your apartment cheery for the holidays? Add a plush velvet red pillow and a pine tree themed throw blanket to your bed. You got some holiday cheer for under $40. Is your living room looking boring? Buy a retro print throw pillow and toss that baby on your couch. It is easy, it’s fun and it prevents me from spending my entire life savings on new furniture when I get bored of my surroundings. If you need something to do you can also fetter away hours of your time trying to learn how to make a throw blanket look relaxed, cozy, unintentional and still very much well styled.

Use What You Have

Probably one of the most important things you can do to save money while creating a home you love is to use items that you already have. I am not sure why this is so far into the article, but what can I say, throw pillows, nightstands and plants excite me. I have items that I have lugged throughout all of my approximately 876 living situations since I moved out of my parents house (could be a slight exaggeration on the amount of moves but it feels like it). These items that I can’t bear to part with also provide an affordable building block to beginning the design of a new home. I also know that some new-ish items will become a part of the lug around crew as I am not ready to part with my joybird couch or my mid century style dining table anytime soon. While I don’t always have it on hand, I enjoy the sleek design of Straightaway Cocktails bottles so much that I am happy to integrate them into my bar display. Building vignettes out of items that you love is a trusty (and affordable) way to create cozy spaces in your small apartment.

Fill Up Your Nooks and Crannies

Small spaces often times means that you need less furniture to fill up space. My “office space” didn’t make too much of a budget dent as essentially it is a leaning desk and cute office chair wedged into the end of my hallway. All it took to finish off this space was placing it behind a fabulous beaded curtain and my once barren hallway is now a chic work from home space. Don’t be afraid to use the space that you have with items that make you happy.

Mix It Up With Flowers

I must admit that I am someone who oftens gets bored with my surroundings even if I spent a bunch of time carefully curating my design. While you read that I combat this with throw pillows, another key tool in my arsenal is flowers. I use that credenza that I love to drone on about to store a bunch of different vases. I scatter and switch up these around the home to reflect my mood and the season. This is a great way to support local ceramic shops that also fits in nicely to my “small nice things” mantra. It also gives me an excuse to grab a couple blooms from Starflower for a perfect seasonal refresher.

Honor Your Own Style

Will everyone love my orange couch and my beaded curtains? Probably not. However, that is what makes designing your home special. Buy the dang lava lamp, paint your walls black and adorn your space with crystals if that is what makes you happy. A well designed home is a home that reflects your personality.

About Jenny

I live in a small apartment and I love finding new ways to make it look good and still feel comfortable to live in and not overly crowded or cluttered. I look forward to sharing my small apartment ideas as I go!


  1. What a great read! The tips are so helpful but after seeing all your apartment photos, what I really want to know is…how do you take care of your plants? They are THRIVING!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *