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25 Tips for Decorating Your First Apartment

By: Susan Finch
September 17, 2020

Moving into your first apartment is a thrilling adventure that comes with its share of challenges. However, decor shouldn't be one of them.

Use these creative tips for decorating your first apartment to make your new space feel like home.

1. Don't Buy Everything All At Once

Even with a healthy budget, moving to a new apartment can be pricey. Furniture costs add up quickly.

Start slow and don't buy everything at once while settling in. Give it some time to find out what you truly need.

Purchase day-to-day items like a bed, couch, and kitchen essentials first. Then, work your way through a tiered list of what to buy now, later, and down the road.

2. Decorate Your Entryway

Make an impression with your entryway with a coat rack or bench. Choose a bench that offers shoe storage and a comfortable cushion to sit while getting organized for work.

A small rug can also add a pop of color. It’ll also make the area feel warm and welcoming.

3. Add Some Window Treatments

Windows look bare and uninviting without curtains or blinds to give them some personality. Some window treatments can also help reduce your utilities. They can also help keep your room warm in the winter and cool during scorching summer months.

4. Want to Add Color? Start with a Neutral Base

Color transforms an otherwise drab apartment into a spirited place to call home. Start with a neutral base and work your way into a color scheme.

Many leases also don't allow tenants to paint their walls anything but a neutral color. Use the restrictions as an opportunity to add color with rugs, curtains, furniture, and artwork while retaining a neutral base.

5. Cover Radiators and Wires

Unsightly radiators and wires can detract from a cozy feeling in your apartment. Cover them with cord and wire organizers or decorative boxes designed to tuck away the mess.

Radiator covers can also help tuck away eyesores. Just make sure to find an energy-efficient option that won't trap heat and increase your bills.

6. Invest in a Headboard

Headboards are more than a decorative accent. They also give support to your bed and protect your wall against mattress abrasion.

Go the extra mile for a luxury, tufted headboard, or get inventive. If you can't afford a headboard or it won't fit into your small apartment, try a headboard decal designed to frame your bed.

7. Get Creative with Bathroom Storage

Bathrooms often go unnoticed when decorating your first apartment. However, decorating yours can go a long way to make you feel at home.

Start with creative bathroom storage ideas to reduce the clutter. Focus on a clean, bright aesthetic.

A colorful sink skirt can hide a pedestal sink, as well as storage bins tucked underneath. Decorative trays and mason jars also help you stay organized while refreshing the look of your bathroom.

8. Replace Light Fixtures

Standard apartment fixtures often leave a lot to be desired. Swap them out with pendant lights or faux chandeliers. That’ll bring sophistication to any room, including the bathroom.

Save the old fixture to put back in when you move out. That way, you can take your favorite light fixtures with you.

9. Add Some Wall Art

Wall art shows off your style and creates a conversation piece without needing to spend a bundle. There are plenty of places to buy cheap art for an apartment, including thrift stores, flea markets, and art fairs.

Some organizations, like the Minneapolis Art Lending Library, offer art you can check out and return for free, creating a rotating gallery in your apartment. So be on the look out for those!

10. Invest in Extra Seating

Extra seating is always welcome. Think about entertaining and meeting your new neighbors by investing in extra seating for a conversation area.

Small apartments can house a long, padded bench or multi-functional furniture like an ottoman and bench. Padded, decorative folding chairs are also easy to store and get out during a gathering.

11. Decorate with Plants and Flowers

Plants and flowers are colorful and refreshing ways to spruce up your apartment. They also come with added health benefits.

Choose the best apartment plants for your space from low maintenance options to varieties that promote relaxation and calm. Remember, there are tons of pots with colorful designs to give your apartment decor an added boost.

12. Utilize Functional Decor to Split Up Your Space

Whether you live in a small apartment or need more division, functional decor can help split up your space. Opt for decorative room dividers or curtains and hang to create a little office space in your bedroom.

An eating area can stand out with a small bistro table and artwork to designate your dining spot.

13. DIY Inexpensive Furniture

A lack of budget often keeps first-time renters from their wishlist of furniture. You can DIY it with the help of free online tutorials.

You can paint a discarded bookcase bright red or turquoise. Wood pallets can transform into a wooden coffee table.

Check Facebook marketplace for curb alerts and free furniture from people who are just looking to get it out of their apartments.

14. Pick One Investment Piece

You can DIY your furniture and go the cheap route, but still pick one investment piece that will stay with you for years to come. Think about what's most important to your needs and lifestyle, like an incredibly comfortable couch or beautiful dining table big enough for friends.

Make it a goal to add an investment piece every year, or whatever your budget permits, to outfit your entire apartment.

15. Embrace Minimalism

It's possible to create an entire aesthetic around simple, straightforward apartment decor. Minimalism encourages paring down furnishings to the bare essentials, leaving lots of white space, and living an uncluttered lifestyle.

You may find it's less stressful, inexpensive to recreate, and helps you make better purchasing decisions.

16. Think About Your Laundry Area

Your laundry area can still be included as part of your overall apartment decor with the right approach.

Focus on functionality and organization with your laundry room ideas. For example, you could add a large board over your washer and dryer as a shelf.

Add a bright mat, paint an accent wall, and add a funky light fixture to brighten up the space.

17. Spruce Up Your Walls

Spruce up your walls without adding a coat of paint. Artwork is one way to give your walls a refresh. You can also try a hanging tapestry or peel-off wallpaper and wall decals.

They’re an inexpensive option that cleans up quickly and should stay compliant with your lease. Double-check your lease terms to make sure.

18. Add Some Rugs

Hardwood floors are usually a score for apartment dwellers. However, sometimes they look underwhelming or feel cold.

Warm up your space with some area rugs and runners throughout your apartment. That’ll make your apartment look more inviting and create more separation and division in smaller spaces.

19. Change Out Drawer and Cabinet Pulls

There's not much renters can do about outdated kitchen cabinets and drawers. Landlords may be reluctant to let you paint them or invest in an upgrade.

However, you can easily swap out drawer and cabinet pulls. They're inexpensive, easy to install, and give your room an instant upgrade.

20. Focus on Comfort

Sometimes, we get so caught up in how our apartment looks, we forget about comfort. Focus on a style like hygge that encapsulates a feeling of coziness, contentment, and well-being.

You can customize hygge to fit your needs. However, it typically leans towards warm and neutral tones with throw blankets, pillows, soft lighting, and a fuzzy rug to envelop you after a long day at work.

21. Maximize the Natural Sunlight

Elevate your favorite decor by drenching it in as much natural light as possible. Swap out heavy window treatments for light and airy options.

Move clutter and heavy furniture away from windows. Try hanging a mirror directly across from a window. That’ll create the illusion of additional light scattering across your apartment.

22. Make it Personal

Cookie-cutter design only goes so far in your own home. Make your apartment personal by displaying your favorite photos with friends, travel souvenirs, and hobbies.

As your tastes change, you can swap items to reflect your interests. The best part is, people get an immediate sense of who you are just by walking into your apartment.

23. Use More Shelving

Shelving provides instant storage and enhances your decor at the same time. Pick floating shelves, leaning shelf ladders, and corner shelving to display your favorite keepsakes, plants, and photos. Shelving is also an easy way to get your stuff off the floor and create more space.

24. Freshen up Your Outdoor Space

Your outdoor space is part of your apartment. It deserves its own touch of decor.

Start with outdoor seating to enjoy your space. You can also add a weatherproof mat and string lights to illuminate your patio or balcony.

25. Create a Nook

Whether you live with a roommate or have a place to yourself, everyone needs a private little nook. Invest in a comfortable chair and a small end table.

Add a basket with a favorite book and blanket for a cozy way to spend the morning. It’ll end up being your favorite space in your apartment.

Final Thoughts

With the right decor strategy, your first apartment will feel like home in no time. Start apartment hunting in your favorite neighborhood with Apartment List.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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