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Your home should support you, help you relax at the end of a busy day and, when you’re a student, keep you going through long study sessions. But when it’s your very first apartment we’re talking about, creating a space that feels like home can be a challenge. If you’re reading Houzz, it’s not going out on a limb to say you would like your rental to look a bit more polished and personal than the average dirty-laundry-strewn dorm. No matter your budget, these 10 tips are a good place to start.
1. Buy in pairs. Make the most of inexpensive finds by buying multiples. One vase, lamp or ottoman is OK, but a pair makes it look like an intentional decorating choice. In this living room, a pair of simple floor-length mirrors hung side by side makes the small room feel more spacious, while a pair of stools creates an inviting spot for guests. Small, flexible furnishings tend to be less expensive than larger pieces, and they can easily move with you and be used in different ways in the future.
Here a pair of basic Ikea metal cabinets in red creates the look of a longer sideboard. The illusion that they are one piece is reinforced by the pair of matching lamps set on each end.
2. Splurge on bedding; save on furniture. A basic bed frame will do the job, and a handy side table from Ikea should set you back only a few bucks. You can save on these items and spend a bit more on bedding. What’s on your bed then will become the focal point of the room. You sleep there, so it’s a worthy place to splurge a little.
3. Try chalkboard decals. Love the look of a chalkboard wall but can’t paint in your rental? Try chalkboard decals instead. They’re removable and do wonders at livening up big expanses of a boring wall color.
Of course, if you’re dying to paint something with chalkboard paint, it doesn’t have to be a wall. With a few coats of chalkboard paint, nearly anything can be transformed into a chalkboard surface. An old mirror with an interesting frame is a great starting point. And if you can’t hang it because of a no-wall-holes rule, just prop it up on a table pushed against the wall.
4. Choose a few large artworks to bring focus to walls. A big piece of art, like the elephant print shown here, is a great way to add personality to your space without painting. Or for a twist, try a wall-mounted planter filled with succulents or fresh herbs. Afraid you’ll kill living plants? Do as these creative renters did and tape fake plants to the wall to create the look of a hanging planter.
5. Store stuff in glass jars. Everything from dry pasta and coffee beans to office supplies looks better in glass jars. And they don’t need to be fancy to do the trick. You can pick up a box of big mason jars for under $20. Or even wash jars and reuse them instead of dumping them in the recycling bin.
6. Think of new uses for adhesive strips and hooks. Don’t let a no-holes policy stop you from enjoying artwork, mirrors and even wall sconces in your apartment. The strongest versions of adhesive strips and clips, or even Velcro strips, can be lifesavers when you rent. Try using them instead of nails and hooks to hang small picture frames, lightweight mirrors and even plug-in wall sconces.
7. Embrace clip-on lights. Clip-on lights can be a convenient way to add light exactly where you need it, and the tiniest versions look pretty decent. Try them as bedside lights or clip some to your bookcases, in the closet, above the kitchen counter or anywhere else you want extra illumination.
8. Add something fluffy. A fake sheepskin draped over a chair, a cuddly throw on the sofa or a knit blanket on the bed makes a space feel comfy and homey. A warm rug underfoot can help immensely, too. Try a flat-weave in the dining space (easier to clean) and something really warm and fluffy beside your bed so you can sink your toes into it on chilly mornings.
9. When in doubt, add some baskets. Facing an organizing problem? No matter what it is, or what room it’s in, baskets can probably help. Choose open-top baskets if you want to be able to see the contents, lidded baskets if you want to hide them.
Take a cue from this family home and use labeled wire baskets to sort roommates’ belongings in the entryway.
10. Treat yourself to something just because you like it. It’s your apartment — don’t forget that! So when your budget allows, go ahead and treat yourself to those pretty candles, that terrarium tray or that art book you’ve had your eye on. It’s the personal touches you’ve chosen just because you love them that will begin to make your first rental feel like home.