Tips for Decorating an Apartment on a Budget

The PropertyClub Team
Nov 14th 2019
So you’ve found your dream home and are ready to start a new chapter in your life. That’s exciting! But don’t let that excitement die down if you realize that decorating/interior design isn’t exactly your strong suit. If your budget is tight after moving to a new place, then you should keep in mind a few things when decorating your home. We’ve got a few expert tips and tricks for you, along with some recommendations of interior designers in NYC that won’t break the bank.

Moving into a new apartment is an exciting time for renters and homeowners alike. After all the hassle with having your belongings moved to the new place is over, the fun part can really begin. Or at least in theory. While some people have a great eye for design, most of us rely on Pinterest findings, but there are some wiser folks out there who reach out to the pros to help them make their apartment feel like a home. We've reached out to a few excellent interior designers to ask for advice and help us compile a list of some of the best tips for decorating an apartment - without breaking the bank. 

At the end of this piece, you'll also find a selection of New York City home decor/interior designers you can hire to help you turn your new apartment into that cozy place you've always dreamed of. 

Color palette & accessories

When decorating your home, be prudent with the color palette. It's recommended that you stick to two primary colors, especially if your apartment has an open-plan living room that also serves as a dining room or an office. 

‘I have found that if the ceiling, floors, and walls are of similar tonality, it eliminates visual boundaries between them, hence, making the space feel larger. The color should be cohesive, either dark or light,’ New York City-based interior designer Vicente Wolf recommends. 

You can, however, have fun with the decor by adding a multi-colored painting, rug, or textile, which will pull your color scheme together. Use throw pillows and fluffy blankets during the cold season to delimit your areas. Consider investing in two sets of home goods: spring/summer and fall/winter items; this way, it will take a lot longer before they get that ‘used and abused’ look.

Let in the daylight

A bright room will feel more spacious and joyous, so make the best use of the natural light at your disposal by using window treatments that let in a lot of light. Sheer fabrics or blinds, especially during fall and winter, will beautifully frame the window and let in some much-needed natural light. The lack of light during winter can put a damper on your productivity and energy, so try to take advantage of the few hours a day that it makes an appearance. If a room needs to be dark at night, such as the bedroom, roller blinds provide that discreet blackout option when required. 

Don’t rule out artificial light

Designers recommend you have at least five sources of light in a room, placed in different locations, on different levels, and if possible, with dimmers. Light has this incredible power to add depth and layers to a room; some simple yellow-tinted bulbs can dramatically change the ambiance in a room, casting their warm light and creating a cozy vibe. Add a reading lamp by a sofa, throw in a fluffy blanket, and your evenings will be too few for your growing bookshelves. 

There are four main functions of light in any room: general, for everyday use, ambient light, for a softer mood, task lights, for working and specific activities, and decorative lighting. Do not shy away from investing in lights, as even though you are a renter, once you leave, you can take them with you. 

Work with what you've got

One of the worst things you can do when decorating an apartment is to force a theme where it isn't suitable. For example, if you have wood paneling in your kitchen, try to work those warm tones into your decorating plan. Don’t go for a minimalist, industrial-steampunk theme, because it won’t necessarily work with the material. If you have a burgundy red carpet in your living room, accept that it's a power color and make it stand out by pairing it with colors like beige, white, gold, or pale blue. Use the layout and the existing materials, if any, to your advantage. That’s a practical tip to follow, particularly if you’re a renter and can’t afford to redecorate or renovate the apartment from your pocket. 

Mirrors, mirrors on the walls

An old but worthwhile trick that creates the illusion of more space is using mirrors. Depending on where you decide to position a mirror, it can work to reflect natural and artificial light, making the room appear brighter and more spacious. Aim to add mirrors on walls perpendicular to windows, not directly across from them; the latter positioning can bounce the light right back out the window. Mirrors are highly decorative on their own, so you can also play with the frame type to add to your decor. There are a myriad of affordable options out there nowadays, of different sizes and shapes, so you don’t need to spend a lot of money on mirrors. You can also check out flea markets, antique shops, or used furniture stores for mirrors and other decorative items for a vintage look and feel. 

Consider functional furniture

Smaller spaces are cozy, but it's essential to combine function with form to make the best use out of that limited space. Anna Tatsioni, an interior designer at Decorilla Online,  suggests using a murphy bed and drop leaf tables, and recommends you also make the most of the vertical surfaces with shelves, bookcases, and closets, especially if you have high ceilings. You can also opt for stools that double as side tables or ottomans that can be used as coffee tables. Marie Burgos from Marie Burgos Design suggests a dining bench with storage and also reminds us that it is best to invest in larger statement pieces than in a series of small furniture pieces that will take up more space visually, as they will be scattered around. 

Know your green friends

Plants immediately add life to any room, and it's a low-cost, non-permanent way of adding style to any apartment decorating scheme. If you're not too experienced in this field, go to a farmer's market or a florist shop and ask for advice. They will be able to help you choose those plants that are better suited for the amount of light and humidity in your apartment, or plants that don't require a lot of maintenance. Not only will plants give a chic, lived-in vibe to your new home, they will also benefit you healthwise. You can even pick plants that help detoxify and purify the air and bring in more oxygen. If you live in a highly-trafficked and polluted area, then you should absolutely consider getting some plants as roommates. 

Get professional help from an interior designer

Moving to a new home, whether it’s a rental or your own place, can take a lot out of one’s pocket, we’re aware of that. So many of you might think, ‘I can’t afford an interior designer right now, I’ll just handle it myself.’ The thing is, this is the absolute best time to consult with a home decorator or interior designer because it will be more challenging to redecorate later when you’re settled in. Working with a designer doesn’t have to break the bank, either. 

The folks at Decorilla insist that you work with a professional, as there are many options out there for all budgets. What’s more, designers ‘can save you a lot of money, time, and trouble by making the correct choices and getting a cohesive and stylish look that would be impossible to achieve without a professional.’ Decorilla, for instance, offers flat-rate package options, as well as exclusive furniture discounts, no matter the budget, says interior designer Devin Shaffer

Interior design recommendations in New York City

If you want to consult with professionals in your home decorating endeavor, we’re going to make it easier for you by recommending some of the best interior design/home decor experts in NYC. Check out below a list of our favorite companies, and make sure you reach out to them to see what they have to offer and how they can help, regardless of your budget.