You don't need to own your own house -- or spend a fortune -- to have a chic, welcoming home. Renting means you probably cannot make major changes to flooring, paint colors, fixtures, cabinets and countertops, but apartment life doesn't have to be bland or without personality. By shopping carefully and working with what you already own, you can show off your decorating skills without blowing your budget.
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When your budget is small, but your decorating aspirations are big, look for secondhand treasures. Thrift stores, consignment shops, flea markets and garage sales all hide wonderful pieces amidst the junk. Take photos of your rooms before heading out to shop, along with a rough blueprint of your apartment's layout and measurements. Look for furnishings with sturdy frames and pleasing designs. A fresh coat of paint and chic new fabric works wonders on furniture that is in good condition but needs a style makeover, so don't pass up the perfect piece just because you don't like the color or pattern.
Look at the pieces you already own with a fresh eye, and you might find new uses for old furnishings. An armoire no longer needed in the bedroom works in the living room to hold books, electronic gaming equipment, craft supplies or movies. An old trunk works as a coffee table or bench at the foot of your bed, and adds extra storage space. If you only need one nightstand in your bedroom, use the other as a side table in the living room. Repurposing items saves you money, lets you show off your creativity, and adds a whimsical yet trendy touch to your decor.
Rooms filled with perfectly matched pieces look stylish in furniture stores, but flat and impersonal in your home. Show off your own personal style and save money by buying pieces individually, not in matched sets. Keep the look cohesive by sticking with a color palette throughout your apartment. Decide on two or three colors that work well together, and paint, re-upholster or choose decor to match your color scheme. Most apartments have off-white walls and neutral flooring, so liven up your home with decor in darker neutrals, brights, natural tones of green and blue, or black, white and a metallic.
Accessories are an inexpensive way to show off your decorating taste. Hang a collection of framed artwork over your couch. Matched frames make even thrift store artwork look chic and current. Spread your bed with a sophisticated set of linens and a few throw pillows to set off the room. Update a tired bathroom with a modern shower curtain, and add a few luxurious towels. Potted plants are an inexpensive way to add life and interest to every room. Cover bland, neutral apartment carpeting with a colorful area rug in your favorite decorating style.