You're striking out on your own, away from your parents and out of the dorms! It's likely that you're on a budget when choosing your first apartment (no penthouse for you - yet) but that doesn't mean you can't have a sweet pad. Here are some tips for dressing up your new place without breaking the bank.
Choose your theme before buying decor
The most common way for an apartment to look like ... well, a first apartment is by having furniture, wall decorations, window treatments and other furnishings that clash. You don't have to buy an expensive furniture set, but keep a color scheme or basic theme in mind when looking for decor. Not all rooms have to have the same look, a little consistency can go a long way. If you pick a timeless theme, then you can carry most of your home decor into future abodes. Check out some home improvement blogs for inspiration.
Pick out quality shades
ApartmentTherapy.com stresses that natural light is more effective in positively altering your mood than lamps. It may be easy to snag cheap curtains that look like they belong in a dorm room, but it's just as simple to pick up discount window treatments that can dress up any apartment. Pick out shades in muted colors to let in some light, or bamboo shades for a rustic look. Opt for heavier curtains and blinds of a higher quality to ensure that they'll last.
Find unique pieces
You've chosen your theme - now it's time to bring it to life. Rather than buying a flimsy set of furniture, take the time to look for furnishings you love that are available at a lower price. Ask your parents and friends if they have any furniture that they're looking to get rid of. Oftentimes the house you grew up in contains pieces that have been in the family for decades and hold a lot of personal meaning. Garage sales are a goldmine of antique furniture, and the owners are often eager to get it off their hands and are willing to bargain. If you still have a few spots in your apartment that need to be filled, thrift stores are a good alternative to furniture chains.
Don't be afraid to buy furnishings that have some surface damage! A slip for a couch or chair will make it as good as new, and you can paint wooden pieces to make them better suit your theme.
Frame your wall decor
You don't have to get rid of the posters from your teen years (although some of the more questionable ones should probably go). Posters and other wall art can be made into grown-up decorations simply by framing them. While you're scavenging for furniture at thrift shops and garage sales, keep an eye out for simple frames. Measure your posters to ensure that they will be the right size.
Lacking wall decor? A great way to adorn your walls inexpensively is to buy wall calendars that feature art or photographs. You can cut out and frame the pictures, imitating a professional print. On a super strict budget? Go to your local book store and ask if they have any out of date calendars that they're looking to get rid of. If they don't give them to you for free then they'll only be a few dollars.
Take your time
The combination of excitement and stress that comes with your first apartment will make you want to rush to furnish it. This common mistake can lead you to fill your apartment with pieces that you don't love in a few weeks. Take some time off if possible, or at least make the effort to consider the furnishings before you buy them.