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20 smart ideas for small apartment decorating on a budget

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).

I’m all about small apartment living. Since 2012, I’ve lived in apartments as small as 250 square feet. Right now, I’m in a 400-square-foot cottage with a lofted bedroom and no full kitchen. In this post, I’m sharing my top tips for small apartment decorating on a budget!

1. Command hooks/strips are your friend.

These peel-and-stick Command hooks don’t damage walls—so if your apartment lease has a clause stating you can’t make holes in the walls, these are your best friend. You’ll use them to hang picture frames, curtain rods, kitchen spoons, mugs, and more.

Get this variety pack of Command hooks. You’ll be using them a lot!

2. Think oversized.

A big mistake that small apartment dwellers make is that thinking having a tiny space means putting in tiny furniture. Wrong!

You actually want to FILL the space of the room with at least one key piece. Believe it or not, this will make the space feel LARGER, not smaller.

So for your bedroom, opt for a queen size bed, instead of a twin size bed.

For your living room, get an oversized area rug that fills most of the space, instead of a teeny one that’s barely larger than your coffee table. Trust me on this one!

3. Use mirrors to create the illusion of more space

The reflection in the mirrors can make it seem like there is another room or another window. Opt for a big, tall leaning mirror to put against your bedroom or living room wall.

4. Use S hooks for hanging plants on curtain rods

I used this hack when decorating my cottage! I have thick, sturdy curtain rods that can hold a decent amount of weight. I wanted to hang plants without drilling holes. So I bought these S-shaped hooks and used it to hang the planter on my curtain rod. Super cute!

5. Get tall, large plants

Again, you want to think oversized. For your living room, get at least ONE big, tall plant. For example, I had a six-foot fiddle leaf fig in my 400-square-foot studio. It made the space feel more spacious. Plus, the pop of green was nice.

6. Have fun with one accent wall

In general, small spaces call for light colors. Like, an all-white room WILL feel bigger. But if you get bored with all white, you can have some fun with ONE accent wall. Remember, dark colors will make the wall feel closer to you, so it can make the room feel smaller. But if it’s just on ONE wall, it can be fine and stylish!

7. Let the natural light shine in!

When you’ve got a small apartment, you want as MUCH sunshine to get inside as possible. Light, bright spaces feel larger. So be sure to open those curtains and try not to block windows with furniture.

8. Play with fairy lights

Going off of the light theme here, fairy lights make a playful addition to a small apartment. I absolutely LOVE these fairy lights because they come with clips so you can also put photos on them.

9. Unframed posters can be classy too (and don’t require making holes in the wall!)

I hung up this poster with poster mounting squares. They can be removed without damaging the wall.

10. Opt for light, bright colors

Light colors reflect light and make a room feel bigger, while dark colors absorb light and can make a room feel smaller.

11. Use bookcases to divide up the room (great for studio apartments!)

It may seem counterintuitive, but dividing a room (especially a studio apartment) can make it feel bigger. Many people love using bookcases to separate areas, which is exactly what I did to create a “bedroom” in the corner of my former studio apartment.

12. Check your local Buy Nothing Facebook group

I feel like Buy Nothing is the best kept secret. It’s a national movement to upcycle items and freely give them to your neighbors. You can post a request or scour the posts for people offering. NO money can exchange hands. It is NOT a trading group. All items are given freely without anything gotten in return.

I got a really nice toaster oven, mugs, cutlery, and more for my apartment thanks to my local Buy Nothing group!

13. Buy used things for cheap on Facebook Marketplace or at Goodwill

Of course, you can also scour Marketplace, Goodwill, or thrift shops in your area for cheap finds.

14. Install floating shelves to create more storage and the illusion of height

If your landlord lets you drill holes, install these floating shelves. They are visually appealing because they climb up the wall and create an illusion of height. Plus, they’re practical! Store books, plants, or photo frames on them.

15. Get a tall bookcase

If you don’t want to make holes in your walls, get a tall bookcase. The leaning ladder bookcases are a great pick for small apartments!

16. Use contact paper for a faux marble countertop upgrade

This peel-and stick marble paper has a sticky side that you can stick to the countertop. You can remove it later without damage!

17. Experiment with peel-and-stick wallpaper for a temporary pop of color that won’t damage walls!

Similar to the above idea, you can get temporary wallpaper! Add a pop of color to your walls without damaging them.

18. Get a headboard that doubles as shelving for your bedroom.

With small apartments, it is ALL about multipurpose. Get a headboard where you can also store stuff. Two for one!

19. Invest in an over-the-toilet organizer/storage space.

Let us not forget the bathroom! This over-the-toilet organizer is great for saving space, AND it doesn’t require any drilling! It uses tension rods to stay up.

20. Opt for long, drape-y curtains.

Morning harmony. Dark-haired young woman looking out the window

When you install curtains in a small apartment, you can do two things to make the place feel more spacious:

  1. Move the curtain rod HIGHER than the actual top of the window to make the window appear taller.
  2. Get extra long curtains so they pool on the floor.

Both of these methods will create an illusion of taller ceilings and more space. Plus, it just looks so stylish!

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Advice for Millennials shares real-life advice from real-life millennials about all the things they wish they'd known—from finance to health to careers.

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