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17 Cheap & Easy Decorating Ideas for Small Apartments


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Will Southall

Will Southall

a year ago - 8 minute read

Furnishing a small apartment doesn’t have to be a mammoth of a task. It doesn’t have to cost a ton of money either!

If you’ve found a new rental apartment that’s on the small side, or you’re about to buy a studio flat that feels somewhat like a shoebox, interior designers have already come up with full-proof ways to make a small space look bigger than it really is.

Just because it’s small, you can still get creative and fit your dream aesthetic in a cosy, little apartment. No matter whether you’re renting or buying, these trickster hacks can help you decorate your small studio apartment in a cheap, easy, and space-saving way.

Here’s how!

Top Tips to Make a Small Apartment Look Bigger

Before we get into our favourite cheap and easy decorating ideas for small apartments, there are some things to bear in mind when fashioning your studio flat.

Size, colour palette and volume matter if you want to make your small space look bigger than it really is.

When creating your mood board and choosing the perfect furnishings, here are our top tips to help you maximise space and trick your guests!

  1. Choose Raised Furniture

Elevated furniture tricks the eye into thinking there’s more floor space than there actually is. Tiny bedrooms and studio living spaces look bigger and taller when the bed, sofa, wardrobe and TV units have legs.

If you’re on a budget and can’t afford new furniture, research whether you can fix legs to your existing stuff. Most freestanding mirrors, dressing tables and chests of drawers have removable legs that can be swapped out relatively cheap.

Just make sure your new legs can hold the weight of the furniture and anything else on it – which is especially important if you’re swapping legs on a sofa.

  1. Use Mirrors Wisely

Creating reflections is an old trick to make a room look bigger. But it works every time!

If you’re getting a new wardrobe, choose mirrored doors. If your hallway is dark and narrow, hang or lean a big mirror by the entrance to brighten things up. Got a small living room? Add a large, freestanding mirror behind the sofa!

The possibilities are endless. Use your mirrors wisely, and you can make any bedroom, bathroom, hallway or living room look bigger than it is.

  1. Keep it Minimal

Declutter, declutter, declutter! Cramming too much stuff into a small apartment blocks sunlight, removes floor space, and makes things feel stuffy.

Go minimalist if you want your apartment to feel spacious. Keep shelves relatively clear with just a few statement pieces featured – like a plant, several books and a bold accessory.

Don’t empty your apartment completely, though. Some people think going minimalist means getting rid of everything, but that’s not strictly true.

It’s more about being intentional and mindful of how you accessorise your home. Instead of simply filling the space, your furnishings serve a purpose and utilise space in the best possible way.

Plus, small rooms look even smaller if there’s nothing (or too little) in them!

  1. Stick to a Lighter Colour Palette

If you want to make a small apartment look bigger, accentuate the natural light as much as possible!

Stick to a lighter colour palette to trick the mind into thinking there’s more space than there is. Pastels are excellent choices – like a nude, concrete grey, mint green or summer blue.

If you want to be safe, paint everything white and add splashes of colour via plants or accessories – like cushions, rugs and shelving decorations.

  1. Go Bigger

It may sound contradictory to go for bigger furnishings in a small apartment, but large décor items maximise space better than lots of small accessories do.

It’s a hack most interior designers use when furnishing a studio to give it a minimalist look and make the square meterage feel larger.

When buying mirrors, wall art, plants and other accessories, choose something that’ll fill the shelf, wall or corner almost entirely if you want to make your apartment look bigger.

  1. Lean-In, Not Out

Ditch the boring, vertical shelving units if you want to make your small flat look bigger! Ladder shelves, cabinets, bookcases, and any other furniture with a small top and big bottom are perfect choices for studio apartments.

Because they lean inwards (rather than upwards in a straight tower), it draws the eye vertically, making the ceiling look bigger, and the entire area feels less cramped.

6 Cheap & Easy Decorating Ideas for Small Flats

Having a petite budget doesn’t mean you can’t make a small flat look good. Cheap and easy decorating hacks are a trend – for homeowners and renters.

If you need inspo about how to decorate a small apartment on a budget, here are 6 cheap and easy decorating ideas to get you started.

  1. Get Creative With Wall Dividers or Screens

Studio apartments usually have fewer “zones” than a house. Your kitchen, dining area, living room and sometimes even your bedroom are all in one place.

Keeping it open plan can make your studio feel bigger. But another way to trick the mind is to create more zones.

Add a wall divider or screen to separate some of the areas of your apartment to create additional “rooms” – like between the sofa and dining room table or the kitchen and living area.

  1. Choose Modular Furniture

Modular furniture is a hot trend for small apartment living. Since you don’t often have much living space or a spare room, flexible furniture offers convenience and spaciousness.

For example, a modular sofa has removable blocks that can be disassembled and reassembled. It can transform into a bed (without being an uncomfortable sofa bed) or a recliner sofa.

It’ll be like having a spare room for guests or a big, comfy sofa to lounge on with friends – without taking up tons of space day-to-day.

  1. Upgrade Light Fixtures

Low ceilings can make a room look small and stuffy. Having a dark, circular lampshade in the centre will take up too much eye space. It’ll draw attention to the low ceiling – and not in a good way!

Avoid this and swap your lampshade for something transparent, like acrylic or glass. Or invest in a new fixture that sits flush to the ceiling instead, like a light bar or Nordic-style recessed light.

  1. Pick Lighter Bedsheets

A quick, easy and cheap way to make a bedroom or studio apartment look bigger (and brighter) is to simply swap out your bedsheets. Choose something light, like a pastel colour, to maximise the benefits.

If you don’t want to buy new bedsheets, add a throw or some light-coloured cushions instead. It’ll make your bed look bigger and reflect natural sunlight around your bedroom simultaneously.

  1. Hide Radiators

Radiators can look dull and boring – especially in a small apartment. If you rent and can’t paint the radiators to make them look brighter, adding a cover can work wonders.

Decorate the cover with an accessory, and you’ve created a whole new “area” in your small apartment! Choosing a white cover will make the area look bigger and brighter. It’ll also add extra shelving space.

  1. Upcycle Thrifted Furniture

Stale furniture (especially stuff that doesn’t have legs) can make a small apartment look even more stuffy. If your cabinets are in good condition, save the planet (and your cash!) and fix them up to create something you love.

You can brighten it with a lick of paint, sand it down to restore the original wood, or fit contact paper to make it unique, like with a marble effect. You can even add legs to raise it off the ground and maximise floor space.

If you don’t have any decent furniture, you can fix it up, visit a thrift store or online marketplace. See if you can bag a cheap deal on something with potential.

Top Tips for Decorating a Small Rental Apartment

Just because you’re renting your small studio apartment, that doesn’t mean you have to live with your landlord’s ugly décor choices!

Just remember, you can be charged and lose some of your deposit if you break the lease or damage the property in any way when decorating.

If you’re renting and want to decorate, here’s our advice on how to do it right (without risking your deposit).

  1. Check Your Lease

Firstly, you need to check your lease to see what limits and boundaries your landlord has set around decorating.

If your landlord doesn’t allow decorating, you can submit a request during your tenancy. It’s always better to ask about decorating a rental before you sign the lease, but it’s still worth a try – especially if you’re a long-term tenant.

Remember, most landlords don’t let tenants decorate because of how unpredictable it can be.

Their main concerns are usually that you’ll either decorate badly (imagine a bad paint job!) or in a style that’s too “bold” (i.e., they’ll have trouble re-letting it in the future without redecorating first).

A great tip to convince your landlord is to create a mood board with the type of style you’d like to go with when decorating.

Be clear about what colour scheme you’d like to adopt and reassure them that you’ll paint things professionally, not slapdash. It’ll show that you’ve thought things through and aren’t just sloshing paint around on a whim.

Related article: A renters’ checklist: First things to do when you move into a property

  1. Set a Strict Budget

It’s always a good idea to set a budget before you start decorating a house or apartment. But if you rent, it’s even more important!

Since the property isn’t yours, you won’t see any financial return from decorating it. Even if you plan on renting long-term, you’ll still be investing in a space that isn’t yours.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your living space and making it your own. Just make sure you aren’t spending too much money on things you can’t take with you – like paint or new flooring.

  1. Take Pictures

If you’re decorating a rental without your landlords’ permission (which isn’t recommended!), you’ll need to revert everything back before you leave to keep your deposit.

Don’t rely on your memory of how things used to be. Take pictures of everything in the apartment before you decorate and keep the photos backed up.

Before you move out at the end of your tenancy, you can use the images to help you restore the property.

As a pro tip, try to snap a few close-ups of the walls, too. If the image is good enough, you may be able to take it to a DIY store in the future to get a colour-matched pot of paint.

Related article: How to extend or renew your tenancy agreement

  1. Lean, Don’t Hang

If your landlord lets you hang pictures or shelves, this is great! Just be careful to read the lease properly. Some landlords may allow you to hang things but still require you to patch up any holes before leaving.

To save yourself time, effort and money at the end of your tenancy, choose furnishings that lean on the walls rather than hang.

For example, choose a large, freestanding mirror over a nailed-in one. Or pick a shelving unit that rests on the walls rather than hanging shelves.

If you want to hang a canvas, get creative and choose something big enough to lean behind your bed. Or simply rest a frame on top of your nightstand or against an empty wall.

  1. Go Removeable

Rent-friendly decorating is a hot trend. DIY stores and online retailers are all on board with helping renters make their living space feel like home.

Instead of painting or replacing things, go removable with contact paper, removable wallpaper, stick-on flooring, or peel & stick tiles.

It’ll save time and money when it comes to moving out – since you’ll just need to peel it away rather than repaint everything.

Just be sure to test out the products before applying them. Some sticky decorations can damage surfaces – which could lose you your deposit.

About to Rent a New Home?

If you’re preparing to move to a new rental, have you already started saving to pay for your tenancy deposit? At Fronted, we know that making an upfront cash payment can be tricky – especially if you have to pay your new deposit upfront before getting any of your old ones back.

Lifetime Deposits are a perfect solution for renters like you where your deposit moves home with you. Check out the details of how our Lifetime Deposits work or get yours now.

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Will Southall

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Will Southall

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