How to Beat the Blank Wall Blues: A Beginner’s Guide to DIY Apartment Décor

woman hanging apartment artLook around your apartment and ask yourself these questions:

  • Did the 60s call and ask for your shag carpeting back?
  • Are your walls so white your living room looks like an artless gallery?
  • Are you sitting on the oldest couch known to man, courtesy of a college dumpster diving mission?
  • Is your furniture collection so sparse it looks like you’ve been robbed?
  • Have your friends taken to calling your lamp-less living room “The Batcave”?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you may have fallen victim to It Doesn’t Matter I’ll Be Moving Out Eventually Anyway Syndrome.  Many renters have succumbed to this unfortunate plight, feeling that since an apartment is only temporary, personalizing the whole place just isn’t worth the effort.  But there is a cure.  There are plenty of ways you can improve apartment life without the help of an interior designer or an expensive trip through a Swedish “furniture” maze.  Roll up your sleeves and start with these guidelines, and you’ll be on your way to an updated apartment for half the price.

Budget Wisely

First things first: a DIY apartment requires a budget.  Set a décor budget limit and decide which projects you want to tackle based on that number.  Evaluate the things you most want to change about your apartment before beginning.  Are you tired of your bare walls?  Want to get rid of the old coffee table?  Wish you had more color in the kitchen?  Now it’s time to start getting creative.  Think about where you can shop to save.  Hit up local garage sales and flea markets, give rental furniture a try, and check out consignment stores to start.

Start Small

If you’re not into doing a total overhaul just yet, focus on changing the little things in your apartment.  Adding a dash of color here, a patterned throw pillow there, some framed art, new lighting, a couple of houseplants, or even a coat of paint on one wall can make a big difference in the way a room looks.  You could start by getting a throw rug to cover up that shag carpet.

Work with What You Already Have

If you truly don’t want to go out and buy décor, spend a fraction of the cost to change the décor you already have.  Get creative by thinking about what you can change with the application of just a few bucks and a little elbow grease. Start with these ideas:

  • Update your worn-out dresser with a new color or a classier finish by using a little sandpaper, primer, and a coat of paint or stain.
  • Put a slipcover over an unsightly couch.
  • Re-upholster an old chair yourself.
  • Get a new duvet cover for an instant bedroom update.
  • Rearrange your furniture.
  • Frame and hang posters or old records.

Use Free DIY Resources

The Internet is your best friend when it comes to DIY apartment décor.  There are hundreds of sites (including, of course, the Apartment Life blog) that can help you take your apartment from “eh” to “excellent” with a little, bitty budget.  Try these to get started:

  • – This site is home to thousands of projects for the home.  The DIY Network is a channel dedicated to home improvement and landscaping, so you’ll find everything from painting tips to full-on remodeling advice here.
  • – You can find everything from cookie recipes to cabinet remodeling on Instructables.  All projects are user-submitted, and new stuff is being added all the time.
  • Design*Sponge DIY Projects – Design*Sponge is a popular interior design blog that can offer apartment decorators great DIY ideas.  Find lighting ideas, accent projects, and even upholstery tutorials here.
  • The Design Confidential – The Design Confidential provides guides for construction projects, DIY design, décor inspiration, and more.
  • ApartmentSearch Blog: Apartment Decorating – In the “apartment decorating” category of our blog, you’ll find tips for everything from living room feng shui to kitchen downsizing to patio décor.


Share Your DIY Apartment Decorating Tips

Have you taken the DIY approach to apartment décor?  Share your tips with by finding us on Twitter and Facebook.