Design and Decoration on a Budget


I live in an off-campus apartment with a few friends. We all care quite a bit about what our apartment looks and feels like, and we’re all pretty unhappy with it right now. The unfortunate truth is that none of us really has much money right now (we’re just college kids, after all), so things like redoing the kitchen or bathroom are kind of out the questions--and it’s a rental property, anyway, so it wouldn’t be allowed (or worth it). Still, we all want to do what we can to clean things up. The space is a little dirty, kind of run-down, and--thanks to a lack of storage and organizational stuff--kind of cluttered up. What advice would the experts give to a few students trying to keep a space nice on a budget?

It can be tough to make a rented apartment feel like home, especially when your budget is tight. The impact of new cabinets and other installations is hard to understate, say the artisans at Cranbury Design Center, who specialize in kitchen and bathroom design and improvements. Still, there are things you can do to spruce up your space.

When it comes to improving a rental space, the key is temporary, low-cost improvements that cause high-impact changes in how you view your space. Things like contact paper, wall tape, temporary wallpaper, and wall hangings are good examples of how to transform a rented space. Experts recommend things like rugs, curtains, and (with your landlord’s permission) paint, all of which can be used both to add something to a space and to hide something (ugly floors, roughed-up window sills, and old paint, respectively).

Of course, if your own clutter is in the way, improving things like bedroom walls and kitchen backsplashes won’t help much. So how can you declutter your space?

You can start by downsizing. Experts say we have a remarkable amount of stuff: the average American home is full to the brim with 300,000 separate items! We don’t need all of that, at least not in our homes all of the time. So consider parting with some items, and remember that you can always invest in off-site storage, says the Clifton, New Jersey-based storage team we spoke to. Storage units are very useful for college students, who may find themselves moving around town (or out of town after graduation), when having an off-site spot for boxes, furniture, and more may prove convenient.

If anything in your apartment is truly run-down, your best bet may be speak to your landlord. You have a right to a well-maintained apartment, and applying a little polite pressure may help you get a better living space.

Good luck! With a little creativity and a little effort, you and your friends may soon gain a more beautiful and functional space.

“Have nothing in your home that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” -- William Morris

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