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Smart Design With Suzette: Create Chic First Apartment

on August 19, 2017 - 8:05am
Chic apartment. Courtesy photo

Los Alamos

So you’ve signed a lease and are getting ready to move into your first apartment—now what? Decorating several rooms of a new apartment in a way that will create a hip, comfortable living space may seem a bit daunting.

Making style the main priority, I’ve set out to prove that you can do it on a budget. Sticking with necessities, there are ways to save without sacrificing style. Having an apartment that’s chic and affordable is totally possible.

Color Scheme

I have discovered that a lot of people, when creating a space, first think about a color scheme. Instead, try gathering photos of rooms that you’re attracted to and identifying what they all have in common. You’ll naturally be attracted to colors that you like, and you may find that the room has a pleasing ‘color scheme’ without it having been planned at all.

Don’t Buy Everything All At Once

Your first apartment is a wonderful blank slate, and it can be tempting to fill it up with wonderful things within the first few weeks. But decorating, like a lot of things, is a process and can be much more rewarding if you take it slow.

First buy big pieces, such as dressers, sofas, and beds, since they’re the most expensive and they anchor the rooms. Then, infuse your personality into the space without breaking the bank by adding budget-friendly accessories, like curtains, wall art, and lighting.


In your new apartment, you’ll find that you have more space to fill. Try shopping your local thrift stores, garage sales and Goodwill. If you can’t find anything locally, check out IKEA,, HomeGoods and of course Target to find inexpensive yet stylish pieces.

A word of advice – stay neutral in your large pieces. This will allow you to add color in accessories, which can be easily changed when you get bored and need a new look. This can be especially great for living rooms, because you can change up color combinations of pillows, drapes, and rugs whenever you want to reinvent your living space.

Extra Seating – Poufs are perfect for apartments because of their versatility. They can be used as an ottoman, a coffee table (with the addition of a tray), or extra seating.

The “Everything” Tray – A simple tray has so many uses: side table, minibar, or nightstand. Since they are rather small in size, they are a versatile first-apartment piece.


Wall Decals

Since you can’t decorate the walls with anything permanent, try adding decals where you need some extra flair. They add instant charm to neutral walls or closet doors. Blogger Erin Hiemstra was tired of looking at drab white closet doors from her bed, so she adorned them with mod palm tree decals. Her apartment feels less like a temporary rental and more like a customized home.

Removable Wallpaper

Yes, it exists. It can go on walls and desks. Think outside of the box. Go bold in small spaces. A desk can come alive with a beautiful wallpaper adhered to the desktop. Best of all, self-adhesive wallpaper is easy to remove when it’s time to move out.


Shower Curtain Art – Start searching around Target, Overstock, HomeGoods, etc. to find an amazing shower curtain. Grab some wood strips, nail them into a square, and staple gun the shower curtain to the frame. When stapled to the frame the shower curtain will become taut and look just like a large canvas print. But guess what — it was super cheap!

Cord art – This hack hits all the right marks. Stop stressing about an ugly hanging cord and turn it into art.

Wall collage – Consider a wall collage that spans across a room or from ceiling to floor. How is this affordable? Well think thrift store art instead of finding art to collect or frame. Even cheap/weird paintings can look awesome when bunched together, and you can always add your own DIY details if you want.


Even with a low budget you can still spice up your space with accessories that will bring life to your apartment. Allow your personality to come through with fun decor like graphic pillows, fuzzy blankets and flowers. Use open shelving as an opportunity to show off mementos and keep yourself organized with fun storage boxes.


Lighting plays a key aspect in the feel of your new space. Not only is it essential to brighten up a room, but it can be used for decoration as well. Keep a floor lamp in your living space, and a table lamp next to your bed—they don’t take up much space, but brighten up your home so much more.

Personalize the Bathroom

Rather than heading right for the “bath” section of Bed Bath & Beyond, search your own apartment for items to repurpose as quirky bathroom accessories. Glass jelly jars and decorative trays all make excellent containers for toiletries.

Don’t Forget the Houseplants

Fresh, green houseplants make a place feel more like home. If a room in your apartment seems like it’s lacking something, try adding a green plant or a potted orchid and see the difference it makes.

Whether you’re using hand-me-down furniture, decorating on a budget, or splurging on luxury, your first apartment is a great opportunity to explore your personal design style!

Feel free to contact Los Alamos Interior Designer Suzette Fox to help with your home. For more information, find her on Facebook at and on her website