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Apartment Design on a Budget

living room mood board
apartment design on a budget

Let’s paint the picture: You just moved into your brand-new-to-you studio apartment. It isn’t very big, but it’s all yours and you’re psyched about it! But wait, you have no furniture for said apartment and you’re not exactly flush after putting down first, last, and security. So now what?

I work with all kinds of spaces and budgets, but one of my favorite challenges is apartment living. They’re home for now but not forever and often the furniture budget isn’t terribly large. The thing is, you don’t need a massive budget to make a space work for you. Below I’ve outlined my top tips for working with small spaces on small budgets. For those of you following along on Instagram, you know that we did a fun little contest in conjunction with this post. The total budget for this design is $1,555! The person who guessed the closest will get a note from me today to redeem their free Quick Question. If you want to play along for future contests be sure to follow me on Instagram (@erindavisdesign). You can also shop this look below.

Ok, without further ado, here are my top 4 tips:

1. Invest Wisely: Choose base pieces that can flex to new spaces down the line and that you really love. I tend to keep these neutral so they’ll work with different color schemes, but if you have a real thing for bright and bold, you should totally go for that teal blue sofa. Keep in mind that “investing” doesn’t necessarily mean buying crazy expensive items. Do your research on each item. It’s just as possible to get a quality bed frame from Amazon as it is to get one from Room and Board. The reviews will tell you everything you need to know. If you’re still struggling to find that right fit, then maybe consider reaching out to a designer like myself (shameless plug). The money you invest in a pro is money invested wisely into your space.

2. Think Double-Duty: Small spaces usually equal little storage. When purchasing items, opt for things that have hidden storage or are double-use: for example, a cocktail ottoman that has a lift-top to stow away extra shoes or a pouf that can be used both as extra seating and as a chair for your desk. Many companies also make beds with drawers and sofas that lift up to reveal storage space. These are all great options if you don’t want to sacrifice style for function.

3. Work With What You Have: Is your bathroom an unfortunate shade of pink? Maybe there’s a rusty old radiator you hate? You have two choices. You can hide it or you can embrace it. In the case of the pink bathroom, you could celebrate the pink and get yourself a palm-leaf shower curtain for a circa 1980s palm-beach vibe, or go glam with mirrored accessories. In the case of the radiator, distraction might be the key. Add a focal point like a piece of woven wall art or a peel-and-stick mural to the opposite wall. A strategically placed plant can also go a long way. Even if the space is perfectly done to your taste, consider using items you own in an unexpected way to make it yours. For instance, I love to use coffee table books as a way to boost up a lamp that’s a hair too short and, bonus, this clears up a little more shelf space.

4. Have Fun: Incorporate your personality into the space. Photos of family, momentos from trips, and messages that inspire you are all important items to surround yourself with. When you’re thinking about color and texture, be sure to create a palette that speaks to you right now. If, as suggested above, you keep your larger investment pieces neutral, then you can purchase less expensive accents that speak to your current aesthetic. In a few years if you change your mind, it’ll be easy to swap out those items for things that fit your new taste. No person’s style is static, so this is just plain-old good advice for all.

If you have any small-space, small-budget tips, leave them in the comments below! Let’s get a conversation going!

floor lamp $249 | bookcase $117 | art $43 | lumbar pillow $28 | chair $320 | table lamp $20 | end table $37 | coffee table $93 | area rug $148 | love seat $500


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Hi there! My name is Erin and I'm the owner of Erin Davis Design, a virtual interior design firm founded in 2017. Here on my blog I serve up tips for creating a home that's functional, beautiful, and right on budget. I hope you'll cozy up on your sofa and stay awhile! 

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