Decorating a new apartment or dorm can be both an exciting and a daunting task.
Exciting because, from floor to ceiling, this place is your blank canvas, but daunting because how on earth can you afford to decorate your place on a student budget?
Here are some points to consider that are cheap, easy to execute and impermanent:
First thing to think about is your colour scheme. Depending on the size of your space and your frame of mind, different colours work better than others. For small apartments or rooms, it is best to go with a monochromatic palette which helps make the room appear bigger. For those who are easily over-stimulated, think colour therapy: blue is calming and peaceful, while yellow promotes happiness.
While it may be a throwback to the “80s, wallpaper is a great alternative to paint because it provides texture, pattern and a softening effect to your space. But, if you are not ready to commit to an entire wall lined with a purple paisley print, cut out a piece of your favourite pattern, frame it and hang it up on your wall.
Another cheap and creative way to add some personality to your walls is with chair-rail moulding. This simple addition can really make your place look more sophisticated. Just buy a couple of mouldings from a hardware store and nail them a quarter of the way up the wall. Paint the top portion one colour and then choose a contrasting colour for the bottom half.
While furniture is one area that tends to get a little more expensive, stores like Home Sense and Ikea are great places for some economically-priced pieces. However, a little time, manpower and some artistic talent can make for some great do-it-yourself pieces that are all about reusing and recycling. “Think outside the box,” says interior designer Melissa Buntin. “If you have mismatched chairs then paint them all the same colour, or if you want them to be mismatched then go ahead and paint them each a different colour. It’s eclectic, but that works for those on a budget.” Buntin also explains that it is important to tailor your apartment to your individual style.
When doing projects of this kind, Value Village and the Salvation Army are two bargain stores that have great inventory to work with. They also never lack in kitchenware or appliances.
If you are really low on cash or have too much junk you no longer need, try out the barter system. You may own a chair you no longer want, but have a friend in need of one who would be willing to part with her lamp.
Montrealers also tend to leave their unwanted furniture on the streets. With a quick cleaning or paint job you can be the proud owner of someone else’s junk.
One of the best ways to furnish and decorate is through online marketplaces. CB2.com offers great deals on odds and ends, such as rugs, lamps, vases, and the like. However, if the sales aren’t “sale” enough, then the inspiration you may draw from browsing might still make the visit worthwhile. Another internet gem is www.apartmenttherapy.com, a blog that offers all sorts of styles and ideas for outfitting your home. They even have a whole section on small spaces done cheaply.
Lamps, frames, rugs, curtains, throw pillows, paintings, floating shelves, mirrors, the list goes on. All of these accessories are a great, easy way to accent your space with colour and hints of personality. Buntin mentioned that a lot of people go without the little things, really sticking to the bare minimum when it comes to decorating, which can leave a room looking flat and sterile. “Your space should reflect you,” says Buntin. “If you love plaid, tweed or bright orange, then throw some of that in there by way of a pillow or throw blanket.”
A lot of this can be accomplished with some simple creativity, like taking an old bed sheet and transforming it into curtains or stuff it and sew it into a throw pillow.
For Buntin, one of the most important accessories to include when decorating are mirrors. They give off the illusion of space, so not only are they decorative, but they are also very functional for individuals with smaller apartments. It also helps to fill one’s apartment with lamps: not only does everyone need to be able to see, but lamps also make a place cozy and hospitable.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the freedom to paint, nail or cut away at the walls and furniture in their apartments. One way to battle this is by purchasing decals and vinyl cutouts. These images peel off mess-free and are a great and cheap alternative to paintings. And, of course, a university student staple is posters. With a little tape or sticky-tac you can hang up your favorite band, some words of wisdom, or a movie you love, no frame necessary.
Finally, it is important to remember that decorating your apartment or dorm is definitely worth the time. Try not to get overwhelmed by the size of your space or the lack of money in your pocket. Invite some friends over, pop open a bottle of whatever and just have fun with it. Sacrifice a night (or two) of eating out for an apartment tailor-made for your personality.