9 Apartment Decorating Tips

Just because you don’t own your apartment doesn’t mean you can’t decorate. With a few nice touches you can turn your small rental into a welcoming home. Here are just a few tips for converting your apartment into your own:

An apartment living room with a large window, small dining table, a couch with an orange coffee table, a plant, and a bookshelf on the far wall. The furniture is modern looking with sharp lines.

Photos and Art

The simplest way to add some character to your apartment is to add personable art and photos. (Don’t be that person who hangs college dorm room posters.) For a unique touch start at local flea markets and thrift stores to find frames. If you want a cohesive look you can spray paint the frames, or you can leave them as-is for eclectic appeal. Hang non traditional items on your wall like old antiques. Hercules hooks are good for hanging heavier items.

Curtains (“Window Treatments” for the designer-types)

The current window coverings in your apartment are likely less than appealing; replace them with some fabric or ready-made curtains or woven shades. Changing out curtain rods can also help increase window appeal. HGTV has a list of 18 inexpensive window treatments.

Repeated Themes

Tying together a room or apartment can be a challenge, especially when you are trying to join together your own style with that of the living space. Having a “theme” that repeats throughout the space can help lend it some structure. You can start with a color, or a shape, even a collection you may have cultured over the years.

Paint Colors

Not every landlord will let you paint; but if you clear the colors first and stick with something neutral you normally won’t have a problem. If your apartment is small – in other words, if you live in NYC – choose light colors as much as possible. Dark colors make a room feel cramped. If you truly hate the colors and your landlord is being a stickler you can always offer to paint it back before you move out. For color palette ideas, use ColourLovers.

Mirrors and Light Reflecting Surfaces

Mirrors, glass mosaics, or other light-reflecting objects will bounce more light around your room, making your space feel bigger. Don’t go crazy with this, however; no one wants to live in a fun house.


A plant adds a nice splash of color and is a welcome sight in the concrete world we live in. Depending on where it will be located, look for low or high-light plants, and avoid plants that shed. Remember to add a dish below the plant in case you overwater. Water damage is a big no-no for your landlord. If you can’t keep a plant alive, fake plants have come a long ways, but they can be expensive.

Storage-Friendly vs Light Furniture

Renters without much space love storage ottomans, or bed platforms with drawers. We need to create as much space for our things as possible, but let’s not get carried away. If all your furniture is heavy, without gaps for light, your apartment will also feel heavy.  Find that balance between storage-friendly furniture, and smaller, lighter items.


In smaller spaces bookshelves can be used to divide up spaces — such as bedroom areas from living spaces. Open bookcases that let light through can help to keep your apartment looking bright and airy, while still offering added privacy. Avoid cluttering your bookshelves and instead feature interesting pieces on the shelves.

Cover Eyesores

If there are any “ugly” parts to your new rental apartment do your best to hide or camouflage. Adhesive paper can be a lifesaver here; it sticks on and comes right off when you’re ready to move. You can use the paper to cover dented or scratched cupboards or old refrigerators to give your rental apartment a whole new look.

Above all, get creative. Don’t settle for the same old apartment – make it your own.