You've done it. You've finally moved out of mom and dad's house, and you have your very own apartment. And of course you want it to look like all those beautiful spaces you see on the design blogs you love, but there's one problem —you don't have any money. Here are a few tips for getting the look that you crave, without blowing your budget.
No one has a perfect home two weeks after moving in. (Ok, some people do, but these people are superhumans, freaks of nature.) Don't feel like you have to have absolutely everything in place right away. It's better to take time to find the perfect end table, or lamp, or rug, rather than spending money on something you don't really love and won't be satisfied with.
Start with the basics and build from there.
Of course, there are some things you need right away, like a mattress (although maybe not a headboard) and a couch. But other things, like end tables and maybe even a dresser, can wait until the right piece comes along. Take a look at our handy checklist of essentials (and non essentials) for your first apartment.
Invest in high-quality pieces.
It might seem counterintuitive to tell someone who doesn't have any money to buy nice things, but the truth is that, if you only consider price and not quality, you may end up buying three cheap sofas that inevitably fall apart instead of the one nice one you really wanted. I'm not saying that everyone can (or should) drop $2,000 on a sofa, but for the most essential pieces (like your mattress and your sofa), it's worth taking quality into consideration.
When it comes to sourcing furniture, get creative.
You don't have to buy everything new. When it comes to sourcing quality pieces on a budget, places like Craigslist, eBay, garage sales, estate sales, and antique stores are a wonderful resource. Sofas in particular (and upholstered furniture in general) can be prohibitively expensive when purchased new, but there's a lot of used (or antique, that sounds nicer) options out there with great shapes. If the color or pattern of a particular sofa isn't to your liking, you can always buy a piece you love now and recover it later when the budget permits.
Another great source for furniture? Anyone you know who is moving or downsizing. In New York, people give away furniture all the time, since it's so difficult to move. Join a community or church email list and you may find yourself with a new couch or mattress in no time. And don't be shy about asking relatives or parents, either. I got my first couch (which was admittedly not very attractive, but which I loved dearly) when my parents upgraded.
Add a few pieces of DIY art with a big impact.
One mistake I see first-time decorators make is hanging art that's way too small, which can make a space feel messy and cluttered. If you're lucky enough to find a big piece of art that suits your budget, definitely snap it up: if you're not, try one of these DIY options.
Remember that less is more.
You may be tempted to fill up your apartment with little tchotchkes to give it that 'decorated' feel and make up for the fact that the rest of the furniture is a little lacking, but keep in mind that an uncluttered, minimal space can actually be very soothing. Sometimes less is more — and buying less little things means you can save more money for the big pieces you really want.
There's a reason stylists always take flowers with them when they do interior photo shoots — flowers add life and beauty and texture to any space. Fortunately for you, even if you can't afford to have fresh flowers in your home all the time (and really, who can?) you can get the same effect with plants.