5 Tips For Living in the Big City on a Tight Budget

From Apartment Therapy House Tours

After reading the Times' article about young people spending a lot on small spaces in New York City, my first thought was, "Hey, that's me (only I'm older), and it's probably a good percentage of our readers!" From Manhattan to Miami, people come to Apartment Therapy looking for ways to make the most of their small urban apartments. High rents coupled with small budgets mean that they may not have a ton of money to spend...

Time and again, the people who open their homes up to us have shown that it's possible to live well on less in a New York City apartment — here are some things we've learned from them.

1. ADD COLOR WITH PAINT & TEXTILES
Brooklyn resident Josh won Apartment Therapy's Room for Color contest. His living room is a pretty standard New York box with parquet floors, but he dressed it up by painting the walls (with Benjamin Moore's "Newburg Green") and adding some patterned throw pillows and blankets to the daybed.

2. MAKE YOUR GRANDMA'S FURNITURE WORK
Mike and Maddie work in public schools and live on the Upper West Side in a charming 500 square foot apartment. A big percentage of their pieces were inherited from Maddie's mom, grandma, and great grandmother, including a desk, several lamps, and a mirror. Because the apartment mixes vintage and modern looks, the heirloom pieces feel right at home.

3. MIX HIGH & LOW
Annie and Paul's Upper West Side apartment is just 390 square feet, but they've made use of every inch by filling it with only things they love and use. They've also got a great eye for mixing high and low pieces. The room's focal piece — the sofa — is Room & Board, but everything else in the living room is from IKEA, craigslist, Target, Urban Outfitters, West Elm...or it's something they made themselves.

4. DO IT YOURSELF
Roommates Jeremy and Ralph live in an 875 square foot apartment in Spanish Harlem. Their space looks expensive, but it's really a combination of resourcefulness, DIY skills, and an eye for repurposing. Their dining room shelves are made from Home Depot pipes and pine planks from a local lumber yard, and their apartment is full of other good DIY ideas — see the tour for more.

5. PERSONALIZE YOUR HOME WITH ARTWORK & ACCESSORIES
Matt lives in a 375 square foot studio in Queens, but the space constraints haven't stopped him from individualizing his home. He says the first thing friends comment on is his artwork. An Albers-style painting in the bedroom is an inexpensive and easily DIYable way to add color, and the throw pillows add personality to a basic IKEA bed.

For more New York City apartments packed with ideas, check out our archive of latest house tours.

Re-edited from a post originally published 11.19.10

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