27 Innovative (and Cheap) Apartment Decorating Ideas

cheap framed images above couch
Framed images above the couch

Decorate your apartment cheaply by repurposing and upcycling every day items. A few ideas of what you want and a little creativity are key to adding stylish décor to your apartment without spending a lot of money.

Upcycle Ideas for Cheap Decorating

There are all types of resale finds that you can upcycle with a little effort to make great decorating ideas for your apartment. All it takes is a little imagination for using unusual things or everyday items a different way.

Making Art

  • Framed art: You can frame magazine photos, as well as old calendar photos, for cheap and attractive wall art.
  • Rubber mat: Repurpose a rubber mat by painting and using it for unique wall art.
  • Colorful yarn banner: If you are a knitter or stumble upon leftover balls of yarn, take a page out of Jenni's I SPY DYI project to make a colorful banner.
  • Old quilt wall art: Select areas of the quilt that are in good to fair condition and cut out squares and frame. You can also cut out silhouettes and glue to a darker colored stock paper and place in a frame.
  • Mismatched China: You can often find various pieces of china at yard/attic sales. Collect a few different salad, bread and butter, and dinner plates to create a wall display using plate hangers.

Storage Ideas

Southern Enterprise Over-The Door 3-Tier Basket Storage, White
Door storage basket
  • Basket wall storage: Wicker and baskets can be attached to the wall in a bathroom, kitchen, or office to create decorative cubby storage. Many also attach to the back of a door, keeping your apartment looking neat and clean.
  • Cake stands: Buy cheap and stack two together for great bathroom or kitchen caddies. Use a smaller one on the top.
  • Cubby shelf table: Repurpose a cubby shelf system for an end table. Use a staggered design and place a lamp and other objects on the table top. Store books, magazine and other items the cubbies.
  • Drawer shelf: Paint a drawer or two from a nightstand or end table and repurpose for a shelf in the bathroom to hold a hairdryer and toiletries. Use one on top of the dresser for jewelry, makeup or perfume bottles, or a planter for a bouquet of silk flowers.


OPCC Wall Deco DIY Paper Photo Frame with Mini Clothespins and Stickers
Mini Clothespins and Stickers
  • Instant coat rack: Paint/distress old boards. Rest them on the floor vertically and secure to the wall with a simple picture hook system. Add a clothing hook to each for a unique coat/hat rack that adds needed color to a plain wall.
  • Mirror tray: Use a mirror for a tray on a coffee table, vanity, or dining table.
  • Photo clips: Display your favorite photos using a decorative cord and clip the photos to the cord.
  • Dried bean candle holders: Use varying sizes of clear candle holders and fill half-way with dried beans or peas. Place small column candles on top of the peas for a great look.

Window Treatments

  • Roller shades: Use an inexpensive vinyl roller shade and customize it by replacing the vinyl shade with a fabric one for a more expensive look.
  • Shower curtains for draperies: Shower curtains are usually cheaper than window curtains and can be used for windows.
  • Doorknob tie-backs: Old doorknobs can be repurposed as curtain tie-backs.
  • Sheets for curtains: Use flat sheets with a pocket rod. Mix and match from yard sale finds for a bohemian style.

Decorate Glass Jars and Wine Bottles

Painted and distress Mason Jars by It All Started With Paint
Distressed chalk paint mason jars
  • Paint jars or wine bottles: Linda at It All Started with Paint makes distressed chalk paint Mason jars for storage containers. Use taper candles or silk flowers in wine bottles.
  • Decorate jars: Cut and glue decorative paper to the outside of a jar and tie a ribbon around the center. These containers are great for holding makeup brushes, kitchen utensils, and even flowers.
  • Paint clear vases: Can't find the color vases you need? Purchase clear glass vases from a discount or dollar store and mix glass paint the ideal color then paint the outside. If using silk flowers, paint the inside of the jar.
  • Wrap wine bottles: Use a glass glue and wrap used wine bottles with twine or colored cord. Display on a table, floor or shelf.

Give Furniture a Second Life

You can often discover true treasures for a fraction of the cost of new and often lesser quality furniture. Furniture is a great resale value item and best shopped locally due to shipping costs.

Take advantage of these valuable finds in multiple ways:

Mismatched chairs at table by Sarah Richardson Design (Design Inc., 2008)
Sarah Richardson Design (Design Inc., 2008)
  • Mismatched chairs: You can paint each chair a different color for a fun touch or you can place chairs of a similar color but different styles at the table.
  • Chalk paint: Chalk painted furniture is still a favorite refurbishing tool for the budget-minded.
  • Stencil: Use a gold paint and add a scrolled stencil on the drawer faces of an old sideboard.
  • Distressed: This look is still desirable. You can always add a colored paint to complete this effect.
  • Decoupage: Not everyone considers decoupaging a piece of furniture, but it's an excellent way to re-purpose and give a creative personal touch to a tired table, chest of drawers or even a rocking chair.
  • Replace chair seats: Chairs with upholstered seats can be re-upholstered with scraps of fabrics sewn together to create a patchwork cover. Buy remnants at yard sales and fabric stores.

Tips for Making Sure Your Design Works

It's easy to get caught up in the thrill of great finds. Set a few rules to help keep you on your budget on track and your design cohesive.

  • Love it: Your first shopping rule should be that you must absolutely "love" the item you're considering purchasing to avoid items you later regret buying.
  • Define items you need: If you need a bed frame, be specific. What size bed? Do you want a wood, iron, or fabric headboard? What style? Do you want a four-poster or sleigh bed? Do you prefer a headboard only? The more you can define, the easier your upcycling and potential shopping will be.
  • Keep color and theme in mind: Don't buy the first thing you see or take on the first crafty project that works for your furniture or accessory piece. Take a moment to ask if it's the right color and if the modifications fit into your overall décor theme.
  • Size, scale, and proportion: Measure all furniture pieces before purchasing. Will each piece fit in your apartment?
  • Be flexible: You want to find items as close to your ideal. However, be flexible, especially if you find something that's to die for but wasn't on your list of must-haves. It's a balancing act, so be reasonable. Ask yourself if you'll enjoy seeing it every day.

Set Up Your Apartment Cheaply

Pick up supplies, materials, and cheap décor online through websites like Overstock and eBay and check out discount stores like Target, Home Goods, and Dollar Tree. For freebies, Freecycle is a great group to get involved with; to get additional cheap finds, check out thrift stores and yard sales. When you create your own cheap decorations and supplement with a few great yet inexpensive purchases, you're sure to set up your apartment's décor to create a home.

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27 Innovative (and Cheap) Apartment Decorating Ideas