Discover 19 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Small Apartment Without Going Over Budget

Are you seeking small apartment decorating inspiration on a limited budget? We've enlisted the help of one of Madison's top designers to provide you with some tips and utilized Pinterest to provide you with inspirational images. No need to worry about a low budget!

Laurel McManus Brown19 Small Apartment Decorating Ideas on a Budget

Upper|House photo taken by Laurel McManus Brown, President and Owner of Architecture and Interior Design company, Brownhouse. Laurel has worked on many remarkable interior design projects, including the Upper|House in Madison.

Laurel has shared important insights for beginner decorators, especially those working with a tight budget. She stresses the importance of creating a master plan or "big vision" before making any purchases. "If you don't have a clear direction, you'll end up making costly mistakes," she warns. She advises gathering fabrics, paint colors, and images from Pinterest or magazines to form an overall look and feel.

Laurel suggests using large mirrors to make a small space seem and feel bigger. Inexpensive items can be found at flea markets, garage sales, and second-hand stores. Be creative and use fun paint to spruce up an old chair or try using an old sweater or jacket to re-cover a seat.

Olioboard is a great tool.

To make a small space feel larger, hang curtains closer to the ceiling. Start by decorating one room at a time, as this eliminates stress and will go easier on your wallet.

Laurel notes that you'll want an "anchor piece" in every room. Choose a neutral fabric and style for important items, such as sofas, so that changing the look is as easy as changing accents like throw pillows.

Finally, Brown reminds decorators to purchase functional pieces that they'll utilize often. Functionality can still be fabulous!

When it comes to decorating your home, think beyond the conventional idea of “functional”. According to Laurel, even artwork can serve a purpose by eliciting a positive emotion. Ask yourself, does it make you feel calm or energized?

To make your small apartment feel more spacious, maximize the natural light. This not only brightens up your space but also makes it appear bigger.

Decor creates an environment that shapes your experience.

When working with a small space, scale is key. Contrary to what many may believe, sticking to fabrics and wallcoverings that are larger in scale can make the space look bigger. Check out these temporary wall treatments from for a great example.

Opt for light-colored decorations to reflect the natural light in your apartment.

Online decorating ideas may not always work for apartments, as they often require structural changes. Instead, invest in items you can take with you when you move, such as throw pillows, artwork, and furniture.

Wall treatments that are larger in scale can make a tiny space look bigger.

Multifunctional furniture is a must for small spaces. Consider versatile pieces like Vurni’s “pi-workstation” desk, which can double up as both a study area and extra seating for guests.

Stick to your “Big Vision” when shopping for home décor. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it fits into your overall plan.

In a small living room, it’s all about clever arrangement. Use this helpful schematic for some ideas.

Not all changes may have to be reversed.

When bringing in new items, be ruthless and get rid of old clutter. Letting go of sentimental items might be tough, but it can help you achieve your desired look. Here are some ways to part with your stuff:

  • One option is to donate your items to a local thrift store. Madison Moms Blog has kindly provided a helpful list of donation spots in the area, which you can find through this link (



Selling items on Craigslist may seem like a good idea, but Laurel advises against it as your belongings may not be valued as highly as you expect, and having unfamiliar individuals in your home is less than ideal.

Neighborhood buy and sell lists are an option for screening potential buyers. Check out the Next Door app or local Facebook pages, or simply ask your neighbors for recommendations.

Don't forget about the tried-and-true garage sale. Check out our annual listing to find one near you!

If you're feeling creative, consider making a DIY ottoman with under-lid and side storage for additional seating and storage space.

The reality of living in an apartment is often limited storage space, so it's important to stay organized and keep clutter under control. Make the most of your space by thinking vertically and using your walls for storage. A DIY crate storage unit can be versatile and used in any room for storage needs.

Now that you have the tools to smartly organize your apartment, take some inspiration from Pinterest to elevate your living space. From paint chip art to vintage album art, there are endless possibilities to transform your space. Consider using old belts as a hanging decoration or framing memorable gift wrapping paper. Don't be afraid to get creative and increase the function and aesthetic appeal of your apartment.

Get your hands on the worksheet


Date of Publication: Jun 19, 2018

Current as of: Apr 10, 2023

Topics Covered: Interior Design

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