How to get the perfect apartment aesthetic on a shoestring budget

Your space will look anything but cheap

Two pictures of colorful dining rooms on a pink and orange background
(Image credit: Desenio / Ruggable)

Whether interior design is your jam or you find designing a bit intimidating, there’s no doubt that decorating an apartment can be tough. Throw in a tight budget and the challenge only feels bigger, especially if you want more of a designer feel to your space. And I mean, who doesn't? 

If you want to decorate an apartment on a budget before you get frustrated or cave in and overspend, use these thoughtful tips from Ashley Danielle Hunte, an interior designer and founder of Style Meets Strategy. Her ideas will help you create a dreamy and more expensive-looking apartment, regardless of your budget. This way, you can impress all your guests without breaking the bank.

Ready to make your apartment look aesthetic AF? Scroll on down for Hunte's amazing tips...

1. Choose a few key pieces that have a high impact

A dining room with a wooden dining set and a pink rug

(Image credit: Ruggable)

Start designing your space by thinking about two to three staples that will make the biggest statement. Hunte’s go-to pieces are art, area rugs, and plants for decorating an apartment on a budget. Each offers a fun way to express your personal style at a variety of price points.

For example, you could choose a bright, patterned rug to showcase your vibrant personality or hang a painting that has a special meaning to you. Hunte adds that plants also offer greenery that can make a space feel more cohesive, complete, and designer.

After you’ve nailed down a few key items, then you can start to layer in some on-trend pieces. “I try to stay away from committing to big trends because you can end up switching them out too often,” Hunte explains. “It’s okay to do trends on a smaller scale.”

2. Pay attention to scale and proportion

A dining room with a dining set and wall art

(Image credit: Desenio)

In order to make your apartment feel more luxurious, a little bit of education goes a long way. “It’s one thing to buy a handful of pretty items for your space, but if the scale and proportion are wrong, your home won’t feel luxurious or cohesive,” Hunte says. “Skip the trends (some of them) and try to think about how you live and what works best for your space.”

Small apartments, for example, might not want the same additions as a space with more square footage. A gallery wall is the perfect example of this mindset at work. “Don’t create a gallery wall just because everyone else is doing it," says Hunte. "Sometimes one piece of art can go a long way to help elevate your home."

A large piece of art that you love will offer your space a focal point and will give your apartment more of a high-end feel. On the other hand, a gallery wall can sometimes make a space feel cluttered. “It's not about what you use, but rather how you use it and how it fits your space,” she adds.

3. Be selective with accent decor

Hanging macrame disco balls

(Image credit: UO)

If you’re on a really tight budget, you might be tempted to purchase several small items to add to your space rather than a few pricier picks. Too many items can make an apartment feel cluttered and unintentionally designed. Instead of busting your budget on knick-knacks, Hunte recommends that renters spend their money on higher quality vases, art, and a couple of small decorative objects, like candle holders or book ends. A little bit goes a long way. Plus, it can be helpful to live in a space for a bit first before you go all out on accent decor.

4. Hold off on purchasing big furniture items

A set of pink drawers

(Image credit: Wayfair)

You splurge on a comfortable sofa only to feel frustrated when it doesn’t fit into your next apartment — we’ve all been there. Choosing furniture can be one of the most overwhelming and aggravating things about small living. It’s hard to invest in items that you know might not work in another space later down the line unless you've found a quality item in a really good furniture sale that won't make a dent in your bank balance.

To combat this, Hunte says it’s best to hold off on purchasing furniture that you don’t really need in your current apartment. “Your aesthetic when renting versus your aesthetic and functionality when owning a home might be completely different,” Hunte says. “Plus, with a new home, many people want a fresh start.” It can be hard to let go of furniture when you’ve spent a lot of money on it, so sticking to the minimum while renting is a smart and strategic move.

5. Add personalization through DIY projects

A blue bed with colorful peel and stick wallpaper behind it

(Image credit: Target)

While you might not be able to repaint or re-carpet your apartment, you can still spruce up your space with some simple DIY projects. Hunte’s go-to is removable wallpaper. “It's amazing how much of a difference wallpaper can make," she explains. "It can add personality, texture, pattern, and color." Add some to one wall in your bathroom or as a makeshift backsplash in your kitchen. Another one of Hunte’s favorite tips for renters wanting to give an apartment designer appeal is to add removable floor tile, which she thinks is great for covering up eye-sore bathroom tile.

Sticking to a budget while decorating an apartment is a doable task when you take your time and plan ahead. The key is to remember that less is more. Be patient and remember that good design takes time. Live in your apartment before adding more to it — this will offer you a better perspective on what’s truly needed in the space.

Up next: How to organize a small apartment

Kara Thompson

About me: 

Kara Thompson is a Denver-based journalist with over five years of experience writing lifestyle content. She has written for a variety of publications, including,,, and Parents, where she covered all things home, food, fashion, travel, and holidays. During her time on staff at Parents, Kara launched her own home decor and organization column named Save My Space. In 2022, she left her full-time job as an editor and started her own writing, editing, and social media firm, Kara Thompson and Co.

Tennis, New York City, bourbon cocktails, and her sister's German Shepherd are a few of her favorite things.

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