Apartment decorating tips that have saved our team's rentals

All the cozy and comfy vibes ✨

Colorful living room with white shleves
(Image credit: @mylifeinmulticolor)

If you're about to move into a new space and are looking for some apartment decorating tips that'll make it feel like home, you've come to the right place. 

The reality is that knowing where to start with a new apartment can feel a li’l overwhelming, especially when you’ve never had to decorate anywhere (besides your bedroom) before. You want to create a beautiful space that is the epitome of your personality but you just don't know where to start. 

I’ve been where you are, so to help make the process of decorating your first apartment as fun and free from stress as possible, I’ve consolidated all of the Real Home team’s very best apartment decorating tips.

Best first apartment decorating tips the Real Homes team swears by

Moving into your first (or second) apartment is super fun but it can be overwhelming, too. Not sure where to start with the decor and design? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 

1.  Opt for peel and stick wallpaper 

Naturally, you want to make your space feel like your own (and we encourage you to do so) but what you don’t want to do is make the whole apartment decorating process harder than it needs to be. Hence our ecommerce editor Christina recommends saving yourself the stress of using traditional wallpaper and instead opting for peel-and-stick wallpaper (like this herringbone wallpaper from Amazon). It tends to be more budget-friendly, easy to apply, and it won’t damage your walls (or upset your landlord).  

2. Hold onto your dorm fairy lights 

You might be tempted to throw out your old dorm fairy lights (this 12-pack of fairy lights from Amazon are my go-to) but our social media editor Nishaa recommends keeping hold of them. 

"These dorm decor staples are super-versatile and will also brighten up your apartment," she says. "Consider placing them in tinted glass vases, draping over your full-length mirror, or saving for the holiday season!” 

Fairy lights not doing it for you? There are plenty more renter-friendly lighting ideas worth copying.

3. Utilize adhesive hooks and strips  

Invest in adhesive hooks or strips (our top picks are Command hooks from Amazon). This might sound basic but hear us out because it's a hack worth knowing. These hooks won't cause damage when hanging things in an apartment and are helpful for more than just artwork. 

"Command strips and hooks have made such a difference in my rental," says staff writer Eve. "I've hung up so many wall art pieces using Command strips, and they've all lasted for a good couple of years without falling down."

She's used them for other functions, too. "I've also stuck a Command hook at the back of my door, and then looped my wreath thread over the top of my door to hang it neatly, without damaging the door paintwork," she adds.

4. Pick functional furniture 

Our editor-in-chief Melissa recommends investing in furniture that is actually functional. 

“I had the crappiest little couch for a while and it was pretty useless," she says. "It wasn't comfortable and made the room look weird. I ended up saving up and buying a highly-rated small couch (similar to this vegan leather one on Wayfair) that was perfectly cushioned, fit my personal decor style, and served as a space where guests could sleep, too!” 

5. Don’t rush the decorating process

It’s easy to want to make your new place feel amazing instantly, but don’t make the mistake of rushing to decorate. Epifano recommends that you take your time decorating your apartment.

“I've rushed into buying decor in many of the apartments I've lived in and wasted a lot of money on items I didn't really love or didn't actually work in my space," she says. "Don't put pressure on yourself to make your apartment perfect in a matter of days or even months. Take your time curating!”

7. Nail the lighting 

It’s such a simple thing, but if you get the lighting in your apartment wrong, it can significantly impact how the space looks and feels. “Living in a strange city for the first time, I found my space felt so sterile and gave me the ick when I flicked the switch on," says Epifano. "Find lamps or cozy lights that are enough for reading and hanging out but make your space feel like home. You'll be blown away by the difference it makes. This is super important for city living when you want to escape the hustle.”


How should I go about decorating my first apartment?

Take your time with choosing a decor style and theme. Don't rush the decorating process. If your apartment is a rental, be creative with the approach that you take with decor. Don't make the mistake of doing anything that will annoy your landlord or lose your security deposit. 

Which room should I start decorating in my new apartment?

The room you choose to start decorating should be the room that you use the most. That way, even if you only get one room decorated, you will end up loving the space. In most instances, this will often be the bedroom, kitchen, or living room.

Moving into your first place comes with a lot of stress so knowing how to approach the process of setting up your space and making it somewhere that feels like home is important. Now all you need is some cute furniture for your place.

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.