14 apartment decorating and design ideas

Fall back in love with your shoebox of an apartment with these space-enhancing decorating and design ideas

Bedroom by Ikea
(Image credit: Ikea)

Looking to redecorate or redesign your apartment, but tight on space and/or you are at the mercy of a landlord? 

We get that when you are limited with what you can do in a small space or rented property, it can be tricky to envision a space that you would be happy with. So, to help you feel more inspired by your shoebox of an apartment or tiny flat, here are a few decor ideas to make your home a little more stylish…

Looking for more advice and inspiration designed with your small home in mind? Take a look at our small spaces hub page.

1. Make your space efficient 

When you are living in an apartment that has been generously labelled as a 'studio', there are only so many mirrors you can hang to 'bounce light around' or multi-functional furniture you can buy to 'maximise space'.

The key thing is just to be realistic about how much you can actually fit into your apartment and make everything you do choose really space-efficient. For example, do you really need a kitchen table? Or will a breakfast bar or a handy kitchen island with more kitchen storage be a better use of space? 

Find more inspiration in our storage ideas for small kitchens.

2. Switch up your apartment layout

Before you buy, re-envision what you already have. Refocusing the layout could allow you to update a rented apartment without splashing out. 

Try floating your furniture – just because your apartment might be on the small side, it doesn’t mean that everything has to hug the walls. If you are working with a studio apartment, you can also use furniture to make distinctions between different zones (more on that later). 

There are plenty more ideas over in our easy steps to refreshing your rented flat this weekend.

Sall apartment with boho style

(Image credit: Nedgis)

3. Upgrade your lighting 

Is it just a given that most rented apartments come with awful lighting? Swapping out all those builder-grade light fixtures for some funky shades is quick and easy but still has a big impact.

If you don’t have the option to replace the light fixtures, just invest in plenty of floor lamps, string up fairy lights and avoid using those ugly overhead lights. 

Festoon lights by Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

A gallery wall is the perfect way to add a ton of interest to a space, especially if you are decorating a living room on a budget.

They are our go-to for quickly making a room feel more lived in and hanging a gallery wall yourself is probably much more straightforward than you think – especially when you use our guide to how to hang a gallery wall.

There are plenty ideas over in our fab gallery wall ideas, to get you excited about designing your own gallery wall, too.

Top tip: If you are renting (and want to leave with your deposit), Command Strips are a fail-safe solution for hanging your gallery wall. 

Gallery wall

(Image credit: Norsu )

5. Update apartment walls with wall hangings 

Want an alternative to displaying photos and pictures? Fabric wall hangings and rugs are a quick and cheap way of brightening up your standard-issue blank wall and give a touch of that on-trend boho vibe. 

Find plenty more advice and inspiration in our guide to how to display pictures and photos.

Rugs used as a wallhanging in a bedroom

(Image credit: Modern Rugs)

6. Dress up plain windows 

Whether it’s dirty curtains or depressing aluminium blinds, a lacklustre window treatment is always going to give a space an unpolished feel.

Swap out your old curtains for fresh ones (these Tibast curtains from Ikea are super cheap) or a simple roller blind. 

Bedroom by Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

7. Get creative with statement wall designs 

If you can paint, do. It’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways to switch up a space. You don’t just have to stick to one block colour either, add a feature wall with colour blocking or try out an ombre paint effect. 

Thinking of trying a paint effect? Our specialist guides are here to help:

Dulux colour of the year

(Image credit: Dulux)

8. Cover boring tiles with decals

If your bathroom tiles or kitchen splashback are in need of a refresh, steal this idea from @spencer.monk and cover them in stylish stickers (yes they do exist, just check out the awesome selection at Etsy as well as our pick of the best wall stickers)

9. Camouflage the carpet 

If you are renting, pulling up the carpet just isn’t an option, and even if you don’t have a landlord to answer to, it’s still a pretty expensive job. So instead of replacing the carpet, cover it in layers of rugs to add extra colour and patterns. 

Layering rugs

(Image credit: Maisons du Monde)

10. Use curtains as room dividers

For all you studio apartment dwellers, you may understand the nostalgia that sometimes overcomes you when you remember what it was like to have (more than just four) walls.

Obviously, you don’t want to go dividing up your space with actual solid walls, but you can put up some soft walls (ie, curtains) that can separate your space into zones. The great thing about these temporary walls is you can easily take them down when you want to open up the space again. 

Room by Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

11. Add plenty of (Instagram-worthy) wall shelves 

When square footage is limited, keeping everything organised is key, hence the need for extra savvy storage. Wall mounted shelves look amazing (as the #shelfie trend proves), they are often inexpensive, plus they will save on precious floor space, too. 

Go for something that's functional and flexible like the String System so you can move the shelves around, add closed storage if you need to and even install a super compact home office by adding a desk. 

Weekend 🌿🙌🏽🎊 🌿Anna & Emma🌿

A photo posted by @planttwins on Jul 1, 2017 at 1:29am PDT

12. Don’t be afraid of paint (even if your landlord is)

Trying to add color to an apartment that is painted in various hues of greige can be tricky, but fear not, you still have options.

Can’t paint the walls? Use our guide to how to paint furniture and tackle your chairs, headboards, wardrobes and more – so long as they are yours to paint, anything goes. 

Painted bedhead with stripe wallpaper

(Image credit: Farrow and Ball)

13. If in doubt... house plants

Greenery makes even the smallest of spaces feel fresher and more interesting. And if you don’t have space to spare for house plants on the floor, trying hanging them instead.

Check out our house plants care guide for more inspiration. And, for more indoor gardening advice, we can help too!

Living room filled with houseplants by Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

14. Recover your couch, armchair or footstool

If your landlord's taste in furniture is...questionable...or you can't afford to replace the tired looking sofa you bought years ago/inherited from a distant aunt, don't write off gorgeous looking furniture just yet.

If you're working with a piece from Ikea, Bemz are the brand you've been looking for. Producing stylish looking covers and legs for your sofa, armchair, footstool and much more, it's never been easier to instantly upgrade a space for much less than the cost of buying new.

For an even more budget option, pick up new cushions and a couple of throws to revamp your sofa and, in turn, your living space.

A post shared by BEMZ (@bemzdesign)

A photo posted by on on Mar 3, 2019 at 8:12am PST

Looking for more decorating inspiration?

Small Spaces Month:

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Hebe Hatton
Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer. As a renter, she is always looking for creative ways to make her flat feel like home. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration.