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5 Ways to Decorate Your College Apartment on a Budget

Decorating your college apartment doesn't need to be an expensive ordeal. These five tips will help spiff up your new space without breaking the bank.

The boxes have been packed, moved, and unpacked. The bed has been made. The kitchen cupboards have been stocked. The furniture has been positioned just so. Now that you’ve got the basics established in your college apartment, it’s time for the fun part: decorating. 

Unless you’re a true minimalist, you’re going to want to add some decorative details to make the space your own. However, buying décor for the floors, walls, and tabletops can be tough if you’re working on a student budget. Before you get started, check out these five tips on how to decorate your college apartment without breaking the bank.

1. Throw down a rug

When you’re living in an apartment that houses different college students every semester, there’s a good chance you’re going to find a few marks on the floor. Don’t waste your time, energy, or money trying to scrub set-in stains with pricey cleaning agents. The easiest way to tackle a stained floor is to roll out a throw rug. Throw rugs come in almost every shape, size, color, and pattern imaginable. It should be easy to find a rug that matches your color scheme and suits your personal style.

As with most household items, throw rugs range in price from the very affordable to the very expensive. Do some comparative shopping and look for online discount codes and free shipping options before ordering. The money you save on a rug can be extra money to spend on textbooks or food. Just try not to leave your own set of stains for the next tenant.

Keep in mind, small throw rugs are great for high traffic areas such as entryways and floors in front of kitchen and bathroom sinks. Larger throw rugs are ideal for placing beside a bed, underneath a dining table, or beneath a coffee table.  They’ll add life, color, and a bit of comfort underfoot, so you’re sure to get a lot of bang for your buck.

2. Make use of multipurpose furniture

If there was ever a multipurpose piece of furniture created with the college student in mind, it’s the futon. Serving as a couch and a bed, a futon makes a great place to sit during the day and can be easily converted into a bed at night for that one friend that never seems to make it home. 

Another helpful piece is the storage ottoman. It’s a place to sit, a place to rest your feet, and a place to store all sorts of small household items. No one has to know that your favorite footrest contains magazines, textbooks, or other junk that you refuse to get rid of.

3. Make your own wall art

Rather than spend your hard-earned cash on someone else’s photo, painting, or print, get creative and make your own art to hang on your walls. Create a collage of favorite photos of your family and friends. Buy a tube of paint and a cheap canvas board from your local craft store and create a one-of-a-kind painting. Pick a few favorite photos from your recent travels, then add a cool black and white filter and print them out to display your own photography. There are a lot of easy and affordable ways to create your own art so you don’t have to spend money on expensive designs and pricey frames.

Not in the mood to create your own art? Instead of hanging a painting or a frame, hang a few wall shelves and decorate them with small trinkets and personal items. Fairy lights and string lights are also a great way to add interest to a wall without spending a ton.

4. Look smart and sophisticated with a multi-level bookshelf

Nothing says “I’m studious” like a bookshelf. In a small apartment, opt for a corner shelf and display your favorite books or vinyl records to give your place a sophisticated vibe. Remember, bookshelves aren’t just for displaying books. Mix up your display by placing books, framed photos, and decorative items side by side or on different shelves to create depth and interest.

In a bedroom, a bigger bookshelf can offer a variety of useful storage options for things other than books. A three- or four-tier bookshelf can hold folded clothing, shoes, handbags, and hats. And they’re usually much less expensive than a dresser or a chest of drawers. 

5. You can’t go wrong with Ikea

When you’re decorating on a budget, always, always, always check out Ikea. Sure, you’ll have to assemble the furniture pieces yourself, but where else can you find chairs, tables, and duvet covers for under $20? You’ll find an endless assortment of furniture, decorative items, and textiles, making it easy to express your style and save your cash for other things. 

When shopping at Ikea, keep an eye out for multipurpose pieces like the ones mentioned above. Coffee tables with underneath storage shelves offer levels of storage and help maximize space. Ottomans with hidden storage compartments serve multiple purposes and are ideal for use in any small apartment or dorm.

If you want to decorate on a budget, keep these tips in mind. With a bit of creativity and DIY skills, you can turn your college apartment into the space you’ve always dreamed it would be. 

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Carolina Cove is a best-value apartment complex catering to students in the Wilmington, North Carolina, area. Our new state-of-the-art upgrades are sure to make you feel right at home.


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