paper lanterns

Step back in time

If you don’t mind spending some time getting everything “just so,” you’re likely in for a treat: there’s certainly no shortage of secondhand stores and flea markets in even the most suburban and rural of neighborhoods. While the most truly impressive clusters of vintage shops are typically found in places like New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, don’t underestimate the power of a little ingenuity and patience. Flea markets and estate sales can fill your Saturdays with treasure-hunting adventures as you decorate your space with discounted goods. And of course, online resources like good ol’ Craigslist make budget-minded shopping excursions possible from the comfort of your couch.

If you’re too short on time or patience for Craigslist fails and don’t want to make a sport out of personally perusing antiques and lightly-used home accents, never fear; our friends at Apartment Therapy have plenty of online vintage shopping suggestions for your casa. (Ah, the interwebs… how we love you.)

Get creative

When decorating your space, less can be more, and it’s not necessary to go overboard, filling every nook and cranny with decoration. Just a few thoughtfully arranged touches — well-placed candles in a fireplace you don’t use, personal photographs artfully tacked to a wall in a cool pattern, or even simple paper lanterns strategically hung from a corner of the room — can provide more warmth and character than any expensive designer pillows ever could. Ask any truly creative designer about great use of space, and each one should agree: the greatest way to decorate a space is to let its inhabitants’ personality shine through, loud and clear. And that rarely means deep pockets; it often means ingenuity, like you’ll find herehere and here.

Show your true colors

Maybe you’re the get-it-over-and-done-with-quick type — someone to whom the sentimentality of objects doesn’t really apply. By far, the most straightforward way to impact the look of a home is to use color in big, bold ways — and the simplest way to apply lots of color without lots of time spent mulling over fabrics, knickknacks and tchotchkes is to paint the walls. And the biggest money saver of all in this scenario: putting on some sweatpants, rolling up your shirtsleeves and doing the work yourself.

Pick a different color for each room, or choose one color for the central living space and one separate color for the rest of the apartment (with the landlord’s blessing, of course, or at least the knowledge that you’ll be painting right back over it before you move out if you want to see your security deposit again). For greatest results, leave baseboards, doors and chair railings (if you have them) off-white for a classic contrast. And don’t forget the painter’s tape and drop cloths — they’re essential.

Chalk it up

If you’re particularly artistic or just love a good bit of nostalgia, chalkboard paint is a fun and affordable way to cover your walls (okay, perhaps not all of them — maybe just one or two), leaving open an endless array of options for decor; you can write a favorite quote in huge chalk letters one month and spend the next filling the room with doodles, or notes to yourself, or a non-stop game of tic-tac-toe with roommates. All it takes is a few cans of Rustoleum from the local hardware store and you’re good to go.

Inspired? Want more? Check out the Moveline blog archives for more budget-friendly ideas on making a rental feel like home. And if you’re moving in the near future, let Moveline help. By taking the reins, getting quotes on your behalf and overseeing your entire move, we take the stress and headache out of the process entirely — for free. So don’t go it alone. Partner up with us and make your move easier than you ever imagined.