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4 Thrifty Tips to Decorate an Ugly Apartment


Renting an apartment (or buying a new house for you homeowners) always comes with decorating… challenges. After the boxes are moved in and the initial thrill of having a new place ebbs, you might start to notice some issues with your new pad. Not leaky faucets or dirty blinds, I’m talking it looks like night time at noon in your living room and, “What is with that funk-ified ceiling fan?”

As a renter, or budget-conscious homeowner, you might not want to replace or remodel the trouble spots in your new home. Learn the art of complementing what you can and covering up what you can’t, oh young tenant. Check out these tricks to fix four common apartment eyesores.

Ugly kitchen cabinets

Maybe you’re renting a place where the cabinets haven’t been replaced since it was built—in the 1950s. Or perhaps your landlord cut some corners and installed cabinets that look like they fell off a truck somewhere. Think particleboard so cheap, they may as well be cardboard cabinets.

What to do, what to do about those funky (and not in a good way) cabinets? Instead of showing off those ugly cabinet doors, take them off and let your cute dishes, curios and knickknacks take the spotlight. All you need to achieve this look is a screwdriver. Simply store the cabinet doors in the back of a closet somewhere and reinstall them when you move out.

Changing the hardware on your kitchen cabinets can also give them a new, fresh look. Pulls and knobs are easy to come by at hardware stores, but if you’re a reusing junkie like me, scavenge garage sales, antique malls and thrift stores for vintage hardware.

Little natural light

Feeling a little blue? Your Debbie Downer state of mind could be because of the miniscule amount of sunlight drifting in from your apartment’s north-facing windows. Short of knocking down your neighbor’s wall, there’s not a whole lot you can do to bring in the sun.

So, do the next best thing. Bring in the lamps. Something about the soft light from a lamp just cheers me up. It may not be sunlight, but lamplight is far superior to cold, hospital-like overhead lighting.

For you upcyclers, there’s no reason to buy new, cookie-cutter lamps. Every lamp in my home I salvaged from thrift stores or garage sales and each one has its own personality (and works just fine). Just make sure to plug in the lamp and check to see if it works before plopping down your cash.

Strange fixtures

image: limonada

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From the Organic Authority Files


Are you renting an old apartment with, shall we call it, character? Character. Also known as ancient radiators and outdated light fixtures. So what do you do when you aren’t willing to replace this gear, but certainly don’t want it shining in all its gaudy glory?

Those old spindly radiators are darn tricky to make look good. You can’t really cover them up, unless you want your house to catch on fire. So what’s a green decorator to do? “Conceal” them by embellishing the areas around the radiator with vintage items. Maybe set an old metal chair nearby. Or hang a shelf above the radiator, adorned with cute vintage curios. The vintage character of the décor will complement the outdated radiator and make it less noticeable.

Once again if you’re renting your home, you probably don’t want to invest the time and money to replace outdated light fixtures and ceiling fans. One of the worst eyesores I’ve encountered during years of renting apartments was what I would call an “early American” light fixture precariously attached to a 70s ceiling fan in my bedroom.

My solution to these eyesores? Just don’t turn them on. It may sound a little silly, but not using them will take the attention away from their, well, ugliness. Instead invest in lamps. Lamps provide warm light and add personality to a room’s décor.

All-over beige

image: ailatan


With beige walls, doors and window frames, you might be feeling so over your all-over beige apartment. Often times, landlords paint apartments completely beige or completely white to keep it simple. If you’re in an apartment where you can’t paint (or don’t want to), don’t feel put out by all the vanilla.

Think of it as a blank canvas, with you, the artist, adding color and personality. Pops of bright colors, especially beautiful jewel tones, will add warmth to the space. With a few thrift store finds like a colorful old quilt to lie across your bed or vibrant hued books to line on a shelf, you won’t even notice your beige walls. Don’t forget to hang eye-catching art on your walls, or how about some do-it-yourself curtains?

With apartments, and with life, learn to embrace the imperfect. If you create a space that you love to go to at the end of the day (even with its awkwardly-placed radiators) that’s all that matters.

top image: image: limonada

Follow Kirsten on Twitter @kirsten_hudson

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