07.08.2015 | 3 Minute Read | By Rent Editorial Team

No matter how many hours you spend binge-watching HGTV shows for inspiration, apartment decorating is not quite as easy as it looks on TV (this is coming from someone who struggles with even the most basic DIY projects).

When you lived at home or in a dorm, your decor probably consisted of a matching extra-long twin-sized bedspread and a few posters of your favorite band, sports team, or movie. But now that you’re decorating an apartment, you likely want the wall hangings and accessories to be a little more stylish.

Not sure how to get started? Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind during your apartment decorating escapades:

Do Know Your Lease Terms

Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts - Do Know Your Lease Terms

This isn’t exactly decorating advice, per se, but reading through the lease is the first step every renter should take before even picking up a hammer or comparing paint swatches. Landlords and building managers are sometimes very strict about what renters can and can’t do, whether it’s something as drastic as painting the walls or as seemingly minuscule as using tiny thumb tacks.

If your lease doesn’t lay out the rules exactly, send your landlord a text or email to get some clarification. In fact, any time you’re considering painting, it’s important to get written permission from your landlord first– emailed consent will do the trick.

Don’t Overcrowd Your Rooms

Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts - Don't Overcrowd Your Rooms

Apartments are typically pretty small (my bedroom in Chicago is big enough to fit a bed and a small dresser, and that’s about it). Though you may be tempted to fill every inch of wall space with shelves, tables, decorative arm chairs, and other furniture, overcrowding can make small rooms appear even tinier.

When buying and arranging your furniture, think minimal: Use only the bare necessities and try to find multi-purpose furniture, like a trunk that doubles as both a coffee table and linen storage.

Do Have a Plan

Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts - Do Have a Plan

The hardest part about apartment decorating for a lot of people is knowing where to start. The best thing you can do is take some time to make a plan. After arranging furniture, go from room to room and decide what decor is needed in each one and what color scheme you want to go with.

Your living room may need curtains and a wall hanging for over the couch, while your hallway could be the perfect spot for a gallery wall. Once you have a plan, use decor you already have to get started. Then, visit thrift shops and discount stores to find other goodies you can decorate with.

Don’t Spend a Ton

Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts - Don't Spend a Ton

Remember that apartment decorating doesn’t have to involve spending hundreds of dollars on designer wall hangings and professional paintings. Look up DIY projects online and spend an afternoon painting yourself a cool canvas or creating an Instagram gallery wall.

Do Take Advantage of Natural Light

Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts - Do Take Advantage of Natural Light

Curtains can instantly make a room look more stylish (as long as they’re the right length for your wall). However, it’s also important to allow as much natural light into your place as possible.

Natural light is a lot more attractive than the illumination that comes from your lamps— plus, it can save you a lot on your electric bill. Use sheer curtains or keep them open to allow sunlight into your place.

Don’t Be Afraid to Renovate

Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts - Don't be Afraid to Renovate

No, I’m not saying you should overhaul your bathroom or kitchen. But putting your own personal touch on a piece of furniture or a decoration from a thrift store is the perfect way to accessorize your apartment cheaply and show off your personal style. Paint an old table or replace the shade from an antique floor lamp to revitalize your thrift-store finds.

Do Remember Scale

Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts - Do Remember Scale

Scale is an important factor in any interior design project, because when decorations and accessories are too big or too small they look a bit awkward. You don’t want to use giant throw pillows on a small love seat or a single 8-by-10-inch picture frame on a large empty wall.

Don’t Forget About Storage

Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts - Do Remember Scale

One of the most important parts of apartment decorating, especially if you live in a small place, is ensuring you have enough storage. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to decorate and gain extra storage at the same time.

For instance, use 6-foot bookshelves, rather than shorter versions, so you have room both to store items and display decorative knick-knacks and mementos. Or, hang floating shelves or shadow boxes, both of which are stylish and practical at the same time.

Do Have Fun

Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts - Do Have Fun

Apartment decorating should be fun! Try not to take it too seriously, and aim instead for creating a space that exudes your personal style. Have your friends or roommates help hang decorations and take part in DIY projects. And remember that it doesn’t have to be done in a day!

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Apartment Decorating Do's and Don'ts

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