25 Best Apartment Decorating Ideas and Techniques

Living stylishly and comfortably in an apartment, a condo, or even an older home with a small footprint can be quite challenging in today’s “more is more” world. Challenging, but certainly not impossible. The trick is to make your limited space feel (and, in some cases, actually be) bigger than it physically is.

adler chair Muse sculpture

This can be accomplished via a number of apartment decorating ideas and strategies, most of which are easy yet impactful. This article aims to introduce the full spectrum of apartment decorating – facts, colors, plans, furniture, tips, and trends – to inspire and guide you to greater apartment décor. Let’s do this.


Clear it with the Landlord

Clear it with the Landlord

The first fact in apartment decorating is that you need to have a clear idea of what you are and are not allowed to change in your apartment. Discuss with your landlord, and be sure to respect his/her guidelines. The fact is, although it is your apartment, you don’t own the place. Ultimately, your apartment decorating strategies must be in-line with the property owner’s policies. That being said, you can often negotiate decorating ideas with your landlord beforehand.

Self-Adhesive Options

Yellow bedding and cool wallpaper

Apartment decorating will often be temporary, due to the inherent nature of the housing arrangement. It makes sense, then, to explore temporary decorating options. Self-adhesive options are available for many decorating media (e.g., wallpaper, artwork, faux surfaces), so the fact – and good news – is that renters have more decorating freedom now than they’ve ever had.

Optical Illusions to “Raise” Ceiling Height

Optical Illusions

Another apartment fact is that ceilings are not traditionally very high. In fact, apartment ceilings are often low. Although this can’t be changed architecturally, one decorating trick to overcome this is to add vertical pieces or stripes on the wall planes (e.g., on the walls themselves or on window treatments) to visually lengthen the vertical direction. This tends to make a lower ceiling feel higher than it is.

Much-Needed Storage Solutions

Nyn Cabinet Multi Open

Due to its likely small square footage, an apartment simply craves storage solutions. As the resident, you’re going to have to sneak some storage in. This can be done in a number of ways. Opt for double-duty furniture, where the piece does more than one thing or offers more potential storage space than other similar pieces (e.g., a storage ottoman, a coffee table with shelving, bins or baskets under benches).


Color-Neutral Foundation

Color neutral foundation

In many cases, apartments serve as transitional spaces where independence and adulthood is part of the learning game. Add grownup sophistication to an apartment by making wise color choices. By beginning with a neutral foundation and then incorporating optional pops of colorinto your apartment color scheme, you will have a timeless look, always in style, and be well on your way to a more mature space.

Strategic Use of Light Colors.

Acrylic tables design

One way to make smaller spaces feel brighter and, consequently, larger, is to be strategic in your use of color. Generally speaking, light colors in softer hues tend to bring a more spacious sensibility to cramped quarters. Consider lighter colors on your apartment floor and walls, where possible. Temporary solutions might be area rugs and self-adhesive wallpaper.

Plant Life

Assorted Accents for Living room Decor

Green plant life has the magical ability to transform even the tiniest space into a freshened, airier venue. These could be potted countertop numbers, larger floor plants next to the sofa, or if there’s simply not room for that, consider a hanging plant that takes up zero horizontal surface space. The plant will look great and exude positive energy.


Plan on Paint

Bed setting with chandelier over

Fresh paint is the very first plan you should make in your apartment décor. Actually, the second – the first plan should be to discuss with your landlord things you can and cannot change. Paint, if at all possible, is one of the first decorating tips for freshening up any space, but it’s particularly useful for apartment décor, where the lives of multiple tenants tend to wear more on the interior surfaces.

Upgraded Lighting

Domino Pouf Doda Armchair

Swap out builder-grade, generic, blah or tacky lighting for some tasteful, stylish, and unique lighting fixtures. This instantly upgrades the entire space, and a brighter space is always more inviting than a dark one. Plus, you can switch them back when you’re ready to move on to your next place and bring the fixtures with you, if you want.

Plan on Metallics.

Niba design with an abstract mirror and a cozy chair seat

Shiny, metal objects are not just desirable to raccoons. They should be used in most, if not all, apartment decorating ideas. We’re not talking about spraying down the place in gold leaf, of course. Tasteful, strategic metal surfaces will go far in brightening up the apartment by reflecting and bouncing light around. Look for a shimmery kind of lamp, a shiny lighting fixture, or some other kind of metal-surfaced object.

Effective Corners.

Pons frame table

It would be a shame, in a space where square footage is at its premium, to waste an inch. Corners can be tricky to maneuver, but they are often a fantastic space to squeeze in an extra something in your apartment décor. A corner bookshelf is an easy, out-of-the-way solution for more horizontal surfaces, or an accent chair with a reading lamp for a cozy relaxation corner.


Movable Furniture…Away from Walls.

Ikea living room furniture

Having furniture that can move around, and move around easily, is a must-have in small apartment décor. Buy furniture with casters, or add casters onto some existing furniture pieces, allows your apartment the flexibility to be rearranged to accommodate more or fewer people. In this way, you can move furniture out the way or roll it into your space, whichever direction your particular lifestyle requires at that moment. Whatever you do pull all your furniture away from the walls (even if just a couple inches) for an immediate sense of openness.

Visually Lightweight Furniture

Knotted Chair

While you don’t want your furniture to be weak or falling apart, you don’t necessarily want to stock your apartment with huge, solid, chunky pieces, either. The latter is not only space-inefficient, but it’s also visually overbearing. Instead of one made out of heavy wood (even if it’s gorgeous), opt for a coffee table with a glass top or slim legs to keep the space from feeling weighed down.

The Virtues of Slipcovers

Draped leather settee NIBA

If your apartment comes furnished with pieces that are not to your taste or color scheme, consider incorporating slipcovers into your basic décor. This can do three things – it can immediately change up the color scheme (if it was distasteful to you before), hide the ugly furniture, and save your budget.

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

Abalone Shell Mirror

Just as was discussed in the Apartment Decorating Plans section about incorporating metallics, mirrors hanging in an apartment are a wonderful idea to expand the space. If you can, hang a mirror (the bigger the better!) opposite a window to bounce light all around the room. Because light = spaciousness. And because a mirror like this abalone shell mirror is a showstopper in and of itself.

Properly Proportioned Furniture

Dezza Frau armchair

Furniture options designed for smaller spaces abound, and you should definitely take advantage of this as you opt for scaled-down furniture in your apartment. This doesn’t mean you can’t have comfortable things, of course. Just opt for renditions of, say, an upholstered chair that are slimmer than traditionally.


Great Window Treatments

Great Windows Treatments

This is one of the first apartment decorating tips we want to offer. Because no matter where you live, no matter how large or small the space is, having great window treatments automatically creates a sense of home. As you’re choosing your window treatments, one idea is to spring for a curtain color that matches your walls. This creates a seamless surround in the space, and when a room isn’t visually broken up by lots of components, it will feel larger than it actually is.

Area Rugs

Archibald and Archibald King Frau

Area rugs are another critical component of helping an apartment feel more homey. In addition, because apartment life isn’t known for its quietness, area rugs will help with acoustics and sound issues. And if those two reasons aren’t enough, area rugs provide visually interesting layers to the space, which ultimately feel more sophisticated because they add depth that’s multi-dimensional.

Unique Conversation Pieces

Goose lamp design

Make your decorating real estate get a huge bang for its buck. A unique, funky piece in a small apartment should carry more than its share of stylistic weight. Choose something relatively small but with plenty of personality, such as this helmet-wearing goose lamp.

Pillow Talk

pillow talk bedroom

No matter what else you do in your apartment decorating, you should deck out your bed. While other people may or may not actually see your bedroom, the point is to create a space that you personally love and can retreat to. Choose great quality linens, soft throws and pillows, and a duvet that makes you breathe a little easier every time you come into your personal room.

Fake an Expanded Window

Window behind bed

As we’ve discussed previously, more light generally equals more airiness. And bigger windows equals more light. But what if your apartment windows aren’t all that big? You can fake it. By installing the curtain rods at near-ceiling height, you can add vertical dimension and make your windows seem taller, even if they aren’t all that tall. Similarly, choose a curtain rod that extends past both sides of the window panes so the curtains hang wider and don’t cover any of the window, which now looks wider as well as taller.

Double-Duty Furniture

Naidei Daybed Frau Design

As has been mentioned, it is such a good apartment decorating idea to choose hard-working furnishings. Stools become both side tables and extra seating. Benches become bookshelves or even additional desk space. This Naidei daybed, for example, transforms from couch to bed beautifully. When each piece can serve multiple functions, you’ll find that your apartment is furnished with everything you need…in half the number of pieces.


Removable Wallpaper

Powder room with wallpaper

Wallpaper is trending right now, and it’s no wonder. The addition of print, pattern, color, or design on the walls can completely transform a space. Like this nature-centered, airy design on this small powder room, which is now not seen as “small” but rather as “elegant and luxe.” Speaking of elegant…a chandelier in the powder room definitely ups the glamorous factor big time.

Boldness in Small Doses

S-Chair Cappellini

The fact is, that while small spaces like apartments can be challenging to decorate, they are the perfect canvas for doing something utterly big-and-bold. It’s harder to feel overwhelmed with design-bigness in a small space, so we say go ahead and wallpaper the bathroom.Use that funky piece in the entry. Choose the cowhide Cappellini S-chair. Just (once again) check with the landlord to make sure it’s okay to do anything that physically changes the apartment.

Floating Shelves

Layered rattan table

Floating shelves are those shelves that are mounted on the wall but no mounting hardware is visible, so they look like they’re just floating there. They provide storage without the heaviness of other traditional storage pieces, such as bookshelves or armoires. They are visually lightweight, which makes them ideal for apartment. They can be used anywhere, really – even in the kitchen or as nightstands.

Bedroom with lots of pillows

What are some of your favorite apartment decorating ideas?