From College Crash Pad to “Grownup” Apartment on a Budget

You’re a few years into the workforce, and your tastes have changed. The tie-dyed bean bag chair you found at a yard sale in your junior year of college, and the beer bottles adorning the top of your fridge, have lost their appeal. You now want something that feels a little more “grownup.”

How can you morph your crash pad into a young professional’s home on a junior professional’s budget? It’s actually a lot easier than you might think, even if you’re a renter and can only change so much.

Here are some top tips to make your home look a lot more sophisticated without having to spend big bucks:

Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse

You don’t need new furniture to make your place look like a proper home. With a little creativity and some elbow grease, you can turn other people’s gently used items into gorgeous, customized pieces.

Get friendly with Freecycle, the Salvation Army, Goodwill and local flea markets. You might even find some salvageable pieces left curbside in your own neighborhood. Lots of people toss and donate items that no longer fit their own homes, yet only need a little TLC.

From dining room chairs that simply need new cushions to a dresser that would be adorable with a fresh coat of paint, you can find some great pieces and then make them over to fit your unique style.

Register for Daily Deal Sites

Daily deal sites, such as Groupon and Living Social, have a lot more to offer than discounts on local restaurants and hotels. Some are even specifically geared toward people looking to get high-quality home furnishing at a fraction of the cost.

Flash sale sites like One Kings Lane and HauteLook offer upscale, designer finds on home items, such as area rugs, bedding and even furniture, allowing you to snag some great foundational pieces to complement your more DIY finds. If you shop smart, you can find accents and furnishings that will instantly add polish to your space, and last a long time.

Upgrade Your Window Treatments

A nice pair of curtains can change the whole feel of a room. Remove the standard-issue plastic mini-blinds that came with your apartment, stow them away for the next renter, and invest in some quality window treatments to take any room from “meh” to “wow.”

Window coverings can also be a great way to make your space look bigger. For example, hanging floor-length curtains a few inches above your existing windows can fool the eye into thinking the ceiling is higher than it really is.

Get Colorful

Living in a rental doesn’t always mean you’re doomed to sterile white walls. Some landlords will allow tenants to paint, as long as the walls are restored to white when moving out.

Luxe paint colors can radically transform a room and everything in it, so don’t be afraid to ask. If your landlord won’t allow it, hang large collages, photographs and other artwork to offset the white interior, and then incorporate one eye-catching piece into every room. Whether it’s a large lipstick-red vase, a cerulean rug or a giant painting of the Eiffel Tower, you can rest assured that nobody will notice the bland wall color.

Disguise What You Don’t Like

Until you become a homeowner and can do whatever you want with your space, there are some things about your apartment that you’re just going to have to learn to live with. Eyesores might include an old, scuffed old fridge or a weird open space under your kitchen counter, but whatever the problem, you can likely find ways to camouflage or work around it.

Contact paper, for example, comes in a wide variety of designs and can be used in a variety of ways. Attach it to plywood and use it to create a kitchen counter “backsplash” or affix it to a homemade, custom headboard to distract from the popcorn ceilings. When you move, just remove the wood you’ve used (recycle or donate), and you’ll instantly restore the rooms back to their original states.

Hate that dead space under your kitchen counter that’s become a dumping ground for cleaning products? Install a temporary spring-loaded curtain road and hang a strip of cute fabric from it.

Want to hide the ugly 1970s laminate countertops? You can’t refinish or refurbish, but you can certainly distract from it by placing fruit bowls and flower vases on top of the counter.

Parting Advice

Your decorating abilities don’t have to be hampered by an entry-level budget or your renter’s status. There are plenty of ways you can upgrade your décor from college mishmash to young and chic.

You’re a grown-up; it’s time to stop using beer bottles as decor… Although, in fairness, an empty wine bottle makes a great vase. And, hey, wine is for grownups, right?

Photo courtesy of Sarah