Decorating on a budget can be a lot of fun once you get into the spirit. Take a look at what you have that's worth keeping and see what relatives were going to throw away. Scour flea markets and antique shops regularly and scoop up treasures that others are selling at rock-bottom prices. With a little creativity, you can have a new decor that suits your style, and at such good prices you can do it over and over again.
Paint is an inexpensive way to may something new again. You may not be able to paint the walls in your apartment, so paint the furniture instead. Paint a worn dresser or blah end table bright white, yellow, blue or any color that suits you. White adds brightness to the room and serves as a backdrop for anything else you put on or around it. Brighter hues add pops of color that can be refreshing if not overused. Clean the item, then sand it to remove bumps and help the paint adhere. Paint it, let it dry, and paint a second coat if necessary, sanding lightly between coats. Old mirrors, picture frames and flower pots come alive with a fresh color too. Hang a large mirror, poster-sized frame or collection of frames above the painted furniture to add impact.
Added shelving solves the problem of space in an apartment and adds decorating flair, too. Put tall shelving units on both sides of a door frame to draw the eye upward. Paint the shelving for a built-in look. Hang "floating" shelves -- shelves without brackets -- on walls; stagger them for an appealing look. Add flower pots, clear glass vases, small book or movie collections, framed photos and candles to help decorate.
Use traditional items in fresh ways to add quirky, unexpected style. A cake stand can display candles or art, an ornate candy dish holds soaps and a birdbath can be a planter that adds a focal point in to the room. Glass jars become vases when you add pebbles or shells and lifelike flowers. Use a glass jar or bowl as a centerpiece and change its contents with the seasons.
Give new life to old items by adding small touches. Recover old pillows and seat cushions with bright colors or bold prints. Splurge on a new lampshade for an old lamp, or update an old one by adding a fabric border or ribbon with a glue gun. Scatter marbles, stones or shells atop the dirt in planters.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.