7 Apartment Decorating Tips From The Pros

Jean Jones
August 07, 2014


You found the apartment of your dreams; now comes the fun part – or the anxiety-inducing challenge, depending on how you look at it. Many people struggle with how to arrange furniture, add color (but not too much), accessorize properly and create a space that facilitates entertaining. So, we’ve gathered some tips from professional decorators to help you turn your apartment into a warm, welcoming home that reflects your unique tastes and style:

  1. Introduce color by using accessories. You may be tempted to buy a chair with a lively tropical print, a sofa covered in a neon green fabric or an entertainment center finished in cinnamon-red lacquer. But you’ll extend the life of your furniture if you limit the color of your larger pieces to solid “background” hues (brown, tan, gray, etc.) and use accessories to add that pop of color you want in the room. Pillows, pottery, artwork and throws can add the bold statement you’re looking for and keep you from having to buy new furniture when you get tired of a print or trendy color.
  1. Hang appropriately sized pictures at eye level. One of the biggest mistakes people make when hanging art is to position it too high on the wall. Hang pictures at eye level (the average adult is about 5’ 6” tall) and make sure the size of the piece you’re hanging isn’t too big or too small for the space. A tiny picture hanging alone on a large span of wall looks unbalanced and “floaty,” and those too big for the wall overwhelm a room. It’s also best to “anchor” your picture (or group of pictures) by placing it above a piece of furniture, like a sofa, a hall table, or a chair and end table.
  1. Keep the clutter at bay. The principal of “less is more” certainly applies to decorating. Lots of small objects and knick-knacks clutter your space and distract the eye. Choose a few of your favorite pieces and use them to accent and enhance areas throughout your apartment, but keep the majority of your odds and ends out of sight rather than out on tables or shelves.
  1. Think of every area as its own little project. Don’t try to decorate your apartment as a single entity, though you do want it to be consistent in its overall feel (contemporary or traditional or Southwest, etc.). Every different living space – your living room, kitchen, eating area, hallway, bedrooms and entry – should be considered and decorated separately. When you decorate by looking at the whole instead of room by room, you won’t have the mindset needed to create purposefully arranged and decorated spaces and instead dilute the impact of each.
  1. Don’t overwhelm your space with large furniture. Apartment residents occasionally make the mistake of putting big, overstuffed sectional seating areas in a space that’s better suited to a “normal” sofa and loveseat or chair. Large furnishings eat up too much space and make it tough to decorate around. Worried about having enough seating? Remember that when entertaining, most people are happy to pull in a chair from another room, sit on comfy pillows or extend the gathering to the patio or balcony.
  1. Buy what you like – it’ll work. Don’t worry about upholstery fabrics coordinating, artwork colors being exact matches, or wood having the same stain color. Choose pieces you like and, chances are, they’ll work very nicely together. Typically people don’t like both Victorian-era draperies and sleek, modern lines of Italian furniture, for example, so if you stick with what speaks to you, it will all look good together. Decorating is first and foremost an expression of you, so go ahead and show people what you’re all about!
  1. Lighting. The proper amount of lighting is key to creating cozy reading areas and comfortable conversation spaces. Place table lamps or floor lamps wherever you have places to sit. A small countertop lamp is a nice touch in a kitchen when you don’t want overheads on, too, but make sure it’s plugged in far from the faucet in a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet and in a spot where it won’t get knocked over.

It doesn’t take special talents to decorate an apartment. It’s all about showcasing and arranging the things you love and being smart about your budget by investing in the things you’ll have for years and spending less on those things that might turn out to be short-term style trends.

We’d love to read (and see!) what some of you have done to make the most of your apartment homes. Please share decorating and furnishing ideas and tips… and pictures of the rooms you’re most proud of! 

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