How to Decorate a Furnished Apartment and Make it Yours
by Thom Brown
Moving into a new apartment is full of excitement but once that initial joy wears off, how can you settle in? After a month or two, you may start to feel like it doesn’t feel like home. To avoid this, try and make the place really feel like yours by tweaking the decoration to your liking.
Understandably, many people don’t know how to decorate a furnished apartment. As you’re only a short-term renter, you might not have thought much about putting your stamp on a property. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of room for improvement if you want your personality to be reflected in your home.
With that in mind, here’s how to decorate a furnished apartment.
- Remove Any Unwanted Clutter
As someone who moves around a lot while living out of a single backpack, I’ve embraced a minimalist way of life. While this is partly out of a deep desire to avoid airline baggage fees, it’s also done wonders for my mental health. Clutter takes up mental energy, causes stress, and generally makes it difficult for me to focus and be productive.
Therefore, if I’m in an apartment that’s full of clutter, then it never quite feels like home. This is especially true if the clutter includes foldable maps and pamphlets about local attractions. Whenever I arrive at a new short-term rental apartment, I clear as much of this clutter as possible. I find an empty drawer or cupboard and shove it all in there. This instantly transforms the entire space. Not only is it quick and easy to do, but it’s also free.
You can leave any items, whether they’re functional or decorative, that you feel enhance the space. For instance, I’d leave the toaster out because I love some toast in the morning. If you don’t, then maybe pop it in the back of a kitchen cabinet.
Empty surfaces stop you from losing your keys among a sea of clutter. However, you may want to refill the shelves with your own stuff as soon as you’ve finished decluttering and begin decorating it in your own way.
- Fill the Shelves with Your Own Things
Having your own stuff around is comforting. Even though I hate clutter, I always find a visible space dedicated to looking after my passport, wallet, and sunglasses. Any time I walk past them, this place feels like my own. Don’t leave your clothes in your suitcase but rather unpack them as soon as possible. Fill your closet with them. Then repeat the process for your bathroom products, electronic items, and anything else you own.
By this point, the shelves and countertops of your apartment will be filled either with stuff you already own or things that came with the apartment that you know you’ll use. However, it still might not feel quite complete. This is where you can go out, make your own purchases, and begin decorating.
At this point, you can decide whether to decorate your place to remind you of your home or to enhance your experience of the place you’re in. For instance, in my Siem Reap apartment, I went to the local market and haggled over some little wooden Buddha statues. This still felt homely because it was a decision I’d made. At the same time, it always reminded me where I was, even if I was at home all day.
There’s no shame in bringing in some home comforts, though, whether that’s your home country’s flag, a jersey from your local sports team, or a few books from your favorite writer. The longer you stay in one apartment, the more stuff you’ll accumulate. These are the items that deserve pride of place on your accommodation shelves.
- Print Personal Photos
Nothing is more personal than a photo of your nearest and dearest. It’s also the perfect way to bring back memories of home if you’ve traveled a long way overseas. Modern homes are often filled with family photos, couples portraits, and pictures of friends, so why shouldn’t your short-term rental apartment be, as well?
A photo is also the easiest thing to pack. I have one of my partner and I which has its own special place in my backpack. When I get to a new apartment, even if I’m only there for a couple of days, I find a place to display it. Once I do, my life has instantly been stamped on my living environment. It’s amazing how much power a single photo can have. Of course, you could print and put up dozens of photos if you’d prefer, creating an entire photo wall in your living room or bedroom.
Best of all, this doesn’t have to be expensive. Shutterfly has a mobile app that allows you to print unlimited photos for $4.99 a month. This gives you enormous scope to fill your new apartment with as many photos as you desire. Depending on the policies outlined in your rental agreement, these could be pinned to a corkboard, hung to a piece of string using tiny pegs, or framed and displayed on bookshelves.
- Bring Your Favorite Kitchen Appliances
Each morning, I need two essential drinks to kick start my day: a coffee and a smoothie. However, apartments often don’t come with a coffee machine or a blender. Left to drink depressing instant brews and store-bought juice boxes, it just doesn’t feel homely. Therefore, I try to get hold of kitchen appliances that I know I’ll use.
Maybe it’s just me, but I view these functional items as part of my home decor. If there’s some big ugly avocado slicer or waffle maker that I know I’m not going to use, then it’s just an eye-sore. An elegant coffee bean grinder or sleek blender, though? Now those make me happy. I’ll put away any appliances I don’t use and furnish the kitchen countertops with ones I do.
Before you move into your apartment, ask your property manager what items they already have in the accommodation. If they don’t have an appliance you need, then it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for one. On many occasions, hosts have been happy to provide me with a blender when I ask politely. If they can’t, then you can either pack your own or buy one on arrival.
- Find Low-Cost Accessories
The littlest touches can elevate an entire space. A throw, a cushion, or a rug can add a nice touch at a cheap price. You’ll find these kinds of accessories at a market or discount store. Whether your style involves mandala wall tapestries, heavy metal posters, or dreamcatchers, these details are inexpensive while instantly adding personality to a property.
It’s all about bang for your buck. A cushion might cost as little as $5 but do so much in terms of creating a homely, comforting atmosphere. You can then leave it behind as a gift for the next guest or stuff it in your suitcase and take it with you. You can buy as few or as many of these smaller accessories as you like, knowing that each one adds a little more character to your home.
- Look into Repainting the Walls
You’ll have to check this with the landlord but there may be some scope to repaint or otherwise change the walls. For monthly stays, this might not be worth the effort. However, if you’re living in an apartment for six months to a year, then the owner might be accommodating if you wish to make bigger changes.
There have been too many times I’ve moved into an apartment to find a shockingly pink kitchen or bright green bathroom. If the interior decor isn’t to your taste, then it will simply never feel like home. You’ll feel stuck in the controversial design preferences of a stranger. It doesn’t hurt to ask if you can paint the walls or put up temporary wallpaper.
Not only does this give you some ownership of your space but it can actually change your day-to-day living experience. Research from the University of Texas found that dull gray and beige walls can induce feelings of sadness, especially in women. Conversely, men find that bright purples and oranges lower their mood. Colors common in nature—soft blues and greens—seem to offer a calming effect that also boosts productivity.
If your rental apartment is your workspace, then you can make a strong case for bringing in colors that improve your mood and mindset.
Everyone has different tastes when it comes to interior design but never consider your preferences trivial or shallow. Creating an environment in which you feel comfortable is essential in helping you be productive and happy. Now that you know how to decorate a furnished apartment, you can make your next property really feel like home.
Where to next? Find flexible month-to-month rentals across the globe on Anyplace.
Born in Oxford, UK, Thom has been a digital nomad since graduating from the University of Sheffield in 2016. He’s a freelance writer and founder of Thom Brown Travel. Thom specializes in minimalist, ethical, and meaningful travel writing.