All over the country, in every country, someone has just rented their first apartment. Once their excitement at being on their own abates, they begin to want to make their little apartment a home.
That’s when they start wondering how to remodel an apartment on a budget. After some research, the intrepid apartment renter comes up with some ideas that go something like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and end with them realizing that their idea costs thousands of dollars and a bevy of construction professionals.
That’s why, in this article, we’ll guide you through the process of remodeling and decorating your apartment. Let’s start with learning what you can legally change.
Mind Apartment Complex Policies
If you have not heard the U.S. Southern phrase “to mind,” it means to obey. If you observe someone telling their child to mind their manners, they told them to use their good manners, the manners their parents taught them. It’s the same way with leases. Mind your lease means to follow its rules.
Read your lease thoroughly. It specifies whether you can knock out or build walls. It also specifies what you can change regarding the plumbing, the electrical, and any outdoor spaces, such as patios or balconies. The lease tells you if you will need to hire home renovation services or do a few things yourself that don’t break the rules. If you purchased an apartment or condo, you can change whatever you want to change because you own it!
Prepare for Junk Removal
Sometimes, removing what you don’t use or doesn’t match your existing décor solves a huge part of the problem. Your first step in how to remodel an apartment on a budget becomes hiring a dumpster rental service. You sort your belongings and deposit them in the dumpster. When you finish, you phone or email the rental service, who comes by and retrieves the dumpster and your junk. When you declutter, you make it easier to design your home. So, rent your dumpster and start sorting.
Clear Junk and Make Space
Start with one closet and sort through what you own. Throw away what you can’t donate to Goodwill or a similar organization. After the closets, move on to cleaning out one room. Pick whichever you most want to pare down. The kitchen and the living room usually contain the greatest amount of excess items. Work your way through your home, room by room. Clean out one room per day. When you finish, contact the disposal service.
Consider Central Air-Conditioning
If you purchased an apartment or condo, consider installing air conditioning services (AC services). That means consider hiring an HVAC service to install central heat and air. You could choose to only install mini-splits to provide yourself with air conditioning in each room of the apartment without needing to install ventilation and ducts.
Otherwise, if you rent, ask your landlord if you can hire an HVAC service to conduct maintenance. Many landlords relish the tenant who wants to pay for maintenance or HVAC repair themselves.
Update Bathroom Components
Some leases let tenants update the fixtures, especially if they have aged beyond their use or provide a dated look to the décor. Consider switching to a frameless shower door like those used in many hotels. This option provides an airy feel to the room. Replace the faucet and sink knobs. This one simple item updates the look of a bathroom. Also, add towel bars or hangers in wood, brass, or silver. This adds elegance to the room.
Explore Water Heating Options
Your landlord likely installed a large water heater that serves the whole building or a tankless water heater. They probably won’t want you to hire a water heater service to reconfigure their system. So, how do you solve the problem of not having enough hot water or low water pressure? Turn to camping gear for your solution.
Purchase a personal water heater. Drop one end of this device into a large bucket of water or into your bath water. Turn it on and let it warm the water to your desired warmth. Remove the device from your bath water before getting into the tub.
Upgrade Your Electrical System
Apartment owners, this one’s for you. Hire an electrical contractor to upgrade your electrical system. When thinking about how to remodel an apartment on a budget, consider transforming it into a smart home. A few well-placed devices, such as an Alexa, and smart appliances provide a convenient way of updating. Add plug-in smart outlets throughout, so you can make every lamp or TV smart. Once you plug in these devices, any object plugged into them becomes smart. That means you can turn on the hallway lamp from outside of your home with a voice command.
Once you finish the electrical update, consider tackling something you will see every day – the flooring.
Renovate Your Flooring
For apartment and condo purchasers, one of the simplest steps in how to remodel an apartment on a budget comes from flooring. Whether you choose to refinish or polish hardwood flooring or install something new, contact a flooring contractor. Replacing the floors with new tile, linoleum, laminate, etc. transforms the entire appearance of your home.
Flooring doesn’t cost much either. Many tile options cost less than $1 per square foot, so you can re-floor an efficiency apartment for less than $500. In many cases with hardwood flooring, the floors only need polishing or scratch repair to make them again look fabulous.
Updating the Walls
Most apartments receive a fresh coat of boring white paint to make them ready for a new tenant. Perhaps you don’t want to remain enveloped in a sea of white while at home. Maybe you want a vibrant, colorful existence. You can have it with removable, peel-and-stick wallpaper and wall tiles.
Available through stores like Temu, these affordable options cost about $1 per square foot. With a price like that, a person on nearly any budget can afford to revamp and revitalize their space. Consider a jungle floral or ivy pattern. Achieve a stately look with cream or grey wallpaper with a light embossed pattern. Use wall tiles to create a unique pattern. The pattern on the tiles decides the feeling that the backsplash evokes. A gingham evokes the American countryside, while a mosaic pattern reminds the onlooker of Monaco. Use marble tiles to create a luxurious look.
Apply peel-and-stick wall coverings to create a unique look. These resin pieces look like wood or stone but apply like stick-on wallpaper. Apply them to the bottom half of the wall, then follow it with a wall trim.
All of these products come in peel-and-stick varieties. None of them cost more than $20 per roll or set if you shop savvy. Popular in countries like Japan and China, where minuscule apartments abound, these easy-to-remove items stay in place until you move them and provide a way for apartment dwellers to remodel without violating their leases. The affordability and high quality of these materials allow first-time renters to create the décor of their dreams on a limited budget.
Built-ins or New Furniture?
Remodeling or renovating requires creativity to create more space out of what’s provided. If you own your dwelling, you can add built-ins, such as cabinets, bookcases, etc. that recess into the wall. If you rent, you’ll need to stick with furnishings. If you want more floor space, built-in bookshelves, and a built-in desk can do it. Also, consider adding shoulder-height or higher cabinets to the kitchen. Each of these options removes a piece of furniture from your floor space, providing you with more room.
For this type of project, hire a master carpenter. They can obtain the proper permits from the city in which you reside. They will also be licensed and certified in the skillset needed for cutting into the wall to add a built-in. What if you don’t own your apartment? You’re not left out! It’s time to shop though.
Your furniture needs to do double duty. For instance, use a loft bed in an efficiency apartment or a child’s room. Similar to a bunk bed, a loft bed features two levels. You sleep on the top level. The open-air bottom level features shelves and a desk or simply open space. Loft beds provide you with both sleeping space and either a workspace or an area for entertaining. You don’t need to choose between a space to sleep and a workspace, plus you have an area to set up a loveseat or set of comfy chairs for guests to use.
Add a Fireplace
Of course, you can’t plop a fireplace down into an apartment building or can you? It won’t work with a wood-burning fireplace, but you can install an electric fireplace, a butane or propane fireplace, or an in-the-wall fireplace if you own your apartment. Table-top fireplaces use gel fuel, like the pots of gel that caterers burn to keep food warm. These put out actual flame and a little heat. If you want to add the feel of a campfire or outdoor chiminea, choose this option.
Install a chiminea on your patio or balcony. This extends the times of year you can use the space, plus it offers an extension of your apartment. Think of your patio or balcony as another room in your home. Hang privacy blinds made of bamboo or that look like bamboo so you can roll down the blinds to block any incoming views to your outdoor area. Also, hang festive string lights that look like seashells, Japanese lanterns, or paper balls. This provides mood lighting. Burn citronella candles outdoors to keep away mosquitoes.
Help your budget and the small area you probably have to work with by choosing a bistro dining set. This table with two tall chairs takes up little space – the reason cafes and restaurants love them. They also come in a number of unique designs with scrollwork or in-laid tiles.
Add to the Little Things
In any room, the right accessories provide utility and seemingly enlarge the space. What do we mean? In your bathroom, follow the sage advice of home renovation guru Bob Vila, who counsels people to add a large mirror that spans the sink and counter in a small bathroom. The mirror reflects the opposing wall and makes the space appear larger than it is. Hang plants from the ceiling rather than taking floor space with a planter stand. You provide yourself with more room and make the greenery a focal point in the room.
If you can’t change the cabinets or counters, simply cover them with temporary wallcovering paper. Like contact paper but in a range of designs meant for high-end décor, this forgiving wallpaper product lets the installer reposition it as needed. When you want to make a change, you peel off the old paper and add a new design. Options exist that look like every variation of marble and wood. Think of it as a veneer that you don’t need a master carpenter to install. Rolls of these papers cost about $5. They work great for covering old tables, desks, and end tables, too.
Update the Lighting
While learning how to remodel an apartment on a budget, pay attention to the lighting. Rearrange furniture so it doesn’t block any windows. Let whatever natural light is available to pour into the room.
Upgrade the light fixtures. If you rent and your landlord doesn’t want you to change the fixtures, toss a scarf over the ones that don’t match your decor and add a few plug-in wall sconces or lamps. These options let you express your decorating personality without changing anything permanently at the apartment.
Work Safely and Responsibly
Finally, in your bid to learn how to remodel an apartment on a budget, use care and the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Protect yourself, whether you paint the walls or hang artwork. If you find yourself in need of back pain relief, take a dose of aspirin or ibuprofen and stretch.
Start each apartment work session with a few yoga stretches. Finish each session the same way. Most muscle pain comes from suddenly using underused muscles. Take a hot shower or Epsom salt bath, then stretch again.
Enjoy Your New Apartment
Enjoy your apartment. Make it a haven for yourself. Your home should be the place you can escape to for total privacy and a respite from the rest of the world. Decorate it to reflect your personality and interests with these tips and suggestions.