We’ve all been there. Terrible corporate housing, a short-term sublet in a new city, our parents’ basement “for a few months, tops” after college.
Somewhere you live specifically because it means you’re planning on living somewhere else—somewhere better—as soon as humanly possible.
[Digital download art by The Motivated Type on Etsy]
So how to spruce up your existing place without blowing the bank on furniture you don’t want to leave behind (or move)?
Good news: it’s easier than it looks.
Step one: Art
“Textiles and artwork are a perfect way to spruce up bland white walls,” says Alex Edwards, a design consultant at Metro66.com. “Framing black and white photography can make an instant statement.”
If you don’t want to invest, explore the rich world of inexpensive digital downloads—Etsy has literally thousands of options, and they’re not all of dancing cats for spinster ladies—really, dudes shop at Etsy, too. Just spit them on a home printer, and the right design will be nearly indistinguishable from a more expensive screenprint.
Another reliable resource for inexpensive art? 20X200, releasing limited edition runs of fine art, with prints priced as low as $24.
Of course, we all know getting that art on the walls is the real hard part: Edwards suggests using “existing nails” to get around damaging the walls. “Or you can simply display some artwork on a modern bookshelf with other home décor trinkets giving you a sense of home,” says Edwards.
Step two: Textiles
You’re probably stuck with that $250 IKEA couch—but you can fix it up.
“Throw pillows are the perfect option to add a bold layer to more, simple clean-lined furniture,” Edwards says. Since you can definitely take these with you, consider investing in pillows that you really love—and think hard about the colors you select, since they’ll determine the palette of your next (real-deal) apartment.
They can also do the undoable, which is to give a design perspective to an apartment that was likely purpose-built not to have one. (Just see what these Jonathan Adler pillows do for a room.)
Similarly, blankets can protect cheap sofas from spills (they’ll still bill you for cleaning if you drop something on it, whether it’s ridiculously uncomfortable or not), while simultaneously adding warmth.
“Wherever you are, for however long, it’s important to feel like you can come home and relax at the end of the day,” says Anna Gray, editor at design firm Homepolish. “That said, you don’t need to buy furniture to replicate your childhood house. Coziness is easily achieved with little accents—bring a blanket with you to hang from the end of your bed or some favorite wall hangings that you can tape up.”
[Organic bedding by West Elm]
Step three: Bedding
Here’s another opportunity to invest: Even an air mattress can be comfortable with a sufficient amount of lovely bedding.
“Your bedroom in particular should still feel like a personal oasis,” says Edwards. “Investing in quality bedding, linens, and pillows can make a huge impact. Really nice, quality sheets are a great investment to ensure no matter where you ever live, it feels like home.”
Sheets are no place to skimp. Spend as much as you can afford; just keep it to a basic color – think white, cream, or grey. Nothing says “winging it” like cheap sheets, which feel bad and wear worse.
Avoid cotton-poly mixes—they resist wrinkles but at the expense of comfort—and look for cottons like Egyptian, pima, and Supima. Also, if you have any chemical sensitivities, definitely avoid anything that’s been chemically treated (sheets often are, to provide a sheen)—and look for either organic cottons or “finish-free.” You’ll literally sleep better for it.