10 Tips for Decorating Small, Rented Spaces

Apartment-tour-5703I moved into my first non-dorm apartment about nine months ago, and now I’m in a 400-square-foot studio apartment with my best friend. A few months later we added a cat, so needless to say our little home can get crowded!

I love a comfortable and happy place to come home to, so taking full of advantage of our small space was a huge priority for me. I’m happy to say we found some great solutions, and I am especially happy I can share them with you today! Here are 10 tips for decorating small, rented spaces.

Apartment-tour-58511. Give everyday items a home. This tip is number 1, because it’s vital for staying sane in a small place. Our front entryway has a long table where we keep three metal baskets. One is where I keep my purse, random bits of mail, or random items of mine.

My roommate has her own, and the third is for scarves, hats, and whatever else makes it way in there. When we come in the door we distribute our belongs into the baskets, hang up our jacket, and put our shoes in a row by the front door. This system keeps our apartment from being overrun by these items!

2. Go vertical. Taking advantage of all your space is key, and that includes going up! Since our place is so small, we went with bunk beds. We keep the bedding simple and try to resist hanging items from the bed. You can also choose tall pieces of furniture and other high wall hooks to store items.

Apartment-tour-56603. Use a coordinating rug to create interest in the center of the room. Since we don’t have a lot of options to leave wall spaces empty, our wall space is pretty packed.

To keep the center of the room from looking too sparse and boring, we added a small and coordinating rug! I love the dimension it adds. This is also a great option if you are stuck with ho-hum carpet and cannot change it since you are renting.

Apartment-tour-58014. Use your stuff to decorate. You have great stuff, and you have a lot of stuff. So use that stuff to decorate! I stacked our books on the floor next to our chair, instead of adding a bulky bookcase.

If you have great jewelry, an interesting collection or a basketful of cute cameras, double up your organization with a decorative edge.

Apartment-tour-57215. Paint your furniture. Painting the walls in our place isn’t an option, but going bold with bright furniture is! I chose a bright, salmon pink to liven up a thrift store desk.

Don’t be afraid to choose a bold color that you love, because you can always repaint the item in a few years (or upgrade to a new item!) to suit a new space or your evolving taste.

Apartment-tour-58726. Use curtains to cover up unsightliness. If you have any exposed shelving, this tip is perfect for you! I created a little curtain with a vintage pillowcase, some buttons, and an inexpensive mini-curtain rod. We hide our ugly kitchen gadgets behind here. Plus it adds some color!

Apartment-tour-57277. Use mirrors to add depth. Mirrors are an excellent tool for elongating and brightening up spaces. The yellow mirror above my desk makes the art wall more dynamic and opens up the space.

8. Stay organized and hide it. This is absolutely vital for keeping your space tidy and pretty. I store all my organized art supplies in bins underneath the bunk bed. I can pull the bins out when I need them, and the little pieces are out of sight for the rest of the time!

Apartment-tour-57359. Keep wall art looking airy and light by hanging with binder clips. Frames can be a heavy (and expensive!) accessory for artwork.

I chose to hang my Deb Carlos print with inexpensive binder clips and nails. I also used small binder clips to hang up an embroidered piece of fabric. Find hanging solutions that don’t clutter your space and that fit your budget.

10. Go with lightweight tables and chairs. This makes entertaining guests a lot easier! Lightweight chairs are easy to move and add to, plus they keep our kitchen vignette from being too cluttered. Being able to rearrange for more people quickly and easily is key in a small space.

P.S. You can see my full apartment tour here! xo. Kara

  • I have just gone through your article. The content of this article is very much engaging. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hey, short but detailed read on interior design firms. Interesting and informative!

  • Thanks for providing information on decorating small spaces. I really like the tip paint your furniture. All the tips you have mentioned in the article are incredible.

  • Thanks for the great ideas on how to decorate a small rented space. My wife and I are trying to get through graduate school and so we live in a small apartment. With that being said, I like what you have done here in these pictures by keeping things organized because there is not a lot of space. Thanks again!

  • I rent a small studio too, and my landlord is awesome (she’s my aunt ;)) so I’m usually allowed to change things up, but so many of these tips are so excellent for my little space, especially the binder clips for posters. I have two beautiful movie posters that I’ve been wanting to hang but couldn’t afford frames, so binder clips are the perfect alternative!

    I also need to add a cat. Haven’t gotten the okay on that one yet!

    Adorable place!

  • This is really so clever. I am about to move and I need to take some of these tips with me! Thanks!

  • I remember how hard it was for my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I to share a small 600 square foot apartment when we lived near Greektown in Detroit. I can’t imagine 400, but I’m sure he’d love it. He’s a self-proclaimed minimalist. 😉

    Your apartment looks cozy and fun. There are definitely some tips for me to follow in there!



  • Brilliant post! The baskets at the front door idea is just genuis and something I want to implement myself straight away.

    I spend hours cleaning my room up, only for it to be a huge mess again only days later.

    I also love the salmon pink you’ve chosen to paint the desk in. I have two wooden chairs that I picked up from hard rubbish just waiting for a coat of paint.. but I was paralysed by what colour to paint them. I think you’ve solved my problem!

  • Beautiful space, lovely photographs. And i’m totally IN LOVE with that salmon pink dest!! http://emsdarkroom.blogspot.co.uk Emily x

  • this is such a great post! my fiance and i live in a small apartment, and we have a lot of stuff. while we should probably get rid of a lot of the stuff we have, there are some great tips in here for organizing that i can really use in the mean time. thank you! 🙂

  • Great tips! Thanks for sharing your lovely home with us 🙂

    xoxo missdottidee.blogspot.com

  • Beautiful! I love the colours and the smart solutions. But I’m a bit worried about the cat, isn’t the aparment a bit small for an animal? Anyway, I got so much inspiration from seeing this!

  • Great blog post! Gave me a lot of inspiration! 🙂 xx


  • Great tips! Your space is so small but it doesn’t actually seem that way. Everything has its place but the room doesn’t look crammed.

  • great tips! i love your apartment, especially the way you used different kinds of color in combination with white, it looks amazing 🙂
    xo, cheyenne

  • I love the binder clips suggestion! I have had two photos for nearly two years that I have been looking for cheap frames for (they’re weird sizes) but I’m definitely going to give this a go!

  • I really love the idea of the binder clips. It allows the artwork to speak for itself, and it sort of gives it a modern feel. Thanks for sharing!

  • i had to pop in & say how purely genius it is to hang that large print with binder clips! i’ve done it many times with little cards & photos but never occurred to me to do it with a poster-sized something! perfect for a difficult-size-to-frame print i’ve had rolled up in my daughter’s closet for ages. thank you!

  • love this Kara, your little space is really cute and organized something that i must keep in mind 🙂

  • All the tips are so practical and very helpful. I love it when my favorite bloggers post about real issues, as not everybody lives in a perfect 400m2 home. A while ago I posted about this topic too, sharing 12 tips to personalize your rental space and make it more beautiful and cozy. Feel free to check it out:


  • Wow, That is small, this helps with looking for an apartment, small doesn’t have to be so bad.


  • Where are those metal baskets from? I’ve been searching for just that for ages

  • Umm..I’d rather live in that super adorable apartment than my own house.. hahaha. 🙂 Love love love it! too cute.

  • This is such a great post – your 10 tips are simple and effective! Happy to share this with my college/early career-age friends!

  • Since I live in a dorm, i’ve used many of these strategies so far. Thanks for sharing!

  • I think the clips instead of a frame actually looks so beautiful, but I personally would worry that your gorgeous print is hanging thee without any protection. I go for frames from Ikea, the thinnest most unobtrusive ones possible, but they still have a piece of glass to protect the things that matter.


  • Great tips!
    Actually are moving in to a little bedroom again, because I use the big one for my yoga classes! So could really use this haha. And that bed on the first picture is sooo beautiful! Reminds me of my granma’s beautiful little house :).


  • I love the idea of painting furniture! We rent and can’t paint the walls so I am always looking at brightly colored chairs!

  • Great tips, I should have known this 5 years ago when I moved to a small studio 😉


  • I love that you suggested painting furniure, I’ve done the same in my tiny apartments. Going vertical is also a neccesity!


  • This is great! Thanks for the tips!



  • Such great tips! I need this! My apartment has the clutter problem 🙁


  • Great tips! I love the salmon colored desk paired with the subtle mint desk chair and the wire baskets.

  • what a cute and cozy little place…love those wire baskets 🙂 But honestly, am I the only scandy person wondering how that bed situation is going to work out when someone gets a love interest? haha I guess I’m coming from an only child and live alone adult perspective. I can’t fathom sharing all my space with someone else……but more power to ya!! 😀

  • As a Raleigh home remodeler, I do wanna say great post and great tips.
    Most people don’t realize that just because you have a small place, doesn’t mean that you have don’t have room.

  • Really nice post and pics. Great job.

    Have a nice weekend,


  • As a Raleigh home remodeler, I do wanna say great post and great tips.
    Most people don’t realize that just because you have a small place, doesn’t mean that you have don’t have room.

  • Great post! I love the fact that you painted the thrifted desk a salmon color! It goes so well with the rug, the chair, and the art on the wall!

  • What a beautiful space! I wish I had these tips back in my dorm days. 🙂


  • Great tips!
    Really different that all that stuff that everyone knows.

    Here (http://tofudedamasco.blogspot.com/2012/08/espacos-pequenos.html) is a IKEA video with some interesting tips.

  • This is great since I live in a dorm and in the future will probably only live in a small place to start out my life as a ‘grown up’ haha


    Do you guys read all the comments really? You guys seem so nice, I want to talk to you but I think everyone does… Come say hello on the blog! 🙂

  • That’s lovely! 🙂


  • I love these tips! A lot of them are also useful for the college dorm, and mine is pretty messy right now.


  • Yes! Also, did you know you can buy removable wallpaper for rented apartments? I keep thinking of getting some for mine! 🙂

    Alli xx

  • I Love this! I remember seeing Kara’s Apartment tour on her blog a while back and was curious how she kept such a cosy space so neat and tidy. I love the pillow case curtain such a great idea! Thanks for the tips


  • Such a cute and pretty place! Love the bold furniture idea!


  • this is just what i needed! i just moved into a tiny apartment and these ideas are awesome, thanks!

  • That’s amazing what you did with that amount of space. I used to get people just like you who lived in studios that wanted giant frames for their wall when I used to work at a frame shop. Most of the time, I told them to go with a simple thin frame, or even get their print (unless it was something a little bit more expensive) dry mounted to make the space look more full but open. Anyway, I agree that frames can be expensive, but there are some things you could do that can take the ouch price off of framing. And most of it is knowing the size of your picture! I’ve been attempting to write a blog post on the ins and outs of picture framing, but alas, I have no time!


  • I can’t imagine living in 400 sq ft with someone else! Your tips are wonderful!

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