1. Even seemingly useless things can become building materials.
“I got a new bed and didn’t know what to do with the wooden slats from my old frame, so I bought some L-brackets (.97 a piece!) and turned them into shelves.”
2. Create privacy even when you have see-through doors by frosting the glass yourself.
“The French doors separating my bedroom from the living room were see-through, so I bought some frosted glass sheets from Home Depot and spent an afternoon spritzing water on the glass and cutting out 8×11 inch panels. And voila! Privacy!”
3. Tables don’t always have to be tables.
“When we moved in we didn’t have a side table but for some reason we did have a burlap coffee bag and twine so I wrapped it around a paint bucket (that still has paint in it and belongs to my landlord…please don’t tell her where it went) and I haven’t changed it since.”
4. Make gardens out of unexpected items.
“I bought herbs and then I put them into an old Coca Cola box. Then I got Instagram so I could take a picture of it.”
5. Also: bars.
“My friend was moving to LA and gave me this old school desk that I love! A very nice cab driver managed to fit it in the trunk of his car (kind of) and now it is where we store our booze.”
6. Plants — especially when they’re different sizes — can make a space look so much livelier.
“I’ve slowly but surely filled up my room with a bunch of plants. I’ve named ‘em all after some of my favorite rappers and singers (Yeezus, Katy Perry, and Rick Ross are pictured here). I love my plants.”
7. Hack an Ikea bookshelf if you don’t want to cover up your walls with bulky furniture.
“I built this Ikea hack bookcase because I didn’t want to cover up my brick wall (and I was super bored with Billy bookcases).”
8. Stain or paint cheap furniture to really make it yours.
“I don’t have a good vegetable cutting space in my apartment, so I bought this $50 Ikea butcher block and painted/stained it myself. Voila, cutting space right next to the stove!”
9. Wall art doesn’t need to be complicated or pricey.
“If you’re super broke, use postcards and old cards to decorate your walls as opposed to buying posters!”
10. Repurposing is way cheaper than the Anthro/Urban Outfitters/West Elm alternative.
“I wanted a little shelf thingie for my KidRobot collection but was not willing to pay $180 for the one I fell in love with at Urban. Soooo I found this old bottle-holder in a thrift store, removed the wooden handle and made it into this.”
11. (Especially when the thing you want is…unusual.)
“I really wanted a wooden hashtag covered with moss that I saw online (idk?) but it was $100 so I bought a $5 bag of moss and glued it to some cardboard.”
12. That said, a few nice pieces of hardware can make a ton of difference.
“I stole this table from my grandfather’s house and repainted it (a sort of pastel lime green with white accents) and replaced the knobs with ones from Anthro.”
13. Well-hung twinkle lights don’t look dorm-y (and can help offset a crappy overhead lamp. )
“I hung these (MULTI-SETTING) twinkle lights around my window because I enjoy whimsy and fun colors sometimes. It involved getting tiny Command hooks in just the right places and standing on chairs, but it finally happened.”
14. Framing isn’t the only way to display art.
“I made this bookshelf/rack thing for my office with a friend. And a good way to display a piece of art without a frame is to get a mat from the framer or art store and pin it as a background.”
15. And you don’t necessarily have to hang your art on the wall.
“When you have a ton of art, like we have a ton of art, these long narrow shelves from Ikea do the trick of holding a lot of pieces. (And yes, those are Nic Cage masks peeking out the end).”
16. Making your own headboard is way easier than it looks.
“My headboard was made from an old room divider. It had four big panels originally, but I only needed two. We spray painted the frame black and removed the silvery felt curtains and replaced them with a fun pink fabric.”
17. If you hate your lighting, just add more.
“My kitchen has one of those not-so-cute fluorescent lights (and I’m blessed/cursed with tall enough ceilings that I can’t actually do anything to the fixture myself). I bought this lil’ lamp guy at Ikea and swapped out the original dark grey shade for a lighter one, and it makes such a difference — even when the overhead is turned on, my new lamp is powerful and eye-level enough to make everything feel warm and cozy, not cold and desolate.”
18. Don’t forget to spruce up your shelves.
“The first project I did when I moved into my apartment was to put in patterned shelf paper in the kitchen. Super simple, but makes me smile every time I open a cabinet!”
19. Add a touch of the paranormal.
“I found this on the street outside my apartment and decided I wanted to hang it up. I am now 100 percent convinced it is haunted.”
20. (It keeps your guests on their toes.)
“I found this crappy mirror at a $.99 store (although it was actually $5) and painted it white with eyes to go on our occult wall.”
21. Get lulzy.
“I saw this banner on Etsy and wanted to make my own. I picked a phrase that would be hilarious to hear people say when they walked into my space.”
22. Turn the thing you loathe into the thing you love.
“Who doesn’t hate work lingo? My boyfriend hand-cut this “please advise” banner and hung it over the bed, which hahaha.”
23. Even the tiniest gardens still have room for a few flowers.
“After only planting herbs in my tiny fire escape garden for a few years, I finally gave in to my more whimsical instincts and planted some flowers (poppies and snapdragons) this spring. Occasionally I’ll snip a few and put them in a vase, but mostly I just enjoy seeing their pretty little faces right outside the window. They make me so happy! Flowers rule! Don’t not plant flowers!”
24. Accent walls are our lord and savior.
“I painted one blue accent wall (“Mosaic Blue,” to be exact) and added a cheap rug from Ikea and now I feel so fancy.”
25. Add a personal touch with DIY coasters.
“When I moved into my first apartment in college, I made coasters from 20-cent Home Depot tiles and Mod Podge featuring my and my roommates’ favorite albums. They were a nice little touch that made our place feel that much more homey, and were always a hit among other friends and visitors at parties (‘Where did you get those?! I want my own!’). Now the coasters — which I’ve continued to make periodically with more album covers, Instagrams, and family photos — have become a staple in my gift giving for friends and family.”
26. If a piece of furniture doesn’t totally work for your purposes, modify it.
“I bought a little Rast dresser and took out the top drawer, copying the second photo here. I put shoes where the top drawer would be. The bottom drawer hides my ugly black internet router cord.
I’m not uber crafty and had never painted furniture before and I definitely didn’t follow all the rules (like, I didn’t sand I don’t think) but for my purposes it’s fine. “
27. Like, you really need not spend any money whatsoever.
“My entire living room cost me less than $110 because I am a parasite apparently. I spent the most on pillows??? “
28. Craigslist has the best gems.
“Also: My kitchen has no counter space so I brought this Craiglisted cart all the way from the Lower East Side to Astoria (I live very far from the subway). It was a very fun night (not).”
[Ed. note for people who do not live in New York City: that is a distance so vast that many lesser mortals have turned back and/or perished in the charge.]
29. Even a small dining space can feel open and bright if you set the area apart with a rug and some art.
“I got the table and chairs off of Craigslist, the rose gold wire bowl on sale at Target, the rug for $6 at Century 21, the art at Ikea, and the books are all from the BuzzFeed library! My favorite color is yellow, and I love that this feels like a bright, cheery place to sit down and enjoy a meal or chat.”
30. Don’t have the right tools? No problem.
“I recycled them from my old place and re-installed by myself without a leveler or ruler, using a New Yorker issue to keep things straight and to measure… Somehow, it worked, so I’m pretty happy with myself.”
31. Never underestimate the power of moms. (Or wine.)
“My mom built me the bar cart from a short, simple bookcase. She added wheels and screwed in a wine rack and towel bar. We finished it off with monogrammed glasses, a bottle opener, and a cocktail recipe book, all antiques.”
32. Simply rearranging your books can work wonders.
“My former roommate taught me the art of arranging books in a magical way where you stack some of them horizontally and it looks like you’re an artistic book wizard, even though all you did was match up the trim sizes. You can also leave little showcase spots for books that are especially cute or of sentimental value. Yes, it is occasionally kind of a disaster to extract a book from the bottom of a stack, but how often do you REALLY re-read Middlemarch, anyway?”
33. Especially if they’re COLOR-CODED.
“I found this ladder outside my building one day, and because I have no qualms about taking stuff off the street like a weird thief I took it in, and made it a book shelf. Things look way better when they are color-coded, BTW.”
34. Sometimes all you need are some tchotchkes and a dog/footrest.
“I can’t take credit for this but my friend Katya put a bunch of cool knick-knacks on my mantel and I think it looks nice. Included: a cool photo, a cool postcard, a silhouette of my mom when she was a lil’un, and a weird obelisk I woke up with one night after drinking heavily.”