The ultimate guide to affordable apartment decor


Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

Thriftsburgh made more than $5,500 in profit at its rummage sale on Aug. 27 which primarily featured household items and clothing.

By Shahum Ajmal, Contributing Editor

Moving to a new house or apartment can be a long, difficult process. But once you get past hauling all your boxes to your new place and figuring out how you could split that $1,200 rent between you and your roommates to be somewhat affordable, comes the fun part — decorating.

Your residence has probably housed different college students every year, who’ve each left their own mark on the space, from carpet stains to old posters.

Whether you believe in minimalism or have been waiting for the moment to let your creativity shine, allow me to offer some tips that you can follow to spice up your spaces.

You are going to quickly feel the void of the essentials you once took for granted in your college dorm such as a desk, a bed and a dresser. To fix this problem in an affordable fashion, seek out your local thrift store. Pitt students can take a quick walk up to the O’Hara Student Center to do some thrift shopping at the University of Thriftsburgh — an on-campus, student-run thrift shop. For second-hand furniture and housing appliances, students can stop by Construction Junction in Point Breeze.

The thrill of hunting is riveting. Call it what you want from from thrift-store chic to vintage decor, but the thrill of hunting and capturing that “can’t beat that price” is one of a kind.

Step one in this process is to establish a budget. It is easy to get lost in your spending when you are finding so many items at once for bargain prices. Prioritize your shopping according to what you need. Make sure you’ve measured the dimensions of your room once you have a basic outline for where you want things to go, so what you buy can actually fit through the door, let alone your room. Having cash on you is probably best, so you aren’t swiping away aimlessly with your debit card.

Next, be open-minded. The art of thrift store shopping is that you don’t know what you’re going to find, which can be frustrating. Keep in mind that you probably won’t find everything that you were hoping for in one visit. You’ll probably need to make multiple stops at local stores and garage sales before finding that one piece that catches your eye. But through all your efforts, know that the end result will be something truly original and personal to you.

Flea markets are also worth stopping by to soak in different art that could help narrow your scope as far as your room’s cohesiveness. Lower your standards before walking in, otherwise everything will look like junk. You might not have a clear idea of what specific items you are looking for when you first walk in, but glancing around at art could inspire you to find your inner vibe.

Most pieces you find will need some refinishing. Steer away from projects that seem out of reach. You’re likely to be able to retouch a small side table with a few strokes of paint, but may run into obstacles trying to retouch a mirror or massive dresser.

Stay realistic and stay true to your style. It goes without saying that you probably don’t want to buy somebody else’s mattress — or anything with a lot of fabric, for that matter. Smells can be overwhelming, but if Febreeze can mask it for you, go for it.

Don’t lose sight of your identity. If you’re looking for a tasteful, elegant vibe, expand your horizons to venturing out into the suburbs and take a look at their thrift stores. There, you’ll be more likely to find nice artwork and accessories like candleholders, book stands and wooden signs.

You will be surprised at what you can find hidden in the back of a thrift store that you can, with a little bit of DIY skills, make look vintage.

For DIY decorations on a budget and staying true to the rules laid out by your strict landlord, invest in Command strips, made by 3M. They can hold pictures, jackets, towels or anything else you want to put on your wall — and they don’t leave a hole. The key in pleasing your landlord is to deal with everything you don’t like by covering it up with non-permanent pieces.

If your carpet has unremovable stains left behind the previous tenant, roll out an area rug that captures your mood. If your overhead lighting washes your skin complexion, buy a few inexpensive warm-lighting lamps.

If all else fails you, return home for the weekend and rummage through your old belongings. You never know what hidden gems are stored away in your parents’ basement that you could find a purpose for.

With these tips, while still keeping your own budget and aesthetic in mind, your college apartment will feel like home — until the next move.