If you’re an avid reader of Glitter Guide, chances are you have an interest in style, interiors, décor and design. Between home tours, DIYs and makeovers, we always aim to inspire our readers. When it comes down to applying those ideas to your own space, however, we know it can sometimes be difficult—especially when you are living with a significant other and you’re on a budget. Today, Abby is sharing her experience of moving in with her (now) fiancé and sharing her tips for decorating on a dime.
Tip One: Lower your expectations.
I felt like I’d been dreaming of my first grown-up apartment forever when Chris and I moved into our Orange County place. From the apartments featured on “Friends” and “Sex and the City,” to the homes highlighted in nearly every Vanity Fair issue and the Ikea catalogue (let’s not even talk about my Pinterest boards), I’d see things and think “that’s exactly what I want when I get my own place.” Well, I’m going to come right out and say that if you are on a budget, do not, under any circumstances, have any expectations that your place will look like a perfectly done home tour. I’m going to let you in on a little secret; the majority of the interiors you’re drooling over have either cost a lot of dough, are made up of a lot of gifted items (or trades) or have taken a lot of time (even years) to put together. Unless you’ve been hoarding furniture and décor pieces for years and have just been waiting to move them into your new light-filled apartment, don’t expect your place to look like it belongs in Elle Décor.
Tip Two: Work with what you have and don’t dwell on what you don’t have.
When Chris and I were looking for our first apartment, we weren’t living in Orange County and we honestly didn’t know what to expect. In what might have been a hasty move, we saw a standard unit in a large apartment complex near his work and put down a deposit. The first time we saw our apartment was on moving day and I walked into it extremely excited and happy. It felt bigger and more spacious than I had remembered the units being, and it seemed like a blank canvas onto which I could exert my creative energy. A few months in though, I started to get frustrated by the lack of natural light and the placement of my desk. I felt like I was working in a cave—the office area was the darkest part of our apartment. I learned that instead of getting frustrated and dwelling on things I couldn’t change, I needed to figure out how to work with the space I did have. We ended up making our kitchen table smaller (by taking a leaf out of it) and created a desk area up against the back wall where we have the biggest window in the apartment. Is it ideal to have a office/kitchen combo? Maybe not, but it works for now and I’m so much happier working in the daylight.
Tip Three: Learn to compromise and embrace an eclectic style.
Like with almost everything in life, living with someone and decorating a home involves compromise (as the eldest of four, I’m well versed in that area!). But for this move, we not only needed to compromise with each other on style, we also needed to compromise with our budget (of which there really wasn’t one to begin with). In terms of decorating, I strongly urge your to embrace the word “eclectic.” Merging items that you once had in your place with things your partner had in theirs is no easy feat. For example, Chris is obsessed with sports and between signed posters, jerseys and trophies, the décor he brought with him makes it look like he was trying to replicate some kind of sports hall of fame. I, on the other hand, brought Vogue prints, fashion-focused coffee table books and the knick knacks on which I had proudly displayed my jewelry throughout my previous apartment. When merging your items, try to find common denominators. Once we laid out all of our prints, photos and posters, we realized we had a bunch of black and white photos. While the subjects of the photos varied, we mixed and matched them together to create a few different gallery walls and vignettes in our apartment that ended up looking cohesive. Also, take favorite colors and shared adventures into consideration when finding your style. Most likely, you won’t be completely satisfied with everything, but at the end of the day, those quirks and oddities will give your space that personal flare that’s reflective of you as a couple—and it will make your home unique.
Tip Four: Never say no to free furniture.
Forget décor and design, furniture is the biggest budget eater, especially if both of you are starting from scratch. Chris and I moved from the Boston area but because we drove across the country with a Penske truck, we were able to bring a few pieces with us. The biggest design gift, however, was the furniture we received from his parents (who just so happened to be moving to a new place and had a ton of old pieces they no longer needed). This is where my next piece of advice comes in: accept all free or discounted pieces even if they don’t go with the rest of your stuff. If you are lucky enough to have people say “we don’t want this anymore, do you want it?” TAKE IT. I can’t tell you how much money we saved by accepting pieces people no longer wanted. The same goes for cheap flea market finds, Craigslist deals and discarded items on the side of the road. Do we now have three dressers in our bedroom that are all different heights and finishes of wood? Yes. But did we need dressers? Yes! We arranged them in a way that looked best and tried to make them a bit more cohesive with the items we placed on top of each. I have to be honest, I hardly even notice that they are all so different now. When it comes to furniture, you can always repaint, distress and upholster pieces, as well as add blankets, throw pillows and accent rugs to tie things together or disguise flaws.
Tip Five: Figure out your budget and stick to it.
Truth be told, I was more willing to spend money on aesthetically pleasing décor, while Chris wanted to spend money on practical pieces. Ultimately, we looked at the things we already had and then made a budget for what we could afford to spend on the rest of the pieces we needed. When moving in with another person—whether you are sharing a bank account or not—make a budget for how much you want to spend on furniture and décor. You might go a little over (or hopefully stay under), but if you agree and stick to a budget, that should enable you to start living together on a positive note. Also, prioritize where you want to spend your money. For example, if it’s really important for you to have a high quality mattress, maybe spend a little less on kitchen items or living room décor. If you entertain a lot and having a stylish and comfortable living room is a high priority, perhaps spend a bit more there. Personally, I’m not big on cooking and there wasn’t too much we could do to our rental bathroom, so we decided to spend a little more money sprucing up our living room, which is the biggest room and where we spend the most time!
When it comes to purchasing things, it makes sense to scout out items beforehand and compare prices. Spend some time online doing your research. Check out sites like Target, Walmart, Ikea and HomeGoods for deals. If you are looking for more unique pieces, check out Craigslist, flea markets and thrift stores.
Tip Six: Practice patience and embrace the journey.
I’m the least patient person when it comes to anything that involves decorating or DIY. If I have an idea, I want to execute it as soon as possible. However, I’m slowly learning to be patient, and the frequency at which Chris comes home to find 20 extra holes in the wall from when I tried to hang things myself is definitely decreasing! Sometimes it takes two people to do things, and I need to constantly remind myself of that. Instead of trying to do something right away, I think of the task as a learning process and a journey that Chris and I are taking together. We’re not striving for a perfect apartment, just one that reflects our personalities—and makes us comfortable and happy. You don’t always hit that nail on the head the first time around (our apartment looks fairly different than it did when we first moved in), but it’s fun to be on that journey and see your space evolve over time.
There are so many little things I’d change or repaint or DIY, but I’m okay with taking my time and figuring out what I really like, want and need! It’s definitely been a fun adventure for Chris and me so far and I’m looking forward to seeing how our home continues to evolve.
Have any other tips for me? Please share!