Designing your (college) rental with a budget

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

Fill 1Created with Sketch.

Published on August 17, 2017

College (okay, after Freshman year) is a time that you start to realize that your surroundings at home are really important and really can affect your day-to-day. Anticipate a really solid “aha” moment followed by an “oh no” moment when you realize that you don’t have the money to bring your dreamy Pinterest board to life. That’s okay. We can help. In honor of a recent partnership with LoftSmart, we’ve been put together some ideas on how to make that college rental into a space that you’re proud of and that’s functional (friends, studying and hobbies!).

Here are our tips on ensuring a beautiful home that all your friends will be Instagraming:

1) Determine your style

Now’s the chance to differentiate your apartment from the typical college apartment look (which I would call “IKEA hodge podge”). When you know what look and feel you’re going for, you can spend more thoughtfully and buy pieces that go together cohesively. If you’re trying to decorate an apartment with roommates, sit down and brainstorm your style and goals together. Make a list of do’s and don’t. Build a communal Pinterest board. Take the Havenly style quiz together. And then, only buy things that fit within that style.

2) Posters count as art

There are so many iconic, beautiful vintage posters out there. And luckily, IKEA is the best frame-hack of all time so if you want to step up your poster game even more for just $10 – $15 (that’s a few beers worth), get a frame. And, next time you go to a concert, buy a poster. Pro tip: indie bands have better posters and always buy the risograph or letter press one for an extra $5 or $10. When it comes to hanging the art, don’t make the common mistake of hanging it too high. Align the center of the frame with your eye level. Lastly, whatever you do, don’t keep your walls blank!

3) Furniture is expensive, so be thrifty

My mom always said, “don’t get attached to furniture in your twenties.” It stuck with me. But I did it anyway. And it really hurt when I graduated and, in a rush, had to ditch my beloved mid-century modern antiques that I had splurged on. Learn from my mistakes! Head to thrift stores, browse Craigslist, and seek out estate sales for larger pieces of furniture. And then, if you’re going to “spend”, use that money on the details like throws, pillows and rugs.


4) Homegoods, Target, Ikea, Urban Outfitters are some of your best friends!

Start with Homegoods because they have such a wide selection of everything from pillows, lighting, rugs, bedding and little decor objects at such a great price. Obviously, keep an eye on sales–online shopping is a good way to make sure you’re snagging all the bargains within the style of your room.



5) Plants

BE THE PLANT LADY! Caring for plants is so rewarding. Having greenery in your home is good for the mind and body and you learn a lot along the way. Plus, having plants in your space make it feel more put together and breaks up the rooms. Start with one big potted plant (like a palm) and a few smaller plants (succulents are easy!).



6) Use Design Quickie

At Havenly, we offer free (FREE!) design advice from a professional interior designer on our iOS app. It’s called Design Quickie. Just send in questions you may have about putting you space together or finding items that fit within your style.


And lastly, just throwing one feng shui-ish tip that I will stand by *forever*. Don’t do your work in bed! Please just don’t! It’s not good for the soul.

P.S. Trying to find the spot for you and your roomies? LoftSmart is a great tool for tracking down and securing your next dream apartment, all online!

Images 1 – 5 courtesy of Urban Outfitters.