Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Apartment on a Budget

Beth Stebner
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how to make your home look expensive

(Photo: Courtesy of Havenly)

Ask anybody, and they’ll probably tell you that among their deepest desires, they want flawless skin, a beautiful home, and world peace—and not necessarily in that order. While one of those things is probably just wishful thinking, the other two are obtainable—but, usually at a steep price.

But it’s not impossible to decorate your home without dropping major $$$ on expensive lamps, rugs, and décor of that ilk, or on the flip side feel like you need to furnish your apartment with floor-to-ceiling IKEA.

We caught up with Emily Motayed, who along with sister Lee Mayer, founded affordable home decor site Havenly, to talk about innovative ways to save money when you redecorate. They launched the business two years ago after both searching for inexpensive ways to revamp their own homes. The site offers online-only redecorating, starting at $79, and Motayed shared some of her tried-and-true tips with us to turn a bland apartment into a beautiful one.

how to make your home look expensive

(Photo: Courtesy of Havenly)

Decorate like you dress.
Sure, it’s nice to dream about a designer wardrobe consisting only of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada. But let’s be real—your closet is probably heavy on H&M and Zara, and you incorporate those few prize pieces into your daily edit.

That’s the same approach you should take to home décor, Motayed says. “It’s all about working within your own budget, and splurging on one or two things that make you happy.” If, for instance, you just have to have that Gray Malin picture, go for it, but try to keep other upgrade costs to a minimum.

And just like you’d invest in the perfect pair of pumps, Motayed says it’s good to spend a bit more for things like a solid mattress and art. “You can always decorate with less expensive sheets, which can also help you switch up your look often,” she says. A mix of high-low reads trendy rather than trying, after all.

how to make your home look expensive

(Photo: Courtesy of Havenly)

Buy small, think big.
The key to overhauling your space without going bankrupt is work with what you have, and not throw out your proverbial decor baby with the bathwater. You don’t need a four-figure piece of furniture to change the look of your apartment. “A few accessories can do wonders for a quick refresh,” Motayed says.

Pad looking shabby or downright dull? She suggests refreshing the space with a really great vase, some colorful candles, or a few inexpensive paintings. “The goal is to tell a story with each piece,” she adds. Or just add a sense of space and dimension with a beautiful serving tray on a coffee table.

how to make your home look expensive

(Photo: Courtesy of Havenly)

 

Stage like a designer.
The art of staging—that is, arranging furniture and objects in your apartment in a way that’s both pleasing and zen—is a tricky one to master. Veer too far one way, and you’ve got a sterile showroom. And overcorrect to the other direction, and you’ve got a home that feels scattered, cluttered, and chaotic.

“A lot of home decorating is not being scared to show your personality,” she says. “If you like reading at the beach, decorate with a few books and a sea urchin.” But, she says (and there’s always a but) it’s all about keeping things elegant and edited, not cramming every single book and seashell you own on a single shelf.

“You want to give your objects space to breathe.”

how to make your home look expensive

(Photo: Courtesy of Havenly)

Add a touch of color and light.
If you’re allowed to paint your place, Motayed says that context is key. “You may love teal, but it might not work with the whole room.” Accent walls are an inexpensive way to up the ante with drama, and plants and flowers also breathe life into an otherwise empty space.

“If you’ve got an empty corner, a great potted plant is an easy, convenient way to update your space.” Not to mention you’ve got a serious boost of color.

Adding floor lamps and table lamps also break up the harsh light from an ugly overhead fixture, Motayed says. You can find cute ones at places like IKEA and Target, and a bunch of tea lights never hurt anyone.

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