Interior Design for Living: How to decorate temporary home on small budget


Q: I have just moved to an apartment and only plan on staying for a year or two before purchasing a home. I want to make it as attractive as possible on my limited budget, but don't want to make mistakes that I'll regret later. Do you have any suggestions?

A: It's difficult pur­chasing things when you don't know where you'll be living in a few years. There are, however, a few guidelines that may help.

First of all, don't invest any money in things that will remain in the apartment when you leave. Also, don't purchase things that may not fit or be appropriate in your home a few years from now.

This may sound obvious, but a lot of people are tempted to buy furniture that suits the space they're dealing with at the mo­ment. They may also consider in­stalling built-in bookcases, car­peting or custom window treatments in an attempt to make the apartment more liv­able. If they think about the fu­ture, they do so in the belief they will be able to take the items with them when they move.

Obviously, what can and can't be done to an apartment depends upon each individual case, but as far as you're concerned, such purchases would be risky at best. Your money would be better put elsewhere.

The chances of bookshelves, carpeting or custom window treatments fitting the rooms or windows in your next home are slim to none. You may be lucky, but it's not worth taking the chance.

If you decide you'd like a sofa, approximately 84 inches long and 33 inches deep. This will fit almost any room. A sofa over 90 inches may not be appropriate when you move.

The same principle would apply to all upholstered pieces. Don't select anything that is over sized. An average size sofa and loveseat, sofa and chair or flexible modular units would all be appropriate.

If you think you'd like a sec­tional or modular grouping, se­lect one that has flexibility. Many come with two sofas form­ing an "L" shape — one sofa has an arm on the left and the other has an arm on the right. This may very well not fit in your new home. It would be best to buy individual chair and corner units that can be arranged in various configurations. This way, you can be assured you'll be able to use them anywhere.

Storage space is often a prob­lem. Bookshelves are a good way of solving that, but don't build them to fit a particular space. Instead, purchase free standing wall units that can be used to­gether or separately. Many come with not only bookshelves, but with drawers, storage behind doors, a desk or even a bar. They can later be used anywhere — a living room, bedroom or den.

If your apartment has no car­peting, you'll probably want to put something on the floor. Don't install wall-to-wall carpeting even if the landlord permits it. Granted you could pull it up and have it cut to size, but why pay for carpeting, padding and instal­lation when you know some of the carpeting will be wasted?

Instead purchase a standard size area rug — perhaps an 8-by-10-foot or a 9-by-12-foot one. More than likely you'll be able to use it when you move. You may even get one smaller — 6 by 9 feet or 4 by 6 feet — that will not cover the entire floor, but might be sufficient.

If you select an interestingly patterned rug, it possibly could be used as a wall hanging in the future.

Covering your windows is one of the most problematic areas when decorating a temporary apartment.

Often it is a necessity for pri­vacy, but there is no sense in in­vesting a lot of money. Neverthe­less, you still want them to be attractive.

Eliminate the idea of any pro­fessional custom window treat­ments. You probably will not be able reuse them when you move. Consider inexpensive aluminum or wood blinds. Many are stocked in standard sizes and don't have to be custom ordered.

Another possibility would be to use a sheet that coordinates with your room to make inexpensive draperies. You can open up the sides of the heading and shirr it on a curtain rod, or clip rings to the top and put the rings on a pole.

Decorating your apartment now with an eye toward the fu­ture will ensure that almost everything will be a wise invest­ment.