4 interior design mistakes to avoid
when decorating your apartment
During my 20ies I have lived in several different apartments, many of which I did not really like to begin with. Still, I tried to decorate them in a cute way so as to feel at home. Throughout the years, my design preferences as well as budget have somewhat changed. Nevertheless, I'm still renting which brings with it a constant sense of impermanence. For example, we are not going to renovate our rental kitchen. So we live with many "okays". While I think that a certain acceptance and doing the best you can with what you currently have is the best approach in this situation, I also believe that being mindful of the rental lifestyle's particular challenges can help navigate all of that a bit better. So here are four mistakes to avoid, based on my personal experience:
1 — Not having a general concept for your room
In terms of decorating, we used to just go for it. Meaning, we immediately started thinking practically: what do we need for this and that corner, how can we arrange our stuff in a way that makes sense and what products are easily available for purchase? But we didn't take the time to think about the end result — what did we want that room to look like? What styles, colours and layouts did we prefer? It's easier to select specific items and decorative accessories after having taken the time to settle on a general concept. This sounds obvious, but to be honest, I know many renters, including ourselves, who did not go through that first step. Instead, they start buying something, anything, and then feel like they live in an assortment of stuff, not a cohesive and harmonious space.
2 — Choosing interior design styles one room at a time
I've noticed that, especially in smaller apartments, it makes sense to look at your space as a whole, not room by room. In my experience, an apartment feels more spacious and pleasant to be in when it has a cohesive style overall. Sure, it can be fun to play around with different elements in certain rooms. For example, you can consciously make a shift in style to create a focal point. So maybe the interior design in your apartment as a whole includes more subdued tones, but in the dining area you choose to spice it up a bit and, while maintaining the overall colour palette, go for some more vibrant pieces. But it still makes sense to settle on this question first: What is this apartment supposed to feel like in the end? That way, you can style it more deliberately and things will have a very pleasant and cohesive feel to them.
3 — Working against your space, not with it
When choosing an overall interior design style for your apartment you might be tempted to recreate something you saw in a magazine. Maybe you have a general aesthetic preference, like huge open spaces with minimal furniture and decor. But here is the thing: Does that work in your current apartment? I would recommend to integrate your personal interior design style(s) on the one hand with the given characteristics of the space you have on the other hand. What would make that space look and feel best? For example, in our current kitchen we are working with dark grey cabinets, a dark grey floor and not that much natural light. I was tempted to start working against that and decorate with bright colours and fun accessories to counteract the dark base we had to contend with. In the end it looked more clownish and cluttered than nice and bright. We needed to pivot: keeping it simple and choosing to work with our base. So we painted some select walls light grey, for a cohesive colour palette, stripped down the decor and then used functional storage (mainly pantry items in mason jars) as decor. While I'm still not particularly fond of the kitchen itself and there are still some design choices to make (finding the right rug for under the kitchen table), the room overall feels calmer and more "on purpose".
4 — Rushing through the process while choosing the next best thing
One decorating pattern that seems to emerge when you feel like this isn't really your space and you're just there until you move again is rushing through the process and choosing whatever you find in the moment that you kinda like. For one, this goes back to mistake no. 1, not having a general concept and just buying everything spontaneously on the go. But other than having a mismatched space as a result, this has to do with consumerism and fast decor (I've heard about fast fashion, so I assume there must be a similar term for home goods). Basically, I've seen the tendency, in myself and others, to buy subpar items for the home which get thrown out (including donations etc.) a couple of months or a few years later. While I think this is in part a natural process, with changing seasons of life, preferences, lifestyles and means, it's also quite wasteful and it leaves you feeling dissatisfied. So wherever and whenever you can, try to hold out for what you really, really love. A question to help you with that: Would I want to take this item with me into my next/my own/my dream home? It's not about how much something cost or whether or not it seems adult in terms of style. It's just about you being able to imagine that thing in your dream home.
So turning these four mistakes around, I would recommend to (1) choose a general concept before decorating, (2) extend that concept to the whole apartment and try to integrate the general feel of the rooms, (3) deliberately cater your decorating to the apartment/space you are working with, and (4) take your time and buy only what you want to keep long-term.
I hope these tips will help you make the best of your apartment or current living situation! Let me know in the comments which interior design mistakes you have experienced when decorating your home!