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Temporary Decorating Tricks Every Girl Should Know
Decorating a new space is one of the best parts about moving. But when you’re in those transition-filled college and post-grad years lived out in a series of dorm rooms, study abroad stays, internship placements, and short-term lease apartments, you know that you’ll just have to pack up again soon anyway. When time and budget is limited, what are you supposed to do?
As a design-obsessed girl who’s moved seven times in three years, I’ve learned that the key is thinking ahead to the next transition. It’s sort of like decorating Darwinism: Only the moveable survive. Of course, that doesn’t mean your room has to be boring. Au contraire—sometimes having limits inspires more creativity. Here are all the best tricks to make your space your own, even if you’re only staying put a few months.
Whether you spend your time there sleeping, checking Facebook, or convincing yourself you can study buried under a blanket, your bed is prime real estate. First things first: Get thee a duvet and duvet cover. Why? All-in-one comforters are pricey and unpackable, and quilts are heavy. Duvet inserts are disposable items, so head to Ikea and buy the cheapest one that’ll keep you comfortable. If you need a little extra warmth, look for a colorful throw blanket (packable or disposable, depending on your budget) to cozy up with.
As for what’s actually seen? In terms of versatility, it’s seriously hard to beat a white duvet cover. Not only does it make your bed seem like a fluffy cloud at the end of a long day, white is chic, minimal, and can be paired with literally every color. It’s also always among the least expensive in terms of covering options, meaning if you have to leave it behind, it won’t be a huge loss. If you can’t stand the thought of a plain bed, check out Urban Outfitters’ pretty patterned tapestries to put on top. A full-size one can also double as a curtain via clip-hooks in your next space if you get sick of it on your bed.
Next, if you really want to cut down your shopping list, eliminate the top (flat) sheet. Trust us, you won’t miss it. Just throw your duvet cover in with your fitted sheet and pillowcases when you do laundry. Also, no matter what, the key to bedding is cotton. The poly-blend stuff might be better-priced, but it doesn’t breathe as easily in the summer or keep warmth in during the winter. It also just feels nicer—even if it’s a couple dollars more, cotton’s definitely worth it.
Throw pillows are super helpful when it comes to livening up boring beds (or couches!). The bad news is that they can be costly, not to mention cumbersome to squish into a suitcase. Just like you did with your duvet, look for pillow covers and inserts that are sold separately. Inserts are cheap (read: disposable) if you buy a standard size. Using the money you save, buy an amazing pillow cover that you can roll up and put into a space-saving plastic bag the next time you move. Lots of places sell their covers separately, and don’t forget to trawl markets for really unique ones during travels abroad.
Somehow landlords always pick the ugliest shade of beige wall paint, and with all those restrictions about what you can and cannot hang, it’s hard to make the space remotely attractive. Until these handy picture-hanging strips came along, that is. They’re the best, truly. But what to hang? Your décor needs to be easily transportable and, as always, disposable if required. Here are a few ideas…
Postcard wall: One of my old roommates collected amazing arty postcards that she found in shops and that friends would send her from their trips. If your budget’s flexible, buy postcard-size frames and make a giant wall o’ cards—you’ll not only have some amazing stuff, you’ll also have some fond association to go along with it.
DIY art: A small budget means you have to get creative, even if you’re not an arts and crafts kind of girl. Last year I found an amazing print that was essentially a piece of paper with Gone with the Wind’s “Frankly, my dear, I don’t get a damn” quote cut out of it, and decided that instead of forking over $60, I could DIY it. I ventured out to a stationery store and got poster board in red and silver with a cool mirror-y finish. Then I made stencils out of a font I traced on my computer screen (hint: avoid cursive ones). I traced them onto the red poster, cut out the stenciled letters, glued that sheet onto the silver one, and voila! I was even able to find a $10 frame to top it all off.
Map “wallpaper”: If you’re on a study abroad term, take a map from everywhere (literally, everywhere) you travel, and keep them safe in a cardboard folder for when you get back. Once you’re in your next place, take some wall-safe double-sided tape and cover a statement wall with them. Bonus points if you have postcards or tickets to layer on top!
In the world of tiny apartment closets, your biggest lifesaver is the 3M hook. It’ll convert wall space (inside or outside of your closet) into storage space, and do it in a landlord-friendly way that won’t have you forking over your security deposit upon departure. A wall of purses? Go for it. Or put a hanger on one and wrap all your scarves around it.
And because closets can be boring, spice up the doors with pictures from your favorite catalogs or magazines. Enjoy an afternoon of tearing-and-taping, and you’ll have sartorial inspiration for months.
Forget bathroom storage sets—even with Bed Bath & Beyond coupons, they’re pricey and unnecessary. Check out flea markets and thrift stores for awesome options. We love mason jars for toothbrushes, and silverware or desk dividers for makeup drawers.
Matching towels are expensive, right? Not if there’s a little trickery involved: Get a big bath sheet in one color (for you), a regular-sized one in another color (for your hair or for when you have a guest), and a hand towel in each color. This way, you have enough towels to make your own shower ritual pretty lu, and you have a nice set for friends who visit.
The biggest trick in decorating during the on-the-go years is working with what you’ve got. Have a lot of books and a bookshelf? Organize them by color to make things a little more interesting. A statement rug can also do a room wonders—and we’re not talking about some hand-woven gem that will set you back thousands. Ikea has great ones that hover around the $35 mark. If you’ve got wooden floors and a cold winter ahead, it’s totally worth it.
Be an unapologetic hanger Scrooge: Never be afraid to ask if you can keep the hangers when you’re buying clothes. They’re expensive to buy outright, and the worst the clerk can do is say no. If you’re traveling, be on the lookout for unique things to bring back that won’t cost a lot of money; something as cheap and simple as a cool Thai soda bottle can have a second life as a vase.
Finally, don’t over-think it! The best decorating tip I ever received came from my grandma. She simply bought what she liked, whatever it was, and the rooms in her house were not only beautiful, but incredibly her. Fill your space with what you love, and it’ll be more of a home than anyone’s Pinterest board could hope for—even if you’re just there a few months.