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How to Decorate an Outdated Apartment: Ideas and Inspiration

Whether you're renting an apartment or you've just purchased an apartment of your very own, chances are the current design and decoration of the space won't be quite to your liking. 

In particular, if you move into an apartment that previously had a long-term resident or simply an apartment in an older building, the decor might be noticeably outdated. 

For design-forward individuals, that's just not acceptable, especially if you're going to be living there or trying to rent the space to residents. 

In this article, we'll talk about how to decorate an outdated apartment with an emphasis on supporting your personal taste and designing for the future. 

Towards the end, we'll even talk to an expert about what wall design can add to a space. 

Find your vision 

If there's one big mistake you can make when setting out to decorate an entire apartment from scratch, it's to not have a plan from the outset. 

If you don't have a strong vision at the start, you might end up wasting time and money, and no one wants that. 

This is the part of the process where you should consider the core principles of interior design. How do you want each space to feel? How will the various spaces and individual decor elements work together? 

This is also the stage where you should set your budget. You might end up spending a bit more or a bit less than your target budget, but having a ballpark figure will be extremely helpful when you're shopping around and looking for deals. 

Also, given the topic of this article, you should try to think about how your design choices are going to fare over time. 

how to decorate an outdated apartment

Look to the future 

None of us knows what design trends will come and go in the future, and at any given time, multiple trends and styles co-exist. 

Even so, two major design approaches will continue to return again and again: maximalism and minimalism. 

In our opinion, taking a minimalist approach is far less risky when it comes to decorating for the future. Clean, open spaces with light furniture probably have a better chance of continuing to look good in the years to come. 

But that's just our take. Your taste should drive the project. You can even look back on furniture or other decor elements that you've had for years that have stood the test of time. Use those pieces to guide your decoration of this new space. 

Update the furniture 

Obviously choosing furniture pieces is extremely important to any decorating project. Even if you stick to the absolute essentials, i.e. bed, sofa, dining table, desk, etc., these objects are going to take up a large amount of space and have a major presence in each room. 

There's no getting around this, so be careful about what you choose. But this also means that furniture represents a major opportunity to update the look of an apartment. 

Grab some catalogs from some of your favorite designers and stores, or hit the pavement and check out consignment shops in your area. 

For beds, the style of the frame itself is the most important, since you can easily change the overall vibe with new linens later on. 

For sofas, you're stuck with the color that comes out of the box, unless you're willing to shell out for re-upholstering. So be extra careful here as bold, loud colors can easily dominate a space, whether you want them to or not. 

how to decorate outdated apartment

When it comes to chairs, tables, and lamps, try to think about visual weight. Does each piece look heavy or light? Is comfort more important than style? 

Also, don't be afraid to backtrack on a purchase. If you're still within the return window, send it back as soon as you can and choose a different piece. You don't want to regret a major furniture purchase for years on end. 

This might go without saying, but if you're trying to update an apartment, stay away from thrift stores. The chances of finding furniture that supports a modern look are low, so even if the price is right, just say no. 

Consider lighting 

For amateur decorators, it can be easy to forget just how useful and effective lighting can be to achieving your decorating goals. 

Each apartment has its own natural light sources, and these are ground zero when it comes to lighting. Try to observe how the natural light in each room changes throughout the day and during different weather conditions. 

Artificial lighting, in the form of ceiling fixtures, lamps, sconces, etc., can drastically change the vibe of an entire room or just a small portion of a room. 

When shopping for lighting fixtures, make sure you understand which bulb types it will accept and the wattage of the bulbs you would like to use with each fixture. 

For several years now, low-wattage "Edison" bulbs, which use clear glass and visible filaments, have been associated with trendy interior design. However, these bulbs are far less energy-efficient than modern LED bulbs, and they also generate more heat. Also, the yellow light they generate may also make a space feel smaller. 

If you're feeling adventurous, then RBG bulbs offer a huge number of possibilities, including color changes on the fly via an app or remote. 

Explore wall design (Advice from Thony Perrudin) 

Wall design isn't exactly a new concept. It's been around in some form for quite a long time. But it has been popularized in recent years, and professional studios are bringing some fantastic ideas to life. 

A master of architecture and design, Thony Perrudin applies his practical and artistic expertise to create stunning wall designs, particularly graphics. 

For those considering implementing wall design in an apartment, Perrudin stresses that the space itself is extremely important to both planning and execution. 

"It's important to think about what kind of graphic fits best in the space. The size of the project has a direct impact on the visual that will be created." 

thony perrudin wall design

Designer and artist Thony Perrudin.

Of course, professional wall design services don't come cheap, and that's for good reason. Even a small mistake could result in a lackluster design.  

But when executed with skill and artistry, wall design work can absolutely transform a space, and Perrudin can attest to that. 

"What I love the most is designing a visual journey by enhancing an existing space or creating a specific atmosphere." 

Don't forget the floors 

So we've talked about furniture and walls, but what about the floors? Depending on the age of the apartment and the previous tenant/owner, you might have some lovely hardwood floors or ugly and heavily worn wall-to-wall carpeting. 

At least in our opinion, wall-to-wall carpet doesn't exactly scream 'hip.' There are benefits for sure, relatively low cost of materials and installation for one, but hardwood, tile, and even inexpensive laminates can make a space feel much more modern and open. 

how to decorate an outdated apartment

Also, these flooring options give you the added opportunity to place various area rugs, runners, and mats to make a room feel exactly how you want it to feel. 

Oh, and hard floor options are also far easier to clean and maintain compared to carpeting, especially if you have a pet or kids running around. 

Follow your instincts 

Our final piece of advice is to follow your instincts every step of the way. You're the expert when it comes to your own tastes, and you can also make smaller changes down the road. 

It's about what feels modern to you, what feels comfortable to you, and how you want your space to feel, both now and in the foreseeable future. 

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