Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Decorating a Rental Apartment on a Small Budget - the Living Room

I naively thought that decorating an apartment would be a lot like staging a home.  Figure out how to mix things you already have (our apartment is partially furnished) with some new things, to create a space you like.  And don't spend lots of money doing it, because its not a long term rental.

But it isn't quite that simple.  Challenge #1 - color palette.  We have a bright red kitchen that pretty much defines the color scheme.  I like the red (at least as a rental, not sure it would be my choice for 10+ years), but it sets the stage for anything else we do.  Secondly, the walls are a light grey.  And while I could paint them, when we move out I'd have to paint them again and that just seems like too much work.

Challenge #2 - Layout and Details.  I typically change things up a bit (like knock down walls) or add details.  But obviously we can't do that here.  So the boring fireplace will have to stay just the way it is.  Ditto with the wall/room configuration.

So with that in mind, we got started.  We decided to go with a pretty monochromatic approach - that incorporates our pale grey walls and white silk drapes - but punch it up a bit with bursts of color.  We chose navy blue, with red accents - which are coincidentally the colors of the Netherlands flag.

But before we get to the room, let me start with the balcony.  Because, I was so excited to furnish it with a small table, chairs and plants.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the balcony.  And while we don't get a lot of nice weather, when it comes, we open the doors and treat it like an extended living space.  It's so much fun to sit out there with a glass of wine and watch the world go by!

For the living room, here is where we started.  The giant sofa, coffee table and side chairs dominated the room.  So we asked the landlord to remove them, so we could get something that was a better size for the space.
Living Room Before
We furnished it with our IKEA finds as well as lots of accent pieces and a few lamps.
And my favorite suggestion for making a room feel more homey - add some plants.  Even if you have a brown thumb, you can keep an orchid alive for a month or so to enjoy the blooms.  And the price is about the same as a bouquet of flowers that will only last a week!
Living Room Before

Living Room After

Of course a dog is a nice touch to make it feel like home too!

The office is pretty basic - I'm not crazy about the desk, but I'm sure the landlord wouldn't appreciate having me paint it!

So maybe it's not the design we'd go for if it was our forever home - but it will feel like home while we're here!

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  1. Can you tell me where you got the coffee table? It's exactly what I'm looking for!

    1. Ha ha - I bought it at a mall called Villa Arena in Amsterdam! It was only 350 euros, and I love it! But it's probably not something we could figure out how to get to you :-)

  2. I think it looks great, too. I love that kitchen! Everything you've done looks fantastic.

  3. Thanks so much! We are pretty happy with it :-)

  4. That sounds like a big apartment for Amsterdam. Have a wonderful time living there--what a fantastic place and so close to all the museums too. Like what you are doing to the apartment--already looking nice, and with a few more accessories and red accents, it will be perfect for you. I see you already have some very impressive flower boxes on your balcony that pick up on the red kitchen. Europe is just such a great place to wander around and find something interesting just about everywhere, and so much more care is put into buildings and public spaces than you find in most places in the US. I lived in Germany for many years and miss that commitment to quality, not quantity. They also pay really high taxes, but they do get a lot for their money, I think, at least in Northern Europe. Anyway, have a wonderful adventure discovering the place for yourself. One tip I can give you is to look out for Free Museum weekend in the spring--not so much in Amsterdam, but in the rest of the country. And going to Bastogne in December for the Battle of the Bulge volksmarch and parade is something to see, but make reservations if you are staying overnight--the whole region will be packed. There are some great Expat websites with all sorts of travel and cultural differences advice, and the Dutch are easy to live with and still mostly friendly to Americans. I suppose you have tried a Rice Table and a Dutch Baby pancake by now--to die for. And the florist shops--Wow. The spring flower parades and Keukenhof Gardens are a hop skip and a jump and just mind-blowing. As are the Christmas Markets and Mardi Gras. We just loved living there and I'm sure you will too.

  5. Wow, Battle of the Bulge sounds fantastic! That's one I hadn't heard of before, maybe we can incorporate it with a Christmas market trip. Thanks for the tip!

  6. I went every year with a group of friends, who took care of the arrangements. I searched and could not find a direct link to register, but it is generally the second weekend in December.
    I suggest you call or email the Bastogne Tourist Information Office for more info. http://www.paysdebastogne.be/en/contact The town is not very big and it will be obvious where everything is once you are in the town center. Friday night has a parade (really impressive with lots of equipment) and veteran ceremony and the march is on Saturday. The event draws lots of veterans and US military participants and really brings the war to life, but with a festive atmosphere. The march will be cold and windy out in the farm fields, with reenactors along the way, so wear thick wool socks, sturdy shoes or boots and long johns and a big scarf to wrap around your face. Bring water--there are few stops for food or drink and skip the long lines at the first food stop if you are going the long routes--it will have long lines. Stick to the soup, sandwiches and warm drinks--and be aware that there are very few restrooms available once you leave town, mostly at the food and drink stops. Volkesmarching is a popular activity in Europe year round and it can be a fun way to see the countryside.

  7. It's easy to decorate the living room in my opinion, easier than any other room. All you need is a good couch and a couple of pillows. A few pictures and shelves lining the walls for storage is a nice way to frame the space too.


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