Q: My best friends and I just got our first apartment. We're excited to decorate but it's pretty small, and rather blank. We can't change the wall color or the flooring, so we basically have a neutral palate to work around. How can we incorporate colors and textures without overwhelming such a small space?— Soraya
A: Most apartments won't let you paint or pull up carpet, but that doesn't mean you have to live in a boring space. Think of it as a blank canvas — it's what you add that counts.
The first rule of sharing an apartment is agreeing on what goes in it. Get with your roommates and come up with a plan. Are there particular colors you like? A style of furniture? Do you want your living room to be a hangout or a serene study oasis? These are important things to decide together. Once you've got a decorating plan, you're ready to go.Girls Rooms »
Your living room will be the one place you spend the most time together and where your guests will hang, so make sure it's comfortable. If the space is small, you've got to maximize seating and lounge space. Try two matching loveseats instead of a large couch. Toss a bunch of seating cushions and a beanbag chair around the room to provide comfy places to sit. Keep your CDs and DVDs organized with wall shelves, and pick a coffee table that opens up so you can store games, pillows or supplies in it.Lounge Rooms »
Work Your Windows
When you can't paint walls, you have to make your windows pop. Choose bright curtains that coordinate with your furniture for a splash of color. Try layers as well — a soft velvet curtain over a light sheer can really add some drama. Use decorative mirrors to open up the space even more. Place them on the wall opposite your real windows, and they'll reflect natural light. It's like having twice the window space.Girls Window Coverings »
Share a Bathroom
Unless you're living in a big place, you're probably sharing a bathroom. An easy way to make this work is to have each of you use color-coded cubbies and bins to know what belongs to whom. Keep things tidy in the shower by getting a caddy with separate compartments for each roommate.Bath Accessories »
All About You
Once the communal areas are complete, focus on making your room reflect your very own style. Cute bedding and curtains in coordinating colors and prints are a great start. Grab some matching floor pillows for lounging and find a desk that fits your study style. For a fun and artistic touch, paint your name on a canvas and hang it on your door. Your roommates can pin messages there for you when you're out.Girls Room » Guys Room »
Follow these simple design tips and keep the clutter to a minimum, and you'll see your small space become a chic suite in no time. And word to the wise: you can never have too many bath towels!