More likely than not, if you’re moving into your first apartment, you’ve got a blank canvas — as in, bare walls, neutral-colored carpet, limited furniture. But you’ve also got no money in the bank with which to paint that canvas. So to Craigslist and Mom and Dad you go for a bed, table and sofa. And then, designer newbie, it’s time to accessorize, accessorize, accessorize.

Whether you inherit Aunt Edith’s Colonial dining table or invest in classic styles and neutral colors for furniture pieces, “trendy and less expensive accessories like pillows and throws can add a dynamic pop,” says D.C. interior designer Christopher Patrick, one of this year’s D.C. Design House participants. “A neutral sofa set against a trendy color or a fun removable decal can add personality to a first apartment and set it apart.” And accessories don’t have to add to your college-loan debt: If you think creatively, that bright pop of trendy neon can come from spray-painting Goodwill finds, and that wall decal can become a headboard.

So go slowly, start with the necessities, and then fill in the details with things you love. “That will guarantee you end up with things you’re likely to take with you to the next home,” Patrick says. To help you get started, we chose eight things we loved under $80.

Roberts is a freelance writer.

The Philips Fidelio speaker dock is a first-apartment housewarming essential. (Philips/PHILIPS)

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