(Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Macy Freeman is chronicling her experiences in her first apartment in D.C. This is her third installment.

As I type, I am sitting in my very first apartment. After about eight months of searching, my friend and I settled on a basement apartment she found on Craigslist (if you’re searching on Craigslist, just be mindful of potential scams). It’s a small space, but we’ve tried to make it our own, adding pieces that reflect our personalities and taste.

For about $400, I purchased a bed from Ikea with four drawers underneath, and that was the biggest purchase I had to make. I’ve used it to store shoes, towels, pajamas and miscellaneous items to prevent my bedroom from being cluttered. Luckily, our landlord already had a few pieces in the space including three tall bookcases, a small loveseat, two living room tables and a TV. I’m becoming a minimalist, which has made decorating a small space a bit easier.

When I was a kid, I’d sigh every time my mom turned on HGTV. “Do we have to watch this?” I’d ask. But most children aren’t concerned with window treatments, color palettes and remodeling projects. Now that I’m an adult I care more about the space around me, and I understand why she enjoyed watching design shows; they inspire you to make a space your own.

For my third post, I thought I would write about how to make a new space your own. I’m no expert when it comes to interior design, but what I do know is that furnishing and decorating a place on your own can be challenging when you’re doing it for the first time.

When you’re renting your first apartment, you may need a little help finding affordable furniture and appliances; you likely can’t just slap on a coat of paint without your landlord’s permission and you probably can’t do much remodeling. Here are some ways around those types of hurdles:

 Working with a small space

Chances are if this is your first place it’s not going to be as luxurious as you might have imagined, and it might even be smaller than you had hoped. One practical way to open the space up is by hanging a large mirror to reflect a room and help create the illusion that your space is much bigger than it is. If you find larger mirrors to be too expensive, try purchasing a series of smaller mirrors, placing one after the other for a similar effect.

Storage is also important. Too much clutter in a room can make it look even smaller than it already is. From containers and shoe racks to storage bags for your clothing, the Container Store (at 4500 Wisconsin Ave. near the Tenleytown/AU Metro station) has just about everything you could possibly need, and this is coming from someone who loves organization. Just the sight of its spring catalog puts a smile on my face.

 Shopping on a budget

You don’t have to empty out your piggy bank to beautify your new apartment. Start off by making your shopping list. MyFirstApartment.com provides a detailed checklist of things you’ll need for the kitchen and living room. The beauty of having a roommate is you can divide and conquer your list. If your living situation is temporary, you won’t have to buy too much right away. Come move out day, you’ll be glad you don’t have a ton of your belongings to pack. Save your major apartment buys for a more permanent living situation.

Browse these sites when you’re shopping around and find tips for decorating your apartment on a dime:

• Mod Cloth: Here you can find plenty of cute, affordable accessories for your new pad, items for every room.

• Etsy: Check out the Home and Living section for vintage and handmade treasures from around the world.

• Forrent.com: This site not only gives you the tools to find an apartment, but also provides some advice on thrift store hunting, picking out furniture and tips for adding color.


When it comes to color, I think it’s important to have balance in your space — a nice blend of both colors and neutrals can really make a space pop. If you’re worried your landlord won’t allow you to paint the walls, suggest neutral colors like gray, tan or maybe a soft lavender to avoid a drab interior. You may not want to live with the eggshell white color you might have seen in a college dormitory or your elementary school.

There’s also temporary wallpaper that you can put up without damaging the walls. You can easily add pops of color and personality to your space through artwork and a few novelty pieces. Instead of using nails you can always resort to command strips or mount heavier pieces on a bookshelf or desk. I’ve used Pinterest as a source of inspiration and to browse for color schemes. What I’ve found is that even the most lavish of homes can be imitated with the right decorative accents and accessories. Some appliances can be a bit pricey, so look for a place that already has a refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer. No washer or dryer means you’re going to have to lug your clothes to the nearest laundromat.

For me, bringing in pieces that remind me of home and family can make a space that much more comfortable.  A fresh coat of paint, a few pictures of family and friends and a good attitude can be exactly what is needed to make your new place feel like home.

Read Macy Freeman’s previous blogposts:

Hunt is hard when roommate is on a different page

Income restrictions prove to be obstacle in housing search