Have you recently graduated? Moved out of your parents home? Maybe you have shared housing with other students and were left with not many interior design choices? Whatever the reason, you have your first apartment and it’s time to decorate it on a budget. But how can you express your own sense of style without a lot of money? Our expert, Erica Olsen, is here to help you with decorating your first apartment on a budget.
Erica Olson
Girl In The City

Erica Olson is a Houston-based style and design taste maker who recently started her own business creating custom home furnishings and home decor.  She is the writer behind Texas-based lifestyle and design blog “Girl In The City,” which focuses on life as a local Houstonian.  Erica studied art history at the Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg Austria with a full academic scholarship. While studying at the University of Houston, Erica always had a strong interest in the world of arts and design. She would later transfer to Ashford University to join the Forbes School of Business in public relations and marketing studies.

She currently works as a publicist for a luxury public relations firm that focuses on interior design. She recently began creating custom furniture through antique refurbished and repurposed pieces, prompting her to start her own exclusive line called “Sable and Shea.”  Erica’s passion for repurposing antique furniture first began out of her own interest to create pieces for her home. “I just knew exactly what I wanted, and I couldn’t just buy it. I wanted something truly unique.” The business has since grown, and custom one of a kind pieces can now be purchased at Junk Street Market in Katy.

Use Sample Size Paints

“A lot of people don’t realize that the paint stores usually carry what they call a ‘sample sized’ paint. These are paints that come in a 8 oz size, but you have to ask for them. You can choose your paint color as usual, and they can mix them to any color. These sample sized paints are ideal for a quick cost effective change in your home, using one small change to make a big difference. I use them for painting small areas like a kitchen backsplash, or the feature wall above a fireplace. A great example of this is Cameron Diaz and her gold kitchen backsplash. Just changing one paint color can alter your look completely. It’s also a quick fix to paint over should you choose to move out at a later date. This way, you don’t end up with all those extra unwanted paint cans sitting around that take up extra space. Sample sized paints generally cost around $3 to $4 each.”

Wallpaper Is Back

“Wallpaper is back! Wallpaper is no longer used like it was in the 90’s. There are so many unique emerging patterns available that are easy to use to update any room. I’ve seen these used in bathrooms above sinks, or covering entire walls. This is another quick fix that requires little money, and can be installed yourself.”

Update Your Mirrors 

“One of the first things I would do in any home is to update the mirrors. Many new homes and apartments come with flat-to-the-wall stock mirrors. There are two things I recommend doing depending on your budget in this case. Replacing the mirror completely with a mirror that has some kind of border instantly adds a higher end look. To be budget savvy, I recommend buying a simple frame that can be installed around the border of your flat to wall mirror. This is an inexpensive quick fix that hides harsh and unattractive corners, and you can choose almost any color you want the frame to be.”

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Make Use Of Reclaimed Or Repurposed Wood

“One of my favorite things to do is use reclaimed and repurposed materials. I love to use reclaimed wood on the wall of a kitchen bar, or a cubby toilet space. A lot of times, the wood panels look like higher end wall coverings that you can purchase at the hardware store, but really- it can be as simple as using old wood from previous projects.”

Re-Use Your Old Furniture

“This is something I find myself doing all the time. I take my old furniture, and I find ways to make it new. The great thing about older furniture, is it usually is pretty sturdy. I refer to this as the ‘roots.’ If your furniture has good roots, you can always re-use it. Making small updates and changes like changing the hardware can make a big difference. I have even done things like spray painted shelves, and used stencils to create unique designs on the exterior.  Even chairs can be painted, yes chairs! These are all little things that you can do very inexpensively. Stencils for different designs are usually under $10 each, and they can be reused for future projects. This is a very user-friendly, easy design tip for those who may have a difficult time otherwise.

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Mother of four college to Kindergarten, Lisa Carey is a National and Local writer for Examiner. She brings with her 20 years experience in education, working with families and her enthusiasm for the Houston area. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.