Apartments can be decorated on frugal students’ budgets

Jill Morenz of Urbana, owner of Interior Solutions by Jill Morenz, an interior design company, shows one option of what students can do to furnish their apartments on a budget. Erica Magda

Jill Morenz of Urbana, owner of Interior Solutions by Jill Morenz, an interior design company, shows one option of what students can do to furnish their apartments on a budget. Erica Magda

By Colleen Vest

Just because an apartment comes furnished with a lumpy gray couch and beat-up bookshelves does not mean the space cannot be functional, fashionable and frugal.

“Students who live in apartments need to focus on comfort, storage and lighting to make better use of space and make it feel more like home,” said Jill Morenz, interior designer for Interior Solutions by Jill Morenz in Urbana.

Even outdoor furniture can be comfortable and transition well inside. Outdoor plastic chairs can be covered with a blanket and pillows if more seating is needed, Morenz said. Students should spend money on lots of pillows, because pillows can be used on the floor or couch, she continued.

“Even though many apartments come furnished, if you buy more furniture, make sure it has storage as part of it,” Morenz said.

Small bookshelves or a TV stand work as end tables with space to store books and other things, she said. Small items can be stored out of sight in a basket on a coffee table shelf. Ottomans that open up with storage are both comfortable and useful, she said.

“Try to get multifunctional pieces,” Morenz said. “Use a sturdy bench or ottoman as a coffee table, and when needed, it can double as extra seating.”

Most apartment furniture is plain and old, but there are some ways of covering up unappealing couches and chairs.

Slipcovers are not cheap, so Morenz suggested a few other options. Instead of spending a lot of money on fitted covers, drape quilts and blankets over couches, she said. Another option is to purchase fleece, which requires no sewing, at a fabric store and cut it to size, she continued.

“Fleece and blankets are more casual and allows you to personalize the space with favorite colors or Illini themes,” she said.

Lighting is important when trying to improve a room, Morenz said.

“A lot of times apartments and dorms have one overhead fixture, and it is too bright for entertaining, watching TV and relaxing but not placed properly for homework,” she said.

The right lighting makes the room more comfortable and functional. To make lighting more flattering and useful, add lamps, she said. Lamps give the most flexibility in terms of lighting.

Between paying for books and paying for food, students don’t have a lot of extra money to spend. Morenz offered a few suggestions. Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity Restore, 119 E. University Ave., in Champaign, are two secondhand shops that offer nice things that cost less, she said. Target, Wal-Mart and Lowes are good stores for lamps and small furniture, she added.

“My apartment came furnished, but I went to Target and IKEA for my bedding and decorative things,” said Taylor Lemick, sophomore in the College of Media.

Susan Smith, sophomore in LAS, made her own decorations for her apartment.

“I covered wood with one of my flat sheets and painted on it,” Smith said. “I saw them in the store, but decided to make my own, so it would match my bedding perfectly.”