Budget apartment living room ideas – 10 luxury looks for less

If you are decorating an apartment on a budget, you needn't settle for cheap chic. These design tricks will make your space look expensive without the spend

Budget apartment living room ideas
(Image credit: Future)

If you are looking for budget apartment living room ideas, then you’ll be more than aware of the tricky task of making a room look much bigger, brighter and inviting, all on a limited budget. 

Interior transformations don’t always have to be grand affairs. Instead, they can be slowly curated through minimal updates that don’t break the bank but leave your home feeling all the more sophisticated. 

Though it can be challenging to find the right living room ideas for apartments, there are several benefits to compact living. A well-designed apartment living room or studio space can feel just as comfortable as a larger space, with all the coziness and comfort associated with functional family living. 

Here, some of our favorite interior designers offer their living room ideas, advice and expertise for decorating your apartment living room on a budget.

Budget apartment living room ideas

One of the main advantages of an apartment is the convenient accessibility of everything that’s needed. Easy maintenance is another reward. All you have to do now is to find the perfect color palette, apartment layout, furniture and storage ideas to suit your space – and that's where our apartment decor ideas factor in. 

Whilst it is essential to set an interior design budget and stick to it, it is also important to design a home you will love. These budget apartment living room ideas will help inspire you to achieve the space of your dreams; you might also want to consider how you can rethink organizing in a small apartment since a clutter-free space can work wonders on making inexpensive reworks look luxurious. It is also important to avoid anything that makes your house look cheap.


1. Support artisan makers

white living room apartment with stripe rug, wooden coffee table, black storage unit, white and metal armchairs, lamps, plants

(Image credit: Jessica Nelson Design/Carina Skrobecki)

One of our favorite ways to save money on a project while still getting quality items in a home is using makers from Etsy. There are so many great small lighting shops that have amazing products for a fraction of the price of big retailers. 

'You can find vintage or newly-made lamps specifically for living rooms that can make a big impact on your space,' says Jessica Nelson, principal designer at Jessica Nelson Interior Design.

'We also source a ton of vintage rugs from Etsy that come straight from Turkey for a lot less. These are another high-impact item that can transform a living room, playroom, or basement.'

2. Create stylish display areas

white apartment living room with fluffy chair and rug, contemporary floor lamp, ornaments and vases in alcove shelving, gold vintage mirror, herringbone floor

(Image credit: Emilie Bonaventure/Nicolas Matheus)

If you love collecting beautiful pieces then ditching the books and creating simple yet stylish display areas in an alcove or mantlepiece will update your budget apartment living room instantly and affordably. Interior stylists always group items in odd numbers because they work much better visually and remember to vary the heights and textures for added interest. 

'Look out for artisan made ceramics as they will have a uniqueness that will add character and shape more so than mass-produced pieces,' says Jennifer Ebert, digital editor, Homes & Gardens.

3. Embrace the biophilia trend

green living room with green sofa, marble coffee table, metal and glass side table, lots of plants, tropical style cushions, patterned rug, wooden floor, glass bottles

(Image credit: Sofology)

Decorating with plants is a simple yet beautiful way to add interest on a budget. Invest in a selection of plants and you'll transform your budget apartment living room into one that feels fresh and revived in no time, as Suzy McMahon, buying director at Sofology explains: 

'Nature always feels so life affirming and positive so the biophilia trend is something we can all embrace. Whether you opt for patterned wallpaper, fabric or simply add a few house plants  to your room, it provides an uplifting and optimistic feel. Lush velvet upholstery in rich color sets the look off perfectly.' 

4. Be creative with your paint 

living room with green walls, pink painted above picture rail, painted skirtings, pink armchair, floor lamp, artwork, gray sofa, two rugs, vintage coffee table, wooden floor

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Creative paint ideas and paint tricks can bring unique beauty to a home – and the more inventive they are, the better. 

Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene agrees: 'Paint is the perfect way to transform a space quickly and easily, adding personality and character to create an inspired interior.'

'Add impact to your living space with bands of color painted as horizontal stripes or use blocks of color to create a focal point such as the backdrop to a favorite artwork, or perhaps highlight architectural detailing. Vivid hues and lively tones work well in budget apartment living rooms that are made for entertaining.'

white living room with grey couch, gallery wall, yellow armchair, patterned rug

(Image credit: Maestri Studio/Nathan Shroder)

Curating beautiful gallery walls have never been so effortless. Affordable art fairs, where modern masters sell for under $1,000, are thriving, so creating your very own gallery wall in your apartment couldn’t be easier, or cheaper. 

'Often it can be hard to know what to put that expanse of space behind the sofa, a gallery wall is a good option and it won't break the bank,' says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief, Homes & Gardens. 'Scour flea markets for vintage frames and intersperse them with mirrors you already have, the result will add interest and color to your budget apartment living room.'

6. Update a tired cabinet with paint 

dark blue apartment living room with painted cabinet, vase with foliage and ornaments on top, painted wooden floor, painted radiator, panelled walls

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Think about a fresh lick of paint, but in small doses as a weekend DIY project

‘Most of us have an old chest, chair or table that has seen better days,’ says Helen Shaw, director of Benjamin Moore. ‘Painting the inside or the legs in an eye-catching color can make it feel like you have a brand-new piece at a fraction of the cost of buying new furniture.’ 

Annie Sloan, color and paint expert agrees: 'Painting is the best form of DIY – a coat of color transforms the look of your home, and you don’t get much cheaper than a tin of paint. My paint is especially thick and creamy and exceptionally pigmented, so that furniture painters can achieve decorative effects. This means it goes a long way. You can water it down and apply with a wet brush, you’ll be stunned how many pieces you can paint with a litre.'

7. Add a natural wood shelf

white apartment living room with natural wood shelf under a painting, gray sofa, basket, blankets, cushions, textured rug, drink trolley

(Image credit: Kitesgrove)

Decorating shelves is a simple way to add space to a budget apartment living room, and works especially well for small apartment living rooms that might not be large enough for a side table. 

'Aside from functionality, this has created space for decorative objects that add style and nuance, but can also be updated easily throughout the year so that your living space always feels fresh,' says Katie Lion, senior designer at Kitesgrove

8. Visit antique markets for retro pendants 

apartment living room with gray sectional and footstool, gray rugs, side tables, glass based lamps, focal point pendant lights, dining table in background

(Image credit: Jessica Lagrange Interiors/Werner Straube)

Statement living room lighting ideas are an essential part of the design of the space. Layers of lighting provide the illumination for every one of the room’s functions, and allow changes of mood. But if your budget is limited, then consider visiting antique shops and scouring flea markets for retro finds for a fraction of their retail cost.

'The lights add a personalized flare to a classic interior design and allow for extra décor in a space that may not have the wall or floor space to display other items,' says Jessica Lagrange, founder and principal designer at Jessica Lagrange Interiors

9. Update your cabinetry with a fresh shade 

living room with sage green cabinetry, alcove with shelves and crittal doors, black retro armchair

(Image credit: Lindye Galloway Studio + Shop/Chad Mellon)

Adding color to living room furniture with paint is a quick and easy way to add style and personality to  budget apartment living room. Whether your living room is an oasis of calm or home to a house full of children, nothing can transform a space like paint. 

'Painting your living room cabinetry is a quick way to revamp the room,' says Lindye Galloway, founder and chief creative officer of Lindye Galloway Studio+Shop. 'By painting the built-in cabinets a beautiful shade of sage green, we injected the space with another calming color and added more visual interest. We chose black trim for the alcove shelves for a bold impact that reflected other black elements in the room.'

10. Match your carpet to your walls 

living room with lilac carpet and walls, white couch, metal armchair, plants, round coffee table, floor lamp

(Image credit: Carpetright)

When integrating color into your home, it’s often a question of ‘how much?’ People are increasingly bold when it comes to choosing flooring for living rooms, with practical, neutral carpets no longer necessarily the automatic choice, instead, we’re seeing more on-trend colors being used for a far more aspirational style, and in particular we’re seeing an increase in customers co-ordinating their flooring with their walls. 

'When you find a color that works for you, be brave and consider using it on both the floor and ceiling. Gentler, tranquil shades such as lilac, will create a calming inviting environment. It will also unify your space, making it appear larger,' says Punam Chads, head of carpet buying at Carpetright

How do you decorate a living room on a budget in an apartment?

The easiest way to decorate a living room on a budget in an apartment is with affordable but effective updates. An easy way to create a tailored space is through paint – choose understated hues for a calming yet expensive effect. 

Lighting and hardware are also important considerations when it comes to improving the overall look of your budget apartment living room. It is easy for these elements to look tacky or stand out for the wrong reasons so look out for high-end materials at flea markets and antique fairs for more affordable prices and pieces that tell an unrivalled story. 

Sophie Warren-Smith
Contributing Editor

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.