When it comes to decorating, I am no expert. In fact, I am not really a fan of perfectly manicured, trendy spaces. Cozy to me, is a place where I can curl up with a book on a rainy day, sip a cool drink on a summer day, or invite people over to enjoy great food and conversation.
Versatility, comfort, and the people I love are what make any living space feel cozy IMO.
Cozy Means Something Different to Everyone
The important thing to remember is that your preferences and opinions about what makes a cozy space are specific to you. No home makeover show or outside opinion should drive how you choose to fill or decorate your home space.
Your home is where you should feel the most comfortable, and the items, decor, furniture, and environment that you create should be focused on what makes YOU feel cozy.
That said, I live in a little slice of a college house. My walls are cracked, a little grimy, and partially covered in wood paneling. I don’t have a lot to work with, and I am saving money to pay off my student loans and buy a “real” home.
Even so, I have put in some effort to try and make the most of the space I have. It’s not perfect. It’s not fancy. But having a cozy space is an important part of making me feel comfortable.
9 Tips for Making an Apartment Space Feel Cozy
Check out my favorite 9 tips to making any living space feel more homey and cozy — these are low budget and easy to do! I have collected these tips over the last few years of attempting to live in and enjoy my cheap college house/apartment. I will carry them with me when I move on to decorate and create a cozy space in a house of my own someday.
For the time being, they have certainly helped me to turn a pretty run-down space into something livable and sometimes even pretty cozy!
1. Eliminate Clutter
This is the first step, I believe, to starting any project in your home space. Whether that’s painting, buying new decor, or simply trying to clean up, eliminating clutter from the surfaces, floors, and walls will help to make things appear more spacious. It’s also easier for me to prioritize adding items back into the space when I have removed everything but the “essentials.”
Every time we organize our living room space this is the list of “essentials”:
- Furniture: couches, coffee table, side table, rug/carpet, TV stand, TV, movie shelf
- Items: TV remotes, video games & movies, table lamp
And a list of all the “non-essentials” that were removed and only added back in once I had prioritized and if I found a place for them.
- Living room items: throw blankets, pillows, books
- Accessories: picture frames, coasters, candles, candle holders, any other decor
2. Avoid Too Much Furniture
Right along the same lines as removing clutter is choosing how much furniture works in your space. A room stuffed with too much furniture, even if it’s nice furniture, tends to feel less cozy and comfortable.
It’s tempting to offer as many places to sit as possible, or to try and find a place for everything you have. Being choosy about your furniture pieces is tough.
For my husband and myself, this has been a bit of a back and forth. We don’t have a lot of space, but we also want to make the most of what we have. We went for slightly out-dated glass topped tables (a coffee and a side table) for the living room — they offer a place to set drinks, but also appear to take up less space since they have the transparent tops.
Our dining table is just big enough for 2 people, but has folded sides that allow us to seat up to 4 people if we need to. We have other furniture – a pretty coat rack, bookshelves, etc — that we would love to use, but we’ve chosen the furniture that fits our space and also allows us the most versatility. More is just not always better.
Update: We ditched our dining table (which was truthfully just a place where mail collected) and put our little piano there. Turns out, we don’t even miss that clutter-prone surface area.
3. Choose Your Patterns Wisely
For me, this doesn’t mean choosing only the trendiest patterns or limiting the type of patterns that I choose. I think you can make stripes, florals, herringbone, paisley, polka dots, or gingham look great in a space. The trick is only choosing one or a couple that work together.
Part of the appeal of a cozy space is that it often feels relatively timeless. Patterns are some of the quickest trends to go in and out of style, so being selective in which ones you choose and where you use them is essential.
We have some pretty unattractive turquoise-ish floral recliner couches that were given to us by my husband’s aunt and uncle when they redecorated their basement. With couches like that in the small space that I have to work with, it meant avoiding patterns just about everywhere else. To balance the couches, I chose a standard brown area rug and tan microfiber pillows.
Is this space stylish? Nope. However, having these floral couches in our living room has made for some excellent afternoon naps and movie nights. They are a part of what makes my space cozy, so I just made their pattern part of the character of our home.
4. Go for Warmer Lighting
The world of light bulbs has improved by leaps and bounds over the last several years, and there are incredibly energy efficient options out there. We love energy efficient light bulbs because they save us money on our electricity bill and we have to replace them less often.
However, with so many options today, it can be tough to choose the right color for your space. Places like garages and closets are great places for cooler, brighter lights. It’s all about choosing what fits your style and the vibe you are going for.
Whenever I buy light bulbs for my bedrooms, living room, or kitchen, I choose the soft white color. In my opinion, warmer lights make a space feel more cozy.
When the sun goes down, a warmer light gives me the feeling of snuggling up by a fireplace, where cool, white lights make me feel like I am back in a dorm room or in a hospital. Cooler, white lights or bulbs made to imitate sunlight can also feel odd when they are on at night.
5. Add Personality to the Walls
One of the benefits of living in an apartment are the plain colored walls, and for us that also includes big cracks in the drywall and general grime. It’s a college house. We’re not going to pay to repaint, or spend any precious loan dollars to dress up a house we’re living in to save money.
However, we do take it as an opportunity to throw some personality and “fun” items up on the walls. As I stated before, an HGTV ad isn’t my goal for a cozy space, so some affordable wall-covering decor feels just fine in our current situation. Someday we might spring for something a little classier, but for now, adding personality to the walls means movie posters!
I love Harry Potter. My husband loves Transformers. We both love the Marvel movies, Lord of the Rings, and so much more. We collect and watch a lot of movies.
Someday we would love to have a more movie-themed basement space to hang all of these posters, but for the time being they are up all around our apartment. Don’t be afraid to hang what makes you happy on your walls!
6. Give Every Item a “Home”
I think I got this from my mom, but I have always felt like items should have a “home.” By this I just mean that items in our house should belong in a place, and shouldn’t just float around. It also means that after we use something, it should be put back in the place where it goes so that the next person to use it knows where to find it.
It’s natural for many items to have a home, like silverware, dinner plates, movies, and books. I truly think that extending this idea to mostly everything in the house only makes it easier to get rid of clutter (things that don’t get used often and don’t have a home), and keep things cleaned up.
Some of the stuff around our apartment that I have been working on finding a “home” for are:
- TV and video game remotes
- Unopened mail
- Extra throw blankets
- Seasonal clothing items (especially shoes)
7. Use Storage Space Wisely
This is a huge one for us. We have gotten downright creative with our storage. Not only do we use every bit of storage space available to us, but we try to do so in a way that keeps it out of eyesight.
Our 500 sq.ft. apartment has 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living/kitchen/dining space. The second bedroom is our office/food storage space and also where all my clothes are. It’s definitely just the “everything we can’t fit anywhere else” room. However, using it for storage has helped us to keep the living room and kitchen as uncluttered as possible.
Extra tip: When you’re lacking in floor space, go vertical with your storage. We had around 4 short shelving units throughout our apartment. One day we decided to stack them: It saves us floor space and doesn’t cut out any of our storage space. Score!
Here are our go-to places for out of sight storage:
- Under the bed (ex: we love under the bed bins for clothes, craft supplies, and even packaged snacks)
- Above the kitchen cupboards (ex: we use fabric bins to store a range of smaller kitchen items)
- Behind doors (ex: we have stacked shelves behind the door in our storage room)
8. Keep Cleaning Tools Handy
Cleaning the house is something I do just about every week. Some people clean daily. Some people don’t clean regularly at all. I clean on Thursday nights, before the weekend (which is for relaxing and fun) and after the busiest part of the week is past. I make cleaning more efficient for myself by keeping all of my tools in convenient places based on how frequently I use them.
For example, dusting, wiping the floors, and vacuuming are my most frequent activities – outside of the daily dishes/general pick-up routine. I keep my duster, swiffer wet-jet, my dust spray, and microfiber cloth all right by the vacuum so that I can grab them all at once and avoid pacing around between jobs. I keep bathroom cleaning supplies in a bin and any spider and other creepy crawly prevention supplies in a bin.
Getting out a bin and grabbing what I need in the moment is so much easier than constantly searching around under the sink for the right spray or the roll of paper towels.
9. Schedule Regular Evaluations
I’ve probably organized our tiny little apartment about 50 times since we moved in. Going through my space my on a regular basis (every month or two) and tossing or donating the things that no longer belong is a therapeutic and healthy process.
It’s a goal of mine to try and keep myself from becoming attached to items — and instead focus on how they make me feel. My cozy home is small and full of things, but whenever I see something that either makes me feel stressed out or unhappy, it’s time for it to go!
My husband is a sentimental guy. He very often feels emotional about items that are tied to specific memories or people. Of course, when compared to my “love it or toss it” mentality, there are some times where we both need to compromise.
Sharing a cozy space with someone who has different ideas can be challenging, but in the end it’s a great opportunity to practice open communication and understanding. In other words: we keep more cards and mementos than I might like, but we are working on also knowing when to let things go. As I like to remind myself daily: we’re a work in progress!
Cozy Is a Mindset, Too!
Making your space, whatever size or shape it’s in, into a cozy and comfortable place is something that should align with your “work in progress” goals. I talk more in this post about goal setting and the “work in progress” mentality we should have while we’re waiting for life changes to happen (like me right now, waiting until we can afford a house!). Coziness for me, comes down to practicing intention and patience — choosing contentment wherever we are in life.
When we take care of what we have, make the most out of our situation, and set healthy goals for ourselves, it allows us to appreciate the small things and be more present in our daily lives.