Inventive ideas for a more pleasant living space
August 29, 2011 7:59 AM   Subscribe

How can I soup up my apartment for maximum enjoyment, for less than $200/month?

I like my apartment, but after four years I'm starting to itch for a nicer place. However, the rent here is a really great deal and I'd like to stay. I'm willing to spend about $100-200 a month to make the apartment more enjoyable for me. I'm already thinking of hiring a monthly cleaning service and getting a TiVo (I already have basic cable). It's pretty thoroughly furnished and decorated, but I could do more in that area, too. What else can I do to make the apartment more fun/pleasant/livable?
posted by bonheur to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
If you're a movies/TV/video game person, you might want to get an actual entertainment center -- a PS3, 360 or media PC w/ wireless keyboard and mouse for instance -- and 5.1 surround sound. You don't need to go full audiophile, but a basic 5.1 would be sweet.
posted by griphus at 8:02 AM on August 29, 2011

Use the extra cash to fund a regular dinner party with friends. Can be casual, can be fancy, whatever. But you can get some good eats with an extra hundred bucks. Entertaining always makes my home feel more fun, pleasant, and liveable.
posted by phunniemee at 8:04 AM on August 29, 2011 [9 favorites]

If you don't like cleaning, you could consider a maid service.

I know I'd do that, but my place is too much of a wreck to let a maid in to.
posted by maryr at 8:08 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get a Wii

or, a Roku

Clean up the place and host potlucks

Or just have a couple of friends over and make a big fancy dinner
posted by Gilbert at 8:10 AM on August 29, 2011

I've always found re-arranging the furniture makes a big difference. If there are any areas of the apartment that aren't as stylish/convenient/clean as you'd like, I'd start there. Best part: free!
posted by smirkette at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Laundry service!
posted by jrichards at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Grow your own herbs on the windowsill and savour the heavenly smells.

Invest in some affordable original artwork from emerging artists - so much cooler than reproductions of classics.

Make sure you have good lighting solutions: Think desk lamps and floor lamps as well as big overheads so you can set the mood as you please.

Ensure there is an area for gathering/talking which is not framed around a television set (so, a table in your kitchen)

Actually, just get rid of the TV altogether if you have one.

Attach shelves to the walls. Fill them with your favourite books.

Make it easy to stay tidy: bins and tubs hidden out of sight which you can throw similar items into, e.g. one for electronics under the desk, one for makeup on the nightstand, etc.

While you're at it, organise a system for your trash: have separate bins for compostables, paper, plastic etc.

Buy fresh flowers as often as you can afford. Or even better, buy and tend to pretty plants.
posted by guessthis at 8:24 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

"(so, for example, a table in your kitchen)" - my bad
posted by guessthis at 8:26 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: If you're already well-furnished and decorated, do things that enhance the atmosphere. More gadgets/stuff/furniture probably aren't what you need.

Bake bread - I have a super low-effort recipe, not kidding, sometimes I bake it to make my warehouse home smell inviting. I'll put the link in my profile.

Get some great smelling soap for your bathroom - and maybe a heat lamp for when you step out of the shower.

Lighting - move your lights around, uplights on the ceiling to change the mood, colored lights.

I loved getting flowers every week from the farmer's market. Cost almost nothing and made things nice.

Otherwise, agree strongly with phunniemee - bring people in and share your space with them. You'll associate those great memories with it, rather than stew in it. Also, when they're over, pay close attention to your reactions to them observing your place. If you feel uncomfortable about some aesthetic aspect of your place in the presence of trusted guests, it might give you a hint at something you can change toward your goal.
posted by fake at 8:29 AM on August 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

Apartment Therapy (the original book, not the website) has a multiweek apartment spruce-up plan you might like; many of the suggestions in this thread are on it, as well as larger renter-friendly remodels. It's an older book, and probably available in your library.
posted by apparently at 8:48 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Work on the overall environment quality - e.g. lighting and sound. The quality of the light matters a lot.

I suggest going to daylight-spectrum lighting with dimmers, replacing or quieting any noisy equpiment, and damping resonant frequencies.

Daylight-spectrum or full-spectrum lighting makes all colors look better, and you look more healthy in the mirror :) Plus I do believe it helps keep you fresh if your winters are dark.

Resonant frequencies: Sound bounces around in rooms. Rooms reflect certain frequencies more than others; This is taken care of by damping, e.g. with strategically placed furniture. If you've been in a recording studio, you might have noticed how pleasant the big recording booth was to stay in. This is because the resonant frequencies have been damped. This is easier on our auditory system, which we perceive as a sense of calm.
posted by krilli at 8:56 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Start hosting a regular weekly low-stakes poker game, and use the money for your buy-in, a nice set of chips, and bottles of interesting liquor to serve during the game.
posted by saladin at 9:02 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: Roomba! Or fun kitchen gadgets that make cooking or eating more fun or easier. For me, fabric napkins go a long way to making a home feel more....civilized. Also, I get to feel a bit holier because I'm using fewer paper towels. Maybe that's just me. You might want an apple peeler because this is going to be the winter of apple pies for you. Or maybe you really enjoy soft boiled eggs, in that case you should get a fancy egg topper.

For other in the house things, area rugs. Bedding. You want nicer bedding. You might even want to save up for a nicer bed. How is your curtain situation? Do you ever wish that your bedroom stayed darker in the morning?

Board game night, if your crowd isn't into poker. I like Apples to Apples, but there are dozens, if not hundreds to choose from.

Movie night. A friend of mine takes me to one where we watch the movie, and at the end of the movie everyone writes down three movies on a slip of paper. All the papers go in the hat, and someone pulls a paper. Then, the group votes on those three choices. So. Then, once the movie is chosen, they read alllllllll the choices. Very fun. I could live without the hundreds of cigarettes that get smoked during these gatherings. I don't usually go because I like breathing. But you can run a movie night any way you want. SciFi only? Romantic Comedies? Running commentary? Costumes? Drinking games?

Do you have a hobby? Maybe a jigsaw puzzle for your living room?

Are you a gift giver? If yes, invest in a few things that make wrapping easier. Two or three rolls of nice-ish neutral wrapping paper can be had fairly cheaply. Brown kraft paper can be very versatile. I troll Target's wrapping aisle looking for clearance stickers. I have some stuff that's silver, and another that's beigey with gold dots on it. For Christmas wrapping, go over to the big box craft stores like Michaels and grab up some of those floral holiday picks. They're meant for sticking in wreaths, but you can add one to a gift with some ribbon and it really makes it look over the top. There are enough that don't scream "Christmas" to me. Use a coupon though. Add fun ribbon to the mix, sort out your tape and scissor situation and you'll almost enjoy those last minute gift giving occasions.

Let's visit your bathroom. Do you have a soap you really like, or are you just using Dial? Hop over to Marshalls or TJ Maxx and sniff around the bath aisle. How are your towels? Are they ratty? Are they soft? I love plan white fluffy towels. They can be bleached, they look so crisp. Use the ratty ones as rags. Put one in the trunk of your car for the next time you need to check your oil. How's your bathmat? Is it absorbent, or is it really just a sheet of nylon? Switch to a looped cotton mat and your life will be worlds better. Do you have a piece of art in your bathroom? My current abode has a great framed ancient Kotex ad. I love it. It was probably free-ish.

How easy is it for you to get outside for things like picnics and camping? Making it easier to do those things on the spur of the moment will improve your house life. I promise. You don't need a fancy picnic basket, just a tote that fits a blanket, some dishes, and your foods. You want a tent, probably not a one person deal unless you are sure that you'll be comfortable camping alone.
posted by bilabial at 9:30 AM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: paint the walls an interesting color! you'll feel like you're living in a new place (worked wonders for me anyway) plus seconding maid service, it might make you the place feel all pimped out and spotless.

also dinner parties are totally fun and underrated, you should throw one regardless if you haven't already.
posted by messiahwannabe at 9:47 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You say the place is furnished, but you've reached what sounds like a new level. Is the furniture doing exactly what you want it to do? Could it be better?

Think about what your apartment has, and how you use it, and in what ways you're going to some effort to make the existing space work for you. What could you change to make it more ideal.? For example, we're low on closet space and the linen closet in the bathroom is stuffed full of sheets and blankets, as well as towels. If we were to buy a storage bed and move those linens to where they're used, we could find the beach towels without swearing, change the sheets more often, be able to put sheets on the (full) guest bed without first mistakenly unfolding the queen-size sheets, etc. It's not that we need to replace an inadequate, damaged, or ugly bedframe. It's about seeing the whole home as a system, and using a different piece of furniture to optimize that effectiveness. Pleasant living spaces are just effective workspaces wearing a cozy disguise.

So what could you do with a different-sized table/chairs, or a closet storage system, or a sofa instead of a futon or a futon instead of a sofa? Or what if you stopped using the closet like a coat closet and used it like a pantry? Or what if you got rid of that funny cabinet and made built-in shelves that went all the way up to the ceiling? Or what if you organized the living room around a table versus a TV, or maybe there's a piece of furniture that lets you swap back and forth effortlessly? Or what if you got rid of your kitchen table if you never eat there? etc...
posted by aimedwander at 10:32 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: Netflix streaming. Way Better than basic cable, and cheaper too. Get a Roku, hook it up to Netflix streaming, and watch all the TV series you've missed out on in the last 5 years. Total cost, $100 plus $8 a month for service.
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:50 AM on August 29, 2011

One month you could spend your extra $200 on one of those giant wall murals that look like a scene. Here's one. They have several options. I don't know if these are permanent or more like bliks. If that's your cup of tea, style wise. I've always wanted one of those.
posted by hotelechozulu at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2011

i've been seriously considering reorganizing my entire house by color since seeing those pictures of that bookstote that did it...
a fresh coat of paint is a good most places the landlord is obligated to repaint every 3 years (if you request it...hope you like white.) if your landlord is cool, you could try what i did...i got him to cover the cost of (fancy expensive ralph lauren metallic) paint in exchange for doing the work myself (i'm a mural painter fwiw)...we both saved money that way and i got to pick colors i could live with.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:10 PM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the great, helpful answers! Lots of great ideas here, especially the ones about making good memories in the space with friends and family on a regular basis. I'm also going to look at doing some painting, hanging some curtains, and adding some low light plants to create a warmer atmosphere. Definitely will be hiring a monthly cleaning service, and looking into the Roku/Netflix streaming.

Confidential to wet blanket: My savings are fully funded, worry ye not. I could buy a house now but I am choosing to rent instead, and looking for ways to spruce up my current rental, as stated in the question.
posted by bonheur at 2:46 PM on August 29, 2011

« Older Easy meeting place for Berkeley noobs   |   In search of an investment mentrix Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.