(credit: Ashleigh Weatherill Interior Design)Ashleigh Weatherill (credit: Ashleigh Weatherill Interior Design)

First apartments are usually decorated by gathering lots of hand-me-downs and other items that you get from family or friends. It’s a handy way to start out your new adult life but what happens when you’re ready to actually design your own space? Whether you just purchased your first home or you’re a young professional looking to personalize a new apartment, the process of decorating can be a little intimidating. There are many fantastic professionals who can walk you through the whole process, or you can go it on your own, but it’s important to be smart and really think about your own sense of style and what you actually want in your home.

Ashleigh Weatherill
Ashleigh Weatherill Interior Design

Ashleigh Weatherill is a Denver-based interior designer with her own successful firm that services clients throughout Colorado. Since 2005, Weatherill has helped people create their perfect space, using budgets of all sizes. She’s been published in HGTV Magazine, Denver Life Home + Design Magazine and she was listed in Mountain Living’s “Top Mountain Architects and Interior Designers” for three years in a row. Here, Weatherill offers a few suggestions to get the most out of your decorating budget, which is especially crucial when you want to create your perfect space without breaking the bank.

Get A Professional Consultation

Even if you aren’t looking to hire a professional interior designer for the whole project, you can often find one that can come in to offer advice and get you started on the right path. “Sometimes just pointing somebody in the right directions is all they really need,” explains Weatherill. “They know what they like, they just need to know a little bit of direction or some tips and tricks for making a small space feel bigger and that type of thing.” Getting that expert opinion to start out is a great way to maximize your budget, because then you aren’t flying blind. When you have that great start, you’ll be able to plan appropriately with your own budget in mind.

Plan Ahead

Speaking of planning, it’s incredibly crucial to make a full plan. “Don’t just go buying stuff. You can get yourself in trouble really quickly. Have a plan,” Weatherill offers. “By that, I mean what is your budget? Think about how much you want to spend on a sofa, what type of pieces you might need for your particular space. And with that goes knowing your measurements. Are you looking for an apartment-sized sofa or a larger sized sofa? Is it a small space so you need something that isn’t super deep or really heavy looking, or something that has legs versus a skirt? So know your measurements, what space you actually have available. It doesn’t hurt to break out graph paper and draw it out, do it the old fashioned way. That’s how we do it.”

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Look For Vintage

Vintage pieces are a great way to maximize your budget when it comes to furniture, plus they work really well for smaller spaces. “Often times vintage pieces are smaller scale, so if you’re in a smaller apartment without a lot of room, those pieces could actually work well for you. And they’re actually really well built, a lot of times with vintage pieces you can get a really good piece of furniture without spending a lot of money. Something that’s solid wood versus some of the other stuff that you can pick up,” explains Weatherill. And, as Weatherill offers, when it comes to finding great vintage pieces, you may want to try Craig’s List, “As far as places to go buy stuff, Craig’s List is great. But you have to be really patient and know what you’re looking for. You can find some really great vintage pieces on Craigslist.”

Buy With The Future In Mind

If Craiglist isn’t your thing but you don’t have the budget to purchase furniture from the major design companies, then there is still a lot of great stuff at value stores like Ikea. “Ikea has a lot of things that could easily transition into a professional home. Some of the rugs are really great, and a few other things,” Weatherill offers. “You just have to think about how long you’re really expecting to have something and sometimes, if you’re in an apartment and you’re renting, be careful about spending a lot of money on something that won’t fit somewhere else. Every purchase you make, be mindful, be patient and have a plan.”

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Don’t Forget Art

What is one of the best ways to really tie a space together without breaking the bank? Art. “Art is always a great investment,” explains Weatherill. “You can find great inexpensive art and if you sort of go neutral (in your paint and furniture colors) you can make a big statement with art. Often a lot of people forget about art and they don’t realize what’s missing when they first finish a room. What’s missing is a big statement piece of art that’s really personal to them. It doesn’t have to be expensive either, it just has to be something that speaks to you.” And the best part about decorating with a great piece of art? You can easily take that with you to any future home, to make any room the perfect space for you. As Weatherill states so beautifully, “It’s your home. You want it to be your sanctuary, your happy place to go home and relax. It should be a well thought-out space.”

Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.